MLB season preview: The Giants are primed to chase another championship

The San Francisco Giants have had high expectations every season since winning the first of three World Series championships back in 2010. That will be no different in 2017.

Though the team’s streak of three straight even-year championships was ended by the Chicago Cubs last season, the Giants are positioned to bounce back behind an impressive core that includes their big three starters, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samrdzija, and All-Star sluggers Buster Posey and Hunter Pence.

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Motivation shouldn’t be a problem either. In addition to finishing behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West standings for the fourth straight season, they were three outs away from forcing a decisive Game 5 against the Cubs during the NLDS, only to watch their season unravel. It was a crushing defeat, and it’s the reason general manager Brian Sabean made adding a proven closer his top priority during the offseason. Enter Mark Melancon, whom the Giants are paying handsomely to be that guy.

The Giants are not without their share of question marks too. The final spots in the rotation looks shaky with Matt Cain struggling to regain his form. The bullpen also took a hit when veteran left-hander Will Smith learned he’ll require Tommy John surgery. But this roster is very talented at the top, with all of its key players seemingly in the prime of their careers.

ADDITIONS & SUBTRACTIONS
Additions: Mark Melancon, Jae-gyun Hwang
Subtractions: Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo

The Giants may have only made one big move this offseason, but it was sorely needed. After blowing an incredible 30 saves in 2016, San Francisco went out and grabbed a lockdown closer in Mark Melancon. He immediately makes the bullpen better, and will keep Giants fans from pulling out their hair in the ninth inning. Jae-gyun Hwang joins the team on a minor-league deal, but could make a big impact during the year. He’ll likely break camp with the major-league team, meaning his $1.5 million salary already looks like a bargain. Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo were both mainstays in the bullpen, but it was probably time for both to move on. Losing Romo hurts more than Casilla, though. (Chris Cwik)

Will Madison Bumgarner and the Giants have enough to win another championship? (AP)
Will Madison Bumgarner and the Giants have enough to win another championship? (AP)

KEY PLAYER
Buster Posey didn’t have a bad season in 2016. He really didn’t. He hit .288/.362/.434 with 14 home runs. For most players, that’s great. And for a catcher, it’s fantastic. But here’s the problem: those stats represent his worst full season in the majors. Saying that someone needs to bounce back from a season like that seems wrong somehow. And in this case, there’s just one thing that we should be worried about: his power, which seemed to totally leave him in the second half of the year. After the All-Star break, Posey hit only three home runs, which is concerning. The big question here is if this power regression is just a one year blip, or if it’s permanent. Posey’s entire game isn’t based on his power (he’s got insane pitch framing skills, he’s aces at handling a pitching staff, and he can still hit really well), but it’s still a good thing for him to have. (Liz Roscher)

PROJECTED LINEUP & ROTATION
Lineup
1. Denard Span, CF (.266/.331/.381, 11 HR, 53 RBI)
2. Brandon Belt, 1B (.275/.394/.474, 17 HR, 82 RBI, 77 R)
3. Buster Posey, C (.288/.362/.434, 14 HR, 80 RBI)
4. Hunter Pence, RF (.289/.357/.451, 13 HR, 57 RBI)
5. Brandon Crawford, SS (.275/.342/.430, 12 HR, 84 RBI)
6. Eduardo Nunez, 3B (.288/.325/.432, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 40 SB)
7. Joe Panik, 2B (.239/.315/.379, 10 HR, 62 RBI)
8. Jarrett Parker, LF (.236/.358/.394, 5 HR, 14 RBI)

Rotation
1. Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74 ERA, 226.2 IP, 251 K)
2. Johnny Cueto (18-5, 2.79 ERA, 219.2 IP, 198 K)
3. Jeff Samardzija (12-11, 3.81 ERA, 203.1 IP, 167 K)
4. Matt Moore (13-12, 4.08 ERA, 198.1 IP, 178 K)
5. Matt Cain (4-8, 5.64 ERA, 89.1 IP, 72 K)

Buster Posey remains the centerpiece of San Francisco’s offense. (AP)
Buster Posey remains the centerpiece of San Francisco’s offense. (AP)

BEST-CASE SCENARIO
The Giants finally find some odd-year magic after their string of even-year championships ended. Honestly, this team won’t need magic. There’s a very solid roster here capable of pushing the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division championship. Like all teams, good health will help, but the Giants look like a potential 90-win team with enough pitching to go deep into October. (Mark Townsend)

WORST-CASE SCENARIO
The odd-year curse continues, even after the even-year magic ended. Sandwiched in between the three World Series championships and last season’s playoff run were three disappointing seasons that left San Francisco out in October. There’s potential for similar disappointment if injuries or regression take place in key areas. Just a couple negative developments could put them in that 84-85 win category again, which would leave them out of the postseason picture. (Townsend)

PRESSING FANTASY QUESTION
What’s the situation in left field?
The Giants didn’t address LF through free agency and plan on staying in house, at least entering 2017. The battle is between Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, and the team claims they have no plans on making it a platoon.

[Elsewhere: Read more pressing fantasy questions about the Giants]

The early odds favor Parker winning the job, as he quietly had a .289/.429/.467 line against right-handers last season (small sample, admittedly). He’s a worthwhile flier in NL-only leagues, but it would be no surprise if the team addressed the situation via trade in the middle of the season.

BEST FOLLOW
There’s always a chance that Hunter Pence will surprise you. Sometimes it’s really neat, like with that Napoleon Dynamite costume he did with his wife. Sometimes it’s pleasant, like a happy GIF to celebrate the start of spring. And sometimes it’s this.


Whatever that is. But hey, it’s better than being boring, right? Because Hunter Pence is definitely not boring. (Roscher)

BEST REASON TO ATTEND A GAME
If you’re looking to get in some food or shopping prior to a Giants game, check out the Ferry Building. It’s roughly 20 minutes from the park, but it has everything you could want from a marketplace (food, coffee and shops) If you get to the park early enough, you can try to take a ride down the Coca-Cola slide. If that’s not your idea of fun, make sure to head over near McCovey Cove and see which crazy fans showed up hoping to snag a home run ball. You might even see the jet-pack guy. And if none of that appeals to you, well, just enjoy a game at one of the most beautiful parks in the majors. Sitting in the upper deck provides an exceptional view of the Bay Area. There’s not a bad seat in the stadium. (Cwik)

ALSO IN THIS SERIES: San Diego Padres, Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Atlanta Braves, Minnesota Twins, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, New York Mets, Houston Astros, Washington NationalsSan Francisco Giants, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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