Pressing Fantasy Baseball Questions: San Francisco Giants

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/mlb/players/8590/" data-ylk="slk:Madison Bumgarner">Madison Bumgarner</a> tops all Giants in fantasy value (Getty Images)
Madison Bumgarner tops all Giants in fantasy value (Getty Images)

The Giants blew a 5-2 lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 against the eventual World Series champs Cubs in the NLDS last year and immediately addressed their bullpen struggles by signing Mark Malancon to a big deal during the offseason. Buster Posey remains the face of the franchise, but starting pitching (and the expected improvement of a revamped bullpen) and defense are the strengths of the team. The NL West is competitive, as the Dodgers are once again the favorites and both the Rockies and Diamondbacks look improved and ready to compete, but San Francisco enters 2017 with a good shot at securing a wild card spot yet again (Fangraphs projects them to win 88 games), even though this isn’t an “even” year.

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Let’s take a look at some pressing questions heading into 2017…

Q: Just how good is Brandon Belt?

He’s really good, but unfortunately that doesn’t translate as much to fantasy owners. He had the sixth best WAR (4.4) among all first basemen last year (and that’s with a highly questionable negative grade on his defense, although it’s indisputable he’s a poor base runner), but Belt was just the No. 16 ranked first baseman in fantasy terms, as he’s saddled with playing in AT&T Park, which has decreased home runs for LHB by a whopping 41 percent over the past three years – easily the most in MLB. In fact, AT&T Park has been the toughest place to hit home runs in two and a half decades. Belt was moved to the No. 2 spot in SF’s order late last year, and it’s a move that should boost his value given his strong OBP, but he has an uphill battle to ever reach the top tier of fantasy first basemen given his circumstances.

Q: 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. 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.

Q: How good is this rotation?

It has the potential to be among the best in baseball. Madison Bumgarner just keeps getting better, as his 2.74 ERA and 27.5 K% were both career bests last season. He’s made 30+ starts in each of the past six seasons and looks like one of the safer bets among SPs in the league…Johnny Cueto was terrific during his return to the NL, as he completed nearly as many games (five) as he had since 2012 (six). He’s a top-12 fantasy starter entering 2017.

Jeff Samardzija remains a good bet to stay healthy and throw 200 solid innings. There’s not a ton of upside with “Shark,” but he’s relatively safe, and he did post a 2.45 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 63 strikeouts over 62.1 innings over his final 10 starts last season…Matt Cain is a total wild card barely worth gambling on even in NL-only leagues at this point, but Matt Moore is someone to target. Still just 27 years old, he posted a 27:4 K:BB ratio over his last three starts with the Giants (allowing two runs or fewer in nine of 13 starts after joining San Francisco), and not only is he now pitching in the NL West and not the AL East, but Buster Posey has developed into the best framing catcher in MLB. Moore is primed to have the best season of his career in 2017.

Giants Projected Lineup

CF Denard Span

1B Brandon Belt

C Buster Posey

RF Hunter Pence

SS Brandon Crawford

3B Eduardo Nunez

2B Joe Panik

LF Jarrett Parker

Giants Projected Rotation

SP Madison Bumgarner

SP Johnny Cueto

SP Jeff Samardzija

SP Matt Moore

SP Matt Cain

CL Mark Melancon

RP Hunter Strickland

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