Projecting Gabe Kapler's 2021 Giants lineup against righties, lefties

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Alex Pavlovic
·4 min read
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Projecting Giants' 2021 lineup against righties and lefties originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

There are few things in baseball that get more undue attention than the Opening Day lineup. More and more often, teams use that first week to stash veterans who were on the edge of the roster at the end of camp, young players they might have just claimed off waivers, and replacements for starters who needed just another few days to heal from a spring injury and have backdated IL stints. 

The 2020 Giants, in the first game managed by Gabe Kapler, had Tyler Heineman behind the plate, Pablo Sandoval at first, Hunter Pence at DH and Joe McCarthy in right field. A night later, Rob Brantly and Jaylin Davis were in the lineup. 

Teams usually settle in after a few weeks, and by mid-August the Giants had a more regular rotation, but there still was only one lineup that Kapler used more than twice all season. That one, which took the field for 10 percent of the shortened season, consisted of Joey Bart, Brandon Belt, Donovan Solano, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubon, Mike Yastrzemski and Wilmer Flores

The Giants won't have a DH to work with most of this season and Bart is headed back to Triple-A, but that group above still is the core of the main Giants lineups this season. With just a dozen days until the first full-squad workout, here's an early look at what the go-to lineups might look like, with a reminder that Kapler will switch it up quite a bit depending on whether the Giants are facing a lefty or righty:

Against a righty:

Mike Yastrzemski RF

Tommy La Stella 2B

Brandon Belt 1B

Alex Dickerson LF

Buster Posey C

Brandon Crawford SS

Evan Longoria 3B

Mauricio Dubon CF

Breakdown: 

You can see why the Giants were excited to add La Stella to this mix. That's a top three that's going to grind the life out of starting pitchers in the first inning, with Dickerson waiting to bring them home. This might be a spot high for Posey, but he breaks up the lefties a bit and allows for more balance for the bottom half. The Giants also will go with La Stella at third and Solano or Flores at second -- hitting fifth, maybe -- sometimes but the above lineup keeps a much better defense out there. If LaMonte Wade Jr. or Steven Duggar is on the roster as a fifth outfielder, he could take Dubon's spot here. 

If a lefty comes into the game late, Kapler will have Solano, Flores, Ruf and Slater, waiting. Say, Drew Pomeranz comes in ahead of La Stella to try and hold a lead in the eighth -- Kapler can turn to Solano, Flores and Ruf and take his shot at tying it up. That's a pretty good situation to be in. 

Against a lefty:

Austin Slater LF

Mike Yastrzemski RF

Buster Posey C

Wilmer Flores 1B

Evan Longoria 3B

Donovan Solano 2B

Mauricio Dubon CF

Brandon Crawford SS

Breakdown: This is where the Giants could really, really use the DH, which would allow for a Ruf/Flores combo or Belt to remain at first with Flores serving as DH. The Giants could play Solano at short and Flores at second to open up another spot, but that's a rough defensive alignment and one they used just twice in 2020.

RELATED: No changes for Giants in productive outfield

If the Giants want an excuse to finally bump Posey down in the lineup they have plenty, given that it's a new coaching staff, the lineup was much better in 2020, and Posey missed the whole year. But Kapler talks highly of him, and it would be a surprise to see a big change early on. Posey weirdly struggled against lefties in 2019, but the two previous years he had a 146 wRC+ against them, so he should be in the middle of the action again.

Again, the Giants would be set up well in the late innings. If Brusdar Graterol comes in with the No. 3 spot coming up, Kapler could counter with Belt, Dickerson and La Stella. 

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