Normally in the 30 in 30 series, these pieces tend to focus on the previous year’s successes and failures and the things to look forward to in the upcoming season.
However, while researching the San Francisco Giants, it became clear that the 2020 season is going to be one of drastic change. After dominating for the better part of the last decade, the Giants may well end up somewhere they haven’t been for more than 15 years: the basement of the NL West.
With their former Ace Madison Bumgarner moving within the division to the Arizona Diamondbacks, their closer signing with Atlanta, and the majority of their top prospects still a few years away from the majors, the Giants are going to rely on their remaining veterans from their early 2010s World Series teams and journeyman fillers.
As it stands right now, the Giants rotation contains Jeff Samardzjia, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, and Tyler Anderson. Sure, the Giants can sit back and wait for Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Beede and Shaun Anderson to find their footing in the Majors, but even that will take a year or two.
The Giants are going to find themselves at an impasse over the next few years. After the 2021 season, the Giants will more than likely wave goodbye to their two favorite Brandons. Both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford have expiring deals, and both of them are blocking the future of the team. If Mauricio Dubon pans out at short, they’ll use him when he’s ready, or they can add a stop gap for a year and wait for Marco Luciano, the #61 prospect in the game, to be ready.
Belt provides a more difficult switch. With Belt gone and first base open, the Giants can move the face of their franchise from behind the plate. Buster Posey will be 34 heading into the 2022 season, and with Joey Bart rising through the MLB’s prospect ranking, it’s only a matter of time before the Giants backstop takes off the mask. We’ve seen the blue print for this move in Minnesota with Joe Mauer and it’s a simple way to keep Posey in San Fran and also let the kids play.
Like I said, none of that is going to be easy to swallow, yet it’s going to be necessary for the Giants moving forward.
And speaking of moving forward, let’s talk about that future.
The Giants have a young core group of arms at their disposal, none of whom had stellar 2019 campaigns.
When your father is a Hall of Fame catcher, it’s only obvious that you’ll be a great pitcher, right? I mean, when you’re named after him, the pressure’s kinda already on you. Ivan Dereck Rodriguez had that kind of pressure, the one that comes with having a Hall of Fame Dad.
After a tough stint within the Twins Minor league system, Rodriguez signed with the Giants, making their Triple-A roster. While playing for the Sacramento Giants in the Pacific Coast League, Rodriguez posted a 4-1 record, a 3.40 ERA and a 1.192 WHIP before being called up to San Francisco.
In his 19 starts for the Giants in 2018, Rodriguez posted a 2.97 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP. For a team who has been burned by big signings in recent years, it’s nice to see a young player get his moment in the sun and capitalize. Look for more from D-Rod. I have a feeling he’s nowhere close to being done.
Naturally, he’d repeat that success, right? No, because that’s not how anything works out for San Francisco. Rodriguez had a tough time on the bump for San Fran in 2019, finishing the season with a 5.64 ERA, 1.455 WHIP over 99 innings pitched. After a 2018 with an ERA+ of 135, Rodriguez fell below the league average mark and then some with a 74 for the season.
Out of every Giant pitcher to start a game in 2019, only two finished with an ERA below 5.00. Those pitchers would be Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner.
But with the majority of the Giants staff coming into their own, with Tyler Beede, Logan Webb, Shaun Anderson and the aforementioned Rodriguez all under the age of 28, it’s only a matter of time before this rotation finds their bearings.
It was only a matter of time before Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Carl Yastrzemski, made it to the majors, and the kid did not disappoint.
Despite going 0-for-4 in his debut, Yastrzemski showed off in his second game going 3-for-4 with a double in a loss to Arizona. Four games later, he would go yard for the first time. The kid was just beginning.
Yastrzemski finished the year with a .272/.334/.518 slashline, an .852 OPS, 22 doubles, 27 home runs, with 101 hits in 107 games, good enough for a 123 OPS+. That’s a terrific stat line for a rookie, and even better when you consider that in a shortened season. Big picture, Yastrzemski out-hit the rest of his team and was instrumental to their successes in 2019, specifically their month of July.
The San Francisco Giants entered the month of July sitting in the basement of the NL West with a 37-47 record and 19.0 games behind hated division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Beginning the month with a road trip to San Diego, the Giants swept the Padres and didn’t look back. Over their next 16 games, the Giants would go 13-3, finishing the month with a 19-6 record, and in second place.
Mike Yastrzemski was instrumental in that run. In their 25 games, Yaz 2.0 posted a .316/.356/.570 slashline, and a .926 OPS, notching 25 hits, 6 doubles, 4 home runs, driving in 16 RBIs. The kid was on fire.
Mike Yastrzemski is the future of the ball club and while things might get dark for a while, the youth will set the Giants free.
So what’s gonna happen now?
That’s a good question. I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better, but that’s okay.
The Giants have an excellent farm system, it’s just that those kids aren’t getting to Oracle Park any time soon. Of their Top 10 prospects, four are in the majority of 100 lists. Once San Diego and the White Sox’s prospects start moving their way towards the bigs, San Francisco’s farm will be the shining city on the hill of the MLB.
But that’s mainly because the majority of their prospects are a year out from making their major league debuts. Joey Bart, the 19th overall and #2 catching prospect in the game, and Heliot Ramos, the 50th overall ranked, both are due to debut in the majors in 2021, as is righthander Sean Hjelle. From there, Marco Luciano, the #10 shortstop prospect, is set to make his first game appearance in 2023. It’s going to be a while until we see the future come to fruition.
But that’s okay. The Giants won 30% of the World Series this past decade, they are going to be okay. This is a generational shift, it happens to every team, and now it’s happening in San Francisco.
Bruce Bochy retired and now Gabe Kapler takes the reins. MadBum left for Arizona opening up room for Shaun Anderson or Rodriguez. Hunter Pence was pushed out and then became an All-Star once again in Texas and now Mike Yastrzemski is the new face of the outfield. Things just have to change. That’s how the world works. So embrace the change, accept the ugly, it’s a whole new world out there, Giants fans!
It’s just going to be worse before it gets better, but they’ve proved everyone wrong before.
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