San Francisco Giants: 2024 Season Preview

The San Francisco Giants. ‘Mediocre‘ would probably be kind for the last two years but fans should still have hope for this year.

Firstly, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Yes, their pitching staff has now been boosted with the arrival of Blake Snell, but it’s also a team that might as well have had you or me hitting in that middle order last season, and yes, they failed to make the playoffs, AGAIN, with a 79-83 record that left them fourth in the National League (NL) West.

Notable signings

A fast, unproven, contact-first centre fielder from Korea (Jung Hoo Lee) for $113 million over 6 years. A guy who throws 105mph sinkers but has only made 8 career starts (Kyle Harrison). The man fans hope can break that 30 home run barrier (Jorge Soler) and a multiple-time Platinum Glove winner at third base (Matt Chapman) with elite barrel and hard hit rates.

I’m excited and you should be too.

The 2024 roster

So, let’s get into this intriguing group of batters first and see each position. Behind the plate, Patrick Bailey will hope to continue his gold glove-level defence from his rookie season. Despite tailing off offensively at the end of the season due to fatigue and weight loss, he’s proven he can be at least a league-average hitter and an elite defender. Behind him is a smart pick-up this offseason in Tom Murphy. A righty who can mash left-handed pitching serves as a great off-day option behind the plate. The number 2 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Joey Bart, will more than likely be traded due to this signing, especially since he is now out of minor league options, unlike last year’s Rule 5 pick, Blake Sabol, who can now be sent to AAA when needed.

Speaking of Sabol, he’s been playing some first base this off-season to provide a left handed option if LaMonte Wade unavailable. Wade Jr was one of the few good bats in 2023; 76 walks gave him an impressive .373 OBP and an OPS+ of 119.

On the other side of the platoon will be Wilmer Flores, coming of a career year in a struggling Giants team, many are hopeful he continues to hit. His .509 slugging and 136 OPS+ went under the radar to many non-Giant fans, although his poor defence at third base leads him to essentially exclusively play at first base.

In fact, both these players aren’t obvious platoon players – LaMonte Wade Jr. can play corner outfield, but due to that position already being packed, he’s unlikely to be seen much, so outside of the main Designated Hutter I will mention later, expect these two to been seen there quite a bit.

Second base is easy – Thairo Estrada. Similar to Wade, Estrada was a cheap and smart pickup by this, at times and rightfully so, frowned-upon front office. He’s a league-average batter who was great defensively last year, so many Giants will be wanting this guy to sign an extension pretty soon as he’s becoming essential up the middle. Outside of Estrada, second is interesting. Wisely had an OPS+ of 38 in 51 games when he covered for an injured Estrada last year. I’d expect to see more of utility man Tyler Fitzgerald, who many say is a shortstop, but many scouts wonder if his arm is more suited to second due to it being on the weaker side. He had a really fun introduction to the majors at the back end of last year as he proved a capable bat and looked a great fielder wherever he played, particularly in centre which is no easy feat (as Luis Matos found out).

Shortstop has been a constant conversation for the Giants, but we know one thing: the Giants’ top hitting prospect Marco Luciano is going to be given every chance to be that guy for years to come. He’ll be very different to what Giants fans were blessed with watching there in years gone by. His defence certainly isn’t Crawford-like. In fact, many argue it’s not even shortstop-worthy. However, his bat is what makes him such an exciting prospect. He has elite bat speed, and many see him as a potential 30-home run guy in years to come. His issue now will be that nagging defence and a strikeout issue that shouldn’t be an issue if that bat speed starts to translate to power. Behind him is not Crawford but Nick Ahmed. Whether you think it was the right decision or not, it’s a clever pick up on a minor league deal. A notoriously-good defender (all be it past his prime) to sit behind a rookie is a no brainer; if Luciano struggles, then an experienced pro is sitting in the wings.

Poor J.D. Davis, a guy with a real rebound year defensively and good offensive numbers ready to set his platform for free agency, and then… Matt Chapman. He has been reunited with his A’s manager Bob Melvin (arguably the Giants’ best signing this offseason) and will add exceptional defence at the hot corner as well as middle of the order pop. His batting output was down last year. but his 99th percentile barrel rates and 100th percentile hard hit rates should bring all fans hope, plus it’s far from the risky contract many predicted him to get at the start of free agency. Now J.D. Davis has left for the A’s, the exciting Casey Schmitt will be the back up at third (as well as a good option at short and second). Despite being defensively sound last year, he really struggled to hit despite a couple of hot spells. Ironically, he’s drawn Matt Chapman comparisons as he climbed through the minors so expect to see him get better playing behind one of the best out there.

Let’s group all of our outfielders together, since no one particularly knows who will be settled on this season. The one certain is the Grandson of the Wind, Jung Hoo Lee, who adds some much-needed athleticism and speed in centre field. The guy is an elite defender, but many have questioned whether his unproven offence is worthy of such a contract (in other words, I’m sick of hearing people say overpay with no reasoning or evidence). However projection sites seem to agree with the Giants; almost everyone available has him batting near .300 and leading this Giants team in WAR. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a numbers guy (I’m at university doing maths as of writing), but let’s not take these as fact. However, they certainly aren’t plucked out of the air, as proven by his 109mph home run and 99mph double in consecutive plate appearances at the start of Spring Training. Michael Conforto will more than likely be given an everyday role in right field to start the year to prove last year was just a blip. Not known for his defence, the former Met hopes to get better in the box after an injury-heavy last couple of years.

He’ll need to as well, as the impressive Luis Matos will be peaking over his shoulder. While no longer a prospect due to his 76 games last year, he is my personal one to watch this year. Most will remember his concerning lack of power, and (to be nice) below-average glove work in centre field. However, let’s look at the exciting side of things. For a start, the kid was 21 last year, so a concerning lack of power is hardly surprising and should be far less concerning when he rocked up to Spring Training with a good chunk of extra muscle mass. Combine this with an excitingly below-average strike out rate (under 14.5% for a 21-year-old rookie is promising) and you’ve got an exciting corner outfielder for the future.

The left field platoo is one many Giants fan get annoyed at. If you like stats, then this will confuse you, but former manager Gabe Kapler was renowned (and hated) for a platoon, so many will bad-mouth a guy like Austin Slater without realising what he provides. Now in his final year of arbitration, Slater can play a decent centre or corner and is known for one thing; hitting left-handed pitching. In fact, in his career he has a line of .285/.374/.463 against them which results in a 131 wRC+, all of this production for $4 million in his final and most expensive year of arbitration. The catch? His career .227/.314/.333 line against righties. This is far from terrible (82 wRC+) but not acceptable for a contending team, so in comes Mike Yastrzemski. Another sneakily-good pick up by this front office, he’s the perfect left-handed compliment to Slater. Again Yaz provides great corner defence and his line of .247/.337/.484 and 122 wRC+ against righties is much nicer reading. These two players combined are being paid just under $12 million this year.

Let’s round up the batting segment of this preview with another big name who’s going to be that primary DH – Jorge Soler. He will clean up for this Giants side that has lacked serious power since Barry Bonds. Still, this signing comes with worries; three years for a 31-year-old DH is a bold move, especially for a guy so injury-prone. However, the man hit 48 home runs in 2019, as well as 36 last year. Giant’s fans are hoping for at least a few the next 3 years.

Here we go then, pitching. Let’s start by quickly mentioning one the best pitchers in the game, Logan Webb. Outside of coming second place in the NL CY Young Award and pitching over 200 innings, he’s a true leader. I haven’t been around baseball for long but this man’s passion is unmatched. His honest interviews at the end of last year filled me and other fans with obvious rage, but also hope in this guy and what he wants to do with this team.

This rotation is one Webb injury away from opposing fans going ‘who?’ everyday. That’s not for a lack of talent though; Kyle Harrison is the top-rated LHP prospect in baseball whose one issue is control and giving up walks.

Let’s swivel and mention the two guys sat on IL who are going to come back into this rotation later this year. Alex Cobb was exceptional before his injury late last year. 3.87 ERA across 28 starts, combined with 3.73 ERA across 28 starts the year before means he’s still reliable entering his age 36 season. The biggest trade of the off-season for the Giants was trading two underwhelming players from 2023 for the 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, with no change in salary either. He’ll be out until after the All Star break, but this was a really underrated trade. If this team does make it to the playoffs, a rotation of Webb, Ray, Cobb, Harrison and Snell will be one of the best about.

The Giants though will have to find some pitching in the mean time. Especially since predicted fifth starter Tristan Beck is out for five months with an aneurysm in his throwing arm. Keaton Winn will be number four, and has the potential to be a really solid back end of the rotation guy. The few opportunities he got last year, he looked good. The fifth starter is more uncertain, but with higher upside, Sean Hjelle and Spencer Howard feel like safer yet uninspiring options. I’d expect some prospects to see playing time too. Carson Whisenhunt, Kai-Wei Teng, Hayden Birdsong and my pick to be that number five, Mason Black. He was exceptional in AA and AAA last year and is League ready according to just about everyone in the organisation, as well as his Spring Training performances.

Be excited about this batch of young pitchers. Even if one struggles there are a load lined up behind them ready to go from a bullpen has some good pieces. Camilo Doval was exceptional again last year and will be leaned upon for saves. Outside of him, the Rogers twins provide value, as well as Ryan Walker. The main question is the lack of left-handed options that will come down to the unreliable Amur Garrett and waiver pick up Ethan Small.

2024 prediction

So where will the Giants end up? It’s no surprise that fans are desperate for playoff baseball, especially considering the two most recent NL champions were teams the Giants had competed with for a wildcard spot.

Unfortunately though, it will be tough. You’d be brave to not pencil in the Braves, Phillies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks to not make the playoffs. which would leave a single wildcard spot for the Giants to fight for.

Can they do it? Why not? Bob Melvin has a track record of making the playoffs with teams worse on paper that’s for sure, and by adding Snell, this could be one of the best rotations in the league entering the playoffs.

Featured image of Jung Hoo Lee – Chris Coduto/Getty Images.

Alex Williamson is a Giants fan, and can be found on Twitter @sf_giants_uk.

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