San Francisco Giants
2020 Record: 29-31
Third Place, NL West
Team ERA: 4.64 (18th in MLB)
Team OPS: .785 (6th in MLB)
What Went Right
The Giants came within one game of making the expanded playoffs. While the final weekend was a missed opportunity, it was more than many expected from the club coming into the year. After a strong first season with the Giants, Mike Yastrzemski emerged as one of the best players in the National League this year. Brandon Belt enjoyed the best season of his career and Brandon Crawford had his most productive season since 2016. Donovan Solano delivered a near carbon copy of his surprising 2019 output while offseason addition Wilmer Flores led the team with 12 homers. Austin Slater was very productive in a small sample while also missing time with elbow and groin injuries. As for the pitching side, the Giants’ offseason additions paid off for the most part. Kevin Gausman was the most valuable of the bunch, with Drew Smyly and Tyler Anderson also proving respectable.
What Went Wrong
The Giants didn’t get much out of the biggest names on their roster. While Johnny Cueto led the team with 63 1/3 innings in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he posted a rough 5.40 ERA (79 ERA+) over 12 starts. He’s still under contract for $21 million in 2021 with a $5 million buyout on a $22 million club option for 2022. In the final year of his five-year, $90 million deal, Jeff Samardzija was rocked for a 9.72 ERA over four starts while missing time with a shoulder injury. The pandemic forced Buster Posey to opt out of the 2020 season after he and his wife, Kristen, adopted twin baby girls. Evan Longoria turned in another year of below-average production in his age-34 season. He’s still owed $38 million over the next two seasons with a $5 million buyout on a $13 million club option for 2023. Tyler Beede missed the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in the spring. Trevor Gott served as the Giants’ closer in the early part of the season, but he had a brutal three-appearance stretch in mid-August which might have ultimately cost the team a playoff spot.
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**Mike Yastrzemski was the 28th ranked player overall in Yahoo fantasy leagues this season after largely going undrafted in mixed formats. Serving as the primary leadoff hitter for San Francisco, the 30-year-old batted .297/.400/.568 with 10 homers, 35 RBI, and 39 runs scored over 54 games. That’s a 30-homer pace in a normal 162-game season. Yastrzemski was much more patient than he was as a rookie, though his numbers were propped up in part by his .370 BABIP. He still struck out nearly a quarter of the time and his batted ball metrics didn’t see a huge jump from 2019, so it would be unfair to expect something close to a .300 batting average in 2021. Still, he’s been an incredible find for Farhan Zaidi and company.
**Where did this come from, Brandon Belt? The 32-year-old has faded from relevancy in mixed leagues in recent years, but he posted career-bests across the board with a .309/.425/.591 batting line to go along with nine homers and 30 RBI over 51 games. He never hit higher than .289 in a season before, but the production this year was largely deserved, as he was suddenly in the 96th percentile in barrel percentage, the 84th percentile in hard-hit percentage, and in the 79th percentile in average exit velocity. He doubled his barrel percentage compared to 2019, which is huge. We’re dealing in such small samples that it’s difficult to project for next year, but we might need to look at Giants hitters differently moving forward due to the altered dimensions at Oracle Park.
**Donovan Solano has been another nice find for the Giants front office. After joining the club on a minor league deal, the 32-year-old has put up a .328/.362/.459 batting line over 135 games. That equates to an OPS+ of 121, so he has certainly been a useful player for San Francisco, but he’s amassed just seven homers and 52 RBI during that time while not stealing a single base. It should also be noted that he’s posted a .403 BABIP during that time, as well. So you are mostly banking on the high batting average while not getting much help in the other categories. And there’s a decent chance the average will come down. Be careful.
**Called up in late August, top prospect catcher Joey Bart batted .233/.288/.320 with zero homers over his first 33 games in the majors. He struck out in 36.9 percent of his plate appearances while drawing just three walks in 111 plate appearances. If it wasn’t for a .387 batting average on balls in play, his rookie showing would have looked a lot worse. The 23-year-old (24 in December) came into 2020 with just 130 games of experience in the minors and his ability to make contact was a bit of a concern, so the struggle shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Catchers have a lot to adjust to as they make the transition to the majors, so sometimes it takes them a little longer to put it all together. Still, the power is promising and Bart shouldn’t have any issue sticking behind the plate. This might not be a bad time to buy-low in dynasty leagues. There’s a chance Bart will begin 2021 in Triple-A, but having him around Buster Posey as much as possible isn’t a bad idea either.
**After finishing 2019 in the Reds bullpen, the rebuilding Giants gave Kevin Gausman a one-year, $9 million contract with the intention of giving him another try in the rotation. Gausman has teased his potential for years, but he really appeared to find himself with the Giants, posting a 3.62 ERA and 79/16 K/BB ratio in 59 2/3 innings. His xERA (via Baseball Savant) was even better at 3.49. His strikeout percentage (32.2 percent) was the best of his career and ranked 11th-highest among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched. Meanwhile, his swinging strike percentage was seventh (min. 50 IP) among starters and higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Dinelson Lamet, and Tyler Glasnow. The big key was really leaning into his splitter usage (a staggering 42.2 percent of his pitch mix), which was a completely dominating pitch. Opposing batters hit just .106/.123/.202 against it. For real. It would have been really nice to see if could have kept this up over a full 162-game season. Where he winds up this offseason will likely push his ADP (average draft position) one way or another in the spring, but there’s no doubt that he’s interesting.
Team Needs: Starting pitching and back-end bullpen help. The Giants weren’t struggling for offense this season, but they’d look a lot more intimidating with a power bat in the outfield. The club was linked to Marcell Ozuna last offseason, but he’s going to be a lot more costly this time around.