PGT Predicts: The Lineup 1-8

Will the homegrown infield continue to improve, or has it peaked?  What can we really expect from the outfield, and new acquisition Denard Span?

After dabbling in the rotation, PGT tries its hand with the cracked crystal ball it found at the Alameda flea market.

1.  Denard Span, CF


Written by Nick–

Considering his veteran status, Span is one of the biggest question marks on the team. Sure, it’s easy to ask if Duffy is really a top-10 third baseman or if Samardzija can be fixed by the pitching-friendly confines of AT&T Park and the players and staff who inhabit it, but why should a player like Denard Span be so enigmatic?

He has been healthy during five out of his full seven seasons as a major leaguer, but he’s coming off an injury-riddled 2015. Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of evidence for how Span will play post-injury as he essentially stopped playing after it. Despite an uncharacteristically low average, his encouragingly high walk rate and low strikeout rate are both consistent with his player profile and very good for the projected season-long leadoff guy. It’s probably unreasonable to expect him to be 100 percent from the beginning, but I don’t foresee any doomsday scenarios.
2016 Prediction: .290/.345/.420, 4 Home Runs, 35 RBI, 17 SB

2.  Joe Panik, 2B


Written by Jack–

If you happen to Google “[Giants infielder] + 2016 prediction,” odds are you’re going to come across the word “regression.” Fangraphs, and those who are actually paid to discuss baseball, have taken a look at the Giants homegrown, All-Star level infield and deemed it unsustainable.

In Joe Panik’s case, Fangraphs cites his larger body of work — minor league numbers — to suggest he played above his head in 2015. Throw in a back injury that limited him to 15 games in the second half and you’ve got enough reasonable doubt to be a Negative Nelly. But, according to Panik, he’s feeling “100 percent” this spring, so we should totally not worry about it all.

I said stop worrying.
I think Panik can hit 10-plus home runs if he stays healthy, but I do think we’ll see a dip in his slugging numbers and the BABIP gods probably won’t love him as much this year. Here’s the neat thing though: You can lop off 30 points from his 2015 SLG% and you’re still looking at an All-Star, + glove second baseman who walks almost as much as he strikes out, and puts the ball in play. Bochy could hardly design a more typical two-hole hitter with genetic engineering.

3. Buster Posey, C


Written by Jack–

How Gerald Dempsey “Buster” Posey III’s year will play out is oddly not determined just by him. Posey cannot choose how many games he’ll play behind the plate and he cannot choose how many baseballs Brandon Belt catches with his head.

Let’s just hope we hear “Starting Catcher, Trevor Brown” as little as possible.

I’m going to be bullish on Posey because no one can stop me. I think he catches ~120 games (starting ~145 total), his home runs tick up, he continues to walk more than striking out and his OPS is closer to .900 than .850.

Reasoning besides blind homerism? It’s simple: General Posey was able to rest all of October (and November) — spared the deep playoff run that we’ve come to expect from even years. If you look at his BBREF, you’ll notice his OPS+ always trends downward the year after the Giants win the World Series. I mean, these are facts I’m working with this time. Fresh Legs Posey appears to be a real thing and I’m all on board.

4.  Hunter Pence, RF


Written by Nick–

Hunter Pence is not an injury-prone player, but injuries cannot be ignored in a season preview. I am fully optimistic for his return, but there is always a chance of a reoccurrence. That being said, from what we saw this spring, Pence is 100 percent back to normal —  the player who missed only two games from 2012-2014, and who is part of the offensive bedrock for this team. He batted .447 with 6 home runs in the Cactus League and has shown little residual signs that he missed two-thirds of the 2015 season.

At this point, I have no reason to believe Pence will be any different from who he was prior to last season. We saw last year his affect on the team, increasing the team’s winning percentage an unreasonable degree . Hopefully, he’ll once again be an instrumental part of the middle of the order and perform to our collective expectations of a star right-fielder.
2016 Prediction: .275/.335/.475, 20 Home Runs, 90 RBI

5.  Brandon Belt, 1B


Written by Jack–

While baseball writers seem to be lining up to declare that the Giants don’t bring Belt back next year, or that they definitely let him go when he hits free agency,  I wonder: Is there a level of performance that increases the Giants’ odds of keeping him? If Belt flounders, the Giants have no compelling reason to bring him back and if he, well, belts the ball all season, he may become prohibitively expensive. However, would a simply mediocre year from Belt at the plate — while maintaining his + glove — put him in the Giants’ future plans?

For the record, I don’t think Belt is a Giant for that much longer — however, assuming he has no freak injuries this year and he avoids Jeremy Affeldt’s retirement parties, there’s nothing to suggest he won’t put up another productive year at the plate.

Brandon Belt is an oddly polarizing figure among Giants fans on the internet. Some will be happy to see him leave. Others probably think he should’ve chosen a different career and make a hex sign during his at-bats.. Many are bothered by his habit of following his hot months with frigid, Hoth-cold ones and his strikeout totals that trend in the wrong direction.

The verdict? Brandon Belt puts up another Brandon Belt year (as in, a good one) to the annoyance of all the callers from Half Moon Bay.

6.  Matt Duffy, 3B


Written by Jack–

This is where I would like to point out that nobody knows what Matt Duffy is going to do. He makes no sense. His minor league numbers suggest that the Duffy we know is an entirely different person. Some kind of bodyswap occurred in the wintry months of 2015 and the real Matt Duffy is stored away in some grandmother’s attic.

But the current Matt “I’m Actually Good At Baseball” Duffy also might have a split personality.  True, both versions have trouble taking a walk, but is he the 2015 first-half Duffy who hovers around an .800 OPS or is he the second-half version who lost 70 points of SLG percentage?

My pet theory suggests that, in the second half of 2015, Duffy was a bit overwhelmed with the role that he both earned and that the Giants needed him to fill. When your lineup is devoid of Panik, Pence and Belt, I imagine the weight on the rookie’s shoulders would feel like he was carrying Pablo Sandoval on his back.

Does he regress? Sure. Does he play better in 2016? Okay. Does the other Matt Duffy break out of the attic and reclaim his place, returning his form to a middling minor leaguer? That’s possible, too. But, like with Panik, if you lop off five home runs or so, we’re still looking at a very, very useful tool in the lineup.

The only thing I’m going to say for certain is that a healthy lineup surrounding Duffy would let him take it a bit easier, at least.

7.  Brandon Crawford, SS


Written by Jack–

The (finally) Gold Glove winning shortstop is coming off the best year of his career — a career that has amazingly improved every single year. I mean, who does that? No, seriously, go HERE and look at his stats — almost everything goes up every year. Freaky stuff.

Again, some people who get paid to discuss baseball think that not only have we seen Crawford’s best year, but it’s the best we’ll ever see from him. It’s all downhill from here — besides the glove, at least.

Sorry folks, but here I am going to exercise my God-given right to be a downer. No, I don’t believe we’ll see another 20-plus home run year from Crawford. But again (this is starting to become a theme), if Crawford regresses in the power department, he’ll still be an All-Star caliber shortstop.

It sure would be nice if he trimmed his strikeouts a bit, though.
For Crawford, I’ll actually give you my quadruple-slash prediction so you don’t have to do any math: .251/.323/.432/.752. See, that’s not so bad!

8.  Angel Pagan, LF, Gregor Blanco, ?


Written by Jack–

Kicked out of center field and entering a contract year, Angel Pagan might have some extra motivation, but will it even matter? Pagan played 133 games last year, which is the most he’s appeared in since 2012 and … he had far and away the worst season of his career at the plate.

So perhaps we should worry less about his glass/prayer-built body and instead talk about how he probably isn’t a good player anymore. Except none of that is fun.

What can we really expect from a potentially healthy, eighth- or ninth-spot hitting Pagan?

I don’t think it’s delusional to think Pagan will bounce back. In fact, I think he will to a degree.. I don’t think it’s delusional, either, to think that Pagan can put up numbers that aren’t bad for where he bats in the lineup. The real question is: Will Pagan play well enough, or stay healthy enough, to keep Gregor Blanco from fully taking over?
Fangraphs calls Blanco arguably the most underrated player in baseball. You can’t really ask for a better fourth outfielder. Blanco would be the starting left fielder for an All-Star team composed entirely of backups. I think we’re going to see a lot of Gregor Blanco in 2016 and there’s a decent shot that Angel Pagan will be the biggest frustration of the season.


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1 Response to PGT Predicts: The Lineup 1-8

  1. Pingback: PGT Predicts: 2016 Rotation | Postgame Thread

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