San Francisco Giants: Projecting the 2018 Opening Day Lineup

The San Francisco Giants put together a unique approach this offseason that gives them a legitimate chance of returning to the postseason. Since they have a well below average farm system, they acquired several former franchise icons, and will rely on this experiment to reverse their 64-98 record a season ago. On paper, this lineup can do a lot of damage. It is a matter of if they all can produce together. Here is how I think the Giants lineup will look around this time next month.

Joe Panik, 2B

Joe Panik has been a streaky hitter his four years in the majors. This past season, it seems that he has found a nice balance, slashing .288/.347/.421. He is not a player to rely on for power, but he will give you a respectable batting average and on base percentage. That is all the Giants need at the top of the lineup. Panik does not get much credit just because of the superstars in his position. He is no superstar, but he gives the Giants effective at-bats and productive innings in the field.

Austin Jackson, CF

The Giants got a steal being able to sign Austin Jackson for just three million dollars per year. Although playing only 85 games with the Indians last season, he still put up a two-win season (1.8 WAR), hitting over .300 and posting his best walk rate since 2012 (10.4 percent). Unless the Giants call up an outfielder from the farm or sign someone else, I see Jackson returning to a full-time role as a center fielder. Last time he played a full season in the outfield (2015), he finished with a 7.2 UZR. He won’t match his production in his prime, but Jackson is a more than adequate replacement for Denard Span in center field.

Buster Posey, C

Buster Posey continues to be one of the best catchers in the game, and puts up monumental numbers at the plate for someone at his position. It is unheard of for a catcher to hit .300, but for Posey to do it in practically all of his eight major league seasons, that puts him on a whole new level. With the new reinforcements hitting under him, he has some pressure lifted off of his shoulders at the plate. However, do not expect Posey to rely on his other teammates to his work. He will continue to be the gold standard at his position this season and be a huge part of the offense.

Andrew McCutchen, RF

The former heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Andrew McCutchen will spend his contract year playing in the Bay after being traded. He had a nice bounce back year (3.7 WAR) after finishing with the worst season of his career in 2016. He belted his most home runs (28) since 2012, and drove in almost 90 runs. In McCutchen, the Giants get an exceptional hitter that complements Posey who will share in a lot of the offensive production this season.

Evan Longoria, 3B

A homegrown Tampa Bay Ray, Evan Longoria is another veteran that the Giants acquired via trade in the offseason. He had a respectable 2017 campaign, owning a slash line of .261/.313/.424 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI. He has the ability to put up 30+ home run seasons, and perhaps a change of landscape will help him do that. The trio of Posey-McCutchen-Longoria is pretty potent in terms of power. Opposing pitching staffs are going to run into trouble having to deal with the meat of this lineup three to four times a game.

Brandon Belt, 1B

Brandon Belt is another power threat to deal with after the trio above him. He matched his career-high (18) in home runs last season, while playing only 104 games. With a full season, he is bound to break 20 home runs, as he will anchor the bottom of the lineup. It is a nice luxury that the Giants can put a hitter like him in the six hole. All of these hitters in the middle of the lineup pose a power threat, which shows that opposing pitchers can’t just waltz their wat through the bottom of the lineup.

Brandon Crawford, SS

Brandon Crawford experienced a bit of a drop off after a career year in 2016. Not that this is anything out of the ordinary, but that was most likely the reason for his mediocre 2017 season. Nonetheless, he is still an elite shortstop and ranked within the top 15 among his position at the end of last year. His role is the lineup will be lessened, but he still has the ability to be a great hitter. I would not expect too much from him, however, as he will not get as many opportunities as he did in the past being in the bottom of the lineup.

Hunter Pence, LF

Hunter Pence is declining, and there is no way of avoiding it. He was one of the worst right fielders last season, and it does not look like it will get much better as he pushes his mid-30’s. Although, it is nice to have a veteran presence who has been with the team his whole career and has oodles of postseason experience. The optimistic side of me wants to believe that maybe Pence can turn back the clock this season.

Pitcher’s Spot

One thing is for sure about the Giants this season: they will not be the worst team in the majors. The front office moves have been garnered strong opinions from both sides. Will the Giants win with a lineup full of players in their early 30’s? We will see how the season plays out.

Freshman at Springfield College majoring in Sports Journalism and minoring in Sports Analytics. Born in Detriot, Michigan but raised in Northern VA. Avid sports fan, especially baseball (Go Yankees!). Feel free to connect with me on social media!