By Tyler Chuck and Spencer Bowen
Before we can once again enjoy garlic fries and a $13 beer on the shores of McCovey Cove, it’s time for Cactus League baseball in Scottsdale, Arizona. Luckily for you, your two favorite highly qualified, very expert (the best!) baseball analysts decided to weigh in on this spring’s most burning questions.
Who will play left field?
Bowen: Jarrett Parker. Bochy is giving a lot of lip service to a possible platoon, but I don’t think that’s his or management’s preference. Parker has demonstrated legit pop in the big leagues, albeit in some streaky stretches. He’s got good speed and showed flashes of impressive plate discipline. Couple that with above-average defense in left field and I think Jarrett is the leader in the clubhouse.
Chuck: Jarrett Parker. It will not be a platoon. It’s Parker’s job. He gets hot during the spring and starts to up that Splash Hits counter. I just don’t see the Giants as the type of team that will platoon players like the A’s. They haven’t really done that in the past and I don’t see Bochy caving to the trend. Between Parker and Williamson, I think that Parker has more potential (remember that 3 HR game in the Zito-Hudson matchup?) because he sees RHP better.
Bowen: Don’t sleep on my crazy alternate theory – Brandon Belt in left field two out of every three games with Gillaspie at first?!?! Tell me this isn’t at least a little bit possible!!
Who handles the eighth inning?
Chuck: Derek Law. Did you see that guy’s emotion during the playoffs last year? Not to mention that he was good. Dude had a 2.13 ERA last year!
Bowen: Law and Will Smith. Law gets a partial nod because of his combination of youth, stuff, and world-class facial expressions. He was probably the Giants’ best reliever last year (0.96 WHIP, 8.18 strikeouts per nine innings) and recently got hitched, so he’s got a lot going for him. Folks forget how good Will Smith was/is and that he wasn’t quite 100% last year. He’s got above-average lefty stuff (at a premium with the Giants) and we have him at a relative steal ($2.5 million) plus two more years of arbitration.
Which Joe Panik do we get?
Bowen: Panik was a consistent number two hitter until concussion and eyesight issues derailed a key cog in the Giants’ homegrown infield. I’m cautiously optimistic that Panik will resemble his 2015 self and his .312 (!) batting average because he caught fire in the 2016 postseason, hitting nearly .500. I’m banking on some October momentum as a sign of good things to come.
Chuck: Unfortunately, I’m thinking that he’s going to be hurt for a lot of the year again. Injuries have always found a way to come bite the Giants in the worst ways, so I think that some combination of Nunez at 2B and Gillaspie at 3B fills the hole.
Matt Cain will be the fifth starter… right?
Chuck: I’ve got my money on Tyler Beede. The youth movement is coming. Just a gut feeling because I don’t trust Matt Cain. And if it’s not Beede, I think that we’ll get Ty Blach. The Giants have had some success with homegrown young pitching (Heston/Petit) in recent years and I think that this trend continues to patch the 5th starter role. I also think that the 5th starter spot could be a chance to regularly get Nick Hundley in at Catcher. Possibly whoever fills the role is regularly caught by Hundley, giving Buster some needed rest behind the plate.
Bowen: I’m all in with Ty Blach. Beede may be a year or two away, although his recent development has been very encouraging. Blach will regress to the mean, but he could regress quite a bit from his 17 innings of .76 WHIP / 1.06 ERA ball and still be a steal in the fifth slot.
Better ERA: Johnny Cueto or Madison Bumgarner?
Bowen: Cueto. I absolutely deposit my offerings of wheat and denim at the altar of MadBum, but he has one or two games a year where he gets absolutely lit up in the first two or three innings. Usually it’s a couple of guys guessing correctly and running into a fastball in the zone because Bum is so aggressive early in the count. But those games give his ERA a serious kick. One game to win in the postseason? Give me Bum over anyone in the league. But 2017 overall ERA? I’m going with the sneaky pick for best Instagram account on the team.
Chuck: This one is close, but I’m going to have to go MadBum. If you look at Cueto’s numbers over the years, he’s got a slightly higher ERA in odd years relative to the surrounding years, so I’d expect his ERA to take a slight bump. And anyway, Bum is a workhorse that somehow has found a way to be the dude with the lowest voice ever in a commercial.
Is Eduardo Nuñez our new leadoff hitter?
Bowen: Yup. He fits the bill – high contact rate, good on the basepaths, not a lot of home run pop. I’m a big fan of Denard Span, but the dude is old and will definitely miss some games.
Chuck: Yes, because I don’t believe that Span will be able to be healthy all year. He just hasn’t been throughout his career. I’d guess we get 80 games from Span and he’ll bat leadoff for 40 of them, meaning that we get 120 or so with Nunez leading off.
Bowen: We’ve really cornered the market on mid-30’s, oft-injured center fielders. Rowand, Pagan, Span…
Who will be better on-air: Affeldt or Lopez?
Chuck: These guys couldn’t be more different off the field. Lopez is super smart and calculated while Affeldt is a loose cannon. Can I choose both? I think that they’d make a great tandem calling games. Is it blasphemous to think that they could be the next Krukow/Kuiper or Miller/Flemming duo?
Bowen: Took the words right out of my mouth. Let’s go with Lopez because Affeldt will probably be sidelined with a ridiculous injury at some point and will be relegated to calling in to SportsPhone 680 from home.