How are the San Francisco Giants looking entering spring training? We begin our NL West scouting of the San Diego Padres divisional opponents.
The San Diego Padres are less than two weeks from officially commencing spring training. And while the excitement of a new season is beginning to build, expectations are as low as ever.
The Padres aren’t supposed to win the National League West division this season. But one can never be sure, as this young and exciting team is unpredictable. What is for sure though is that San Diego will need to compete with some of baseball’s elite clubs to come out on top.
Each day for the rest of this week, Friars on Base will be examining one of the Padres’ four NL West opponents. Today we begin with one of the toughest, the San Francisco Giants.
A star-studded rotation will take center stage for the Giants this season. A team which has always relied heavily on their pitching, the club will be anchored once again by ace Madison Bumgarner. The 27-year-old former World Series MVP will be followed by, in some order, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Matt Moore.
San Diego Padres
The fifth starting role is still up for grabs, and there is a chance veteran Matt Cain grabs the job. Ty Blach is really Cain’s only competitor, but is a formidable one. Putting forth strong relief in last season’s NLDS against the Chicago Cubs, this rising star could find his way into the rotation over the
Overall, San Francisco’s rotation looks very strong. Fans can trust the organization to make the right choice with their fifth starter, and can feel confident that they have enough depth in the event of an injury. Consistency defines this group, which is an opponent’s nightmare. In San Diego’s eighteen matchups with the club from the bay this season, they better be ready for a relentless staff which comes at hitters daily.
The Giants struggled offensively during the later portion of 2016, finishing ranked ninth in the National League in total offense. While this is a stat which can’t really be disputed, the lineup’s struggles have more to do with inconsistencies than a lack of firepower.
The middle of the order is very strong, as the Giants have All-Stars Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Brandon Belt pounding out at least 20 home runs a year. The top and the bottom, however, are a much different story. This allows for a lack of complimentary baseball, as San Francisco often falls into the trap of waiting for the big hit. And when it doesn’t come, there is nothing they can do.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford, third baseman Eduardo Nunez, and second baseman Joe Panik have proven that they are capable table setters. They haven’t yet proven that they can mesh in this lineup though, making continuity and compatibility something for the Giants to watch this spring.
So for the Padres to exploit San Francisco’s greatest weakness this season, they ought to look for the soft spots in the lineup. If and only if San Diego can force the middle of the order to be the primary source of offense, they can compete with the menacing force known as the Giants this season.
Much like the Padres, the Giants have a strong back end of the bullpen, but their middle inning relief is a bit of a liability.
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Still, this season will be a true test for the relievers between the sixth and eighth innings. Ideally for San Francisco, the starters will consistently pitch a strong six or seven innings. If they do, the club is in good shape. But if they don’t, the lack of reliability in these middle innings will provide an opening for opposing lineups.
At the closer position though, the Giants are set. Mark Melancon is without a doubt one of the best in the business, recording 47 saves in 2016 and a league leading 51 in 2015.
With their strong rotation and powerful lineup, the Giants will certainly contend for a division title in 2017. Still, they have some weak spots opponents could take advantage of. For the Padres, it will be an uphill battle, but knowing one of their fiercest rivals entering a long, grueling season will work in their favor.
Stay tuned the rest of the week as Friars on Base takes a look at the Padres’ four divisional opponents entering spring training!