One month from today, the Bay Area will either be bathing in 49ers glory or scrambling to recover after a heartbreaking defeat. San Francisco will probably be balancing the tanking hopes of the Warriors with Stephen Curry’s impending return.
And one month from today, Giants pitchers and catchers will begin their first workout at spring training, a first taste of a meal that surely has been sweeter in previous seasons.
The pitchers and catchers will arrive Feb. 11, hold their first Scottsdale workout the next day and await position players, who report Feb. 16. The expectations for a team that overachieved last season — and still won just 77 games — will not be high, but the energy level should be as they introduce a team skewing younger and a coaching staff skewing youngest.
A lot of pressure will be on that staff to not just prove itself in the face of some skepticism, but to do so quickly as the Giants embark on a season that isn’t expected to be especially competitive. Here are five of the biggest questions whose answers should get a little less cloudy a month from today:
What’s April’s rotation?
As silent as the offense was for much of last season and as uncertain as the bullpen is at the moment, the Giants’ biggest hole resides in the rotation, where even the penciled-in starters might require erasers. The staff should be anchored by Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, who both hold trade value in an offseason that has been kind to starters.
After the top two, Kevin Gausman will hold a spot, a Pomeranz’ian wild card who has proven himself as a reliever and not recently as a starter. And then the questions begin.
Tyler Beede, barring something unforeseen at camp, should make the rotation. But while the talent is real, so was the 5+ ERA last season.
Logan Webb will get a chance to flash in the rotation, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he began his season with Triple-A Sacramento, where they can begin to monitor his innings limit. The 23-year-old threw a total of 103 innings last season, 39 2/3 in the majors, as he rocketed up following a suspension for testing positive for a PED.
The Giants picked up Tyler Anderson from the Rockies, who had a few promising seasons before injury struck and is coming off serious left knee surgery. He’s not expected to be ready for the start of spring training, and may not be ready for Opening Day. As the only lefty listed thus far, though, and with a bit of a pedigree, he should crack the rotation.
And then you can pick names out of a hat. Dereck Rodriguez? Conner Menez? Andy Suarez? Newly signed Tyson Ross? Shaun Anderson, who will get his chance to prove he’s a starter and not a reliever?
There will be 200 innings missing that usually are eaten by Madison Bumgarner. There will be plenty of room for youthful options to make their names known.
How will this novel coaching staff fare?
Welcome to camp, Buster Posey, who’ll be 33 in March. Your new hitting coaches are Donnie Ecker (33) and Justin Viele (29).
For those on Gabe Kapler’s staff, getting buy-in from the veterans will be crucial. Will Brandon Crawford be willing to listen to coaches trying to adjust the defense of a three-time Gold Glover, whose glove and legs have declined to the point of posting a minus-4 outs above average last season?
If the Giants can get small steps forward not just from Crawford but from emerging pieces like Jaylin Davis and Mauricio Dubon, this staff will be happy with its job — even if the record is not there at season’s end. But there will be inherent challenges in having player and coach contemporaries.
Speaking of which, can the core be saved?
Crawford’s defensive steps back have been less noticeable than his slowing bat, but both serve as problems the staff will have to address. At the close of last season, Posey said he would be seeking a change this offseason, as he tries to speed his bat up to pitches that he used to be able to square up. Evan Longoria had a fine 2019, but the Giants would like more out of a player due $53 million over the next three seasons.
The most realistic of comeback seasons would be Brandon Belt’s, a modern-day hitter who works counts and has lost so many fly balls to Oracle Park, whose walls will move in this season. Kapler mentioned Belt several times in his introductory news conference as a player whose skills he admired. Having said that, Belt also would be the easiest of this group to trade — though, it’s unlikely San Francisco would unload him with his stock low after a .234/.339/.403 campaign.
Who’s this year’s Yaz? (Can Yaz be Yaz?)
Out of Baltimore and then Sacramento — and really, out of nowhere — Mike Yastrzemski rose up to become not just the find of the Giants’ season, but their best offensive player. He will be back and playing more center field, but a 29-year-old coming off a season that he never even could accomplish in the minors is an obvious candidate for regression.
Who will be this year’s version? The staff is high on Davis, who hammered 35 minor-league homers last season before scuffling in his majors debut. Youth pieces like Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Joe McCarthy and Kean Wong have qualities the team likes, and the pressure will be on the staff to enable leaps this year.
Who’s the closer? Actually, the entire bullpen?
There isn’t a bigger mystery on the team than who, exactly, will comprise this unit. The Giants have not, as of yet, added veteran options to an awfully inexperienced group. There are still plenty of second- and third-tier free agent options, but even if one is added, the Giants would like to see what they have.
What they have is talent without resumes, with the exclusion of Tony Watson and, to a lesser extent, Trevor Gott (who no longer can be optioned). Reyes Moronta is not expected back until August, and virtually every spot behind Watson and Gott is up for grabs. Dany Jimenez, the Rule 5 pick from the Blue Jays, will have an inside track. Sam Coonrod, Tyler Rogers and Jandel Gustave impressed last season. In much smaller samples, so did Burch Smith and Wandy Peralta. Also in the mix will be Melvin Adon, Sam Selman and Enderson Franco.
A month from today, they’ll begin a fight for Opening Day spots, but a fight that will continue all season long.