Our rankings continue with one of the highest payrolls in the game, the San Francisco Giants. Make no mistake about it, the Giants have every intention of capitalizing on their championship window, as they continue to make aggressive win-now moves (see acquisition of post-prime sluggers Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen). With that, let’s begin our discussion of the current MLB roster with all-time Giants, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.
Authors of three Giants World Series Championships in five years, Buster Posey, 31 tomorrow, and Madison Bumgarner, 28, are still elite building blocks. While Posey has seen his power dwindle, with only 12 homeruns last season, he was still good for a solid 4 WAR season in 2017. That being said, father time has traditionally not been overly kind to 30-something catchers, and it’s somewhat likely that Posey’s days as an elite asset (his pear WAR was 7.6 back in 2012) will be nearing it’s end. Bumgarner, meanwhile, is about to lose major mound time due to freak injury for the second straight season, and will hit free agency at 30 years old after the 2019 season. With a 33 year old catcher in tow, and we’ll get to the age on the rest of this team, how will Bumgarner and the Giants proceed moving forward? While all of this cannot be decided now, it’s important to see the next two seasons for what they are: very likely the last legitimate hurrah for these Posey-Bumgarner Giants.
Well, are there any other roster pieces that look like assets beyond this upcoming 2 year win-now window? There are a few, but just look at the age and decline of some of the major ones: Hunter Pence has not put together a full, strong season in years mainly due to health, and is turning 35 in April. Andrew McCutchen has lost a few steps on defense and on the base paths, and will be a free agent after this season at 32 years of age. Longoria is slotted in at thirdbase for the next few seasons, where his production might struggle to match his escalating salaries in the toughest hitter’s park in MLB. Longoria, 32, will round out the mostly 30-something infield with solid veterans Brandon Crawford, 31, and Brandon Belt, 30 this April. Johnny Cueto, 32, and Jeff Samardzija, 33, are the only other established arms in the rotation after Madbum. This is a win-now team that is projecting for winning 80-something games this year, and just looking at the ages of everyone mentioned above, that win total is only going to be dwindling. While you can argue that the next two seasons carry some real upside based on present day assets, one would love to see a consistent stream of young talent pouring forth from the minor leagues.
Minor League Talent
So, about that. Look, it is important to note that even going back to the Giants tremendous championship runs of the early 2010’s, this was rarely one of the more highly touted farm systems. While big prospect names like Angel Villalona went bust, the Giants found a championship blend in part by continuously getting legitimate big league production out of ball players that were never topping prospect lists: Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, even Pablo Sandoval. But that is a very difficult model to repeat, and it hasn’t always worked, with the Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamsons of the world failing to fully capitalize on opportunity at the big league level the last couple of years. Meanwhile, the farm system has not been able to produce enough pitching, with the bullpen having major struggles at the big league level, and the back end of the rotation suffering at times as well.
That being said, the Giants farm system is not the worst in the game, and mostly features some intriguing bats. While Chris Shaw, the Giants 1st round pick in 2015 out of Boston College, has consistently gotten to his plus power and could be ready to play some corner outfield for the Giants as soon as this year, the Giants farm system has a few nice options for the outfield that should be ready soon. Steven Duggar, 2015 6th round pick out of Clemson, backed up his eye-opening AFL stint last fall with a very strong spring, brings good speed, solid on-base skills, a bit of pop, and plays a decent centerfield. Austin Slater, 25, has hit his entire minor league career since being drafted out of Stanford in 2014, and is also ready for the Show. Could this group surprise much in the positive way that Matt Duffy and Joe Panik did a few years ago?
A bit more far off, prospect junkies who crave all-star upside, might get off on a couple of teenage bats, Heliot Ramos, taken in the 1st round of last year’s draft, and Sandro Fabian, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2014. Ramos, 18, tore up rookie ball, while showing off his plus bat speed, 60-grade speed and 60-grade arm. While he will have to tame a very aggressive approach, many scouts have pegged him as one to watch to shoot up national prospect lists this year. Fabian, 19, profiles similarly with strong rightfielder-type tools, and hit well in low-A despite his youth and aggressive approach.
The pitching remains thin in this system, with crafty lefty Andrew Suarez, drafted out of the University of Miami in the 2nd round in 2015, showing MLB potential as a solid backend starter. Tyler Beede, Shaun Anderson, and Garrett Williams might also play nice roles, but lack the impact stuff to project as anything more than backend starters. With former 1st round pick Phil Bickford going to the Brewers in the Will Smith trade, and Tyler Beede very inconsistent at triple-A in 2017, the Giants should be a prime candidate to grab a high-end arm with the 2nd overall pick in this June’s Amateur Draft.
So with what must be the oldest MLB roster in the game, and a farm system that lacks impact talent on both sides of the ball, the outlook for the Giants is somewhat bleak, when attempting to forecast beyond the next two seasons. Whether or not they are able to retain Madison Bumgarner at the end of the 2019 season should loom quite large as an indicator as to where this organization will be heading. Do the Steven Duggars and Chris Shaws supplement an aging lineup? Ty Blach is starting on opening day, opposing Clayton Kershaw, highlighting the lack of pitching depth in the higher levels. Amidst all of this uncertainty, the San Francisco Giants have come in at 24th out of the 30 MLB organizations.