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Inbox: How will Giants rebuild farm system?

Fans ask about team's approach, Pence's role, Sandoval's status
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

Do you believe the Giants will try to rebuild their farm system? In doing so, will they use the type of business model the Cardinals seem to have perfected?
-- Dennis T., Fresno, Calif.

I trust the Giants to make a sincere effort to keep the farm system stocked with talent. Consider last year's Draft. They demonstrated flexibility and creativity by selecting outfielder Heliot Ramos and third baseman Jacob Gonzalez with their first two picks, teenagers who appear to be more athletic than the prototypical San Francisco Draft choice. Moreover, general manager Bobby Evans has an extensive Minor League background. He fully understands the importance of scouting and player development.

Do you believe the Giants will try to rebuild their farm system? In doing so, will they use the type of business model the Cardinals seem to have perfected?
-- Dennis T., Fresno, Calif.

I trust the Giants to make a sincere effort to keep the farm system stocked with talent. Consider last year's Draft. They demonstrated flexibility and creativity by selecting outfielder Heliot Ramos and third baseman Jacob Gonzalez with their first two picks, teenagers who appear to be more athletic than the prototypical San Francisco Draft choice. Moreover, general manager Bobby Evans has an extensive Minor League background. He fully understands the importance of scouting and player development.

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I don't get the sense that the Giants are consciously trying to duplicate the Cardinals' consistent approach, though they did hire David Bell, their new vice president of player development, from St. Louis. His exposure to that efficient organization will only help. The Giants, however, simply should strive to be a better version of themselves. Remember, they became perennial contenders by scoring big with three consecutive first-round picks in Tim Lincecum (2006), Madison Bumgarner (2007) and Buster Posey (2008). They also had 10 homegrown players on their 2010 World Series roster, and the starting pitcher in each of their postseason games that year was a product of their farm system.

Possessing the No. 2 overall pick gives the Giants a chance to add an impact player if they choose wisely. Put it this way: The last time the Giants had the second pick, they drafted Will Clark. Maybe it's a tad unfair to expect the Giants to select somebody that good. But this year's Draft gives the Giants a chance to take a quantum leap forward. They must take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Who is projected to start in left field for the Giants in 2018?
-- CJM, Sparks, Nev.

It looks like Hunter Pence will relinquish right field to Andrew McCutchen and take over left field.

Pence has not played a single inning in left during his Major League career. But unlike right field at AT&T Park, where defenders must deal with batted balls ricocheting at weird angles off the tricky wall, left field is fairly straightforward. Pence should handle the switch nicely.

Defense might not be the biggest issue involving Pence. Last year, his batting average dropped to .260 and his on-base and slugging percentages were career lows, which meant that his OPS and OPS+ figures also were personal lows. Coaxing another decent year from Pence will be a significant priority for the Giants.

If things hold to plan, Pence will become the 11th different player to start Opening Day in left field for the Giants since Barry Bonds played his final season in 2007. The complete list: Dave Roberts, 2008; Fred Lewis, 2009; Mark DeRosa, 2010; Pat Burrell, 2011; Aubrey Huff, 2012; Andres Torres, 2013; Michael Morse, 2014; Nori Aoki, 2015; Angel Pagan, 2016; and Jarrett Parker, 2017.

Video: Giants to play Cutch in right field, Pence in left

What are the Giants' plans for Pablo Sandoval? Is there a chance he doesn't make the team coming out of Spring Training?
-- Justin D., Pasadena, Calif.

There is a chance Sandoval will play himself into getting released, but think of how formidable he'd be as the 24th or 25th man. Manager Bruce Bochy repeated last year that Sandoval was extremely rusty, which of course hampered his performance. He had seven plate appearances with Boston in 2016, and the lack of activity would have silenced the bat of any hitter. If Sandoval can regain a semblance of his former self, he'd be quite a presence as a pinch-hitter.

In past years, the Giants were high on Ray Black, a reliever who could regularly top 100 mph with his fastball. Now I don't even see him among the Giants' Top 30 prospects. What happened to him?
-- Brady H., Spanish Fork, Utah

Black, 27, signed a Minor League contract and is expected to compete for a role in Triple-A Sacramento's bullpen. His ability to hit triple-digits -- his fastball has been recorded at 104 mph -- has been limited by multiple elbow and shoulder injuries. The Giants believe he'll be healthy this spring, and if he is, Black has a chance to ascend to the Majors later this year, though he won't be rushed. The Giants always have used him lightly in an attempt to preserve his tenuous health.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Ray Black, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval