Three Spring Training predictions for Giants

February 16th, 2020

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Giants pitchers and catchers are only days into their spring workouts at Scottsdale Stadium, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead. Injuries and other unexpected developments could always derail initial projections, but here are three predictions for how the next six weeks might unfold at Giants camp:

Buster Posey rebounds

One of the most notable takeaways from the first two days of camp has been the return of ’s power stroke during batting practice, a sign of the improved health of his surgically repaired right hip.

"I don't want to get too far ahead because it's early and it's BP," Posey said Thursday. "But it does feel a lot better. I feel it's been better the first couple of days."

One year ago, Posey remained in the throes of rehab and experienced discomfort when he tried to run. As part of his workout regimen this offseason, Posey sprinted four times a week, another example of the “night and day” difference he feels in his hip.

The 32-year-old veteran cautioned that it’s still early, noting that his strength during the regular season can be affected by the rigors of catching and the unforgiving travel schedule. But Posey is encouraged by the range in his hips so far, stoking optimism that he’ll be able to bounce back from a career-worst offensive season and re-establish himself as a force in the middle of the Giants’ lineup.

"One thing we've seen that is unequivocally clear is that his power is right where it needs to be,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Even in early batting-practice sessions you can see the flight of the ball, and it tells a really good story."

Posey said he is also looking forward to working with assistant hitting coach Dustin Lind, who has a background in physical therapy and will be a key resource in helping him make adjustments while keeping his body strong.

Tony Watson shifts from setup man to closer

Anchored by All-Star closer Will Smith, the bullpen emerged as the Giants’ biggest strength last year, but that unit figures to look markedly different in 2020. Smith, who signed a three-year, $40 million deal with his hometown Braves, is gone, along with Mark Melancon, Sam Dyson and Drew Pomeranz, all of whom were dealt at last year’s Trade Deadline. will be one of the few holdovers in the bullpen, and he’s ready to embrace more of a leadership role on the pitching staff. The 34-year-old left-hander hasn’t registered a save since joining the Giants in 2018, but he has past closing experience and should be the favorite to open the season as the club’s new ninth-inning man.

Johnny Cueto is named the Opening Day starter

Eighteen months removed from Tommy John surgery, reported to Giants camp feeling renewed after enjoying a normal offseason in his native Dominican Republic. Limited to rehabbing his right elbow last spring, Cueto is looking forward to operating with fewer restrictions as he aims to regain his All-Star-caliber form this year. Now that Madison Bumgarner is a D-back, the Giants will be leaning heavily on Cueto and fellow veteran Jeff Samardzija to lead a young pitching staff filled with plenty of question marks. If he’s healthy, Cueto should be the logical choice to take the mound for the Giants in their season opener at Dodger Stadium on March 26.