SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After staggering for the last season and a half, the Giants figure that it's about time for them to regain their stride.San Francisco believes that an influx of proven performers -- Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson and Tony Watson -- will combine with the club's incumbent
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- After staggering for the last season and a half, the Giants figure that it's about time for them to regain their stride.
San Francisco believes that an influx of proven performers -- Andrew McCutchen, Evan Longoria, Austin Jackson and Tony Watson -- will combine with the club's incumbent veterans to upgrade the squad overall.
The Giants' mood is upbeat as Cactus League play begins.
"We're in a really good state of being right now," right fielder Hunter Pence said. "It's a lot of fun just being here."
What's the goal? "Rebuilding" is a word that's absent from the Giants' collective vocabulary. Contrary to popular belief, they possess an adequate number of prospects whom they conceivably could throw into the lineup (Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Aramis Garcia) or pitching rotation (Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez) and wait to see whether they develop.
However, the Giants believe that their mixture of veterans, from holdovers to new acquisitions, will jell quickly and form a unit that's strong enough to fend off their National League West rivals -- well, maybe not the ultra-talented Dodgers, but certainly (they think) the D-backs, Padres and Rockies. Compiling the Majors' worst record since the 2016 All-Star break (94-140) has barely fazed the confident Giants.
What's the plan? The Giants will have to resemble the teams that won three World Series titles in five years fairly recently (2010, '12, '14) for San Francisco. Those teams lacked superstar-level offensive performers, with the possible exception of Buster Posey in '12 and Marco Scutaro for the second half of that season. But they received ample contributions up and down the lineup, which was enough to support their above-average pitching.
It's a prodigious leap from a 64-98 record to the postseason. But the Giants believe that their offense, defense and pitching each will incrementally improve, resulting in a winning combination.
What could go wrong? The Giants probably can survive if performers such as McCutchen and Longoria experience only slight decreases in production. The 1983 Philadelphia Phillies, for example, reached the World Series with a roster full of players who had seen better days. And nobody's saying that Longoria and McCutchen are at that stage. But if they grow old fast, the Giants probably will have to find alternative sources of offense, such as left fielder Shaw.
And if Madison Bumgarner -- after he returns from his broken left pinkie -- and Johnny Cueto repeat the substandard seasons they endured last year -- granted, they had excuses -- Giants fans could be in for a tough 2018.
Who might surprise? If Shaw's power is as legitimate as many observers believe, he could be in San Francisco sooner than later. But his defense remains a question mark.
Should Brandon Belt put up the breakout-year numbers that have been expected from him for some time, the Giants could climb into the upper half of the NL's offensive rankings.
And if Will Smith, who's in the latter stages of recovering from Tommy John surgery, regains full effectiveness, the Giants' bullpen will take a quantum leap forward in quality.
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.