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Scouts agree: Giants can shake up NL West

Talent evaluators believe club primed for turnaround
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Many Giants fans are probably wondering exactly what they'll see, hear and read about as they follow the team's home opener Tuesday against the Mariners.

The Giants split their season-opening series against the Dodgers, but scored only two runs while doing so. The ballclub's offensive futility in general and the punchless starts by several players in particular -- namely, newcomers Evan Longoria (0-for-15 in the opening set), Andrew McCutchen (1-for-16) and Austin Jackson (1-for-12) -- left many of the orange-and-black-clad faithful feeling as if Los Angeles had swept San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Many Giants fans are probably wondering exactly what they'll see, hear and read about as they follow the team's home opener Tuesday against the Mariners.

The Giants split their season-opening series against the Dodgers, but scored only two runs while doing so. The ballclub's offensive futility in general and the punchless starts by several players in particular -- namely, newcomers Evan Longoria (0-for-15 in the opening set), Andrew McCutchen (1-for-16) and Austin Jackson (1-for-12) -- left many of the orange-and-black-clad faithful feeling as if Los Angeles had swept San Francisco.

A certain few well-trained professionals would tell the fans, "Stop worrying!"

Video: SEA@SF: Longoria gets first hit, homer as a Giant

These are pro baseball scouts, trained to be detached and dispassionate. Baseball's general public looks at the Giants and sees flaws aplenty. Scouts see the club as a resourceful bunch who can squeeze the maximum from the minimum -- as they did in Los Angeles.

As the Giants observed their scheduled off-day Monday, MLB.com caught up with three expert bystanders -- two scouts for National League clubs and a award-winning former pitcher who remains closely involved with Major League Baseball. The scouts echoed each other, and their consensus was that while the Giants have little margin for error, they aren't the dreadful, destined-for-last-place bunch that they might appear to be at a glance.

As the ex-pitcher said, "There are no concerns to be had right now."

These authorities pointed out that by the end of April, Jeff Samardzija should have rejoined the starting rotation, with Madison Bumgarner to follow several weeks later. "You don't have to worry about the Giants if they have those two guys, because of their presence in the clubhouse and their presence in the rotation," one of the NL scouts said.

This talent evaluator, assigned to cover the Giants-Dodgers series, raved about right-hander Johnny Cueto, who allowed one run in six innings Friday. "I think Cueto might step up," he said. "He looked as good as I've seen him look for a while."

Video: SEA@SF: Cueto deals six one-run innings

The ex-pitcher agreed that Cueto can become a significant factor in the Giants' season. "If you have Mad Bum and Cueto, you're almost a shoo-in to at least win two games in a three-game series, and possibly three games in a four-game series if they can get one of the kids to step up."

The second NL scout attached similar importance to Samardzija, the classic innings-eater. "If Samardzija has a good year and goes deep into his games, that's really going to help the bullpen and help the team," he said.

The scout who watched every pitch of the series in Los Angeles saw more encouraging signs from McCutchen than discouraging ones. "Pitching's always ahead of the hitting at the beginning," this scout said. "This probably exemplified it. Offense takes a while to get going. I think Cutch is really close to breaking out. He's squaring some balls up. He's hitting them at people."

Video: SF@LAD: Cutch doubles for first hit with Giants

The observers' faith in Giants manager Bruce Bochy's skills also prompted favorable views of the team.

"Knowing Boch, he's going to make it happen," said the second NL scout. "That's just who he is."

Said the ex-pitcher, "He always pulls a rabbit out of his hat, if he has one to pull out."

Scout No. 2 came down squarely on both sides of the issue regarding the Giants overall. "They've got a decent bullpen, they've got a great defense, they've got a great catcher and they've got a great offense," he said. "They just have to gel it together."

Yet this same scout termed the Giants' bench as "a little weak in their bench strength. If a couple of more key injuries occur, it could hurt them bad."

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, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Austin Jackson, Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, Jeff Samardzija