Opening Day, my Christmas, is finally upon us, and with the Giants set to open their season today in Milwaukee, I fully expect them to win their fourth world championship in seven years.
This offseason, the Giants went out and signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to go along with Madison Bumgarner, who has already established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Pitching in the cool and foggy climate of AT&T Park should allow Samardzija to have a good season, and if Jake Peavy and Matt Cain can have bounce-back seasons, the Giants will have one of the best starting rotations in the league.
The bullpen is also a strength. Santiago Casilla, who converted 38 saves last season, will resume the closing duties this season. He will be accompanied by Sergio Romo, who is set to be the eighth inning guy again this year, and Javier Lopez, who will once again be the left-handed specialist. There is also George Kontos, whose first 26 inherited base-runners never scored.
The pitcher to watch in the bullpen this season is left-hander Josh Osich. Osich nearly quit baseball, but after he was called up in the middle of last season, he proved to be a pitcher the Giants could trust late in games. He posted a 2-0 record, with an ERA of 2.20, and most importantly, he posted a 3/1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio, as he struck out 27 and only walked eight. With the fact that Casilla is getting up in age, Osich is someone who could potentially be a closer within the next couple of years.
Not to mention the Giants' powerful offense, which was further enhanced by the signing of center-fielder Denard Span, who hit over .300 in each of the last two seasons with the Washington Nationals. The offense is already headed by Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. Posey has already won a National League Most Valuable Player Award, Pence is fully healthy, which generally means he should be good for over 20 home runs, and Panik is fully healthy. Duffy will enter his first full season as the Giants' everyday third baseman, and while I don't think he's a .300 hitter, he's someone who should hit between .270 and .280. He is also a hitter the Giants can rely upon in the clutch, as he established himself as one of the best opposite-field hitters in baseball last year.
There's also the Giants' defense. Last season, shortstop Brandon Crawford won his first of what will likely be many Rawlings Golden Glove Awards. Pence, Panik and Duffy are also established defenders, and they could see Gold Glove Awards in their futures as well.
The Giants will face competition from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, but they will face even more competition from the Arizona Diamondbacks, who went out and signed Zack Greinke and traded for Shelby Miller. The Diamondbacks have a strong rotation, with a monstrous lineup headed by Paul Goldschmidt. They should stick around in the National League West race for most of the season. However, experience will propel the Giants to win the division down the stretch, and once the Giants are in the playoffs, it seems that nobody can stop them. I am very confident that the Giants will be back in the World Series this season.
My bold prediction is that the Giants will face the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees traded for the flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, and to go along with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, they will likely have one of the best bullpens in baseball. They also have an established ace in Masahiro Tanaka, who is fully recovered from elbow surgery he had last October. Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi an also hold their own, and if those three can pitch well enough to get to the bullpen of Betances, Miller and Chapman, the Yankees are going to be very tough to beat.
My ultimate prediction is that the Giants will end the season once again back on top of the baseball world, and let me make it clear that I don't believe in the "even year" hype. The Giants are just a team that knows how to win in the postseason, and this season should end with yet another parade down Market Street in San Francisco.