Predicting the Giants biggest disappointments of the 2020 season
By Dzintars Grinfelds
Despite being cornerstone pieces during the San Francisco Giants title runs, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford will need to rebound or risk being dealt this season.
While the San Francisco Giants franchise in the midst of an on-field overhaul with Farhan Zaidi, new manager Gabe Kapler, and the baseball operations side focused on player development, the team still holds tight to memories of past success.
Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval are returning this year as veterans with great clubhouse presence who are aware their time remaining in the MLB is short and they must adapt to leadership roles.
There is always the team’s fearless leader Buster Posey who will need to be moved to first base for the quick-developing catching prospect Joey Bart.
However, the two remaining pieces from the team’s last World Series win in first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford are in line to be the biggest disappointments in 2020.
Unfortunately, the term “disappointment” could come in more ways than one.
Of course, everyone will look to their on-field performance first. With their massive contracts that have not reflected their performances at the plate in recent years, 2020 is going to be a pivotal year for Belt and Crawford.
Belt spent the better half of the 2017 and 2018 seasons battling concussions and other injuries, which limited him to 907 plate appearances. He posted a .247/.348/.440 line with 32 home runs and 131 RBI during that span. The numbers are respectable considering what he dealt with, but this was not what the Giants expected when they signed him to a five-year, $72.8 million extension prior to the 2016 season.
The 2019 season proved to be even worse. He hit a middling .234/.339/.403 with 32 doubles, 17 home runs and 57 RBI in 616 plate appearances. The extra at-bats that came with staying healthy did not result in more production.
The annual ZiPS predictions are not forecasting an overwhelmingly positive season for Belt in 2020 either, giving him an expected line of .238/.345/.411 with 15 dingers.
Belt needs to prove his value goes beyond being a tough at-bat and produce enough offensively to stay with the Giants through the termination of his contract after the 2021 season.
In a same-but-different scenario, Crawford will also need to have a turnaround season at the plate. He had been among the most consistent hitters on the team from 2012 to 2018, as his batting average was always between .246 and .256 and he was always good for between 10-14 home runs. The exception was 2016, when he hit a career-best .275 with 21 home runs.
But 2019 was his worst season at the plate. He finished with a dismal .228/.304/.350 line. At least ZiPS sees Crawford returning to his previous self, projecting a .245/.313/.376 line with 11 home runs.
The consistency prior to last season has been nice, as has the Gold Glove caliber defense, but he has not come close to earning the six-year, $75 million extension he signed in 2016.
It is on both of the Giants veteran infielders to find another level offensively to bring added value to the team. The most disappointing outcome for the Giants and their fans would be if both players continue to struggle and are unable to bring back any sort of return in a trade.
Crawford has a full no-trade clause in his contract, making a deal very difficult. He and the Giants could come together and agree to waive it. But besides possibly wanting to play for a title contender, what reason does Crawford have to leave the team he has been with his whole career?
Belt is the more movable piece of the two, and his name has been involved in trade rumors for the last few seasons. But his approach at the plate is unique for a first baseman, and how other teams value Belt over the traditional power hitter at the position has been an issue.
Belt and Crawford are proven winners and valuable assets in their own unique ways. But if in 2020 they are unable to produce at the plate, they will prove to be the biggest disappointments for the club.