Fantasy Breakdown: San Francisco Giants for 2021

A preview of San Francisco's lineup, rotation, and bullpen for 2021.

As we prepare for the season ahead, the Pitcher List staff will be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2021. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2021 hub here.

 

At A Glance

 

The San Francisco Giants were modestly interesting last year and, based on how it happened, that should be considered a major win for fans and fantasy players alike. The club’s near .500 finish featured pop-up performances all over the roster. From Mike Yastrzemski creating more value in 54 games than he did in 107 after seemingly breaking out in 2019, to Kevin Gausman finally getting things to click, to a slew of relievers capturing at least three saves or six holds, you had options all over the back end of your draft or even on your waiver wire that could’ve helped you win.

But, really, how it happened is what’s most interesting when considering the Giants for 2021. The only projected starting position player under 30 is centerfielder Mauricio Dubón, who will likely hit in the bottom third of the order. The aforementioned Yastrzemski is already 30. So is Alex Dickerson. Donovan Solano is 33. Then there’s the old guard, buttressed by Buster Posey behind the dish with Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria at the hot corners, but they don’t offer much value outside of maybe DFS. In the big picture, we know players are peaking earlier than ever, so the age of this group alone will raise plenty of questions.

On the pitching side of things, Gausman offers the most intrigue, having delivered a season that was pacing to be a career-best after struggling for years in Baltimore and having quick stops in Atlanta and Cincinnati. Anthony DeSclafani offers some deep league allure after coming over from the Reds, too. The team just signed Alex Wood, but any other starting pitcher may only be a streamer at best. The bullpen offers more options even if it has less name value, and might be a group that filters through waivers for large swaths of the season, depending on your league’s settings and who’s hot.

 

Hitters

Projected Lineup

 

Infielders

Brandon Belt (1B)

2020: 25 R, 9 HR, 30 RBI, 0 SB .309/.425/.591 | 1B #19

2021 ADP: 356.84 (1B #38)

 

Belt had the second-best power performance of his career in the shortened 2020 season and broke a .200 ISO mark for the first time since 2017. He tallied nine homers in just 179 plate appearances, amounting to one every 20 or so trips to the dish. He also enjoyed career-highs in batting average and OBP, and we can only wonder how that would’ve played out over 162 full games. The 16% walk rate, nearly 7% more than league average, was especially spicy, and spurred on by another career-best 22% chase rate. These notes sound good and had their use, though they probably featured best as a CI or bench bat.

The real story here — and one worth noting for any hitter in the Giants lineup at home or even opponents who come to play at Oracle park — is how the ballpark was reconfigured ahead of the 2020 season. Scott Pianowski detailed some interesting tidbits about it at Yahoo. Grant Brisbee went further at The Athletic, and so did Andrew Baggarly and Eno Sarris. The gist of the changes regard moving in the fences through the outfield between six and eight feet while also closing the archways to wind in right field. The ball carried better and hitters reaped the benefits. The park may still play better to pitchers but is much friendlier to hitters now, and as the we welcome the warm months in the season it could help a lot of players. Belt could provide solid backend roster value again.

 

Tommy La Stella (3B/UT) 

2020: 31 R, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 1 SB .281/.370/.449 | 3B #16

2021 ADP: 306.57 (3B #32)

 

La Stella will come into the season with eligibility for at least first and second base and, depending on your league’s settings, potentially third base. He’s currently slotted in there as a starter over the slightly-more-veteran Evan Longoria (detailed below) and will likely see a lot of action all over the infield as a super utility type. His 2020 season showcased his strong eye at the plate, with a hilariously low 5.3% strikeout rate and a walk rate that more than doubled it. He doesn’t hit the ball especially hard and didn’t show the same rate of power he did in his holy-butt-did-you-guys-see-that, injury-shortened 2019 but he’s going to get regular ABs and be an OBP machine. His price says he’s nearly an afterthought for fantasy players, which means there could be room for profit if you snatch him up to be your swiss army knife.

 

Evan Longoria (3B) 

2020: 26 R, 7 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB .254/.297/.425 | 3B #25

2021 ADP: 413.74 (3B #37)

 

The 2020 season saw Evan Longoria continue to quietly fade into a league average bat. While he gently outpaced the average third baseman, the fantasy landscape is so loaded at the position that he’s only a last resort option — think about getting sniped or outbid a couple times, then prioritizing the value that falls to you, and realizing you need a third baseman before the draft or auction wraps up. That’s where you can shrug and plug in Longoria. He probably won’t offend your finer sensibilities when constructing your roster, but in the famed words of Joe Girardi, “it’s [probably] not what you want.” Oh, and for the first time since 2016, he didn’t steal any bags, despite maintaining slightly above average 90 foot speed. The few he might’ve chipped in for you in the past might’ve given him some spice, but those days may well be gone and Longoria is a milquetoast option for a fantasy team at this stage in his career.

 

Brandon Crawford (SS) 

2020: 28 R, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB .256/.326/.465 | SS #21

2021 ADP: 522.15 (SS #46)

 

Count Brandon Crawford as another artifact of a Giants age gone by. The generally light-hitting shortstop’s glove has fallen off but keeps him in the lineup. Like Belt, he enjoyed a career-high in power by isolated slugging, compiling a .209 number through 54 games last year. It led to his highest wRC+ (112) since 2015 (113). While that’s not often a fantasy stat, it does a good enough job of telling the story quickly: He produced runs 12% better than average and 11% better than the regular shortstop. The extra base hits and according runs and RBI could’ve been solid over a full season, if unspectacular. But, like Longoria and third base, Crawford’s position is loaded with elite talent. In the golden age of shortstops, ending up with a guy who by his own measures had a good season in 2020 and still rated outside the top 20 isn’t anything to write home about. In fact, it might be best to leave it out of the note to Mom and Dad. You could close your eyes and throw a dart in the early or mid rounds and get more value.

 

Donovan Solano (2B/3B) 

2020: 22 R, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB .326/.365/.463 | 2B #15

2021 ADP: 481.49 (2B #47)

 

Solano’s rise to major league relevance came even later than most late bloomers seem to. He popped onto the scene in 2019 as a 31-year-old, contributing 60 combined runs and RBI in 81 games. He was a regular in 2020, whiffing a little less and adding a little more pop. Given the dearth of talent at second base, Solano was relevant at the position while having a career year at an age when most players are beyond their peak.

He tallied an OPS of .828 — a mark managed by only six keystone keepers — but the market doesn’t seem terribly interested in Solano for 2021. It’s easier to wrap your head around when considering he chased pitches nearly 10% more than average. He swings a ton. He’s eligible at multiple positions in most places, which might be worth a late round flier, but the plate discipline isn’t usually a skill that ages well. Buyer beware. You could  a better option at nearly any spot in the draft.

 

Buster Posey (C) 

2019: 43 R, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB .257/.320/.368 | C #58

2021 ADP: 268.93 (C #15) 

 

Posey opted to sit out 2020. Given his age and injury history, that might not be so terrible for what it means for his game in 2021, even if the start of the year involves shaking off some rust. That said, Posey hasn’t hit double-digit dingers since 2017 and he’s struck out more and more since 2015. The whiff increases were often marginal but jumped nearly five percentage points in 2019. In that regard, how Posey balances his knowledge of the zone and a likely decrease in being able to rely on his eyes could be an intriguing storyline to follow if you get boxed out of better catcher options early.

But, like so many Giants, it’s probably better to strategize so you don’t have to take him. 15-teamers and deeper, or two catcher leagues, are a different story. Outside of those, though, it might be best to read our catchers to stream pieces and ride the hot hand.

 

Outfielders

Mike Yastrzemski (OF)

2020: 39 R, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 2 SB .297/.400/.568 | OF #14

2021 ADP: 136.78 (OF #36)

 

If you consider the Giants lineup to be a boring sandwich, then Mike Yastrzemski is the sauce that makes it all okay. San Francisco got him for free from the Orioles ahead of the 2019 season. After 40 games at Triple-A, he was called up and has been a starter for the Giants ever since. In 107 games, he launched 21 bombs and notched 45 extra base hits in total. In addition to the excellent power, he also delivered a plus batting average and nearly 120 runs, all as an amazing waiver wire pickup.

Then he got better. The 2020 season saw Yastrzemski take total control of the zone, chasing after fewer pitches than 80% of qualified hitters after being a couple ticks below average in his debut. His walk rate nearly doubled and he turned into a power and on-base machine that tallied a .968 OPS. Stronger, more concentrated contact buoyed by a change in approach at the dish, plus the benefit of the tweaks made to the dimensions of his own park make him a spicy add.

That said, the market still doesn’t quite believe. Though he finished as the 14th best outfielder, he’s being drafted more like a third option than a first. The skill set seems legit, even if he doesn’t repeat an OPS near 1.000. Go get that zest.

 

Mauricio Dubón (OF/2B)

2020: 21 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB .274/.337/.389| OF #72

2021 ADP: 295.68 (OF #80)

 

Mauricio Dubón was another 2019 minor league add by the Giants, who came over in a trade with Milwaukee. San Francisco had more opportunity for playing time, and, across 30 total MLB games, the infielder-outfielder flashed a nice power-speed combo that included four homers and three steals. His 2020 might be considered a disappointment in comparison, as he tallied only four homers and two steals over 54 games, but there’s potential here.

Still just 26 and boasting 90-foot speed better than 80% of the league, Dubón will have a starting job yet again and will likely remain unthreatened so long as he stays healthy. He chases nearly 10% more pitches than average, though his ability to make contact on those offerings likely aids his game because of his wheels. As someone being taken in the final rounds of 12-teamers, the upside is a 10 homer, 10 steal season. That’s pretty appealing given the low risk and often low return on similar speed options after the first few rounds. The multi-position eligibility is nice, too.

 

Alex Dickerson (OF/1B)

2020: 20 R, 6 HR, 20 RBI, 0 SB .283/.353/.500 | OF #39

2021 ADP: 342.32 (OF #87)

 

Alex Dickerson has played at least 52 games in each of the last three MLB seasons. Last year, he hit the most homers in the fewest games in any of them. To be fair, he also hit 10 dingers in 2018, but that was in 32 additional games. It might be worth questioning the power. His 20.8% home run-to-flyball rate was six  percentage points higher than the league-average and nearly double his previous career-best. While his plate discipline appears to be solid, and the batting average seems legit, it’ll be interesting to see if or how regression plays into Dickerson’s performance over a full season.

Projection systems are buying in, at least a little bit, expecting 17 or 18 homers for the lefty in about 110 games. As the strong side of a likely platoon for a manager in Gabe Kapler who likes to mix and match who will likely be available for free on waivers, he might be worth a stash at the back end of your bench.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

I’m not sure you’ll need to put these guys on a watch list, but being aware of them as your team takes shape in the early going could be useful, especially the deeper your league is. Darin Ruf returned to MLB after three years in the KBO and produced what was arguably his best stateside, major league performance. He’ll still be a platoon bat at best, though, and will likely come off the bench given how many guys the team has who can play first base or the outfield. Like Ruf and so many others, Wilmer Flores produced a career-best rate as a Giant in 2020. He traded in a few grounders for some flyballs and was more active about going after pitches in the zone, but there were no major changes in his game. Austin Slater is another power-speed guy with a good eye who is set to be a role player.

You might be wondering about Joey Bart, top prospect and former second-overall pick who got into 33 games last year. Given Posey’s return and the fact that the team just signed veteran Curt Casali to a one-year deal, Bart’s not currently projected to get into even 20 games. Given Posey’s injury history, the age of the rest of the team, and the club’s likelihood of not competing, that could change quickly. Much of the same could be said for one of the team’s other top prospects, outfielder Heliot Ramos, though he’s yet to log any time above AA.

 

Starting Pitchers

 

Kevin Gausman (Locked In Starter)

2020: 3-3, 3.62 ERA, 59.2 IP, 79 K, 1.11 WHIP (SP #35)

2021 ADP: 140.23, P #49

Repertoire: 51.1% Four-seam Fastball, 42.1% Splitter, 6.8% Slider

 

Ooh, baby. There’s the breakout we’ve been pining for. Gausman popped big time in 2020, posting the most complete performance of his career. The splitter turned into a thing of beauty, offering more drop than ever as it generated a 31% CSW and a 46% K-rate. He could spit it into the bottom of the zone or get it to tumble right out of it, confounding hitters along the way. As he told David Laurila at FanGraphs in 2019, where he puts his thumb on the ball manipulates the movement. Depending whether he wants to throw it for a strike or not, he’ll move it around to alter the pitch’s tilt. Now it seems as if he can make it one pitch in one situation and another in a different one. (Depending on which pitch classification system you look at, you’ll see it denoted distinctly as a changeup and a splitter, or as only a splitter.)

That’s not all, though. Gausman pairs the splitter’s biting drop with gas in the mid to high 90s at the top of the zone, adding another layer of nastiness for hitters to deal with. The slider is more of a show-me pitch than anything that he mixes in just enough to force hitters to keep it in the backs of their minds.

All this is great, but he still only managed 59.1 innings in 2020 — less than five innings per appearance. So do you invest in him like he’s a top 40 starter or do you look for a guy who’s got a track record of throwing more innings? Do you consider the division and parks he has to pitch in? These are tough questions, but it might be easiest to remember the skill set in a vacuum, worry about matchups if and when you need to, and just enjoy him as your #3.

 

Johnny Cueto (Locked In Starter)

2020: 2-3, 5.40 ERA, 63.1 IP, 56 K, 1.37 WHIP (SP #183)

2021 ADP: SP #518.53, P #214

Repertoire: 30.6% Four-seam Fastball, 26.9% Changeup, 15.8% Slider, 13.5% Curveball, 13% Sinker

 

2020 was Cueto’s healthiest season in five years. He racked up a K/9 of about eight, but his walks per nine inched closer to four. His fastball velo pushed 92 mph — its highest since 2016 — but gave up a .453 wOBA, more than a hundred points higher than league average. Cueto’s best days are clearly behind him and his value to the team probably extends beyond just what he produces on the field. He’s still a fun guy to watch but he’s not someone you need to make room for. He’s going undrafted in all but the deepest leagues, and even then, you can probably find a better option.

 

Anthony DeSclafani (Locked In Starter)

2020: 1-2, 7.22 ERA, 33.2 IP, 25 K, 1.69 WHIP (P #285)

2021 ADP: 503.45, SP #208

Repertoire: 33.1% 4-Seam Fastball, 32.1% Slider, 18.3% Sinker, 9.6% Curveball, 7% Changeup

 

DeSclafani’s 2020 was miserable, easily marking the worst season of his career. His K-BB rate — a top in-season indicator of pitcher performance — was 5.7%. The league average usually hums around 14% and he’d been above it in each of the two previous seasons. He also happened to add more velocity to his fastball and more drop to his primary breaking ball, his slider, making things that much weirder. He tended to locate the four-seamer up, though, despite not having great spin on it, which maybe made it look flatter to hitters and helped it play to a .570 wOBA. By that measure, it was the third-worst four-seamer in all of baseball last season. For additional titillating info on how different fastballs play in different parts of the zone that’s accessible, check out our own Alex Fast on the subject, and Alex Chamberlain of FanGraphs, too.

The Giants adding DeSclafani is interesting mainly because Farhan Zaidi is running the team, and he’s a smart dude who helped put together deep, competitive Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Dodgers teams. He’s taking a one-year, zero-risk flier on a guy from another team that’s quickly jumped toward the front of the line as a smart, deliberate developmental club in the Reds. Zaidi snatched up Gausman last winter on a similar deal after the pitcher was non-tendered by Cincinnati, despite generating tons more whiffs after struggling with Atlanta for most of the 2019 season.

I’m not saying DeSclafani will have a breakout like Gausman did; just that it’s hard to imagine him being worse, we know he’s posted decent numbers before, and that there seems to be more potential reward for taking him as your last pick than there is with his now-teammate Johnny Cueto.

 

Alex Wood (Locked In Starter)

2020: 0-0, 3.52 ERA, 15.1 IP, 18 K, 1.43 WHIP, SP #162

2021 ADP: Undrafted

Repertoire: 53% Slider, 39.4% Four-seam Fastball, 6.8% Changeup

 

The Giants signed Wood as another guy on a one-year, no-risk contract this winter, paying the lefty a guaranteed $3 million with a chance to double it through reaching incentives. While he’s technically slotted in as a starter and is projected for about 120 innings, he could be used in more of a hybrid role for a team that loves to keep it funky. Beyond that, innings projections might be worth totally ignoring this year. After last season’s start-stop-start again spring training, and the shortened season, and for many guys even shortened games that may have influenced how hard or how much they threw because of situational ball, no one has any idea how pitchers will fare this year when it comes to logging innings.

Plus, Wood’s been limited to less than 50 regular season innings combined in the last two seasons because of injuries. He’s going undrafted for a reason right now. Take the early season and low profile to evaluate him if you’re interested, but don’t invest any draft capital. Even if he starts strong, his performance and contract could be the impetus for a trade that changes his role, anyway.

 

Aaron Sanchez (Locked In Starter)

2019: 5-14, 5.89 ERA, 131.1 IP, 115 K, 1.62 WHIP 

2021 ADP: 744.93, P #373

Repertoire: 24.3% Four-seam Fastball, 33.4% Sinker, 19.4% Changeup, 22.9% Curveball

 

The Giants signed Sanchez in February right before pitchers and catchers reported. It’s been a minute since we last saw him. He didn’t play in 2020 because he was rehabbing an injury to his pitching shoulder. When he last took the field in 2019, he had become modestly interesting as a trade deadline acquisition for the Astros who could really spin it. The results were ugly, though. Now, he slots in as San Francisco’s fifth starter. Projections across the board expect modest strikeouts and a lot of walks, but the Giants are exactly the kind of team that could use depth in their rotation and see what happens when they give a guy a shot. He’s an afterthought in drafts and is almost certainly going to stay that way. Maybe keep your eyes peeled for him on the wire if you’re in an extremely deep league.

Logan Webb is likely locked into a rotation spot for the Giants because of relative promise and the team’s lack of depth. It’ll be interesting to follow how his pitch mix continues to evolve. His sinker is a stronger pitch than his four-seamer but the league’s preference for four-seamers has meant he’s leaned into that offering more.  Still, he tampered its use down and  threw a bunch more changeups last year since the two pair well together. Likewise, his sinker and slider provide another solid tandem because of how they break away from each other. There’s enough here that Webb could be worth keeping tabs on for the back end of your rotation, but like everyone outside of Gausman, you can likely do that in the early going from afar and without using a roster spot on him.

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Adding Sanchez means Logan Webb is bumped into a depth role. The Giants will be mixing and matching through any bumps in the road with their starters. Tyler Beede was looking good with how he had developed and was using his slider, but he’ll be on the shelf all year because of Tommy John. Shaun Anderson would have been the next man up but was traded to the Twins for depth outfielder LaMonte Wade, Jr. That leaves Connor Menez as the next man up, who has generated poor results at the major league level so far.

 

Relief Pitchers

Bullpen Roles

 

Reyes Moronta (Closer)

2019: 0 SV, 15 HLD, 56.2 IP, 70 K, 2.86 ERA,  1.31 WHIP | RP #55

2021 ADP:  545.18 (P #227)

 

Moronta was a solid ratio reliever who provided holds off the waiver wire in 2019 who missed 2020 because of a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. While he’s slotted in as the team’s closer on Roster Resource’s depth charts, so are the other three guys on this list. It’ll probably be a full-blown closer committee for San Francisco in 2021, just like it was in 2020. When healthy, Moronta will pump the fastball up around 98 mph and pair it with a low-80s slider that has tight movement from the right side. If you like to lock down one solid option and stream for most of the rest of your saves (or holds), he and the gang will be a good spot to look throughout the year because of how they’ll be used.

 

 

Tyler Rogers (Next in Line)

2020: 3 SV, 10 HLD, 28 IP, 27 K, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP | RP #67

2021 ADP: 571.05 (P #249)

 

Tyler Rogers is the soft-tossing submariner who gets the job done with funk that futzes with hitters’ eyes. The righty’s fastball comes in around 83 mph and his breaking ball sits about 72 mph. He could push a strikeout an inning and scoop up late-inning opportunities, making him another waiver wire streamer you can use to your advantage if tracking which of his teammates have been used the previous days.

 

Jake McGee (Holds Option)

2020: 0 SV, 4 HLD, 20.1 IP, 33 K, 2.66 ERA,  0.84 WHIP | RP #32

2021 ADP:  694.4 (P #289)

 

2020 was McGee’s best season in five years, which conveniently covers the largely unsuccessful time he spent in Colorado. With the Dodgers last season, he loaded up and basically threw fastballs exclusively — 97% of the time. The heat powered him to a career-best 41% strikeout rate. The active spin on the pitch is solid, sitting in the 75th% percentile in the majors, but it’ll be interesting to see if it holds ups the same for a second year in a row with San Francisco. He could work his way into situations to lock down holds while also potentially closing out a few games, if things break just right.

 

Matt Wisler (Holds Option)

2020: 1 SV, 3 HLD, 25.1 IP, 35 K, 1.07 ERA, 1.14 WHIP | RP #64

2021 ADP: 577.35 (P #261)

 

Wisler comes over to the Giants this season after a strong performance last year with the Twins. He racked up a career-best 32.7% K-rate, though it came with a career-worst 13.1% walk rate. If he can harness the free passes as he has in the past — he hadn’t had a double-digit walk rate before last year — he could be a multi-inning stud used in numerous situations. The multi-inning reliver with great ratios can be a secret weapon of sorts on a lot of rosters in a lot of different leagues, but he’s not someone you necessarily need to invest in before opening day.

 

 

Watch List Considerations

 

Trevor GottSam Selman, Wandy Peralta, and Dedniel Núñez will round out the San Francisco bullpen. Núñez might offer the most intrigue. He joined the team via the Rule 5 draft this offseason and he’ll have to stay on the roster or be returned to the Mets. If he’s staying on the roster, he’ll be getting opportunities. His fastball has topped out around 93 but that was as a starter. We could reasonably expect it to be harder out of the pen. Per Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs, it also sneakily offers top-end spin and generates a lot of whiffs.

2019 Positional Rankings from Razzball’s 12-team Player Rater (ESPN).

Photos by Andy Lewis, Cody Glenn, and Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire) | Adapted by Justin Redler (@reldernitsuj on Twitter)

Tim Jackson

Tim Jackson is a writer and educator who loves pitching duels. Find him Going Deep for PitcherList.

  • Avatar Adam says:

    Solano is listed as 1b on the lineup vs LHP. maybe 2b? Dubon is incorrectly listed at C.

  • Avatar David Speidel says:

    Love the breakdown of my favorite team, and I for 1 DO hope they play two 1B and two catchers Vs LHP, Dickerson at 2B and Solano in LF against RHP. Just bustin’ your balls. Love the site and the breakdown. Thanks all.

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