The San Francisco Giants are ending the Spring in decent shape, and the shape of their opening day lineup may be coming into focus as put the finishing touches on another spring in the Cactus League.
Bruce Bochy’s 2017 lineup card should feature some adjustments from last season. Here’s Bochy’s projected Opening Day lineup:
Denard Span, CF
Brandon Belt, 1B
Hunter Pence, RF
Buster Posey, C
Brandon Crawford, SS
Jarrett Parker, LF
Joe Panik, 2B
Madison Bumgarner, P
Eduardo Nunez, 3B
Most importantly, the Giants’ much heralded “Brandons,” i.e. Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, look like they will bat much closer to the top of the order than in previous years. Belt, who boasted a .395 OBP last season, could be bumped up to the second spot behind Denard Span. Belt filled that role nicely toward the tail end of last season, and should do well in it if his numbers persist.
Crawford, on the other hand, is coming off a banner year in which he hit .275 with 84 RBI (plus a Gold Medal with Team USA in the World Baseball Classic this spring, oh, and his second Gold Glove) and could see time at the five hole behind Buster Posey. The moves would make him Posey’s protection instead of Hunter Pence, who would likely be moved up to third in the order.
These moves are attractive for a number of reasons.
First, it breaks up the left handed bats in the lineup (as of now there are five) and would provide more of a headache for opposing managers in the latter innings with regard to bullpen use. Second, it could mean more fastballs for Hunter Pence, who will be in need of a hot start after a lackluster spring that saw him hit a meager .160. Third, this lineup allows Bochy to spot Parker, a rookie, in front of a position player like Panik, rather than the pitcher. This benefits Parker because, hitting in front of a pitcher usually means a lot of off speed pitches and less stuff in the zone, given that teams aren’t necessarily afraid of facing hitting pitchers (though Bumgarner may be a special case). Thus having Parker in front of Panik would allow Parker to see more straight pitches as he acclimates to the Bigs, rather than a steady diet of curves. Finally, this lineup allows Bochy to place two speedy players at the nine and one spots in the order, effectively giving him two leadoff men as the game wears on. This particularity is most likely to occur on days when Bumgarner is pitching (because he rakes) against a right hander (because of all their left handed bats).
Of course, everything about this lineup is subject to change, given that Opening Day rosters are almost never the final product, and because of Bochy’s now-famous maxim, “I’ll go as they go.” That means Bochy is willing and able to change whatever he wants based on what he sees from his guys. Expect change and embrace it should always be a baseball fans motto.