Someone's going to be disappointing this year. We can look at the roster and hope for the best, but let's be honest: there will be at least one player who severely underperforms his contract, his expectations, or both. In 2015 it was Tim Hudson, in 2014 it was Matt Cain, in 2013 it was Ryan Vogelsong, 2012 was Tim Lincecum, in 2011 you could pick any non-Sandoval on offense, and the Giants' big pre-2010 signing was Mark DeRosa, whose lack of productivity, if I'm remembering right, doomed that team. There will always be one. There will often be more, but in every baseball season there will always be at least one.
Since the upcoming baseball season will soon be part of the subset of "every baseball season," it stands to reason that someone on the Giants will have a disappointing year. Who will it be? Let's go over options!
The not-really disappointments
I love Matt Cain. You love Matt Cain. What kind of Giants fan doesn't love Matt Cain? The kind who should be shunned, shunted off to the darkest corners of Giants fandom to call Larry Krueger and explain how Ty Blach would totally be worth Yu Darvish in a straight up trade. We're talking deplorable, subhuman monsters here; high school kids who break open your liquor cabinet to drink the $400 bottle of scotch you've been saving for the day you sell your novel. And they don't even appreciate it. That's the caliber of person we're talking when we say "Giants fan who doesn't love Matt Cain."
If Matt Cain is bad this year, it won't be a disappointment.
The same goes for Trevor Brown, Angel Pagan, Ehire Adrianza, and to an extent even Jake Peavy. There is a large, large part of you that expects them to be bad, due to youth, age, injury, or (not to name names) a long unbroken history of not being a good major league baseball player. You can be sad if their performances are poor, but it's not like you didn't see it coming. For the sake of this exercise, they don't really count.
The obvious in retrospects
There are two reasons that it makes sense to us that Kelby Tomlinson will have a good career:
1. Good performance last year in a small sample size when he had a .382 BABIP
2. Every infielder from the Giants farm system is good and Kelby Tomlinson is an infielder from the Giants farm system ipso facto Kelby Tomlinson will be good
If Tomlinson falters next year, it'll be disappointing, sure, but it won't be that surprising. His entire pre-2015 minor league career was massively unimpressive, so if his breakout turns out to be a mirage, we'll have lots of evidence to point at and say "Well, of course."
Injury concerns are an easy way to show up in this category too. Denard Span and (when he gets back to the majors) Andrew Susac are the most obvious candidates here, though Josh Osich's minor league career was an injury plagued one, and that sort of thing doesn't just go away.
Sometimes relievers are just suddenly bad, you know? It happens. It's not generally a big deal – if George Kontos has an ERA around 4 this year, the team will be able to recover – but I should mention it so nobody acts like I didn't mention the relievers.
The question marks
Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, the new additions to the rotation, both have enough question marks (that we've gone over repeatedly at MCC) that they could easily be bad. Matt Duffy came out of nowhere last year, and maybe it'll turn out that he felt really at home in nowhere, and he actually misses it, so he wants to go back. Joe Panik's back is supposed to be 100% healed, and his injury is unrelated to the one that ended Marco Scutaro's career, but on the other hand, he is a World Series-winning Giants second baseman, so isn't he obligated to break down and never play baseball again? Seems like that's a bylaw.
He'll find a way to be incredibly disappointing to someone. It will almost certainly be body language-related and unbelievably stupid, but he'll find a way, even if he hits .330/.420/.580 with 45 homers. "This just means he wasn't trying before," you will hear someone say. "Also he's walking too much."
The devastating disappointments
Brandon Crawford was the best shortstop in the NL last year. Even if he regresses a little bit, he'll still be a very good player. Unless he's suddenly terrible, of course. It's not that I want to consider that possibility, but it is the premise of the article, so I guess I should mention it.
Hunter Pence has already used up his quota of games missed for the rest of his contract. That's how that works. So he'll come back and be great for years. This is the most reasonable expectation.
Madison Bumgarner is coming off an awful spring. Does that matter? That doesn't matter, right? TELL ME THAT DOESN'T MATTER I WANT TO BELIEVE OR MAYBE NOT BELIEVE DEPENDING ON WHAT I'M BELIEVING IN.
We like to think that Buster Posey is an immortal, sent to us from on high as mystical penance for the existence of Scott Spiezio. But on the off chance that he is merely a human person who is fantastic at baseball, it's worth remembering that sometimes dudes have bad seasons. Johnny Bench, for example, had two separate seasons during his prime where he was merely a decent hitter instead of an otherworldly one. Posey himself had 228 post-All Star Break PAs in 2013 where he OPSed .643. It's not as impossible as we tell ourselves.
So who do you think will be a disappointment? Answer in comments, because I'm not making a poll with 25 options.