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Buster Olney’s positional rankings remind us why the Giants are pretending they’re not bad

Because maybe they aren’t bad?

World Series - San Francisco Giants v Kansas City Royals - Game Seven Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

It used to be that Giants fans had a reputation for being overly sensitive. Instead of shutting up and enjoying their three championships, they had to live in the comments of every FanGraphs and article, letting the world know that it’s EXTREMELY UNLIKELY to win three championships by luck alone. This point needed to be repeated often, and it needed to be repeated loudly.

Now Giants fans hate their team more than any pundit possibly could. After 162 games of ... of ... that, it’s nearly impossible to conceive of a Giants team that isn’t absolutely dreadful. The rest of the baseball world can call us weenies, but I’m telling you, last season was like being sucked through a wormhole that connected 2009 and 2015, erasing the years between. I don’t care how our whining looks to the outside world.

But as long as we’re worrying about the outside world, Buster Olney is going through his positional rankings around the league, and he’s up to left field.

29. Marlins - ???
Who knows who they’re going to start? We just know it won’t be an All-Star.

30. That cat from a YouTube video with his head stuck in a cereal box
Ha ha ha, look at the little feller go!

31. Giants - Gorkys Hernandez or something?
My word, is their outfield abominable or what.

Technically, those aren’t Olney’s words, but they could be. They really could be. The Giants have some, uh, holes in the outfield. They would earn that No. 31 ranking.

Before he got to the outfield, though, he took a spin around the infield and pitching staffs, and his top-10 rankings helped me remember why I had hope before last season. Here’s where the Giants ranked among all 30 teams, position by position:

Catcher - 1st
First base - NR
Second base - Honorable mention
Shortstop - 6th
Third base - 10th
Starting pitcher - 6th (Bumgarner only)
Reliever - NR

It’s probably fair to start with the non-ranked players. Brandon Belt is good, for example. Since becoming a starter, he’s been one of the best first basemen in baseball, and I would take him in 2018 over most of the honorable mentions listed by Olney, with the possible exceptions of Joey Gallo or Matt Olson. He’s not a top-tier first baseman, but Belt is definitely not a problem the Giants need to worry about.

KNBR CALLER: [sharply inhales]

HE’S NOT A PROBLEM THE GIANTS NEED TO WORRY ABOUT. Not unless he keeps getting hit with baseballs.

The other NR would be Mark Melancon, who certainly would have made a similar ranking last offseason. Think of him like a director who made movies that went like this:

  • Great movie
  • Great movie
  • Great movie
  • Great movie
  • Turd

Would you be excited for the next movie? Probably. While some directors tumble over a turd waterfall and never recover (Francis Ford Coppola never made a movie as bad as Jack again, but he sure didn’t make anything that was even as good as Dracula, either), the four classics will at least pique your interest. There’s a reason why he was one of the most desirable free agents last year, and there’s a reason why he makes far too much money. He just might be good at his job.

Of course, directors don’t age like open avocados, and pitchers do, so that’s not a perfect comparison. Still, the idea that Melancon can be much better than last year is an idea that comes with lots of evidence. This means that the Giants have four players who rank among the 10 best in baseball at their respective positions, one player who at least deserves an honorable mention, and two players who would be considered, if not for some health concerns.

I know you’ve been reading Bryan and Doug tell you about how horrible this team is and how horrible you are for caring about them, and they’re not wrong. But the Giants aren’t starting with sketch of a car on the back of a paper towel. They have tires! An engine that goes vrrum vrruum! Kelby Tomlinson is a rear windshield wiper, maybe! You can quibble with the exact rankings, but the Giants still have some players of considerable quality.

What they’ll need, then:

  1. An outfield
  2. For the rest of the rotation to be solid
  3. An outfield
  4. Another corner outfielder
  5. A center fielder
  6. The bullpen to be better, with mostly in-house options
  7. At least two more outfielders
  8. An outfield

Better years from Cueto and company. An improved bullpen. At least two-thirds of a new, improved outfield. Slap that all together with a roster that has several things going right for it, and, I dunno, it might work?

This has been the plan all along, some variation of Maybe These Bad Players Are Actually Good?, so it’s not like we’re learning anything, here. It’s nice to see an outside observer say as much, though. Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Madison Bumgarner should be better than most of their peers again. There are other players who have a chance to be better than most of their peers. The roster’s flaws are obvious, but there are several possibilities remaining.

This, along with a rebuilding scenario that isn’t that appealing, is why the Giants are adding players and looking to spend just enough money to stay under the luxury tax. They don’t think they’re that bad.

They might not be that bad, everyone.

(They’ll probably be that bad, but at least there are reasons to have just enough hope to feel worse about it later. You’re welcome.)