Inbox: Will Panda be Giants' starting 3B in '18?

Beat reporter Chris Haft answers questions from Giants fans

Inbox: Will Panda be Giants' starting 3B in '18?

Do you think the Giants intend to start Pablo Sandoval at third base in 2018?
-- Gene S., Medford, N.Y.

I doubt anyone knows whether Sandoval can crack the Giants' 2018 lineup. However, I do think he'll receive an invitation to big league Spring Training next year. Since the Red Sox remain responsible for paying Sandoval the $18 million he's guaranteed next season, money won't be an issue. Sandoval's standing with the Giants next season will come down to whether he can revive bat, which has been mostly dormant since the start of 2016. To some extent, he's still shaking off rust, having appeared in three games last season.

Next spring, he'll face competition from Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones, among others, at third base. Ideally, that will motivate Sandoval, who compiled a slash line of .294/.346/.465 and a 123 OPS+ during his first tour of duty with the Giants (2008-14).

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In last Friday's game on the road against the White Sox series, why wasn't Buster Posey credited with a steal of home? It looked like a delayed steal. Why wasn't it scored that way?
-- Mitch B., Redding, Calif.

Ultimately, it was. After further consultation involving Major League officials and Bob Rosenberg, that night's official scorer, Posey indeed received credit for a steal of home.

"They got it right," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Posey touches home on throw

Realistically, what are the chances that Brandon Belt will be with the Giants at the start of the 2018 season?
-- Mike V., Tucson, Ariz.

I fully expect Belt to remain with the Giants. His salary skyrockets from $2.8 million to $16 million in 2018, so the Giants will give him every opportunity to provide a return on their investment. He also was on pace to hit close to 30 home runs this season shortly before he was sidelined. Fans love to criticize Belt, but he might be the Giants' best alternative at first base. Besides, I doubt he's in extremely high demand among the 29 other teams.

Belt's two-run home run

What seems to be the deal with Hunter Strickland? First, I thought he was going to be the Giants' next closer, and that hasn't pan out. Now I hold my breath when he comes into a game. He has a penchant for giving up the long ball at the most inopportune times. Maybe you can enlighten me as to what his role is to be from now on?
-- Richard W., Middletown, Ohio

Ideally for the Giants, Strickland will have value as a setup man who's capable of protecting a ninth-inning lead when the regular closer is unavailable. Strickland has looked extremely sharp at times this year, prompting interest from relief-hungry teams as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approached. However, his velocity has dwindled slightly, according to Statcast™:

Four-seam fastball -- 2014: 98.8 mph; 2015: 97.7 mph; 2016: 97.8 mph; 2017: 95.5 mph.
Two-seam fastball -- 2014: 97.1 mph (just one pitch recorded); 2015: 96.3 mph; 2016: 96.8 mph; 2017: 95.3 mph.

Either Strickland and the Giants must determine whether a mechanical flaw has hampered his fastball or he should consider ways to complement his remaining power with deception.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.