As lucky and wondrous as the San Francisco baseball seasons were in 2010 and 2012, were the years 2011 and 2013 askew. Injuries, sub-par performances, and the cosmic giggle caught up with the Giants — a team built upon pitching the last few years — contributing to real and virtual chaos for the McGowan family and Rotisserie owners, respectively.
The Giants basic lineup is unchanged from 2013, save left-field where Mike Morse was signed, ideally to give some pop to a team that has struggled with home runs over the past few years.
The question with Morse is naturally his health, but in 2013 San Francisco moved into the season with the idea that Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval, and Marco Scutaro would play full time and that proved not to be the case.
Still, Morse goes into spring as the left fielder, with Andres Torres and Gregor Blanco on board to back the flychasers.
Of course, Morse can also play first, but therein lies some of the Giants offensive rub, which is also a glut. For, though San Francisco has Brandon Belt, who went .326-7-29 with a .915 OPS over the second half of 2013 to up his value, covering first as primary, the Giants would probably like to move their MVP backstop Buster Posey to that position at some point to preserve his career. But, for now, Buster will catch.
To the left of the infield are Scutaro, who is aged at 38, but like a nearby Napa Valley wine, seems to improve with age at the keystone, dependable Brandon Crawford at short (and I think he can hit .270 eventually and who is maybe the best defensive shortstop in the league) and portly yet productive Sandoval at the hot corner.
The Giants are saying The Kung Fu Panda (Sandoval) has dropped 40 pounds since the end of last season (neither do they suggest what the baseline of that loss is) so the team looks for improved endurance and performance from their likable third sacker.
Projected 2014 San Francisco Giants “Go-To” Lineup:
- Angel Pagan, CF
- Marco Scutaro, 2B
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Buster Posey, C
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Pablo Sandoval, 3B
- Michael Morse, LF
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- SP1 Matt Cain, RHP
- SP2 Madison Bumgarner, LHP
- SP3 Tim Lincecum, RHP
- SP4 Tim Hudson, RHP
- SP5 Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
- Others: Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
- Setup: Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt
- Closer: Sergio Romo
San Francisco went into the off-season with rotation questions. Tim Lincecum was due a new deal (he got one, for two years), Barry Zito’s lucrative seven-year deal ended (and the Southpaw remains unsigned) while the Giants opted out of Ryan Vogelsong’s 2014 contract renewal, but did negotiate a new one year pact with him.
That leaves a rotation of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, followed by San Francisco’s other big free agent signing, Tim Hudson and then Lincecum and Vogelsong.
The addition of Hudson, who has apparently recovered from ankle surgery is speculated that Tim’s — as in Hudson — presence will support Tim’s — as in Lincecum — moving past the latter’s difficulties the past couple of years. Both “Tims” were young hard-throwers, with similar builds, anything the elder Tim can do to help his younger counterpart along would be more than welcome.
Leading the swing charge will be Yusmeiro Petit, a control pitcher who caught glances with a near perfect game last year.
However, the Giants pen is good and deep with southpaws Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez on one end, while Jean Machi and George Kontos set up the right for an excellent closer, Sergio Romo.
Fantasy Studs: Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Sergio Romo
No question Posey is the best catcher in baseball at this point, and that lefty Bumgarner is among the top starters, so expect them both to be drafted early or force owners to open their wallets, depending style of play.
Romo is also a premiere closer who puts up Eckersley-like numbers (2.27 ERA, 0.923 WHIP over 293.6 innings, with 355 strikeouts to 60 walks) and should go as an elite, though the closer does have trouble getting appropriate respect.
Breakout Candidate:Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval
Belt, based upon his solid second half of 2013 is looked to provide some serious juice, this time for an entire season, while Sandoval will be expected to up the ante from his somewhat off season (just .277-14-75).
Sleeper Candidates: Michael Morse, Joaquin Arias, Tim Lincecum
Morse can seriously produce when healthy (33 homers for Washington just two years ago) and based upon his trouble in 2013, will likely be dismissed. Similarly, the world will look for Lincecum to adjust and return -to form closer to that of his Cy Young days rather than his Jamie Wright-like 2012-13.
However, keep an eye on utility-man Joaquin Arias as the durability of Scutaro and the Panda could give Arias an opening.
Bust Candidates: Hunter Pence, Matt Cain
Hunter Pence has been up, then down, then up over his past three teams and seasons, and is likely to be selected in the top three rounds based upon his .283-27-99 year with 22 swipes. Twenty fewer hits and Pence drops five rounds next year.
And, Cain might be in line for a second year of struggle. Though his numbers for 2013 were not that far off from his career mean, his homers went back up. More important, Cain’s fastball was straighter than before, and he seemed unable to put away hitters when he needed an out last year. That could spell trouble.
Top Rookies: Gary Brown, Joe Panik, Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn, Adalberto Mejia
The likely suspects are outfielder Gary Brown (No. 1 selection in 2010), infielder Joe Panik (No. 1 pick in 2011), along with hurlers Kyle Crick (second first-rounder in 2011) and Clayton Blackburn (a 16th-rounder in 2011 with great strikeout numbers). Though the sleeper to keep an eye on is 20-year hard thrower Adalberto Mejia.
What Should We Know?
The Giants have based their team on pitching the last few years, although in the past the strength was young arms, with Cain and Lincecum as struggling vets, while Hudson and Vogelsong flesh out the rotation with age, only Bumgarner seems like a sure thing.
As for runs, the Giants have the table setters (Pagan and Scutaro), guys to drive them in (Sandoval, Belt, and especially Posey) along with Pence who performed both roles last year.
They are still a basically young team, with some interesting prospects, although truth be told, the team might need to turn to Crick, Blackburn, and Mejia to keep the plan moving forth.
Lawr Michaels is a Managing General Partner at Mastersball.com. Lawr has written about Fantasy Baseball for 20 seasons, going back to the John Benson days of the industry. Lawr was the first Fantasy and minor-league columnist for CBS SportsLine, and has written for MLB.com, Fox, and MSNBC online, among others. He founded CREATiVESPORTS in 1996 and merged with Mastersball in 2011. Lawr has won the legendary American League Tout Wars — focus of the film Fantasyland — twice.
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