The 2010 World Series champs couldn't gut their way to the playoffs in 2011 and finished four games behind the Wild Cardinals in the regular season after losing four of their last six games.
They sent top pitching prospect Zach Wheeler to the Mets in exchange for a Carlos Beltran rental, but it's not their rotation that's a concern anyway. If the Giants are able to compete in 2012, it will be mostly because of the top four guys in the rotation and that doesn't include the $100 million guy that's still claiming that he'll bounce back.
The Giants didn't make any major changes over the off-season, with their "biggest deal" being Jonathan Sanchez for Melky Cabrera. They're still flawed (and old) on offense and feature three number one potential starters plus "Let Me Prove It Wasn't a Fluke" Ryan Vogelsong. How many fantasy stars do the Giants really have, and what's on the horizon?
Best Hitter: Buster Posey
Why not Pablo Sandoval, a rare offensive third baseman? Well, I don't really have an issue with either one of them. Pablo hit .315/.357/.552 with 23 HR last season in 117 games. However, he followed up his last 5.5 fWAR season in 2009 with a .268/.323/.409 season with 13 HR in 152 games in 2011. Not to say that it will happen again, but there's still something special about Posey.
It might take time for the 25-year-old to re-adjust to the big leagues after returning from injury but he has all the makings of being the number one offensive catcher in the game.
People were "disappointed" with his short 45 game 2011 season but at least he ended on a high note: .395/.458/.465 in his final 11 games.
I'll take .300/.365/.460 with 19 HR, 80 RBI, 75 R.
Best Pitcher: Tim Lincecum
Call me old fashioned, but I still feel most comfortable with Lincecum. His career numbers: 2.98 ERA, 1028 innings, 1127 Ks, 379 bb, 69-41, 2.97 K/BB. He struck out 220 batters in 217 innings last year, but walked a career high 86.
Strikeouts have declined every year. Walks have gone up every year. And blah blah blah.
Just when you let your guard down on Timmy, that's when he's gonna strike. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Gain posted better FIPs and had a higher WAR in 2011, but I'm confident that Tim is still better than Cain and I'm always wary of a pitcher following up his first phenomenal season like Bumgarner just posted at age 21.
Lincecum is just the safer bet, to me.
Potential Breakout: Sergio Romo and Brandon Belt
I'm going a little outside of the box on this one by picking a middle reliever who is already fantastic, but in terms of fantasy can he become more fantastic?
Last season: 48 innings, 70/5 K/BB ratio. Seventy strikeouts. Five walks. Gave up 29 hits and eight runs and had a WHIP of .708. K/BB ratio of 14. Romo could be the best closer in baseball if he was just a closer, you know?
If the Giants fell behind in the race by mid-season, could they deal Romo or Brian Wilson? Always have your finger on the Romo trigger, just in case. He's been one of the best over the last few years.
I'm also a big fan of Brandon Belt. Bruce Bochy just needs to give this guy a full-time job. He was not good in his major league time but could never get a rhythm going by never getting consistent playing time. He has a career 1.052 OPS in 189 minor league games. Eventually I think he'll figure it out, whether it's in San Francisco or somewhere else if they're not going to appreciate him. Aubrey Huff shouldn't be blocking a guy like Belt.
Potential Disappointment: Ryan Vogelsong
He came out of nowhere last season and pitched 179.2 innings, 2.71 ERA, 3.67 FIP and 3.85 xFIP with 6.96 K/9 and 3.06 bb/9. His only major league experience prior saw him throw mostly for the Pirates and post an ERA of 6.00 in 280.1 innings. (He pitched some for the Giants in 2000-2001.)
Then he is out of the majors for four seasons, comes back, is an All-Star and finishes eleventh in the Cy Young. lolwut?
What do we expect now? Well, I expect that he's better now than he was in Pittsburgh. I expect that he can be a solid #4 starter. I don't expect him to post an ERA under 3.00. I don't necessarily expect an ERA under 4.00. I think that we can safely assume that he'll fit onto your fantasy roster on some days and then not so much on others. He's got a good team around him. He might also be very underrated.
Prospect Watch: Per BA
The Giants have graduated most of their potential stars and their best talent is probably in the low minors. Three of their top 10 prospects are catchers, all the more reason that we may see their best hitter move to another position to try and keep him healthy.
Joseph hit 22 HR in 127 games last year, but is only 20. Andrew Susac is 21, but the 2011 2nd round pick has yet to play a game in the minors. Hector Sanchez had a cup of coffee in the majors last season, but isn't a future star or anything.
Gary Brown was the Giants first round pick in 2010 and he blew up last season, hitting .336/.407/.519 with 14 HR, 53 SB, 34 2B, 13 3B and 115 R in 131 games. This all came as a 22-year-old in the hitter-loving Cal League but the speed is real. BA ranked him #38 this year and he could be up in the majors at some point this season.
Heath Hembree could be another relief star for the Giants. He struck out 78 batters in 53.1 innings across two levels.
The Giants are hoping to finally get some offensive production at the SS position with 2011 first round pick Panik and he hit .341/.401/.467 in low-A last season. He almost certainly won't see the majors this year, even if the Giants aren't exactly oozing with SS talent.
Francisco Peguero might steal some major league bases at some point this year. The 23-year-old outfielder has very little power but he's got some speed and is a career .312 hitter in the minors.
Eric Surkamp put up great numbers last season: 148.1 innings, 170/45 K/BB and 1.94 ERA. So why the great numbers but very little respect? Surkamp's fastball basically tops out at 90, so few people believe he'll be more than a fifth starter at the major league level. That seemed like an accurate prediction when he made 6 starts for the Giants last year... 26.2 innings, 4.39 K/9 and 5.74 BB/9 with a 5.74 ERA.
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