Our team-by-team preview of the 2012 MLB season from a fantasy perspective continues today with the San Francisco Giants. If you've just jumped on with our series or need a reminder, we are spending a day with each major league team, looking at 9 different fantasy angles for each franchise while also paying homage to the things we watch for as real life fans. The hope is that through this exercise we might all come to a greater understanding of the various environments that contain the players we spend so much time obsessing over. Fantasy baseball would be a lot easier if these guys played in a vacuum, but since they don't, it's a good idea to learn as much as we can about the circumstances that affect their play.
Make sure you check out Kenneth Arthur's spotlight on various Giants players. Our series will continue tomorrow with the Baltimore Orioles. Yay, American League!
2011 in Review & 2012 Outlook
A year after winning the World Series, the San Francisco Giants failed to make the playoffs. While they certainly weren't the first team to miss the postseason after winning it all, 2011 was a disappointment. The NL West was considered very weak before the season, but 570 runs scored (29th in MLB) is unlikely to win any division. It sure didn't help that Buster Posey was shelved two months into the season, but then again, this is a team that gave Miguel Tejada 343 plate appearances.
Run production will be a point of emphasis once again in 2012, which is why Brian Sabean acquired the likes of Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Ryan Theriot. Those three alone could possibly combine to match Carlos Beltran's production in his 44 game tenure with San Fran, so...net positive, right? That's not how it works? Oh. Basically, the Giants are counting on no setbacks in either the rotation or bullpen, continued production and full health from Sandoval and Posey, the hope that Cabrera's game can transfer to AT&T Park, and some sort of strategy that involves distracting opposing pitchers by letting 5 of their position players hit while holding the wrong end of the bat. On the other hand, the NL West somehow looks even worse than it did last year, so there's still hope for an October cameo. Of course, there's the old saw about what pitching can do for you in the playoffs, so maybe the picture isn't as bleak as one might think at first glance.
Ask the average baseball fan which park suppresses hitters the most, and most likely they'll answer Petco Park. In fact, that distinction belongs to a ballpark that hosts a team from the same division: AT&T Park. It's not even close. The home run factor for the park that has been named after three different telephone companies was a miniscule 0.596 in 2011. Second place Kauffman Stadium (also not Petco, as you may have noticed) sported a 0.708. AT&T also placed 30th in runs scored, and while it was still the runaway "winner," the margin of victory wasn't quite as extreme.
This is the last of the NL West teams, and if you've been keeping up, you'll notice that every ballpark in this division is on one extreme end of the spectrum or another. San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles play in suppressed run environments, and the venues in Arizona and Colorado are the opposite. Fantasy players are always encouraged to check home ballparks when setting their lineups, but it is especially crucial when dealing with players in the NL West.
Manager & Coaching Staff
Bruce Bochy is not your friend if you own Giants prospects in a dynasty league. Look no further than the case of Brandon Belt, who was jerked around by the organization and didn't play half the time he was on the 25 man roster anyway. Bochy hasn't exactly built an environment where young players can thrive and feel secure in their jobs. I suppose that's good news for you if you're one of the unlucky ones who got stuck with an aging Giant veteran like Aubrey Huff or Freddy Sanchez. Playing time!
Expected Position Battles
Belt is being given a legit shot at the first base job, but watch out - Aubrey Huff is in the BSOHL. He did Pilates! His wife is an instructor!
Other than that, there's not much else besides Brandon Crawford trying to fend off Ryan Theriot at shortstop, which is totally going to rock my draft board if it happens.
Projected Lineup & Rotation
Angel Pagan - CF
Melky Cabrera - LF
Pablo Sandoval - 3B
Buster Posey - C
Aubrey Huff/Brandon Belt - 1B
Nate Schierholtz - RF
Freddy Sanchez - 2B
Brandon Crawford - SS
Angel Pagan has been announced as Andres Torres' replacement at the top of the lineup, while fellow new acquisition Melky Cabrera slots in behind. Sorry if I sound like a broken record, but there's a huge black hole after (and possibly including) the #5 hitter.
Tim Lincecum | Madison Bumgarner | Matt Cain | Ryan Vogelsong | Barry Zito
No competition for spots, and 24 year-old Eric Surkamp looks to be the prime candidate for spot starts. He's young and could still develop, but stay away until further notice. His fastball hits 88 and in a small sample size last year, his K/BB was 0.76. There are plenty of other high-upside picks that will make you look like a hero if they pan out.
Brian Wilson (I'm contractually obligated to mention his beard. Done and done.) is the unquestioned closer, but health isn't a guarantee at this point. He had two separate stints on the DL last season, the latter of which is fairly troubling since it involved his elbow. The Giants went with a closer by committee in his absence, with Santiago Casilla converting the most saves (6). Casilla is a decent set-up man, but he walks too many people in not enough innings to be fantasy relevant. Sergio Romo, on the other hand, walks nobody and strikes out everybody (seriously, he sported a K/BB of 14), but he had elbow troubles of his own in August. Other than that, there are only serviceable options that offer little fantasy value.
Potential Fantasy Sleeper
My definition of sleeper and yours may vary. I use the term to refer to a player who may be undervalued, no matter his current or expected draft position.
I'm really going to stretch the definition of sleeper this time around, because I'm going with Madison Bumgarner, who is currently being drafted 20th among starting pitchers and 75th overall. In my most recent SP ranks, I placed him 16th, just ahead of teammate Matt Cain. Hey, I told you I was stretching the definition. I like Bumgarner to take a step forward in 2012. Last season he increased both his FStrike% and his SwStr%, and while we saw a jump in strikeouts, the expected drop in walks didn't happen. Every one of his ERA predictors had him at slightly unlucky, and he's still 22. If he can continue to perfect that devastating slider (SwStr%=12.1), watch out.
Spring Storylines to Watch
Buster Posey didn't play in the Giants spring opener, which was a big deal before everybody realized that it wasn't, but I'm watching to see how Bochy deploys him. Will he play at first base more often? If so, will Brandon Belt ever play? Can't this team do better than Eli Whiteside when Posey can't go?
Follow the Team
MLB.com beat reporter: Chris Haft (Blog | Twitter)
San Francisco Chronicle beat reporter: Hank Schulman (Blog | Twitter)
CSN Bay Area beat reporter: Andrew Baggarly (Blog | Twitter)
SBN: McCovey Chronicles (Blog | Twitter)
Know of any other sites or Twitter accounts that deserve a mention? Let me know in the comments.