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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 NL East Preview

Here is my prediction for how the NL East will wind up come October:

1st Place, Philadelphia Phillies

Lineup:
SS Jimmy Rollins
CF Shane Victorino
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Raul Ibanez
RF Jayson Werth
3B Placido Polanco
C Carlos Ruiz

Pitching:
RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Cole Hammels
RHP Joe Blanton
LHP Jamey Moyer
RHP J.A. Happ
SU: Ryan Madson
CL: Brad Lidge

The Phillies are really the most stocked team in the NL, but they do have a slight weakness, and that is in their bullpen. Brad Lidge is coming of a monumentally horrible season in which he went 0-8 with a 7.21 era, finishing with 21 saves in 67 games. If he continues to struggle to start 2010, look for Madson to take the 9th inning reigns with Dannys Baez getting consideration too. Other than that though, their lineup is ridiculously strong from 1-7, as all guys can hit 12+ home runs, and all but Ryan Howard can steal you a base if needed. Their rotation is also a huge strength, especially after they added Roy Halladay this winter. J.A. Happ really stuck out after being moved to the rotation last year as well (6-4 with a 2.96 era in 13 starts after the break). Defensively, they are about as good as it gets with reigning gold glovers, or potential gold glovers scattered all over the diamond.

2nd Place, Atlanta Braves *NL Wild Card Winner*

Lineup:
CF Nate McClouth
LF Melky Cabrera
3B Chipper Jones
1B Troy Glaus
C Brian McCann
RF Jason Heyward
SS Yunel Escobar
2B Martin Prado

Pitching:
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Jair Jurrjens
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Tommy Hanson
RHP Kenshin Kawakami
SU: Takashi Saito
CL: Billy Wagner

The Braves have quietly constructed a very good ballclub, health impending of course. I like the mix of vets and youngsters they have in their rotation with Lowe and Hudson matched with Hanson and Jurrjens. Their bullpen is veteran heavy, but should be very effective if everyone still has another year in thier arms, which is likely the case. Their lineup will rely on the health of Jones and Glaus, but both have looked healthy this spring. They also have a few youngsters in there to help pick up the slack with Jason Heyward (ROY candidate), Escobar and McCann. McClouth needs to hit more like he did in '08, otherwise I'd try Cabrera or Escobar at the top.

3rd Place, Florida Marlins

Lineup:
LF Chris Coghlan
CF Cameron Maybin
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Jorge Cantu
2B Dan Uggla
RF Cody Ross
1B Gaby Sanchez
C John Baker

Pitching:
RHP Josh Johnson
RHP Ricky Nolasco
RHP Annabel Sanchez
RHP Chris Volstad
LHP Nate Robertson
SU: Brian Sanches
CL: Leo Nunez

The Marlins have one of youngest teams in baseball, but they should be very competitive. They have the reigning NL Rookie of the Year at the top of the lineup, followed by another guy with tremendous upside in Cameron Maybin. Hanley Ramierz is a top-5 player in all of baseball right now, and he's a guy who can single handily carry a lineup when he's on. Their young rotation is another bright spot, led by 26 year-old all-star Josh Johnson. I also really like Sanchez and Nolasco, and Volstad. The bullpen is the one area where they have some question marks, but Leo Nunez looks like a bright young closer, and there are a couple other nice young arms who will be getting him the ball. The Fish also have a decent defense where only Cantu and Uggla are below league average, but they more than make up for that with their offensive output.

4th Place, New York Mets

Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes
2B Luis Castillo
CF Carlos Beltran*
LF Jason Bay
3B David Wright
1B Daniel Murphy
RF Jeff Franceur
C Rod Barajas

Pitching:
LHP Johan Santana
RHP John Maine
RHP Mike Pelfrey
LHP Oliver Perez
RHP Jonathan Niese
SU: Jerry Mejia
CL: Francisco Rodriguez

*Beltran will miss at least first month of season, Angel Pagan will be in his place

The Mets were recently a powerhouse in the NL East, but they have fallen off mightily in the last few seasons. Most of that is due to injury and inconsistency in their starting rotation. Carlos Beltran will be out until sometime in May, so they're already having to overcome the loss of their best all-around player. The rotation is not only thin, but they have had health issues themselves. Mike Pelfrey led the team in innings last year at 184, and the next closest was Santana at 166. If that happens again, the Mets will once again finish below .500. However, if they get full years out of their starters, and Beltran returns strong and early, they could at least find themselves in the hunt for the wild card.

5th Place, Washington Nationals

Lineup:
CF Nyjer Morgan
RF Willie Harris
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam Dunn
LF Josh Willingham
C Ivan Rodriguez
2B Adam Kennedy
SS Ian Desmond

Pitching:
LHP John Lannan
RHP Jason Marquis
RHP Livan Hernandez
LHP Scott Olson
RHP Craig Stammen
SU: Brian Brunney
CL: Matt Capps

The Nats are at least on the right path now. They have a couple of youngsters, including phenom right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg, knocking on the door. They also will get former Yankee ace Chien-Ming Wang back around June, so John Lannan and Jason Marquis will get some help in the rotation. Their bullpen is still a major work in progress though, but I think Matt Capps will rebound and have a nice year. The lineup relies a lot on power with Dunn, Zimmerman and Willingham, but the addition of Nyjer Morgan for the hole year will help the top of their order. Still at least a year away from being relevant in the NL East again though.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Giants Extend Cain, Schierholtz Struggling

With us trying to squeeze out the MLB divisional previews before the season starts next week, I haven't been able to do any Giants only posts over the last week. However, there was some big news to come out of camp on Tuesday.

The Giants inked Matt Cain to a 3 year contract extension which will pay the 25 year-old right-hander $27.5 million over the next 3 seasons. Cain had his best season as a pro in 2009, and looks like he's taking that next step. He's threw more strikes in '09 and put himself in favorable counts more often than not. The Giants also extended closer Brian Wilson though the 2012 season, a deal that will pay him $6.5 million then $8.5 during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. They also locked Jeremy Affeldt up thorough 2012 as well.

As far as on-field performance goes, Nate Schierholtz has really tanked over the second half of the spring. Nate is hitting .236 with a homer and 7 RBI. He hasn't exactly taken the bull by the horns like the Giants were hoping he would. Also, John Bowker is carrying over his 2009 AAA success into 2010, as he leads the team with 5 homers and 20 RBI. The next closest in each category is 3 hr (Huff, Lewis) and 12 RBI (Huff). Bowker is showing that obviously he deserves to get a chance to carry this success over into the regular season. I think they should stick with Schierholtz for the first couple weeks of the season though, but Bowker needs to be getting at-bats as well. Nate's defense would be a huge asset in right field, he's much better than Bowker with the glove and has a cannon arm. One option to get Bowker into the lineup a little more could be giving DeRosa more time at second and putting Bowker in left a few times a week, then he could get at least 1-2 starts in right and be getting basically full-time at-bats. I'm a little surprised he didn't get more of a chance last year after his 10 homer, 43 RBI rookie 1/2 season.

On the mound, Jonathan Sanchez looks like he's in regular season form after striking out 11 batters, and allowing just 1 run on 3 hits over 6 innings vs. the Brewers Monday. A re-assuring outing for a Giants rotation that has struggled as a whole this spring.
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2010 AL West Preview

With the MLB's opening day just 5 days away, I will be posting at least one post per day leading up to Monday's Giants' opener. So stay locked here cause we're going to have plenty of info over the next five days. Here's our AL West Preview:

1st Place, Los Angeles Angels


Lineup:
SS Erick Aybar
RF Bobby Abreu
CF Torii Hunter
1B Kendry Morales
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Juan Rivera
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Brandon Wood
C Mike Napoli

Pitching:
RHP Jered Weaver
LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP Ervin Santana
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Joel Pinero
SU: Fernando Rodney
CL: Brian Fuentes

The Angels lost thier offensive centerpiece over the winter when Vladimir Guerrero signed with Texas, but the emergence of Kendry Morales (.306/34/108) and Juan Rivera (.287/25/88) should make Vlad's absence easier to overcome. The tougher loss for them in my mind was Chone Figgins, who anchored their leadoff spot over the last 5 years and could play all over the diamond. Their starting rotation is very experienced, yet very young. Joel Pinero is the only one over 30 years of age, but everybody in the rotation has at least 3 seasons under their belt. If Kazmir and Santana both pitch up to their capabilities, the Angels should have one of the best rotations in the AL. They also added hard-throwing, late inning specialist Fernando Rodney, to help get the ball to Brian Fuentes, and possibly get a few save opportunities himself. I also like the way they set up defensively. That outfield of Abreu-Hunter-Rivera is about as solid as it gets.

2nd Place, Seattle Mariners

Lineup:
RF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Chone Figgins
CF Franklin Gutierrez
LF Milton Bradley
3B Jose Lopez
DH Ken Griffey Jr.
1B Casey Kotchman
SS Jack Wilson
C Rob Johnson

Pitching:
RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Ian Snell
RHP Ryan Rowland-Smith
RHP Jason Vargas
LHP Erik Bedard*
SU: Mark Lowe
CL: David Aardsma

* Out until mid-May

The Mariners are a team very much on the up. I like their addition of Chone Figgins to the top of the lineup to team with Ichiro, and I'm expecting a bounce back year from Milton Bradley. The bottom of their lineup lacks punch, but they should be able to make up for that with their strong defense. Their rotation is kind of in shambles entering the year, as both Erik Bedard and Cliff Lee will start the year on the DL, leaving them with just 3 experienced starters to begin the year with. Their bullpen is a bit of a question mark, and their closer has struggled this spring, but Aardsma is coming off a season in which he posted a 2.52 era and saved 38 ballgames. Again though, the AL West is a division that is improving, and unless they get their pitching staff healthy and going, they could find themselves at the bottom of the division.

3rd Place, Oakland Athletics

Lineup:
CF Coco Crisp
LF Rajai Davis
C Kurt Suzuki
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
DH Jack Cust
1B Eric Chavez
RF Ryan Sweeney
2B Mark Ellis
SS Cliff Pennington

Pitching:
RHP Ben Sheets
LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Justin Duchscherer
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Trevor Cahill
SU: Joey Devine
CL: Andrew Bailey

I really like the A's pitching staff, from top to bottom, from Ben Sheets and Brett Anderson all the way down to the guys closing the door in Joey Devine, Michael Wuertz and Andrew Bailey. Their lineup though, leaves a lot to be desired. Any team that has Kevin Kouzmanoff hitting in the cleanup spot definitely has some holes offensively. Still though, I think their offense is just good enough to support that strong pitching staff and keep the A's right around .500. Give them a couple of legit middle order hitters and they could realistically become division favorites. The key for the A's will be their players who missed all of or most of 2009 with injury. If Crisp, Sheets and Chavez all perform near their career norm, the A's will be even better than just a .500 ballclub.

4th Place, Texas Rangers

Lineup:
LF Julio Bourbon
3B Michael Young
2B Ian Kinsler
CF Josh Hamilton
DH Vladimir Guerrero
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Chris Davis
SS Elvis Andrus
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Pitching:
RHP Rich Harden
RHP Scott Feldman
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Matt Harrison
RHP Colby Lewis
SU: Neftali Feliz
CL: Frank Francisco

If you could take the Rangers lineup and team that with the A's pitching staff, you'd definitely have something. Like the A's pitching staff, the Ragners lineup is stocked with young hitters just entering their prime, who've been around for a little while. Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton are franchise cornerstones. Julio Bourbon, Chris Davis and Elvis Andrus are all young, potential all-star caliber players ready to take that next step. Oh yeah, they also have the top first base prospect in baseball (Justin Smoak) knocking on the door. However, their pitching staff, again, is a weakness. I like how they added Rich Harden, and Scott Feldman looks good, but after that they're extremely thin. They do have a couple real young, potential stud arms in Neftali Feliz (starting year in bullpen) and Derek Holland (AAA rotation) and those two can really help rebuild the Rangers staff.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

2010 AL Central Preview

Here is our projection for how the AL Central will look in 2010. Also, we have some Giants news at the bottom of the post with the recent trading of Kevin Frandsen:

1st Place, Chicago White Sox

Lineup:
LF Juan Pierre
SS Alexei Ramirez
2B Gordon Beckham
RF Carlos Quentin
1B Paul Konerko
CF Alex Rios
C A.J. Pierzynski
DH Andruw Jones
3B Mark Teahan

Pitching:
RHP Jake Peavy
LHP Mark Buerhle
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP John Danks
RHP Freddy Garcia
SU: J.J. Putz
CL: Bobby Jenks

The veteran-heavy White Sox should win the Central, especially with the Twins missing Joe Nathan for the year. They have a strong offensive lineup with Juan Pierre and Alex Rios bringing in some much needed speed. All hitters in that lineup after their leadoff guy are capable of hitting 15+ home runs per year as well, so they have the proper mix of speed and power. They also have a nice mix of effective vets and productive youngsters in their rotation and bullpen. If they can keep Peavy and Buerhle healthy, and their lineup performs as it should, they'll cruise to an easy division championship. I'm curious to see as to how Jake Peavy takes to the American League. He was one of the top arms in the NL for much of the last decade but he's really been hit hard by the injury bug over the last couple of seasons.


2nd Place, Minnesota Twins

Lineup:
CF Denard Span
2B Orlando Hudson
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubal
LF Delmon Young
SS J.J. Hardy
3B Brendan Harris

Pitching:
RHP Scott Baker
RHP Nick Blackburn
RHP Kevin Slowey
RHP Carl Pavano
LHP Francisco Liriano
SU: Matt Guerrier
CL: Pat Neshek

The Twins suffered a huge loss with Joe Nathan going down for the year. The only other guys who were as important to this team as Nathan are Morneau and Mauer. The Twins also have some question marks in their rotation as nobody in it is coming off of a real solid year. Their lineup, however, looks about as good as it's been in recent years, especially if J.J. Hardy returns to pre-2009 form, which I believe will happen. I'm envisioning a breakout year for Delemon Young, who's under-achieved so far in his young career. Without Nathan though, it looks like it's going to be Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch all getting save opportunities as Ron Gardenhire tries to find the best fit. If he's healthy, Neshek (2.91 era, 0.96 WHIP, .188 BAA in career) would be my first choice as Nathan's replacement.

3rd Place, Detroit Tigers


Lineup:
LF Johnny Damon
CF Austin Jackson
RF Maglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Carlos Guillen
3B Brandon Inge
C Gerald Laird
2B Scott Sizemore
SS Adam Everett

Pitching:
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Rick Porcello
RHP Max Scherzer
LHP Dontrelle Willis
LHP Nate Robertson
SU: Joel Zumaya
CL: Jose Valverde

The Tigers don't quite match-up with Chicago, but they have a decent squad heading into the 2010 season. Johnny Damon kind of fell on their lap at the tail end of the offseason, which really strengthens the top part of their lineup. Their rotation is rock solid 1-3, but then 4 and 5 pose some questions. It looks like Dontrelle Willis will get another shot, as he's put together a very good spring so far, and Nate Robertson has looked much better than Jeremy Bonderman. Justin Verlander is a Cy Young candidate and Porcello and Scherzer are two of the brightest young arms in the league. If Robertson and Willis pitch like they did a few years back, then the Tigers will be a force. I really like their bullpen as well with the add of Valverde, one of the more underrated closers in the game.

4th Place, Kansas City Royals

Lineup:
LF Scott Podsednik
RF David DeJesus
2B Alberto Callaspo
1B Billy Butler
DH Jose Guillen
CF Rick Ankiel
3B Alex Gordon
SS Yunieski Betancourt
C Jason Kendal

Pitching:
RHP Zack Greinke
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Brian Bannister
RHP Luke Hochevar
RHP Kyle Davies
SU: Juan Cruz
CL: Joakim Soria

The Royals will continue their playoff drought in 2010. They don't have themselves a bad top of the lineup, but the bottom half is huge question mark. They're hoping this is the year Alex Gordon and Luke Hochevar, both huge disappointments after being taken as number 1 picks. Those 2 need to start paying off for the Royals, otherwise they'll stay stuck in 4th-5th place mode. Zack Grienke is one of the best pitchers in the AL, but after that, the rotation is filled with guys who posted double-digit loss numbers a year ago. In the bullpen, I really like their closer, Joakim Soria, who reminds me a ton of a young Mariano Rivera. It's just too bad the rest of the bullpen is below average and he'll be lucky to get 40 save chances in '10. Defensively, the Royals have are actually above average though, so at least they have that going for them

5th Place, Cleveland Indians

Lineup:
CF Grady Sizemore
SS Ascrubal Cabrera
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Travis Hafner
3B Jhonny Peralta
1B Matt LaPorta
2B Luis Valbeuna
LF Michael Brantley
C lou Marson

Pitching:
RHP Jake Westbrook
LHP Aaron Laffey
RHP Fausto Carmona
LHP Jeremy Sowers
RHP Justin Masterson
SU: Chris Perez
CL: Kerry Wood

The Indians are in pretty rough shape entering the year. Their closer, Kerry Wood, is probably out for the first month of the year, and although Chris Perez should be a fine fill-in, that bullpen is very shallow and will miss Wood dearly. Their rotation is even weaker than KC's, as the Royals at least have themselves and ace and some guys with potential. Cleveland's offense is average to below average. I like Sizemore a lot, and Cabrera, Choo and LaPorta are nice talents, but they have one guy who hit 20 homers last year, and only had 2 hitters hit above .258. They were also lead in wins by a reliever (David Huff with 11) in 2009 as well. Just goes to show exactly how poor of a roster the Indians will be trotting out in 2010.

*Giants Note: Kevin Frandsen finally got his wish on Friday, as the Giants sent the 27 year-old infielder to the Boston Red Sox for a player to be named later. Frandsen had a minor league option left, but was behind Matt Downs, Manny Burriss, Ryan Rohlinger and Brandon Crawford on the organizational depth chart. Frandsen never really got a good look after his solid showing in September of 2007, at which time he looked to be the 2nd basement of the future. Injuries and disagreements with management kept him from getting much playing time in 2009. I wish Frandsen the best, as he's now a candidate to back-up at second and short for a legit World Series contender.
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

2010 AL East Preview

As we do towards the end of every March here at the Giants Baseball Blog, with the regular season quickly approaching, we're going to start the division-by-division preview and standing predictions for the upcoming 2010 season. Starting as always in the AL East, and finishing up in the NL West, so here we go:

1st Place, New York Yankees
Lineup:
SS Derek Jeter
DH Nick Johnson
1B Mark Teixiera
3B Alex Rodriguez
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano
LF Curtis Granderson
RF Nick Swisher
CF Brett Gardner

Pitching:
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP AJ Burnett
RHP Javier Vazquez
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Phil Hughes
SU: Joba Chamberlain
CL: Mariano Riveria

The reigning world champs have again improved themselves over the offseason, bringing Nick Johnson back to the Bronx and trading for the versatile Curtis Granderson. Those two offset the loss of Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, so the offense should once again be one of the league's best. With Damon out and Brett Gardner in, their outfield defense improves greatly too. I really liked the addition of Javier Vazquez (2.87 era, 15 W, 238 K's in '09) to an already strong starting rotation. Vazquez teamed with Burnett and Sabathia make the Yanks very tough to beat in a playoff series, and that bullpen should once again be solid, led by the ageless wonder, Mariano Rivera.

2nd Place, Boston Red Sox (*AL Wild Card Winner*)
Lineup:
LF Jacoby Ellsbury
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
RF J.D. Drew
CF Mike Cameron

Pitching:
RHP Josh Beckett
LHP Jon Lester
RHP John Lackey
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Clay Buchholtz
SU: Daniel Bard
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

The Red Sox should again be right there on the Yankees heels, but I just don't think they have quite the offensive firepower to overtake the "Bronx Bombers". The two key players on that roster, in my opinion, are David Ortiz and Adrian Beltre. If both rebound after rough '09 seasons, and play closer to their potential, then the Sox will force themselves into the playoffs one way or another. Another strong point for Boston is their defense, as they have one of the top-5 team defenses in the game right now. They have the best bench in baseball, with potential starters Jeremy Hermida, Bill Hall, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell. That rotation is lining up to be one of the best in the game, if healthy, and their bullpen has notoriously been one of the AL's best.

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays
Lineup:
SS Jason Bartlett
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
2B Ben Zobrist
CF B.J. Upton
RF Matt Joyce
C Dioner Navarro

Pitching:
RHP James Shields
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Jeff Niemann
LHP David Price
RHP Wade Davis
SU: J.P. Howell
CL: Rafael Soriano

In just about any other division in baseball, the Rays would be serious contenders, as they have a nice lineup, a decent starting rotation, and an up-and-coming bullpen. B.J. Upton has the talent to be one of the top 20 players in baseball, but he had a bad season in 2009, and needs to revert back to his 2008 playoff form, when he hit 7 homers, drove in 16 runs and stole 6 bags in 16 ballgames. I also believe Carl Crawford could be the most underrated player in baseball as he has the potential to hit 25 home runs and steal 60 bases. Their young rotation and bullpen should be solid, though they'll likely encounter some growing pains throughout the year. I'm just not quite sure about Soriano as a full-time closer, as he has too much trouble staying on the field.

4th Place, Baltimore Orioles
Lineup:
2B Brian Roberts
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
LF Nolan Reimold
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

Pitching:
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Jeremie Guthrie
RHP Brad Bergesen
LHP Brian Matusz
RHP Chris Tillman
SU: Jim Johnson
CL: Mike Gonzalez

The Orioles are a year or two away from really starting to make a push in the AL East. They have their young positional core going with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold who are all 26 years of age or younger. They also have a few young arms that are ready to work at the big league level in Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz and quite possibly their future ace, Jake Arrietta, knocking on the door. They remind me of what the Rays looked like one year before they made their push to the world series. They don't have quite the quality pitching that the Rays have accumulated, but they're on the right track. They can also catch and throw the ball very well, right up there with Boston. Keep an eye on Baltimore, as they should show glimpses this year of what they can be a few years down the road.

5th Place, Toranto Blue Jays
Lineup:
RF Jose Bautista
1B Lyle Overbay
2B Aaron Hill
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Travis Snider
SS Alex Gonzalez
C John Buck

Pitching:
RHP Shawn Marcum
LHP Ricky Romero
RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Marc Rzepczynski
LHP Brett Cecil
SU: Jason Frasier
CL: Kevin Gregg

The Blue Jays are significantly weaker team than they were at the start of last year. They've lost Alex Rios, Roy Halladay, Marco Scutaro and Rod Barajas. They're counting on in-experienced arms to carry their rotation, as Ricky Romero is the only returning starter to start at least 20 games in 2009. Shawn Marcum and Brandon Morrow should be solid, but are both question marks. Their lineup needs a lot of work too. They have a decent middle order, but the top and bottom of their lineup really needs some work. Jose Bautista (career .238/.329/.729) is hardly your ideal leadoff man and they're really going to miss Scutaro at the top of the lineup. Their bullpen is also a question mark as they still don't have a clear cut closer, although they do have a few legit set-up guys.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Giants Continue Strong Play In Cactus League

After the Giants most recent victory on Monday vs. Texas, they have bumped their record up to 15-6 this spring after totaling just 9 wins during the 2009's Cactus League. Again, these numbers and wins during March don't mean much, but I do like a lot of what I'm seeing go on with this Giants club, spring training or not.

Giants fans have to be pleased with what they've seen out of the Giants' top two offensive free-agent signees so far, with Aubrey Huff leading the team with 3 homers, second with 9 RBI and is carrying a .380 batting average. DeRosa missed the first half of the spring schedule, but has looked solid in his seven games played since, hitting .300 with a pair of RBI's. Also, Edgar Renteria has looked moderately better than he was last year, and apparently looks like he's a little bit quicker in the field. They don't really have an everyday player, minus Freddy Sanchez who is still out with that shoulder recovery, who is having a bad spring. Aaron Rowand has really heated up over the last few games and is now sporting a team best .500 batting average. The only projected regular who isn't performing up to expectation is the one guy that needs to in order to secure his starting spot and that is Nate Schierholtz. Their defense has actually been a little bit better than expected as well. They've only committed 5 errors as a team all spring long, and Huff, who's never been known for much of a defender, has really put everyone at ease with the way he's played there so far. He's even got J.T. Snow's stamp of approval.

The only thing I want to see Bruce Bochy do more of as the spring wears on is to continue to get their top youngsters into as much game action as possible. I understand that it's getting to the point in spring where the regulars are going to start getting stretched out a little more as the regular season is just 2 weeks away, but I would like to see much more of Darren Ford and Brandon Crawford. Ford showed his wheels again in Monday's game, hitting a stand-up triple in the ninth inning vs. the Rangers, and ended up scoring the game-winning run on a sac fly. Goes to show you what speed can do to a ballgame, and the Giants desperately need it. As far as the young pitchers go, the guy I've been monitoring closely is lining up to get his first start of the spring on Wednesday as the Giants split up to take on Kansas City and Cincinnati. Sosa has yet to allow a run this spring and has been very impressive with velocity and location. He's my dark horse pick to get one of the final bullpen spots, as he can both start and relieve for Boch.

Note: Our Annual MLB Divisional Previews start Tuesday or Wednesday and will probably run through the beginning of April, as I'll break down each division in baseball and pick the winners. It's one of the rare times here at the Giants Baseball Blog in which I'll touch on topics having nothing to do with the Giants, but I'll be sure to report on any big news or happenings with the club as it happens!
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Friday, March 19, 2010

Giants 2010 Roster Preview and Predictions

Like we do here around the middle of every spring, I wanted to give my thoughts as to how the Giants roster will look come opening day, and give my best estimate as to what their players will do in the 2010 season (Keep in mind I reserve the right to change these a bit before opening day). So here we go:

2010 Giants Projected Roster

Lineup:

1. CF Aaron Rowand ( .272 avg, 13 hr, 68 RBI, 79 runs, 7 sb .756 OPS)
2. 2B Freddy Sanchez* ( .295, 10 hr, 57 RBI, 75 runs, 2 sb, .751 OPS)
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval ( .315, 28 hr, 102 RBI, 84 runs, 6 sb, .975 OPS)
4. 1B Aubrey Huff ( .261, 21 hr, 82 RBI, 65 runs, 1 sb, .790 OPS)
5. LF Mark DeRosa ( .279, 18 hr, 80 RBI, 72 runs, 2 sb, .794 OPS)
6. RF Nate Schierholtz (.285, 12 hr, 52 RBI, 52 runs, 8 sb, .747 OPS)
7. Bengie Molina ( .272, 13 hr, 65 RBI, 40 runs, 0 sb, .729 OPS)
8. Edgar Renteria (.269, 8 hr, 53 RBI, 58 runs, 9 sb, .710 OPS)

Bench:

C/1B Buster Posey ( .287 avg., 10 hr, 48 rbi, 41 runs, 11 sb, .773 OPS)
IF Juan Uribe ( .272, 17 hr, 66 rbi, 53 runs, 3 sb, .792)
Ut. Eugenio Velez ( .270, 4 hr, 38 rbi, 42 runs, 13 sb, .721)
OF Fred Lewis ( .275, 5 hr, 25 rbi, 30 runs, 9 sb, .765)
OF Andres Torres ( .263, 4 hr, 27 rbi, 22 runs, 7 sb, .755)
OF Jon Bowker** ( .259, 7 hr, 21 rbi, 19 runs, 2 sb, .723 OPS)

Pitchers

Starters:

RHP Tim Lincecum (16-7, 3.02 era, 211 IP, 220 K's, 1.14 WHIP)
RHP Matt Cain (15-8, 3.37 era, 231 IP, 200 K's, 1.20 WHIP)
LHP Barry Zito (12-12, 3.92 era, 198 IP, 137 K's, 1.32 WHIP)
LHP Jonathan Sanchez (11-10, 4.12 era, 180 IP, 189 K's, 1.32 WHIP)
LHP Madison Bumgarner+(8-6, 4.27 era, 97 IP, 77 K's, 1.35 WHIP)
RHP Todd Wellemeyer ++ (3-7, 4.57 era, 76 IP, 59 K's, 1.41 WHIP)

Bullpen

CL Brian Wilson ( 4-4, 72 games, 44 saves, 2.62 era)
LH Jeremy Affeldt ( 3-1, 80 games, 36 holds, 2.92 era)
RH Sergio Romo ( 5-6, 73 games, 25 holds, 3.54 era)
LH Dan Runzler ( 2-2, 66 games, 5 saves, 2.87 era)
RH Brandon Medders ( 3-5, 70 games, 4.32 era)
RH Guillermo Mota ( 3-2, 69 games, 3.77 era)
RH Henry Sosa ( 1-3, 52 games, 4 starts, 4.14 era)

This is just a rough estimate as to what these guys will do during the course of the regular season and this is, of course, if each player stays healthy throughout the course of the season, which is highly unlikely. I think the Huff and DeRosa predictions would be ones that the Giants would gladly take out of each player, but both very reachable. Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito will improve upon last year, Lincecum's numbers will probably take a small hit, but still be very good, and Matt Cain will continue building on last years success. In the bullpen, I'm expecting the best of Brian Wilson to date, and also looking for Dan Runzler to emerge as a potential closer-type this season.

* Freddy Sanchez starts year on DL
**Starts year on 25-man instead of F. Sanchez
+Bumgarner starts year in Fresno
++Wellemeyer starts season in rotation, but gives way to MadBum
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Battles Still Unsettled

We're a little over 1/3 of the way through Cactus League action, and the few spring battles that are taking place this spring are no clearer today than they were at the start of spring training.

The biggest battle going on in Giants camp this spring is the battle for the fifth starters spot. Madison Bumgarner was considered the favorite coming into camp, as he's been one of the most dominating starers in the minor leagues over the previous 2 season, and came up to the big leagues and really impressed in a brief stint at the end of last season. However, Bumgarner hasn't been quite as impressive this spring as the Giants were hoping, and hasn't really run away with the job. The main concern with Bumgarner is his velocity, which is down significantly from where it was at in during the majority of the 2009 season. Before Bumgarner was called up to the Giants last year his heater was consistently clocked between 92-95 mph. But he was down around 90 mph at the end of the year with the Giants, and has dropped even more this spring. He's been around 87-88 mph so far, and isn't having the success he's used to. His struggles this spring have prompted the Giants to discuss possibly starting him off in Fresno to begin the year.

Todd Wellemeyer was considered the favorite to get the job if Bumgarner indeed starts the year in Fresno, but Kevin Pucetas has really emerged as a strong candidate as well. Kevin Pucetas posted his third consecutive scoreless outing Saturday, throwing 3 perfect innings and striking out a batter in his second start of the spring. Pucetas has allowed just 3 hits in his 7 shutout innings this spring and hasn't yet walked a batter. Wellemeyer has thrown pretty well too, allowing just 2 earned runs and 1 walk through his 10 innings this spring. Both guys have done more to earn the fifth spot than MadBum, but there is still plenty of spring baseball left.

The battle for the remaining bullpen spots is a little tough to sort out at this point as well. The Giants essentially have 4 guys who are basically guaranteed spots and those 4 are Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders and Sergio Romo. I'd have to say that 24 year-old flame-throwing lefty Dan Runzler is pretty much a lock as well since he's looked just as good this spring as he did with the Giants last September. With the Giants likely leaning towards carrying 12 pitchers on their opening day roster, that would leave space for 2 more relievers to make the team. I really like the way Alex Hinshaw and Henry Sosa (who we've mentioned a few times here this spring) are throwing, but both of those guys do have some control issues. Guillermo Mota has also done just about all he can so far to earn himself a spot, and I do think he's got a slight upper hand on the rest of the bunch because he's a veteran, and the Giants are trotting out a real young pitching staff. Adding Mota and Sosa would give the Giants the most potent bullpen, and would really stockpile them with live arms that throw the ball in the mid to high 90's. I just don't think the Giants are ready to allow Sosa to make that leap all the way up to the big leagues. Injury issues have kept him from pitching above AA ball, and they may want to start him out in Fresno.

If the Giants intend on keeping him the rotation, then I absolutely agree with starting him in Fresno and I don't mind him starting in Fresno as a reliever either, but he's going to be 25 this summer, and I don't think the Giants should be easing him along any longer. If the season started today, the last 2 spots would go to Hinshaw and Mota, but this is definitely a situation, like the fifth starters spot, to continue monitoring throughout the spring.

Giants 2010 Roster Preview/Predictions Post Coming Next!!!
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Giants Keep Winning, Top Team in Arizona

If you've been following the Giants closely this spring, you know that their bats have started off extremely well. Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff, Pablo Sandoval, Bengie Molina, Juan Uribe and co. have all gotten going offensively and have contributed early. Surprisingly, it's been the Giants pitchers that were off to a slower start than their hitters, however, the starting pitching has begun to take form, and the Giants have continued their spring dominance.

Jonathan Sanchez provided quite possibly the best start of the spring by any Giants' starter on Wednesday, throwing 3 strong vs. the Cubs, allowing just 3 singles and striking out 5 batters. The 27 year-old lefty has yet to allow a run this spring. Sanchez's solid outing came on the heels of both Matt Cain's and Barry Zito's solid, 3 inning, 1 run outings. The only Giants' starter who hasn't yet completed 3 innings this spring is ace Tim Lincecum. In Timmy's most recent start Thursday, he was tattooed by the Mariners, allowing 4 runs (2 earned) on 6 hits and 2 walks. Lincecum's first outing of the spring was against the same Mariner team and yielded the same negative results. In that game, he allowed 3 runs (2 earned) on 2 hits and 2 walks. You need to take into account the horrid defense Lincecum was backed up by on Thursday though, as Aubrey Huff made a bad throw in a double play attempt and it really opened the flood gates.

The Giants defense is going to be an area of concern early on, as they aren't the best defensive club on paper. I think they'll end up being serviceable, but Thursday's game was a perfect example of what sketchy defense can do to a ballgame, even with someone as dominant as Tim Lincecum on the mound. Madison Bumgarner is currently on the mound as I type this, and the Mariners are getting to him as well. Again, I'm not concerned in the slightest about Tim Lincecum or Madison Bumgarner, and I expect both to be right on track when the regular season begins.

Speaking of the Giants defense, Pablo Sandoval has quietly put together a terrific defensive display over at the hot-corner this spring. A lot of people asked for Sandoval to be moved over to first base because of his size, but he's showed this spring exactly why he has so much value as a third basemen. He's made diving grabs, he's shown the ability to charge the slow rollers and make the off-balance throw. Pablo's also extremely quick for his size and has a cannon arm, both of which bode well for third base. Chris Haft finally brought some attention to Sandoval's defensive game recently, as his D tends to get overlooked because of his great bat.

There is a reason why that bat overshadows his glove though, and he showed why just yesterday. Sandoval hit an absolute bomb off of Carlos Zambrano Wednesday, a grand slam out to deep right-center field. It was only Sandoval's first home run of the year, but his 4 RBI give him 8 total in his 6 games played. It's going to be tough for Sandoval to hit .330 again, but I do expect him to be well over .300, and I do think we'll see his game improve a bit in all other areas this year. With the Giants improved lineup, especially middle of the order, it's going to help Sandoval out tremendously. He put up his great numbers last year surrounded by the likes of Ryan Garko, Manny Burris, a struggling Bengie Molina and Randy Winn, and of course the colossal disappointment of '09, Edgar Renteria. With a more stable bunch surrounding him, look for Sandoval to leave no doubt as to whether he deserves to make the All-Star team in 2010.

Prospect Watch
: A lot of the Giants top prospects haven't gotten much time over the last few games. I'm still waiting to see Thomas Neal be given a good 3-4 at-bats in a game, and I was hoping to see more of Darren Ford, as I think he's a guy who may be able to be a factor in center and at leadoff for the Giants real soon... Buster Posey has appeared in 5 games and has 11 at-bats ( .273, 1 hr, 2 RBI). I'd like to see both Posey and Brandon Crawford get a little more playing time as the spring wears on. We all know about Posey's future, and Crawford has a legit shot to be in the mix at shortstop in 2011, so they need to both be getting a healthy look.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

DeRosa Set for His Giants Debut

One of the Giants new additions from this winter, Mark DeRosa, hasn't gotten a chance to get into any Cactus League action yet, as the Giants are bringing him along slowly after offseason wrist surgery. However, the Giants' projected #5 hitter did take a big step towards readying himself for live action as he took live batting practice of actual pitchers for the first time this spring.

DeRosa had been getting himself in shape with the rest of his teammates throughout the last few weeks and the only area of his game that was handicapped a bit was his hitting. No that he's gone through some sessions without any set-backs, it appears plausible that he'll probably make his Cactus League debut sometime this week. DeRosa thinks he'll be ready to go by Tuesday, though Bruce Bochy thinks it could be closer to Thursday or Friday. Either way, it looks like DeRosa will be in the Giants lineup at some point this week, and we could start getting glimpses as to what the opening day lineup could look like. Remember, Freddy Sanchez is expected to start the year on the DL, so the Giants won't be counting on him to be their opening day 2nd basemen, but every other spot is filled and everybody looks healthy. I'm looking forward to seeing how DeRosa has recovered from his wrist work. That bum wrist was supposedly a large part of the reason why DeRosa hit just .228 after moving over to St. Louis in the second half of the season. I think everybody is not only hoping, but really expecting DeRosa to perform more along the lines of his first half showing in 2009, or I'm sure they'd settle for a repeat of his 2008 season with Chicago (.287, 21, 87, .857).

The Giants' offense, though, hasn't really been missing either DeRosa or Freddy Sanchez's bats though yet. The Giants have started the exhibition season 4-1, and offense hasn't been a problem whatsoever. The latest offensive outburst came Saturday in one of their split-squad games vs. the D-Backs. John Bowker continued his solid spring by launching a 3-run bomb off of Kyler Newby. The Giants top shortstop prospect, 23 year-old Brandon Crawford also hit an impressive homer, going the other way off of Blaine Boyer. Aubrey Huff continued his hot start as well by going 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored. Pablo Sandoval and Edgar Renteria each knocked in a pair of runs, and Eugenio Velez had 2 hits, 2 runs and a stolen base in the 12-6 rout of Arizona. Jonathon Sanchez got the start and threw pretty well. He didn't have his greatest command, but that's common for early spring, and did allow 6 baserunners in his 2 innings of work, but his 3 strikeouts helped him get out of it un-harmed. In relief, Dan Runzler, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt all had scoreless outings. Besides the solid offensive showing by the Giants early, they've also had their relievers all start off pretty well too.
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Friday, March 05, 2010

Giants Start Exhibition Season 3-0

Despite general consensus on Spring Training, like not take the numbers too seriously, and the fact that wins and losses rarely translate over into the regular season, it's still good to see the Giants get off to a strong start in the Cactus League.

Surprisingly, it's been the Giants' bats that have started off ahead of their pitchers, as the offense has carried the team through the first couple of games. In the Cactus League opener, Tim Lincecum was touched up by the Mariners a bit, allowing 3 earned runs in his 1 inning of work while throwing in the low-90's. I mentioned in the last few posts that there would be some focus on Timmy's velocity, as it came down at the end of last year. The same can be said for Madison Bumgarner, who followed Lincecum on Wednesday with 2 shutout innings. Bumgarner's fastball was in the upper 80's for most of his 2 innings, but he said in an interview on the Giants hot stove league show that he's not too worried about it and he plans on building his velocity throughout the spring. Barry Zito started Thursday's game and was pretty mediocre, allowing a run and a couple of hits over 1 2/3 innings. He did nail Prince Fielder in the hip with a fastball as retaliation for Fielder's choreographed home run celebration vs. the Giants last September. Matt Cain got the nod in Friday afternoon's game and provided the best start for the Giants so far this spring, going 3 strong innings, allowing 1 run on 5 hits with 2 strikeouts.

Helping support Cain's solid outing Friday were Bengie Molina and Juan Uribe, who both hit towering home runs. Uribe hit a 3-run jack in the 2nd inning off Colorado's Jeff Francis, and Molina's 2-run job came in the fifth inning off a young Rockies' hurler. Molina didn't stop with just the home run either. He went 3-3 all together, amd scored one more run after that. The only other Giant to homer so far this spring, has been newcomer, Aubrey Huff, who hit a bomb out to right field on the very first pitch he saw this spring on Wednesday. Not a bad way to start endearing himself to his new fans. Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Kevin Frandsen are a few other guys who have helped carry the Giants offense early and both Frandsen and Lewis need to be outstanding this spring for the Giants to consider carrying them on the major league roster. Frandsen could have an opening with Freddy Sanchez's injury likely keeping him on the DL to start the year, but like I said, he'd have to really make a case for himself over the next month, as the Giants do have other options like Juan Uribe and Mark DeRosa for 2nd base. If DeRosa gets some time there, it could open up a spot for Fred Lewis in left. Lewis is out of options, so he'll need to make the team out of spring, or else other teams will have the opportunity to swoop him up. I'd say Lewis may have the edge on Frandsen because of options, and because Lewis posses the speed that the Giants projected lineup really lacks. However, there are about 4 outfielders (Andres Torres, Eugenio Velez, John Bowker, Fred Lewis) vying for 2 bench spots, so Lewis is going to really have to outplay all of those guys if he wants to guarantee himself a spot!

Prospect Watch: None of the Giants prospects have done a whole lot yet. As I said at the top of the post, Madison Bumgarner had a solid 2-inning outing. The Giants top-2 hitting prospects haven't done anything yet though, as Buster Posey's gone 0-4, and Thomas Neal has flied out in his only at-bat thus far. The youngster who's stuck out the most is a name that's pretty familiar to Giants fans and it's Emmanuel Burriss. The 25 year-old infielder went 2-3 with 2 RBI and a steal in the Giants opener vs. Seattle.... Steve Edelfsen and Henry Sosa, 2 top-30 prospects, each have had outings of 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Giants Set to Begin Cactus League

The long, baseball-less winter will finally come to an end Wednesday when the Giants face the Seattle Mariners in the first game of their 2010 Cactus League schedule.

The Giants got in some scrimmage time on Monday, as they held a 3-inning intrasquad game that was highlighted by a long John Bowker home run down the right field line and Darren Ford putting on a show with his legs. There weren't any regulars who played in the scrimmage, so Ford got the nod to leadoff for one of the teams and hit a stand-up triple to the left-center field gap, a place in which you rarely see someone get to third on a ball hit, especially standing up and not making it even close. Ford also ran down a gapper in right-center field that took extra bases away from another bright young prospect, Francisco Peguero. Both of these guys have a big spring ahead of them, as Bowker tries to find a role on the big league squad for good and Ford's goal will be to show that he may be worth a look in the leadoff spot with the big club and sooner rather than later. Bowker's year he put up in Fresno in '09 was certainly a showing that got the Giants attention, but he really hasn't been given much of an opportunity at the big league level since his rookie year in '08 when he actually collected 300 at-bats and hit 10 homers for the Giants. Bowker's so intriguing because he does have the power to hit 30 homers a year at this level, but in 2008 and his brief showing last year, he had some holes in his swing that teams had figured out. If he can prove he's fixed his approach, he very well could be the surprise player of the spring and enter the regular season with a prominent role. He's certainly a guy who I will be paying close attention to this spring.

In Wednesday's Cactus League opener, the Giants will trot out their ace Tim Lincecum and probably have him on a pitch count of around 25-30 pitches or 2 innings and then will be followed up by Madison Bumgarner. I'm definitely looking forward to watching how those two do, but I'm more so curious as to how the Giants will play defensively. It's no secret that they don't have the best defense in baseball, and are missing one of their best in Freddy Sanchez. The Giants did improve their lineup this winter, but it did cost them some on the defensive side in exchange. Aubrey Huff is the guy I'm most worried about. The Giants have always kind of had a defensive whiz over at first base over the last 10-15 seasons but now have a guy there more known for his bat than and not so much for his glove. The other guy I'm going to have my eyes on this spring following closely is Edgar Renteria. He was such a disappointment, both offensively and defensively, in 2009 and I'm just hoping it was because of his health and not because he's declining at a ridiculously fast pace. His 2009 season made his '08 campaign (which was supposedly his worst season of his career at that point) look like a career year. He came up with a few clutch hits here and there, but provided no pop or run production and hit a measly .250. He also looked slow and weighed down in the field. The Giants are going to have Renteria start the year at short, but with him in the final year of his deal, I expect them to have a short leash with him if he's not performing. This is why the Juan Uribe signing was so key.
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