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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Giants Still Figuring out Lineup

It's rare that a team expected to contend enters Cactus or Grapefruit League games without having a pretty set lineup. The Giants are exactly that, as they know that Pablo and Posey will be in the middle, and Pagan will be at leadoff, but everything else is up in the air.

Know, the general consensus heading in was, that if healthy, Freddy Sanchez would enter the season as the Giants 2nd place hitter, the role he's filled throughout his stay here in San Francisco and much of his time in Pittsburgh. However, Bruce Bochy said this week that he may shake things up with the lineup in the Cactus League. I like the idea, considering the Giants have a player in Cabrera, who they don't quite know where he'll fit in best in the lineup. He's always been a top of the order hitter, so Bochy mentioned possibly moving Sanchez down to the 6th spot and Melky into the 2 hole. Having Cabrera hit fifth is kind of a two-sided affair, because on one end, you get that potential power (18 homers) and run production (88 RBI) not to mention, some consistent protection for Panda and Posey. At the same time, one of the Cabrera's big tools is his speed and ability to swipe bases, and if you put two high OBP guys like Buster and Pablo in front of him it could limit that element of his game. That's why I get Boch ideally wanting to use Pagan and Cabrera in the 1-2 spot, which I would like to see done. It's just too bad the Giants couldn't acquire that one more middle of the order hitter (say, bringing Beltran), then we wouldn't even need to have this conversation! The Giants lineup, 1-4, with Cabrera at the 2 spot would be pretty dynamic, though things get a lot more suspect after that.

Aubrey Huff figures to lock down either the 5th spot (if Melky hits 2nd) or the 6th spot, behind Melky. Perhaps the biggest story I'll be following this spring though, will be that first base situation, and what happens with Huff, Belt and Pill. I mean, Huff will obviously start the year there, just because of his contract, but the Giants won't give him near as much rope this time around. That brings us to who would back him up, and everyone seems to thing Brandon Belt is pretty much guaranteed a spot on the opening day roster. I'm not as sure though. I know the Giants want Belt getting pretty regular at-bats, and it may make more since for them to start the year with Brett Pill as Huff's backup. Pill quietly put up some very good numbers after his call-up in September, after many solid years in the minor leagues, and he's still just 27 years old, so he's still improving. I mean, he had three really good years in a row, starting in Connecticut, where it was a hitters nightmare (.298/19/109) then culminating last year in Fresno with his second consecutive all-star season for the Grizzlies (.312/25/107). I've been wondering why the Giants haven't moved him around the infield, as he's got the flexibility and has played other positions in the minors. If your can make Pill serviceable at 3rd, and 2nd, then you have one helluva utility player. Now granted, playing 2nd base and 3rd base at the ML level is different than playing in San Jose. I think Boch should play him solely at 2nd and 3rd this spring and only sparingly at first. We know he's a very good first basemen, so he's got nothing to prove there.

As far as Belt is concerned, I still have high hopes for him and expect big things, but he showed he wasn't quite ready last season, and if he can't learn to cover that inside part of the plate this spring, he should be getting all the work he can in Fresno unless Huff wets the bed early and often... Also, should be noted that Bochy announced that Tim Lincecum will start the Cactus League opener Saturday vs. Colorado, and is penciled in to throw an inning. It's unclear who will follow Timmy, but it's a great sign to see that he'll be out there for game one after suffering from back soreness later last week.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bullpen Preview, Plus Camp Notes

Alright, we've finally arrived at the last projection post we'll do until around opening day when the 25-man roster is actually announced. Also, again, we'll do sort of a double-post as there's been a lot going on in Giants camp with Cactus League a week away.

Bullpen Preview

Brian Wilson, RHP: The Giants bearded closer entered spring with some question marks surrounding the health of his right arm, but according to him and Giants trainers, he's around 100%, and even though he may not play a whole spring, he'll be bright and ready for April! I expect a rebound from Wilson this year, as he was another Giant who fell off a bit after the Championship run the year prior. I expect things to get back to normal and without all the media and Showtime productions around, it should get things back to how they were during the year in 2010. I don't see another 1.81 ERA, but that's the type of Wilson I expect!

2012 Prediction: 62 G, 5-3, 2.67 ERA, 63 IP, 44 saves, 72 K's, 27 BB's, 1.21 WHIP, .228 BAA

Sergio Romo, RHP: Much like Wilson, Romo enters the spring in cautionary state as he had some arm troubles at the end of the 2011 season. However, you won't find a more dominant set-up man in the game than Romo. Ever since the start of 2010 (minus a brief blunder in the playoffs), he's turned into this out-making machine. Last season was ridiculous as he walked just 5 batters and posted a 0.71 WHIP. While I expect those numbers to rise a bit, I still expect Romo to be All-Star caliber in the 8th inning.

2012 Prediction: 72 G, 4-1, 1.97 ERA, 65 IP, 32 holds, 78 K's, 14 BB's, 0.92 WHIP, .185 BAA

Javier Lopez, LHP: Lopez will again be that guy called upon to get the key lefty late in a ballgame, and as he's done his whole career, he'll again be proficient. He's been a rock since putting on the Giants uniform and has become one of the best left-handed specialist in baseball, who also gets righties!

2012 Prediction: 77 G, 2-2, 2.45 ERA, 56 IP, 23 holds, 46 K's, 22 BB's, 1.08 WHIP, .212 BAA

Santiago Casilla, RHP: The Giants have the pleasure of basically having two set-up men as Casilla can fill that job nearly as well as Romo does. He even filled in for Wilson very admirably as closer in September last season. Like with this whole bullpen, I don't expect a whole lot of change from the 2 prior years, and I feel the same with Casilla!

2012 Prediction: 58 G, 2-3, 2.21 ERA, 55 IP, 18 holds, 52 K's, 24 BB's, 1.20 WHIP, .205 BAA

Jeremy Affeldt, LHP: Now, I like Affeldt just like most Giants fans seem to, but I don't think he's worth the $5 million option the Giants exercised on him. I think they could have gotten him for 2 million cheaper had they declined the option, however, they also would have ran the risk of demeaning him a bit and having him walk on them. They apparently felt it was a gamble worth taking, and are hoping for another 2009 from from their quirky lefty.

2012 Prediction: 77 G, 4-5, 3.13 ERA, 68 IP, 13 holds, 64 K's, 28 BB's, 1.18 WHIP, .227 BAA

Guillermo Mota, RHP: One of the most underrated Giants relievers over the last few years has been another guy, like Lopez, who's been nails since putting on that Giants uniform. It's almost like it's given his career new life at 38! He's not quite as dominant as the other arms in the Giants pen, but still very dependable and has been a Swiss Army knife for this bullpen.

2012 Prediction: 50 G, 2-4, 3.99 ERA, 72 IP, 3 holds, 61 K's, 32 BB's, 1.31 WHIP, .252 BAA

Clay Hensley, RHP: Hensley enters the spring as the favorite for the last bullpen slot, however, if the Giants decide to start the year with 3 catchers, he could start the year in Fresno. Still, I expect him to be a part of the Giants bullpen for the better part of 2012, at the least. He was lights out in 2010 (2.16 ERA), but fell off miserably last season for the Marlins (5.19 ERA). I expect somewhere in between, plus. Also, due to the lack of starting pitching depth, I expect him to log a more than a few starts as he could become the newer, younger version of the bullpen's Guillermo Mota.

2012 Prediction: 59 G, 13 GS, 6-5, 4.06 ERA, 102 IP, 84 K's, 1.29 WHIP, .247 BAA


Spring Notes: As I mentioned in his capsule, some of the good news to come out of camp Monday was that Brian Wilson was throwing at a high velocity and was displaying that he obviously feels and looks better than he did towards the end of 2011. He'll be 100% for opening day, baring any set-backs, but Freddy Sanchez is still being brought along much slower than Posey. He's been off on a side field just fielding some grounders and doing light throwing, and hasn't hit yet to my knowledge. We all knew Sanchez would miss some time this spring, but I was hoping he'd get to play in the majority of Cactus League games, just cause he hasn't played in so long and he needs the at-bats. Speaking of recovering players, Buster Posey faced a major league pitcher for the first time since his injury last May, and rocked Sergio Romo, who probably wasn't throwing at 100%, but it's still great to see Posey knocking the ball around the yard. He also got down in a squat after to catch Matt Cain's session. The Giants also apparently dodged a couple of bullets too, almost literally, as Matt Cain took a Hector Sanchez line drive off his right leg, but was declared fine. Cain also drilled Panda in the ribs with a slider that slipped, but Pablo also apparently escaped the beaning unscathed. And last but not least on our notes section, Ryan Vogelsong got back in action a little sooner than everyone was expecting, throwing on Monday and reporting a painless session. Good news certainly, though the Giants still could still hold their right-hander out of his first spring start.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spring Notes: Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Zito

Full-squad workouts are in full-swing down in Scottsdale, and baseball fever is starting to strike throughout the Bay Area as people finally transfer over from 49ers mania, back to the boys of summer.

We'll start by finishing off our player previews and do the last 3 pitchers of the starting rotation in the post. Since full-squad's have begun, I wanted to expand on our spring notes section, so the player previews may not be as long as they've been, but here we go:

3) Madison Bumgarner, LHP: The sometimes overlooked horse in the Giants staff could wind up being the best of the three. Yeah, I said it. The reason why is based on pure age alone. Bumgarner is already established at age 22, while Timmy didn't really breakthrough until he was 24-25. Cain came into the league at a young age too, but not quite as young as Bumgarner and Maddy is growing by the day. After that horrid performance vs. the Twins in June last year, Madison has turned in ace-like numbers. He's now legit, has no questions about his stuff or guts and he gives the Giants 3 possible aces if he keeps growing in 2012 like he did in '11!

2012 Prediction: 33 starts, 2.75 ERA, 17-11, 212 IP, 203 K's, 201 hits, 58 BB's, 1.22 WHIP, .237 BAA

4) Ryan Vogelsong, RHP: Every body's eyes will be on the 2011 success story, early and often, to ensure 2011 was indeed the norm and not an anomaly. The 34 year-old hasn't started out in spring the way he would have liked, with a strained back sidelining him until early March, but I for one, don't think last season was a fluke. He may not post a ridiculous 2.02 first half era again, but as long as he comes relevantly close to his 2011 self, he'll be a fine 4th starter and help give the Giants one of the best top-4 starters in all of baseball. As long as he can keep that back right and give the Giants 190-210 innings, the numbers should be there.

2012 Predictions: 31 starts, 3.36 ERA, 13-8, 184 IP, 157 K's, 184 hits, 65 BB's, 1.29 WHIP, .258 BAA

5) Barry Zito, LHP: And rounding out our starting rotation is the one wild card in the Giants rotation. Barry Zito has yet to live up to his ridiculously large contract the Giants gave him in 2007 and he's only got 2 more years to do so. Unfortunately, I don't see a whole lot changing in 2012. I know he's worked his tail off this winter and is in very good shape, something he probably drifted from after landing that huge deal. That could play a difference, and I can't wait to see him throw this spring! And on the update, after seeing him throw this spring, I'm running low on hope for Mr. Zito, as shown in my prediction for his 2012 season in which I don't think he finishes in the rotation (at least the Giants' rotation).

2012 Prediction: 22 starts, 5.12 ERA, 5-11, 127 IP, 82 K's, 153 hits, 58 BB's, 1.58 WHIP, .292 BAA

Spring Notes: With full squad workouts up and running, there are a few tidbits I wanted to discuss today, starting off with Mr. Freddy Sanchez. I was weary all offseason about this guys long-term health and he's the only position player yet to take part in workouts. Even Buster Posey, who had his leg snapped practically in half is out catching while Freddy Sanchez is barely throwing from 90 feet! Not luckily, the Giants did grab some insurance late in Ryan Theriot who should be a decent fill-in if Sanchez needs to miss some time, but he certainly wasn't my first choice and I saw this coming from a mile away. The Giants should have made it a priority to get a premium utility guy, a Jerry Hairston Jr. or someone who you wouldn't be afraid to hand an everyday job to. Theriot's a nice player but his role with this team should be to focus on shortstop only, and 2nd base as a secondary position. Now, it looks as if either he or Mike Fontetnot will go through most of the Cactus League at 2nd, which does not bode well for Crawford and Sanchez's double-play compatibility, pop-up coverage, cut-offs and numerous other tedious things that players go through early in spring. Bruce Bochy is already planning to play much of the Cactus League without his 2nd basemen and said he could move Melky Cabrera into the 2nd spot in the lineup. I don't mind that move, but if Theriot is indeed the 2nd basemen on opening day, I'd think about hitting him 2nd and keeping Cabrera down in a run-producing spot.

Brings me to my next topic, the good that's gone on in Giants camp. Watching Buster Posey early on, you wouldn't even know he suffered that brutal injury last season. He and Panda have put on tremendous displays in batting practice and I for one, cannot wait to see this tandem together at full-strength. Remember, Sandoval was over-weight and out of shape in 2010 so he didn't play every day and wasn't an impact player. Posey was that year, but in 2011, Sandoval got it in gear just after Posey went down with that season-ender. These guys may not be the Jose Canseco and Mark McGuire of the 80's, but the Giants are hoping they become their own version of the "Bash Brothers" and a motivated Panda and healthy Posey make that a certain possibility. But the key for the Giants this year will be the guys around those two. We know what Buster is, we know what Pablo can be (his legs look a little chunky here in this pic took yesterday, hopefully he's in good shape), but which Aubrey Huff is going to show up? Supposedly, Huff's in the best shape since his mid-20's when he was putting up .300/30/100 seasons in Tampa. The Giants don't need quite that, though they'll take it, but just a resemblance to the 2010 Huff would be nice. As I said in my predictions, a .270/20/75 line would be palatable for Giants fans regarding Huff. If Cabrera is going to the top of the lineup, the Giants will absolutely need Huff relevant in that five hole to get Buster and Pablo some pitches to actually hit!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spring Previews: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain

Giants' pitchers and catchers reported to Scottsdale Thursday, though the first full-squad workout isn't scheduled until Friday morning, plenty of guys were out on the field working out early. As we've been doing, we'll save a small section at the end for Spring Talk, as we continue on with our spring player preview, now onto the Giants rotation:

Giants Starting Rotation

1) Tim Lincecum, RHP: Timmy got that big deal he wanted this winter, now he and the Giants have two more seasons to feel each other out and see where they stand. If Lincecum keeps on pace with how he's started his career, the 27 year-old will be due for quite possibly the biggest contract ever for a pitcher when he hits free agency at 29. In order for him to attain that though, he's got to be nails over the next two seasons and hope the Giants offense can help him out a bit. Offense aside though, Lincecum had a horrid 6 week stretch in 2010, despite dominating again for the stretch run and playoffs, but wasn't as lights out in 2011 either. His numbers were there, but it seemed like he lost some life on his fastball, which may have been attributed to the huge workload over the previous two seasons. I know Timmy's a freak of nature, and can endure as much as anyone, but you have to assume that sooner or later, all these innings will take it's toll on the 6 foot, 165-pounder! As for 2012, I expect big things from Timmy and think this year he'll set a new career low era and I'm sure he ends up above .500 this time around. Still can't believe he had those numbers last year and wound up 13-14! Same with Cain a few years prior, but Lincecum was throwing near no-hitters on a nightly basis last season and wound up with a sub-.500 record. That is what would make a pitcher want to leave this town and this yard!

2012 Prediction: 34 Starts, 2.17 ERA, 17-11 record, 219 IP, 249 K's, 167 hits, 57 BB's, 1.02 WHIP, BAA .221

2) Matt Cain, RHP: Matty is the one key Giant who can bolt after the season, and if they enter the season without an extension for him, Giants fans will be biting their nails with each passing week that goes by with not Cain extension. If he hits the open market, he'll be extremely tough to keep! As for this year, I expect the same from Cain as I do from Timmy. Another Cain-esque year where he dominates opponents, and if the Giants can get him 3-4 runs, he'll win nearly every time. I hate to even consider it, but if the Giants don't get something done with Cain by, say mid-season, then it may not be the worst idea in the world to try and turn him into a stud outfielder. Now, I'd have very high standards, they'd have to be young but already proven at the ML level, like Cain is, and a name that immediately comes to mind is Jay Bruce. They'd need something of that quality in return if they do trade Cain, otherwise I take the chance on re-signing him or getting the draft pick. Cainer brings his A-game all the time, but this season, he should be extra on top of it, being his walk year, so like with Timmy, I expect Cain to set some career record(s) this season (my guess is wins).

2012 Prediction: 35 starts, 2.81 ERA, 18-10, 230 IP, 202 K's, 180 hits, 72 BB's, 1.09 WHIP, BAA .217

Spring Notes: With players trickling into camp Thursday, some guys have been here for over a week getting work in. Mostly young guys like the Brandon's (Crawford and Belt) as well as Nate Schierholtz and Manny Burris. But even in a day when players arrived, most the news surrounded the pitchers, as the Giants got some "pain-free" news out of Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. Both pitchers are expected to resume full workouts, though it's not yet determined when Bochy will first use his closer or ace in spring training ballgames. He first said he expected Wilson to be out for the first week of Cactus League play, but Wilson's health has been better than expected. I'd still err on the side of caution if I'm the Giants though, with both players. What's keeping them out an extra spring appearance or two, as long as they get some good work in before April? Anyway, we have just 3 more players (the pitchers) who we'll finish up with next post, then do the bullpen as our final spring preview post before we get back to focusing on just baseball. It should be about that time that full workouts really pickup and we have some good competition going (like at short and in the outfield and even the fifth starters spot)!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bench Preview, Lincecum Has Minor Back Issue

As we've done for each projected Giants starting position player, we'll go ahead and make predictions for who we believe will fill out their 5-man bench. Also, after that, we'll take a little Spring Training notes as the Giants have been linked to some players and Timmy has a minor set-back.

Giants Bench Predictions (Updated 3/30/12)

Hector Sanchez
, C: I would have almost guaranteed Boch would have carried one of Whiteside or Stewart before spring, but low and behold, Sanchez raked, and earned his spot. He's not just a bat either, as he played well behind the plate and can throw the ball. Giants pitchers obvioulsy are comfortable with him and that's key to. If Huff struggles again, I'd like to see Sanchez catching a lot, with Posey out at first and maybe Belt out in left. That could be the best offensive team, but we'll see.

2012 Prediction: 89 G, 187 AB's, .262 Avg., 9 HR, 24 RBI, 13 2B, .327 OBP, .465 SLG% (.792 OPS)

Ryan Theriot, IF: As I said in Crawford's preview, I expect Theriot to get his fair share of at-bats at shortstop, and could also see some time at second base too. I liked the Theriot addition and expect him to do his thing in spring and win a roster spot. I also expect him to battle Crawford for at-bats and push the youngster and I'm expecting some numbers from the Cajun. Maybe not power or run production numbers, but the guy can hit and is a better player than Jeff Keppinger is.

2012 Prediction: 102 G, 325 AB's, .278 Avg., 2 HR, 31 RBI, 41 R, 19 2B, 5 3B, .327 OBP, .399 SLG% (.726 OPS)

Nate Schierholtz: Now, I had this slot originally slated for Belt, but it looks like he played his way into the starting lineup at Schierholtz's expense. Still, Nate will play if he's hitting, he just didn't hit during spring, and guys like Gregor Blanco are here now too and he's a guy who will take some ab's away from Schierholtz as well. I'm expecting another typical Nate season though but I think he breaks through with some more average this year and a little more pop.

2012 Prediction:
112 G, 375 AB's, .284 Avg., 12 HR, 42 RBI, 37 R, 21 2B, 4 3B, .320 OBP, .434 SLG% (.754 OPS)

Manny Burris, INF: Another youngster to beat out a vet, like Sanchez did to Whiteside and Stew. Manny had a terrific spring and heads into the year as the teams' starting 2nd basemen until Freddy Sanchez is ready. He could also share time with Ryan Theriot, but I think it's mostly Manny's job unless his bat is horrendous. I think 2012 will be a big year for Burris though, and I think he stays with the big club all year

2012 Prediction:
101 G, 227 AB's, .269 Avg., 2 HR, 14 RBI, 30 R, 18 SB, .334 OBP, .385 SLG% (.719 OPS)

Gregor Blanco, OF:
Basically, the Giants don't really have a true 4th outfielder, so it could fall to Blanco if they don't add anyone else before opening day. Blanco has some speed and can play all 3 outfield positions, but really isn't much at the plate. However, he did hit .283 with 11 steals and a .360 OBP in just over 200 at-bats with Atlanta in 2010 but was in the minors last season. I can see why the Giants inked him as insurance and at the very least to be a call-up in-season if someone goes down to injury. He's also the one guy on the list most likely to not make the team, which again, is why I call these early projections! Still though, Blanco gives you speed and defense and has a streaky bat so do to the Giants need of outfielders, he's got the leg up!

2012 Prediction: 110 G, 310 AB's, .280 Avg., 1 HR, 22 RBI, 42 R, 26 SB, .343 OBP, .364 SLG% (.697 OPS)

Brett Pill, 1B/OF: The Giants carried a 6th bench guy, and still managed to carry a full staff of pitchers to start with, but I'm not sure how long that will last. Pill may only have a limited window of opportunity with Vogey returing on the 15th and Sancehz shortly thereafter (hopefully). Still, Pill should be a key part of the bench throughout the season, and see some significant AB's.

2012 Prediction: 74 G, 182 AB's, .263 Avg., 6 HR, 16 RBI, 18 R, 12 2B, .303 OBP, .407 SLG% (.710 OPS)

Spring Notes: As for on field action, the Giants have been battling a bit of rust and injuries to start things out. Not only is Ryan Vogelsong and Brian Wilson under close watch and Vogey out for 10 days, but now Tim Lincecum is complaining of a stiff back as well. He was held out of workouts Wednesday but the Giants don't expect him to be out long at all and don't consider the injury serious. Other than that, it's still just the pitchers and catchers until players start arriving on Thursday with the first full-squad workout coming Friday, which should be a day filled with rumblings coming out of Scottsdale! Also, Baggs wrote an interesting blog piece today about Manny Burris and Brett Pill, two guys fighting for that 25th spot, but in order for one to make it, they have to have an out-of-this-world spring, or they learn to play some outfield cause the Giants really need guys who can cover some grass in the outfield. They have just three Major League outfielders on their projected 25-man roster, unless they indeed plan on using Blanco, hoping for his 2010 numbers, just like they are with, seemingly, everyone else on the team!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, February 20, 2012

Spring Preview: Nate Schierholtz, Brandon Crawford

Full workouts are in session for pitchers and catchers, and thing have gone pretty smoothly the first two days of camp, minus the news of the Ryan Vogelsong missing 10+ days with his strained back. Other than that though, things have been as you'd expect for the first couple days of spring so we'll continue with our player previews, which rounds out our starting lineup by the way, and save a section at the end for some Day 2 talk.

Brandon Belt, 1B - This has been changed as of 3/31/12 due to the fact that Belt will likely start the opener and play more than Schierholtz, forcing Huff to the outfield. Belt will likely hit higher in the order than this, as he'll probably hit behind Sandoval and Posey, but I just kept him here where I had Nate just to keep things easy. He could end up hitting 7th, but the Giants want him in the middle of the order, and I think he's finally figuring things out and it'll show this season.

2012 Prediction: 144 G, 502 AB's, .281 Avg, 25 HR, 79 RBI, 61 R, 36 2B, 10 SB, .341 OBP%, .514 SLG% (.855 OPS)

Brandon Crawford, SS - Here is the Giants wild-card to the 2012 season. If BC can at least get that average up to around .240-.250'ish, with that defense, he'll be a plus shortstop. He's got a little bit of pop, so he'll knock his share out of the yard and although he K's a lot, he can take a walk too, so he should sport at least a respectable OBP. The whole key to his season is getting off to good start, cause he's got Ryan Theriot breathing down his neck, a proven shortstop who Bruce Bochy won't hesitate to go to if the Giants need tinkering there. Normally, Sabean and Bochy seem to favor playing the average vet over the upside youngster when the youngster is struggling, but with BC, they seem to be giving him some rope. Still though, I'd expect to see Theriot out there on nights when lefties are throwing and guys like Matt Cain and Lincecum (fly-ball guys) are on the mound). I expect a better offensive showing from Crawford at the dish this season, but I still expect him to split time with Theriot, cutting into his ab's a bit.

2012 Prediction: 130 G, 415 AB's, .237, 8 HR, 37 RBI, 36 R, 19 2B, .309 OBP, .375 SLG% (.684 OPS)

Spring Notes: It was a relatively quiet day in Giants camp Monday. Brian Wilson announced he is pain-free, though the Giants still plan to take it slow with their star closer and keep him out of Cactus League play until mid-March. Also, found out a bit more about Zito's new delivery, it's supposed to give him better location and as I suspected, add a mile or two to his fastball, maybe more. You can pitch in the Bigs at 85 MPH, but you have to have complete command and have 2nd and 3rd pitches that you command as well, a big reason behind Greg Maddux's success. Still holding out hope Zito will turn it around, but if not, the Giants should continue looking into backup plans. They think they got one in 39 year-old Ramon Ortiz, another signing I really don't understand, especially when you could have gotten Brad Penny for the same thing? I mean, Penny had dominated in the NL the 2 years prior to his Boston letdown and he had to sign in Japan just recently because no team would offer. If the Giants gave him $1M, guaranteed he signs with them, especially since he already knows this area and has been a Giant. Also, with that arm, even if he didn't beat out Zito or Zito doesn't injure himself, he could be an excellent bullpen option. Another missed opportunity, chalked up with Cody Ross, another guy the Giants could have had for peanuts. Luckily, they did get one of the guys I wanted in Theriot, but he certainly wasn't my top choice heading into the winter!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Injury Bug Already Rears it's Head in Giants Camp

Today we'll take a day off of our player previews and just do sort of a Spring Training notes post, as there's quite a lot to talk about after the first real workouts of Spring Training for pitchers and catchers.

Of the most notable news to come out of Scottsdale Sunday though, was not so good. Ryan Vogelsong strained his back in warm-ups and will be sidelined at least 10 days. It wouldn't surprise me, with his delay in workouts, to see him miss his first few planned starts of Cactus League play as well, so this will have a trickle down effect. Vogelsong isn't as young as the other pitchers in the Giants rotation, so it's kinda weird reading about an injury to a key Giants starter, but the Giants and Vogey need to make sure they don't over due him and put him in the best possible shape he can be for opening day. This guy will have a lot to prove this season, whether or not 2011 was a fluke or the norm for the 34 year-old righty. Luckily for the Giants, despite his age, he hasn't had a whole lot of wear on his arm for a 34 year old pitcher. He played in shortened seasons in Japan before returning to the Giants and didn't pitch a whole lot in the few years leading to his departure to Japan, so he should have plenty of life left in that arm. I know he battled some nagging injuries last season though as, again, his workload was way up from his previous years and it probably caught up with him. Hopefully, this time around, he'll be better equipped for the 200 innings the Giants will expect from him, and a back injury certainly isn't the way you want your spring to start.

In other various news, Buster Posey indeed catch pitchers, including Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, who each had very nice sessions. Lincecum didn't throw many pitches out of the strike zone, so Posey's range wasn't really tested, and the same held true for Cain, though he did throw some balls in the dirt that Posey knocked down but didn't field cleanly. As for his hitting, it took all of 4 swings until he hit his first batting practice homer of the spring, according to Mr. Baggarly, who was in attendance for the workout. Of the pitchers Posey did not catch, was another key of news worth noting is that Barry Zito has apparently shown up to camp this year with a new delivery. Not sure exactly what kind of changes Zito has made, as I've yet to see it, but he's hoping it may add a few mph's to his fastball and improve his command, two things that have been a huge thorn in his side the last few seasons. At least when he first came to the Giants, he was throwing 88-90, but in 2011, he was down to about 83 mph on average with the heater and he wasn't locating it, so when your throwing that slowly and pretty much needing to throw it down the heart of the plate in order to ensure yourself a strike, your going to get rocked, and that's how it went for him. I wish him all the best, as the Giants really need him to be solid in that fifth spot. They don't need the Oakland A's Barry Zito, but a 12-12 Zito with a 4.00 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP (all very attainable for this guy) would go over just fine with Giants fans, and it'd probably give them the best rotation in the NL (with good health of course).
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Reporting Date Arrives - Huff, Cabrera Previews

The day has finally arrived baseball fans, as Giants' pitchers and catchers lobbied through the clubhouse at Scottsdale Stadium on Sunday, getting ready for their first workouts on tomorrow morning. Now today we have sort of a double-post, as we talk a bit about the minor news coming from "reporting day", as well as continue our 2k12 player-by-player preview.

Being only the pitcher's and catcher's reporting date, there really wasn't a whole lot of news to come out of Giants town. The most intriguing piece of information was that Buster Posey will be down in the squat tomorrow on day one of workouts and has supposedly already caught a few Giants pitchers from the squat this week. Bruce Bochy also noted that Posey is expected to be in the Cactus League opening lineup, March 3rd versus the D-Backs. He wasn't as sure about his closer Brian Wilson and 2nd basemen Freddy Sanchez who expect to miss at least the first week of Cactus League play. On a positive not, Wilson is throwing off a mound and should do most workouts with the pitchers. He should be ready to go by week 2 of Spring. Sanchez may take a little longer. Matter of fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants keep him out until the last week of spring, then give him a final tuneup before the season, just cause of his fragility and slow going rehab.

Aubrey Huff, 1B- Obviously the Giants are going to give him first crack at the everyday gig, being that they're paying him mighty handsomely to be that .275/25/90 guy he was in 2010. He was so giddy about his offseason workout that he's saying things like he's in the best shape of his career and he's been texting the Giants front-office pictures of the weekly differences and reduction in his body fat. A big reason why the Giants didn't go out and get a big power bat like re-signing Beltran or bringing in a guy like Willingham is because they firmly believe Huff will return to that form. If he doesn't they're not going to let him string along as they did in 2011, being the last year of his contract. At the same time, he should be plenty motivated to play well so he can get another $10-$12M/year deal, which is the going rate for first basemen/DH who can rake these days. As long as he's in shape and motivate like it's looking and sounding like, the dude should give you pretty close to those 2010 numbers. Now, he's 2 years older, and isn't a young kid anymore so he's gotta work even tougher during the season to keep it up and that's where I think he gave up last year.

2012 Prediction: 146 G, .270 Avg, 22 Hr, 76 RBI, 65 R, 30 2B, .334 OBP, .484 SLG% (.818 OPS)

Melky Cabrera, LF- Cabrera could very well also end up in center field and/or at the leadoff spot, but I'm seeing him towards the middle of the order with Pagan at the top. Like with Pablo Sandoval, as long as he's in shape when he arrives in camp, and can stay that way like he did in 2011, he's going to be an all-star level player. He wasn't a top prospect for years with New York for no reason, he's got talent, simple as that. Plus at just 27, he's just hitting his prime and AT&T Park is perfectly suited for his style of play. In 20/20 hindsight, I would have liked to see them package Thomas Neal, Andres Torres and Jonathan Sanchez for a stud like Carlos Quentin, but again, even if his power numbers drop by say %20, Cabrera should still be an effective hitter here as his doubles and triples rate should sky rocket. After digesting the deal and watching some clips of Cabrera, the dude can flat out play. He had a very bad year in 2010 with Atlanta, much like Panda had with the Giants, because he was 30 pounds heavier than he was in 2011. People keep saying 2011 was a fluke, but Melky was always a top prospect, as I said, and he had some good years with New York as their fifth outfielder. He hit .280 with a .360 OBP in 2008 and then hit .274 with 13 homers and 68 RBI in only 450 at-bats in 2009. I think 2010 was more of the aberration than 2011.

2012 Prediction: 155 G, .310 Avg, 17 HR, 74 RBI, 85 R, 34 2B, 9 3B, 22 SB, .342 OBP%, .487 SLG% (.829 OPS)
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, February 17, 2012

Spring Preview: Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey

Here we are, just 48 hours from pitchers and catchers reporting to Scottsdale, and baseball fever is starting to spread throughout the Bay Area. As we began in Wednesday's post, we'll continue our player preview as we try and get through all of them before players start arriving and practicing so there's actually baseball to talk about. Anyway, onto "The Panda" and Buster!

Pablo Sandoval, 3B: The Giants rewarded Pablo Sandoval pretty handsomely this offseason, committing to him for 3 years and showing him they have trust in him to keep his body in shape and game at an optimal level. I don't think they have a thing to worry about cause I believe Pablo learned his lesson by riding the pine in the 2010 playoffs, a move that he admitted woke him up and put his career on the right path. All it's done since is turn him into a mature ball player who now understands how easily you can lose your job at this level if you don't perform. It also helped that he dropped like 45 pounds before last season started, and even though he isn't quite as light this time around, I still expect the same Panda to show up at camp and very similar production to his 2011 and 2009 campaigns. Actually, had he not missed 6 weeks in 2011 with that broke wrist bone, he would have been on pace for 32 homers and 94 RBI. Pablo came up as more of a gap-to-gap power guy, but his pop has dramatically increased over the last few years and it wouldn't surprise me the least to see him hit the 30 HR+ benchmark in 2012. As with another guy we'll be talking about very soon (Mr. Cabrera), the key for Panda will be to keep that excess weight down during the season. He'll always be a heavy-set dude, but he can play that way and as long as it's not effecting his range at third. It should be noted that a healthy Buster Posey coupled with an inevitable turnaround from Aubrey Huff will help so all the pressure isn't on Pablo to be on the HR and RBI threat out there, and that should improve his numbers as well!

2012 Prediction: 149 G, .321 Avg, 29 HR, 92 RBI, 74 R, 38 2B, .345 OBP%, .567 SLG% (.912 OPS)

Buster Posey, C: Now this is the real tough one, like with Freddy, cause we really don't know what kind of workload Posey will get or if he'll have any set-backs, which hopefully he won't. The Giants really need this kid out there, as it showed in 2011, and if he's healthy and playing well, it really takes effect on the rest of the offense and alleviates some of the pressure off guys like Huff and Panda. Not only is his presence in the lineup irreplaceable, but Giants pitchers missed throwing to their favorite target last season as well, and although their stats wouldn't show it, they missed throwing to their all-star caliber catcher. Not only is this guy a tremendous hitter, but they keep him behind the plate because A. He knows the game like the back of his hand B. Pitchers understand this and have complete faith in his game-calling ability C. The dude is one of the best defensive catchers in the game! He's going to get a lot more time at first base this year to give that leg as much rest as possible, and I'd also look for a lot of exits in the 7th inning of games the Giants have in the bank, just to save those legs whenever they get the chance. Buster's such a good athlete though, and his recovery is going to script, so I'm expecting him to be ready to contribute in a big way by the opener. If he has to spend half his time at first base the first month, that's just fine, they just need to ensure the kid is healthy and can give them 140 games this year.

2012 Prediction: 132 G, .295 Avg, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 67 R, 32 2B, .387 OBP%, .510 SLG% (.897 OPS)
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Spring Preview: Angel Pagan, Freddy Sanchez

With Spring Training quickly approaching, and with actual baseball activity to talk about just days away, I figured I'd kill some time between now and full squad reporting dates by doing some player previews. Now, I haven't even looked at Zips 2012 projections for the Giants players or any other preview sites, so this is all us. I figured we'd start at the top of the lineup and work down, now we won't have time to do a full post for each and every player so we'll be multiple players per post, and just one for each the bench and bullpen.

We'll start from the projected top of the lineup and work down:

Angel Pagan, CF- Out goes Andres Torres and in comes Angel Pagan into center field and the Giants' leadoff spot. Pagan has been two different players the last two seasons, with his more favorable year being 2010, but he was still surprisingly effective in 2011. He stole 32 bases, hit .265 (40 points better than Torres) and drove in over 50 runs while missing some time to injury. The Giants are hoping they get the 2010 version of Pagan (.290 Avg/11 HR) though and I think they will. With this his walk year, he'll have all the incentive he needs to perform and even though I didn't love the trade, I expect a big year out of the 30 year-old. It's tough to do statistical projections in early February, having not even seen this guy or what kind of shape he's in during spring games yet, but I will take an early guess as to what I expect from Pagan, as with each player as we go through our previews. Basically, the Giants just need him to tighten up on defense, where it will be very crucial that he cover ground in that huge outfield. That's what I'd be working him on the most in spring, just going after every ball even hit remotely in the center field area, cause he's got the speed and the ability to be a plus defender. Last year's off-year at the plate and injuries likely lead to decrease in his fielding as well (11 errors), but like his offense, I expect that to return to normal, and he's a good outfielder. He sounds determined to show up the Mets for dealing him and that's fine as long as it inspires him vs. the rest of the NL. I think he'll also fit tremendously with the large Latin influence in this clubhouse.

'12 Projection: 127 G, .272 Avg, 9 HR, 51 RBI, 29 SB, 10 3B, 77 R, .331 OBP%, .417 SLG% (.748 OPS)

Freddy Sanchez, 2B: Every Giants' fan on the planet is pulling for Freddy to make a full comeback, but the problem with Sanchez is that if it's not the shoulder, something else is surely to rise up and bite him at some point during the season. All signs are pointing towards him being ready by the start of Cactus League play, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants keep him out (maybe DH him) until around mid-March, just to further rest that throwing shoulder. So, I do expect Freddy to play more than 50 games this season, but he's not going to be that guy who plays 150+ like Pablo and Pagan and Cabrera and those guys. Still, I think the Giants would be perfectly happy with 125 quality games out of their 2nd basemen, and they have the Cajun combo (Fontenot and Theriot) backing him in case he does need a breather. What's going to be really interesting to see too this year, is how Boch uses the hit-and-run with Freddy and Angel. For some reason, Andres Torres wasn't a great base runner or stealer, despite blazing speed, so having Angel at the top, a premium base-runner should really open up the hit-and-run, something that Sanchez thrives at. As long as he can keep that shoulder healthy, and at the same time, limit the other day-to-day beatings a ballplayer takes, he'll produce.

'12 Prediction: 115 G, .278 Avg, 5 HR, 37 RBI, 28 2B, 2 3B, 3 SB, 45 R, .335 OBP, .392 SLG (.727 OPS)
The Giants Baseball Blog

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Giants Making Final Preperations for Spring

We're now within a week of MLB's Spring Training and it's almost like baseball is in the air already. Giants pitchers and catchers set to arrive one week from today in Scottsdale, Arizona, and with their recent additions, the Giants opening day 25-man roster may look a little different than it was starting to just a two weeks ago.

Obviously, we've talked a bit about the Theriot signing and how I think he just may end up being the most impacting addition via free agency the Giants made this winter. In a corresponding move though, surprisingly, the Giants axed Justin Christian, who was set to enter camp as their fourth outfielder. Now, this tells me one of two things. Either Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean are fully expecting Brandon Belt to be a major factor in the outfield this season, or they could have another move up their sleeve that brings in another outfielder, cause they'd be playing with fire entering the spring as thin as they there (only 3 outfielders on the whole 40-man). I've mentioned Magglio Ordonez here, and he really is the only right-handed bat left on the market who'd make any sense whatsoever coming off the bench and helping out in the outfield, in much of the same role Pat Burrell filled so well in 2010. Sure, he's aging and coming off a rough, injury-plauged season in Detroit, but the dude can still obliterate lefties (a major weakness in this lineup) and was having an MVP-like 2010 before he went down to injury! I mean, with his lack of options, he'd probably even take a deal like Theriot's, maybe with a larger payout, but I'd even give him a guaranteed deal if he passed a physical and did a tryout for the team. I like Manny Burris as much as the next guy, but has he done enough to warrant a 40-man spot at the expense of free agent who could help the team win now? Also, Steve Edelfsen is still using up a spot? Are you kidding me? One of the reasons I think the Giants were so hesitant in bringing in those mid-level, high-upside players who could have helped (a la Cody Ross) is because they're too gun shy about using up their 40-man slots (see the Mota contract situation for an example)!

Anyhow, after the additions of Ryan Theriot, who I think Giants fans will become quite fond of as the seasons wears on, and Clay Hensley, the 25-man roster, barring an addition of that much needed outfielder, is pretty much set:

Catchers: Buster Posey, Eli Whiteside

Infielders: Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt, Ryan Theriot, Freddy Sanchez, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Fontenot

Outfielders: Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Nate Schierholtz, ???

Starters: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito

Relievers: Clay Hensley, Jeremy Affeldt, Guillermo Mota, Santiago Cassilla, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Brian Wilson

So, it begs the question as to who becomes that 4th outfielder? There certainly isn't an impressive list of in-house candidates to chose from, again, another reason Cody Ross made so much sense. They could end up making Belt an outfielder full-time and adding Burris to the roster, who can play some outfield as well. Luckily for the Giants, they really only need 4 outfielders because of Belt and Huff's ability to play the left as well as the versatility of the three starters.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Spring Reporting Dates Just 10 Days Away

Here we are folks. The NFL is officially finished with until next fall, and full focus has shifted back to baseball, and in the Bay Area particularly, around the San Francisco Giants. With just 10 days until pitchers and catchers report, the Giants appear to have made all the moves they're anticipating before the opening of camp.

In the last couple of weeks, they come to agreements with key arbitration figures such as Tim Lincecum, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Vogelsong and their two newest additions, Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. The Giants also scoured the bargain bin and came up with a guy who's been a starting shortstop for much of his career, and a fairly decent one at that, Ryan Theriot, a player whose skill set this team definitely needed. It's helped them round out what appears to be their 25-man roster, barring any unforeseen injuries or extreme spring breakthroughs, but as I write this, this team still has just 3 outfielders who've played in over 100 major league games (not counting Aurbey Huff) and as I've voiced here plenty in the last 6 weeks, I feel this team should be trying their darnedest to deepen that paper-thin outfield. I mean, even if they are banking on Brandon Belt coming into his own and taking over the left field job, it would leave Nate Schierholtz or Angel Pagan as the only backup outfielder with any kind of experience. However, the fact still remains that there just aren't many viable options left out there who could come in provide guaranteed stability, though as I've been saying, there are still guys out there looking for homes who may be worth taking a flyer on with at least an invite to Scottsdale. With Ross off the market, it leaves only Raul Ibanez and Magglio Ordonez as the two outfielders who can still field at a respectable level and have some punch in their bats. I've said here before, of the two I'd go with Ordonez because he's right-handed and is a year off of a .312/12/59 year in 1/2 a season. He's no longer a 500 at-bat player, but give him 400 ab's platooning with Schierholtz in right and I bet he'd give you a nice return.

Speaking of discounted price tags, we saw Clayton Kershaw do the Dodgers a tremendous favor by inking that 2 year, $19 million deal, that probably had Tim Lincecum chuckling under his breath. I mean, when you compare the last two seasons for each pitcher, Kershaw has actually been slightly better than Timmy, going 34-15 with a 2.47 era to Lincecum's 29-24 record and 3.20 era. Lincecum has him beat on the strikeout totals by a small margin, but I'll take the wins and low era and give up the extra K's. Now you won't find a bigger Lincecum fan than myself and I think the deal he got was completely just, but I just wonder a bit if the Giants may be kicking themselves a little after seeing that Kershaw deal. On the other hand, this could actually help the Giants' long-term efforts with not only Lincecum but Matt Cain as well, who must have said something at the fanfest that I missed because Giants fans are getting a bit frantic in thinking Cain may bolt after the season. I mentioned a few posts back that I think the Giants should offer Cain the same deal the Angels gave Jered Weaver (5 year/$85M), and see if he bit, but now I'm hearing numbers north of 5 years and $100 million. Cain was the one guy I thought to be almost a sure bet to be a Giant for a long time, so this is either mis-interpreted news, or a complete surprise to me. It all the sudden raises the question, what if, just what if, Cain and Lincecum are both in other uniforms for the 2014 season! Think Brian Sabean will be beating himself up for not taking full advantage of this window of opportunity? I'd say so, and it would probably be as an un-employed GM too, cause that's about the time his contract is up as well!

2012 Roster Preview coming up next!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, February 03, 2012

Posey, Sanchez on Schedule for Spring Training

Were on the eve of the 2012 Giants Fanfest, which in other words says to baseball fans "it's time to forget football and shift focus to the diamond". The two guys who will be monitored closely and brought along a bit slower than the other players are Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.

Listening to both on KNBR interviews over the last few days certainly has me optimistic about each players health, but only time will tell and we won't really know what kind of shape these guys are in until they get a few games under their belt in March. Obviously, being a catcher and coming off the injury he suffered last season, most eyes will be on the Giants young backstop, as they have to determine just how often he'll be able to catch early on in the season. It's already been stated by both Posey and Bochy that both expect Posey to get a lot more time at first base than he has in his professional career so far, but he did play a lot of games there in 2010 when the team still had Bengie Molina on the roster, so it's not like he'd be uncomfortable over there when he does start at first. Plus, he's such a good athlete and has extensive experience at the collegiate level playing every position on the diamond that he'll be playing every single day that his leg will allow him to, whether it's first base or catcher. I'll tell you one thing, to me, it's seemed like it's been years since we've got to watch Buster Posey play, I've almost forgotten just how good of player he is and the dude should be primed for his best season of his career if he can avoid any prolonged DL stints.

The Giants will also be monitoring Freddie Sanchez's progress extremely closely as full-squad workouts begin in a few weeks. Sanchez lives in Arizona during the offseason and has been working out at lot at the Giants complex in Scottsdale, and he sounded really well in his interview Friday. This is a contract year for him and as good a hitter and defender he can be when healthy, he's getting a little older and if he has another injury plagued season in '12, it will handicap any hopes of getting himself one last multi-year contract. Ever since his trade over from Pittsburgh in 2009, Sanchez has spent the majority of his time in San Francisco on the DL, and that has to change in 2012, not only for his sake entering free agency, but most importantly, the team's offense needs that .300 hitting, slick-fielding Sanchez they thought they trading for back in '09. I mean, he's had his moments, and was big for the team down the stretch in 2010, but he'd be the first to tell you that he hasn't played as well as he'd hoped during his tenure here, and the only reason for that is because he hasn't been able to stay on the field. Luckily for the Giants, the injury suffered in 2011 was kind of a "freak accident" injury as his shoulder just snapped out of it's socket, and as long as it heals properly, which it is, it shouldn't be an issue for him going forward once it's fully healed.

Coming Up: Final prediction for the 2012 opening day roster, including projected lineup, bench, bullpen and starting rotation. With the recent adds of Ryan Theriot and Clay Hensley, it changes things up a bit since our last projection in December, and unless the Giants do something unexpected and bring in another outfielder, it looks like their roster is pretty much set.
The Giants Baseball Blog