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Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 SF Giants Preview and Predictions

Finally, we've reached the end of the exhibition season as the Giants will wrap up their game in Oakland with the A's then head off to LA where they open the season on Monday afternoon. Here is what the roster should look like come opening day, along with some player predictions for the starting positional players and pitchers 2013 season.

Lineup:

1. CF Angel Pagan: 152 Games, .292 AVG., 11 HR, 57 RBI, 101 R, 25 SB, .762 OPS
2. 2B Marco Scutaro: 141 G, .287 AVG., 9 HR, 65 RBI, 84 R, .785 OPS
3. 3B Pablo Sandoval: 135 G, .305 AVG., 24 HR, 77 RBI, 69 R, .866 OPS
4. C Buster Posey: 152 G, .324 AVG., 27 HR, 109 RBI, 76 R, .965 OPS
5. RF Hunter Pence: 156 G, .279 AVG., 25 HR, 101 RBI, 86 R, .824 OPS
6. 1B Brandon Belt: 146 G, .284 AVG., 22 HR, 73 RBI, 68 R, 15 SB, .812 OPS
7. LF Gregor Blanco: 124 G, .252 AVG., 6 HR, 28 RBI,  50 R, 22 SB, .696 OPS
8. SS Brandon Crawford: 148 G, .256 AVG., 8 HR, 48 RBI, 53 R, .707 OPS

Rotation: 

1. RHP Matt Cain: 34 Starts, 16-8, 3.22 ERA, 226 IP, 196 K's, 1.11 WHIP
2. LHP Madison Bumgarner: 34 G, 19-7, 2.92 ERA, 218 IP, 200 K's, 1.09 WHIP
3. RHP Tim Lincecum: 32 GS, 14-10, 3.66 ERA, 197 IP, 207 K's, 1.32 WHIP
4. LHP Barry Zito: 31 GS, 13-11, 4.27 ERA, 188 IP, 126 K's, 1.35 WHIP
5. RHP Ryan Vogelsong: 30 GS, 13-9, 3.68 ERA, 192 IP, 141 K's, 1.28 WHIP

Bench: 
C Hector Sanchez
IF Joaquin Arias
OF Andres Torres
IF Nick Noonan
C Guillermo Quiroz

Bullpen:
RHP: Sergio Romo
RHP Santiago Casilla
LHP Jeremy Affeldt
LHP Javier Lopez
RHP George Kontos
LHP Jose Mijares
RHP Chad Gaudin

The two toughest predictions this season for me lie with Sandoval and Lincecum. I mean, after the spring Lincecum just had, he may very well tank again like last season. At the same time, that right arm still has a ton of talent, and if he gets back on track, he can be an ace again. For Pablo, it's whether or not he can stay on the field. If he could play 150 games, he'd hit 30 jacks and drive in close to 100, but with his weight and all these nagging issues, I just don't see it. I didn't do predictions for the bench or bullpen, because outside of Torres and Arias, I don't see anyone playing a significant role and 2/5 of them may be gone by May anyway. I could see Torres' role increasing if Blanco struggles, however, and Arias would get a jump in PT if/when Panda hits the DL. The bullpen will again be solid, but Romo is a bit of a question mark for me as the full-time closer this year. Wouldn't surprise me if he has 50 saves and a 1.50 ERA, and unfortunately, it wouldn't surprise me if he's hurt and out of the role by June. No matter what happens though, we know Sabean will be ready to make the necessary move to ensure the best shot at repeating as World Series winners, so if they need a closer, or need a left fielder by mid-season, chances are they'll get some help!

2013 Record: 93-69
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, March 29, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: NL West

At last, we've come to the end of our MLB previews, winding up in NL West where we'll do a bit of a more expansive preview. For many, it's going to come down to the high-priced LA Dodgers and the reigning champion San Francisco Giants, but you never can forget about the D-Backs, even after they gave away Justin Upton. This is how we see things shaping out in the West this year.

1st Place, San Francisco Giants

CF Angel Pagan
2B Marco Scutaro
3B Pablo Sandoval
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
1B Brandon Belt
LF Gregor Blanco
SS Brandon Crawford

RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Tim Lincecum
LHP Barry Zito
RHP Ryan Vogelsong
SU: Santiago Casilla
CL: Sergio Romo

So back are the Giants, the team that's one 2 of the last 3 World Series championships, and they're bringing back the same squad that thrived in October and became an unstoppable force. Expected rebounds out of Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence, along with improvements from Belt and Crawford will only make this team better. If Timmy can manage to be pre-2012 Timmy again, this rotation will be the best in baseball, but that's a big if after the spring he just had. The questions I have with the Giants lie in left field and at the back end of the bullpen, where Sergio Romo will be asked to be a full-time closer for the first time in his career. I know he can get the job done if he can stay healthy, but he's always been vulnerable to injury. Then in left, it'll be Blanco and Torres, neither of which are coming off particularly encouraging seasons. All in all though, I see the Giants doing much like they did last season, riding that "teamwork first, play for each other" mentality to another postseason birth.

2nd Place, Los Angeles Dodgers (NL Wild Card)

LF Carl Crawford
2B Mark Ellis
CF Matt Kemp
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SS Hanley Ramirez*
RF Andre Eithier
3B Luis Cruz
C A.J. Ellis

LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zach Grienke
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Josh Beckett
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
SU: Kenley Jansen
CL: Brandon League

The Dodgers are a team that never really got on the same page after their big trade with Boston last season and are hoping that the full spring together and the addition of Carl Crawford will change the tune. I think they'll be tougher than they were a year ago, no question, but they still have some major healthy question marks. Billingsley and Grienke each are coming off some arm troubles and Hanley Ramirez is out until at least mid-May. It's anyone's guess as to how Crawford will play in the NL for the first time and after being off the field so much the last year and a half. Then there's their bullpen, which is pretty solid, but they have a beatable closer in Brandon League, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Jansen moved there after League's first few blown saves. They certainly have the team on paper that sticks out as a potential power-house, and as long as they keep their main cogs (Kemp, AGon, Kershaw, Grienke) on the field, they should be a lock for one of the NL Wild Card slots.

3rd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks

CF Adam Eaton
3B Martin Prado
2B Aaron Hill
LF Jason Kubel
1B Paul Goldschmidt
C Miguel Montero
RF Cody Ross
SS Cliff Pennington

RHP Ian Kennedy
LHP Wade Miley
RHP Trevor Cahill
RHP Brandon McCarthy
LHP Patick Corbin
SU: Heath Bell
CL: J.J. Putz

I don't get why the D-Backs were so eager to dump Upton, who I see as a future star in this game, but for some reason they did and it took them from potential division contender to a slightly above-average team. Their lineup is decent, as they're banking on Adam Eaton taking off and Paul Goldschmidt to become a 40-HR threat, and they have some depth, but they really don't have that one guy that can carry a lineup when guys are struggling like the Giants have with Posey and the Dodgers with Kemp. Their pitching is very solid, from Ian Kennedy through their closer, J.J. Putz, they can pitch. Put them in the NL Central, and maybe they compete with St. Louis for a wild card spot, but this division is too tough with the Giants and Dodgers ahead of them for AZ to really make a serious run at a playoff push, barring injury or some blockbuster trade.

4th Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Dexter Fowler
2B Josh Rutledge
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
RF Tyler Colvin/M. Cuddyer
C Wilin Rosario
1B Todd Helton/M. Cuddyer
3B Chris Nelson

RHP Jhoulys Chacin
LHP Jorge De La Rosa
RHP Juan Nicasio
LHP Jeff Francis
RHP Jon Garland
SU: Matt Belisle
CL: Rafael Betancourt

The Rockies are an intriguing team this season. They're a young team stocked with potential studs in their lineup, all of which are under 30 years of age. Fowler is a potential 5-tool superstar who I think could bust out this year, Rutledge can rake, we know about Tulo and Cargo, then there's guys like Colvin and Rosario who are taking this league by storm as well. There's little doubt that the Rockies will slug with the best of them, it's keeping the other teams off the board which will be the issue. They have a lot of young power arms in that rotation they're hoping will figure things out. Chacin is a potential ace, and Nicasio is one of the harder throwers in the game, but both of those guys have question marks. De La Rosa and Francis where once cornerstones in this rotation but injury has knocked both of them down a notch. The bullpen is solid, led by one of the best lefty relievers in the game in Belisle and the underrated Betancourt shutting the door.

5th Place, San Diego Padres

SS Everth Cabrera
2B Logan Forsythe
3B Chase Headley*
LF Carlos Quentin
1B Yonder Alonso
RF Will Venable
C Nick Hundley
CF Cameron Maybin

RHP Edinson Volquez
LHP Clayton Richard
RHP Jason Marquis
LHP Eric Stults
RHP Tyson Ross
SU: Luke Gregorson
CL: Huston Street

Since this is the last preview, I'll keep it short and sweet. The Padres are the team they've been the last 3-4 years, or really ever since Bruce Bochy left them. They have some good young players that may pan out like Cabrera, Forsythe and Alonso, but they've been striking out heavily on developing their own outside of Chase Headley (who will start the year on the DL). Their pitching is weak, as they'll be without their real ace Cory Leubke until mid-season, and probably can't count on too much from him in 2013. The bullpen is average. I like Street, but he's always had health issues and never seems to be able to put together a full season. I don't know if they're a 100-loss team, but certainly 90+ wouldn't surprise me.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Giants Notes: Belt, Sandoval and Lincecum

I just wanted to run down some quick notes before we started to break down the NL West as the Cactus League has come to an end and the Giants are back in town for these final few games with Oakland before heading to LA to start their World Series defense.

One of the big topics, and main concerns over the last couple of weeks has been surrounding Pablo Sandoval, who was diagnosed with an inflamed nerve in his throwing elbow and was in jeopardy to start the season on the DL. However, the Giants got some good news on that front Thursday, and it looks like he may be ready for opening day after all. The injury wasn't considered serious 2 weeks ago when Pablo first felt it, but it hadn't gotten a whole lot better until Wednesday when Pablo was able to throw from 75 and 90 feet. I wouldn't be surprised to see him sit out the rest of the games vs. the A's, besides perhaps a pinch-hit appearance, but that's definitely a good thing that all signs are pointing towards a go for Monday. On the other hand, I have to say, I'm a little upset with the comment Pablo made a couple of days ago regarding his pending free agency in two seasons and how he's got these next two years to get into shape. We saw Pablo get into shape over spring in 2011, so it shouldn't take him 2 years to get back down to a reasonable playing weight. Again, with him really, it's tough to complain much when he's hitting .320 with pop, but it's no coincidence that he had his best season when he came into it in shape and determined in 2011.

With just the weekend set left with the A's before things get started for real on Monday, it looks like Chad Gaudin has pretty much shored up the final bullpen spot, but the last two positional roster spots, that utility spot and potential 5ht outfield, is still kind of a mystery. Nick Noonan could be winner by default as he's really the last man standing in the race. He actually didn't have much of a shot coming in but Tony Abreu's injuries and Kensuke Tanaka's inabilities have forced the Giants' hand a bit. As for the outfield, although Francisco Peguero has had the better spring, it appears as though Cole Gillespie will wind up with that spot. After seeing him tear it up in Fresno this month, I'm sure the Giants would like to have Pegeuro playing everyday in Fresno rather than maybe once a week in San Francisco. So, although things can change over the next couple games with Oakland, I'd say Gaudin, Gillespie and Noonan are the three winners for opening day spots. There still could be some surprise cuts made by other teams by Monday, so keep an eye on that.

Also, I couldn't go without mentioning Brandon Belt, who's really been the talk of spring for the Giants, and finished off his Cactus League-tear by hitting his 8th home run of spring on Wednesday. That wraps his incredible Cactus League run at a line of .437/8/19/1.316 OPS to go along with 3 steals and 7 doubles. I spring stats can certainly be deceiving and he could cool way down in April, but one has to think that the confidence gained in last postseason coupled with his scorching spring will have some carry over effect for 2013 (a huge reason I'm expecting big things from him this year as you'll see in our Giants preview Saturday). And of course with the good, comes some bad, as we saw another rough outing from Timmy in his final spring tune-up Thursday night. He couldn't make it out of the fifth inning, giving up 5 runs on 5 hits while striking out 6 in 4 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate was there, but the 0-5 record and an ERA north of 10. Sure, spring is just spring, but that's hardly inspiring considering the season he's coming off of.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: NL Central

1st Place, Cincinnati Reds

RF Shin-Soo Choo
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
RF Jay Bruce
LF Ryan Ludwick
3B Todd Frazier
SS Zach Cozart
C Ryan Hannigan

RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Mat Latos
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Homer Bailey
RHP Mike Leake
SU: Jonathan Broxton
CL: Aroldis Chapman

The Reds have improved the team that came without outs of knocking off the eventual World Champion Giants in last seasons NLDS, so they should once again be a force in the central. They added Choo to the top of the order to give them a dynamic hitter who will get on base and run. The real big change though should be with Joey Votto, who should return to MVP-caliber form if healthy and teams with Jay Bruce as one of the best 3-4 hitters in the game. The young pitching staff is finally getting their feet under them, as we've seen growth out of Bailey, Cueto and Chapman and all should just keep getting better.

2nd Place, St. Louis Cardinals

CF Jon Jay
RF Carlos Beltran
LF Matt Holliday
1B Allen Craig
3B David Freese
 C Yadier Molina
2B Danial Descalso
SS Pete Kozma

RHP Adam Wainwright
LHP Jaime Garcia
RHP Lance Lynn
RHP Jake Westbrook
LHP Shelby Miller
SU: Mitchell Boggs
CL: Jason Motte

The Cards are getting a little bit older, and their starting pitching isn't nearly as strong as it was at the start of last season. That being said, they have some gritty vets (Holliday, Beltran, Molina) and some up-and-comers (Craig, Freese, Jay) in that lineup that will ensure they keep runs on the board. Their bullpen should again be a strength, led by the underrated Jason Motte. I just don't like the bottom of their order too much and can't see that pitching staff staying strong all season and carrying them into October.

3rd Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

CF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Garrett Jones
C Russell Marin
LF Travis Snider
SS Clint Barmes

RHP A.J. Burnett
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
RHP Jason McDonald
RHP Jeff Karstans
LHP Francisco Liriano*
SU: Mark Melancon
CL: Jason Grilli

Now, the Pirates are a team that surprised everyone with their 5-month run before tailing off in September last season, and I don't think it was an entire fluke. This team has some talented young players they're building around, most notably the runner up in last years batting tittle race (Andrew McCutchen). I also like Starling Marte at the top of the order and Pedro Alvarez has legit, 35+ home run power. Their pitching staff isn't great, but it's solid, led by Burnett and Rodriguez, two sturdy vets who can still shut down any given lineup when they're on. They have some questions in the bullpen, but further growth out of their youngsters should lead to another successful season.

*ETA early May

4th Place, Milwaukee Brewers

RF Norichika Aoki
2B Rickie Weeks
LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
C Jonathan Lucroy
CF Carlos Gomez
1B Alex Gonzalez
SS Jean Segura

RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Wily Peralta
LHP Chris Naverson
RHP Mike Fiers
SU: Jim Henderson
CL: John Axford

The Brewers haven't quite been the same since losing Prince Fielder, and I don't see things getting a whole lot better in year two. I mean, they're counting on Alex Gonzalez, a .240 hitting shortstop to play first base for them after all. I do like Carlos Gomez though, and think he can be a 30-30 guy, and like him or hate him, Ryan Braun will always hit. As far as their pitching goes, I'm not overly impressed with anyone after Gallardo and to a certain extent, Estrada, so those guys will have to prove themselves. Bullpen isn't a strength either, where they're returning a closer who had a 4.67 ERA in 2012.

5th Place, Chicago Cubs

CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Ian Stewart*
2B Darwin Barney

RHP Matt Garza*
RHP Jeff Samardzija
RHP Edwin Jackson
LHP Travis Wood
RHP Scott Feldman
SU: Kyuji Fujikawa
CL: Carlos Marmol

At last, the Cubbies. There really isn't much to say about the Cubs that hasn't been said in the last 4-5 season previews. They'll again struggle and again likely finish at the bottom of the division. This time the Astros aren't around though, so the Cubs are the new worst team in the division. Castro and Rizzo have legit talent, everyone else in that lineup (save for Soriano) could be out of baseball in 3 years. Their pitching staff is banged up and thin. Garza has solid talent, but can't stay healthy, and Samardzija and Jackson will give solid efforts but they're hardly elite. The bullpen has been all sorts of messy since Carlos Marmol took over as closer, which is why the Cubs are trying to deal him, but right now, it looks like it will be another crap-shoot for Chicago out there.

*Will Begin Year on DL
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Saturday, March 23, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: NL East

On to the NL East, where the top three teams will all be competing for playoff spots. There's the young talented Braves, the veteran savvy Phillies and last season's winner the Nationals. Here's how we see things shaking out in 2013.

1st Place, Washington Nationals

CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
RF Jayson Werth
2B Danny Espinosa
C Kurt Suzuki

RHP Stephen Strasburg
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
RHP Dan Haren
LHP Ross Detwiler
SU: Drew Storen
CL: Rafael Soriano

The Nats where the team everyone thought would represent the NL in the World Series in September, but after they shelved Strasburg, they were never quite the same team. Now they'll have a full year of the young phenom righty, and they also have themselves a legit leadoff man to hit in front of a strong group of 2-6 hitters. Their big strength though is that pitching staff. If Dan Haren returns to form and throws like he did when in Arizona, they may have the best rotation in all of baseball. That bullpen is no joke either, as they landed one of 2012's best closers in Soriano to help ensure no more meltdowns like they had in the NLDS vs. St. Louis last season. Not only should they have a clear path to the postseason, but they're being considered the favorites for the NL pennant many pundits.

2nd Place, Atlanta Braves (NL Wild Card)

SS Andrelton Simmons
RF Jayson Heyward
LF Justin Upton
1B Fredi Freeman
CF B.J. Upton
C Bryan McCann
2B Dan Uggla
3B Chris Johnson

RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Kris Medlan
LHP Mike Minor
LHP Paul Maholm
RHP Julio Teheran
SU: Jonny Venters
CL: Craig Kimbrel

There's not much to dislike about this Braves squad, especially if they get their players back on track. The young lineup is certainly one of the brighter bunches in baseball, so if they get rebound seasons out of Dan Uggla and Bryan McCann, then lookout NL East! Look for Justin Upton to return to MVP- caliber status. I'm still curious to see how Simmons does leading off, but so far all signs point to it being a good fit. And if he fails, the Braves have some other options. As always, they have a strong rotation, led by the vet Tim Hudson and quite possibly baseball's second best young right-hander next to Strasburg in Kris Medlan. It's too bad they won't have Brandon Beachy, another young right-handed stud, until around mid-season, but when they get him back, that rotation too will be amongst the games elite. The bullpen is also a strength with the best closer in the NL and some strong power arms (Venters, Walden, O'Flaherty) leading up to him.

3rd Place, Philadelphia Phillies

SS Jimmy Rollins
3B Michael Young
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
RF Delmon Young
C Carlos Ruiz
LF Dominic Brown
CF Ben Revere

LHP Cole Hammels
RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Kyle Kendrick
LHP John Lannan
SU: Mike Adams
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

Much like the Yankees in the AL East, the Phils appear to be on their last legs of being a competitive ball-club. Utley and Howard haven't been able to stay on the field the last year and a half, and the rest of the lineup around them and Rollins is nothing special. Their starting rotation still has the potential to be great, but they have age issues there too, where Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay are nowhere near the arms they were 2-3 years ago. They have a decent pen, and they still have a talented, yet aging, roster so bounce-back years from Howard, Utley, Lee and Halladay would put them right in the mix for a playoff spot, and that's very much a possibility.

4th Place, New York Mets

SS Rueben Tejada
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
1B Ike Davis
RF Lucas Duda
C John Buck
RF Mike Baxter
CF Kirk Nieuwenhuis

LHP Johan Santana*
RHP Shawn Marcum
LHP Jonathan Niese
RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Dillon Gee
SU: Bobby Parnell
CL: Frank Francisco

*Will start season on DL, no concrete ETA

The Mets have really entered full-blown rebuild mode and are hoping to get back to their winning ways while David Wright's still in his prime, otherwise they should serious consider cashing in on him. Ike Davis has light-tower power and Tejada is a solid young shortstop, but outside of that, this lineup is thin. Their pitching staff is below average, even if Johan Santana does make his return by May. The bullpen too is below average. Everything about this team is below and they'll struggled to keep up with the 3 teams ahead of them in this division.

5th Place, Miami Marlins

LF Juan Pierre
3B Placido Polanco
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Logan Morrison
CF Justin Ruggiano
C Rob Brantley
2B Donovan Solano
SS Adeiny Hechavarria

RHP Ricky Nolasco
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
RHP Henderson Alvarez
LHP Wade LeBlanc
RHP Kevin Slowey
SU: Jon Rauch
CL: Steve Cishek

The Marlins essentially gave up on their 2013 season when they traded away virtually all their valuable players between late last summer and the offseason. It's tough to really say much about them aside form that. Stanton will still be a monster, and Logan Morrison is a talent if he can ever get those knees healthy, but the pitching staff, starters and relievers, could be the worst in the NL and they are their lineup is stock full of young guys who may not even last the season in the majors.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Battles Heating Up as Spring Winds Down

I know we've been spending a lot of time on our previews as we try and get everything in before opening day, so we haven't had much time to talk Giants stuff, but in a way, that's a good thing.

Luckily, there hasn't been anything too serious to discuss, but the one thing that does have me worried a bit is the the bone spur that's occurred on the back of his throwing elbow. It was deemed minor to begin with, but now there are whispers of it possibly keeping him out of the opening day lineup and maybe starting the year on the DL. For a lineup that already lacks power, the Giants need their number 3 hitter healthy and ready to start the year, but if he needs to miss the first week or so to ensure that's the case, so be it. I'd hate to see this thing turn into an issue that requires surgery and shelves him for 6 weeks. On the positive side, Brandon Belt (.396/4/12 in 52 at-bats) and Madison Bumgarner (1.81 ERA in 15 IP) continue to dominate their Cactus League opponents, and have given Giants fans reason to believe both are in for big 2013 seasons. Also, Hunter Pence appears to have worked some of his issues out from last season as he's hitting over .350 in his 56 at-bats through March 21st.

As far as the battle for the remaining OF, IF and RP spots, those have yet to be determined, but there are some clear front-runners. Francisco Peguero has all but locked up that fifth outfield spot with his .364 average and .888 OPS in 44 at-bats, though Cole Gillaspie is still in the running. Chad Gaudin looks like he's a little ahead in that bullpen race (2.93 ERA, 11 K's in 14 innings) too. However, the infield is a different story, as nobody has really taken the bull by the horns there quite yet. Tony Abreu can't get on the field and Kensuke Tanaka and Wilson Valdez have not been very impressive. If the season were to start tomorrow, I bet Bochy would just roll with Brett Pill, just to have that right-handed power off the bench, but they really need another guy who can play the middle infield. With Dan Runzler's success this spring, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Giants try and package a left-handed reliever and a prospect in order to try and obtain a more suitable middle infield option, cause right now, the pickings are slim!

If you've been on any Giants sites or listened to KNBR over the last few days, you'll know too that the Giants have "quietly" begun possible long-term contract extension talks with Buster Posey. I love the idea of locking the 25 year-old backstop up now, especially since he's already shown the ability to play first base and should be able to move there seamlessly in a few years when the Giants want to move him from behind the plate. I don't know what kind of numbers are being discussed, but with Posey's credentials and age, a 5-year, $75M deal wouldn't sound too bad to me at all. Heck, he's going to start making 12+ million in arbitration starting next year, so why not just get this done if they can come to a reasonable agreement?
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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2013 MLB Previews: AL West

On we move to the AL West, which I think will be the most competitive division in the AL. There's the newly stocked out Angels, but the Rangers aren't going anywhere yet, even without Hamilton, and the A's are always good for a surprise run, especially with that pitching staff.

1st Place, Los Angeles Angels

LF Mike Trout
SS Erik Aybar
1B Albert Pujols
LF Josh Hamilton
DH Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
C Chris Ianetta
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Peter Bourjos

RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Tommy Hanson
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Joe Blanton
SU: Ernesto Frieri
CL: Ryan Madson

The Angels have it all when it comes to that lineup: speed, average, power and consistency. They have the right mixture of youth (Trout, Bourjos, Trumbo) and players in their prime (Pujols, Hamilton, Kendrick) to be serious World Series contenders. Their pitching staff should be a strength too, once Tommy Hanson figures out the AL. The one question I have with them lies in their bullpen. They're banking on the return of Ryan Madson who missed all of 2012, or the young Frieri kid to close out games for them, and they need one of them to succeed. They have enough talent in that lineup though, and enough solid starting pitchers to help overcome the bullpen weakness though, and should win 95 games.

2nd Place, Oakland Athletics (AL Wild Card)

CF Coco Crisp
2B Jemile Weeks
LF Yoenis Cespedes
DH Josh Reddick
SS Jed Lowrie 
1B Brandon Moss
RF Chris Young
3B Scott Sizemore
C John Jaso

LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Jarrod Parker
LHP Tommy Millone
RHP A.J. Griffin
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: Ryan Cook
CL: Grant Balfour

I just really like the make-up of this young A's squad. They play hard, sound baseball and utilize the solid pitching they get. They don't have a lineup that will overwhelm you, but they have speed and guys that can get on base and cause some havoc. I think a huge key for them will be Jemile Weeks, who showed in his rookie year he can be an All-Star level player when he's right. Cespedes has MVP potential and Josh Reddick is just tapping into his abilities, so this team will only get better. That young staff will also rival any ones in the game, especially if Anderson is on like he was after returning last season. With good health and continued growth, the A's should definitely lock down one of the AL Wild Card spots.

3rd Place, Texas Rangers

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
DH Lance Berkman
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
LF David Murphy
C A.J. Pierzynski
1B Mitch Moreland
CF Craig Gentry

RHP Yu Darvish
LHP Matt Harrison
LHP Derek Holland
RHP Alexi Ogando
RHP Colby Lewis*
SU: Jason Frasor
CL: Joe Nathan

I'm sorry, but you can't replace Josh Hamilton with Lance Berkman and expect to be the same team you where the last 3 seasons. The team that repped the AL in the 2010 and 2011 World Series needs to rebuild that lineup a little bit, and not try and patch together aging vets like Bekrman and Pierzynski to try and fill the void. I love Darvish as their ace, but the rest of that rotation is under-whelming, and the bullpen is hardly one of the premiere ones in the league. The Rangers are in for a drop off this year, but still have enough offense to stay competitive. It wouldn't surprise me if they finish right around .500.

4th Place, Seattle Mariners

2B Dustin Ackley
3B Kyle Seager
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Michael Morse
C Jesus Montero
1B Justin Smoak
RF Michael Saunders
CF Franklin Gutierrez
SS Brendan Ryan

RHP Felix Hernandez
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma
LHP Joe Saunders
RHP Erasmo Ramirez
RHP Jon Garland
SU: Charlie Furbish
CL: Tom Wilhelmsen

I like what the Mariners have done with their lineup, now they just need those number one picks Ackley and Smoak to start playing like the guys they were drafted to be. If that happens, the M's should be able to put runs on the board. It's keeping opposing teams off the board is what will be their biggest challenge. Their rotation after King Felix could be one of the worst in baseball, and their bullpen is stocked with young, unproven guys who will be learning on the go. I know Seattle fans would hate them for it, but I think now is the time to cash in on Hernandez and turn him into 2-3 legit, big time prospects. They probably won't ever win with Felix in his prime and could use a few good young arms to help balance out that pitching staff.

5th Place, Houston Astros

2B Jose Altuve
SS Tyler Green
LF Chris Carter
DH Carlos Pena
1B Brett Wallace
RF Rick Ankiel
3B Matt Dominguez
CF Justin Maxwell
C Jason Castro

RHP Bud Norris
RHP Lucas Harrell
RHP Jordan Lyles
RHP Phillip Humber
LHP Erik Bedard
SU: Wesley Wright
CL: Jose Veras

The newcomers to the AL may very well end up in the cellar of not only the AL West, but the entire American League. Heck, they could be the worst team in baseball. Their lineup is half full of players who'd be AAA'ers on most competitive squads, and their bullpen has more holes than Swiss cheese. Surprisingly, their rotation has some guys with potential (Norris, Lyles, Humber), but this is still a team well within the grasp of 100 losses.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: AL Central

1st Place, Detroit Tigers

CF Austin Jackson
RF Torii Hunter
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
DH Victor Martinez
SS Jhonny Peralta
LF Andy Dirks
C Alex Avila
2B Omar Infante

RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Doug Fister
LHP Drew Smyly
SU: Joaquin Benoit
CL: Bruce Rondon

The reigning League Champions are returning pretty much the same squad that took them to the Series' a year ago, they just hope their bullpen holds up a little better this time around. They're getting V-Mart back, so their offense will get a boost, but they don't have a ton of team speed, so they'll need those big hitters to be on their game. That pitching staff is one of the stronger ones in baseball, and should again have them in the running for the AL crown. I think the addition of Hunter and the return of Martinez have improved this team a lot, but they could still use some help at short and at the back end of the bullpen. Still, they're clear-cut favorites in a weak Central Division.

2nd Place, Chicago White Sox

CF Alejandro De Aza
3B Jeff Keppinger
RF Alex Rios
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
SS Alexi Ramirez
LF Dayan Viciedo
2B Gordon Beckam
C Tyler Flowers

LHP Chris Sale
RHP Jake Peavy
LHP Jose Quintana
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP John Danks
SU: Matt Thronton
CL: Addison Reed

The Sox could give Detroit a run for their money in the Central with the pitching staff they've lined up. It's not quite up to Detroit's level, but it's a young one with big potential. Chris Sale is one of the most underrated arms in the game and John Danks as a number 5 just shows you their depth.They also have a more sound bullpen than Detroit, led by young closer Addison Reed. They're hoping the addition of Jeff Keppinger will help solidify the top of the order, which hasn't been good for them for a while. They have the boppers in the middle, but they need the 1-2 guys to get on base and set the table.

3rd Place, Kansas City Royals

LF Alex Gordon
SS Aclides Escobar
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
C Salvador Perez
3B Mike Moustakas
CF Lorenzo Cain
RF Jeff Francoeur
2B Chris Getz

RHP James Shields
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Bruce Chen
RHP Wade Davis
SU: Aaron Crow
CL: Greg Holland

Once again, the Royals success will rely on whether or not their key young players can take that next step. Moustakas, Gordon, Hosmer and Cain are all legit players who could be future all-stars. Billy Butler is a legit run producer in that middle. If the youngsters start putting it together this year, this team could be a lot like that surprise Tampa Bay Rays team from a few years back. Their starting pitching after Shields and Santana is spotty, but they have one my favorite young closers in the game in Greg Holland shutting the door for them. Also, that young catcher Perez may be the 2nd best young catcher in the game behind Buster Posey.

4th Place, Cleveland Indians

CF Michael Bourne
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
1B Nick Swisher
C Carlos Santana
DH Mark Reynolds
LF Michael Brantley
RF Drew Stubbs
3B Lonnie Chisenhall

RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
RHP Brett Myers
RHP Zach McCallister
RHP Trevor Bauer
SU: Vinnie Pestano
CL: Chris Perez

I loved the addition of Bourne for this team, but I don't know how well Swisher will turn out for them. Their lineup is decent, they have a lot of speed and have some power, but not a lot of guys hit for very high averages, so they'll have trouble getting guys on base consistently. They've improved from last year and are on the up though, so if Ubaldo Jimenez magically re-finds his ace-like form he had in Colorado, they too could surprise a lot of people. Too many things need to go right in order for them to compete this year though.

5th Place, Minnesota Twins

CF Aaron Hicks
2B Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
LF Josh Willingham
1B Justin Morneau
3B Trevor Plouffe
DH Ryan Doumit
RF Chris Parmelee
SS Pedro Florimon

LHP Scott Diamond
RHP Vance Worley
RHP Kevin Correia
RHP Mike Pelfrey
RHP Liam Hendriks
SU: Jared Burton
CL: Glen Perkins

The Twins are filled with some many holes that I just can't see them being very competitive this season. Sure, Mauer will still give you his typical .300/10/80 line, and Willingham will hit 30 jacks with a .250 average, but outside of that, everything is a crap-shoot. Who knows how the top of the order will fare with the rookie Hicks and the ancient Carroll? I don't really like anything about their pitching staff either, bullpen or starters. I could see this team being one of the worst in baseball in 2013.

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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Friday, March 15, 2013

2013 MLB Previews: AL East

Since things are going along smoothly in Giants camp, and Brandon Belt continues to stick out as the star of the spring, I figured it would be a good time to start to get to know the enemy for the upcoming season with our annual divisional previews.

As always, we'll start in the AL East, which is one of the tougher divisions to line up this year outside of Toronto being the consensus favorite. Here's how I see it playing out:

1st Place, Toronto Blue Jays

Projected Lineup
SS Jose Reyes
LF Melky Cabrera
RF Jose Bautista
1B Edwin Encarnacion
3B Brett Lawrie
DH Adam Lind
C J.P. Arrencibia
CF Colby Rasmus
2B Maicer Izturis

Rotation
RHP R.A. Dickey
RHP Brandon Morrow
LHP Mark Buehrle
RHP Josh Johnson
LHP Ricky Romero
SU: Sergio Santos
CL: Casey Janssen

Adding a bunch of payroll and big names didn't quite work for the Dodgers last summer, but things should be different north of the border. The Blue Jays new pieces all have time to mesh in spring training and they added professionals like Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes, who are both notoriously strong clubhouse presences. I absolutely love their rotation, where they have 2011 staff ace and 20-game winner Ricky Romero as their fifth guy. The only question I have with this squad lies in their bullpen where their closer is a little banged up heading into the season and they aren't extremely deep. As long as they keep their key cogs healthy though, they should be the clear-cut favorites in a weakened AL East.

2nd Place, New York Yankees

Lineup
SS Derek Jeter
RF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixiera*
LF Curtis Granderson*
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH Travis Hafner
C Francisco Cervelli
CF Brett Gardner

Rotation
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kiroda
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Phil Hughes
RHP Ivan Nova
SU: Dave Robertson
CL: Mariano Rivera

*ETA early May

The Yankees have some big injuries to overcome with Tex and Granderson out to start the year, but I think they can get by with small ball until then with Ichiro, Jeter and Gardner. Getting Mo back in the 9th should help solidify things a lot though, and I think Youkilis will be a steady add to the lineup after the ARod debacle. They're obviously a team built to win now and have the oldest roster in baseball, but I can see them staying strong for another run. As long as their two injured sluggers return in good shape by their estimated time-table (early May), Andy Pettite's arm holds up for one more year, and Phil Hughes can continue to take strides forward, I think the Yanks will be in the mix for one of the Wild Card spots. Plus it's the Yankees we're talking about, so even if they're falling short, they'll do whatever they can at the trade deadline to help themselves.

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays

Lineup
CF Desmond Jennings
SS Yunel Escobar
3B Evan Longoria
RF Ben Zobrist
LF Matt Joyce
DH Luke Scott
2B Kelly Johnson
1B James Loney
C Jose Molina

Rotation
LHP David Price
RHP Jeremy Hellickson
LHP Matt Moore
RHP Alex Cobb
RHP Jeff Niemann
SU: Joel Peralta
CL: Fernando Rodney

I don't love Tampa's lineup, but I really like their pitching staff, despite the loss of James Shields. Price, Hellickson, Moore and Cobb are all bright young arms who've already had success at the big league level and will only get better. Then there's that bullpen, which is one of the better ones in the league and won't be coughing up many leads they take into the 7th inning. If they can get Jennings, Joyce, Johnson and Escobar to all get back to their standard level of play, and they keep Zobrist and Longoria on the field together, then they're going to be a solid squad. If they could have gotten one more big bat for the middle of the order, they'd be a lot better off. They certainly have one of the best in the game pushing the buttons for them in Joe Maddon, who's had that team a perennial contender since taking over as manager. If the Yanks can't get/stay healthy, then they slide up to 2nd and NY sinks down.

4th Place, Boston Red Sox

Lineup
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Shane Victorino
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz*
1B Mike Napoli
3B Will Middlebrooks
LF Jonny Gomes
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Stephen Drew

Rotation
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Clay Bucholtz
RHP Ryan Dempster
LHP Felix Doubront
RHP John Lackey
SU: Andrew Bailey
CL: Joel Hanrahan

*Will miss opening day, no concrete ETA

The Red Sox lineup will take a huge hit if David Ortiz's injury continues to linger and hold him out of significant action.  I don't like their pitching staff as much as Tampa's, but even without Ortiz, that lineup should still put some runs on the board, especially in Fenway. A healthy Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan pose one of the best 1-2 punches to end games, but the bullpen has a lot of question marks aside from that. Ellsbury and Pedroia are two of the best at their positions in the game, but the Red Sox are no longer the AL East powerhouse they've been ever since breaking the curse in 2004.

5th Place, Baltimore Orioles

Lineup
2B Brian Roberts
DH Nolan Reimold
RF Nick Markakis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
1B Chris Davis
3B Manny Machado
LF Nate McLouth

Rotation
RHP Jason Hammel
LHP Wei-Yen Chen
RHP Chris Tillman
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Steve Johnson
SU: Pedro Strop
CL: Jim Johnson

The O's surprised everyone with their Wild Card birth in '12, but the stars kind of had to align for it to happen. I do like the makeup of their young pitching staff, but they don't have a true ace. Jason Hammel will carry that role but he has a career ERA of 4.78 and I expect him to return closer to that level than the 3.43 number he put up last season . They do have bright young arms like Tillman and Chen, and there's Dylan Bundy waiting in the wings, and I like the middle of their order. However, unless Brian Roberts returns to form, they really don't have a true leadoff hitter either.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Spring Training Notes

We're about two weeks into the exhibition season, and so far things have been running as smoothly as hoped for in Scottsdale, with just a few minor dings (injury wise) so far.

The Giants have started out the spring 4-5 heading into play Wednesday, and since there are no real health concerns with anyone at the moment (fingers crossed), a lot of attention has been placed on the competition for the few remaining roster spots, which will only heat up in the coming weeks. But before jumping into that, I wanted to talk about the guy who's started out this spring at a torrid pace, and a someone who I'm really expecting big things from, and that's Brandon Belt. I did a small interview with Razzball.com at the start of spring discussing some of the issues for the Giants' season and I was asked specifically about Belt and my expectations for him this upcoming season. I really feel like this is the year Belt will start putting things together, and so far this spring, he's certainly looked like he's on that path. I know spring numbers are spring numbers and are taken with a grain of salt, but the way he's seeing the ball right now obviously bodes well for his development and confidence. So far in 25 at-bats, Belt's collected 12 hits, 3 HR's, 6 RBI and 5 extra-base hits. All those numbers lead the team, and it's especially encouraging to see that early on in spring when the pitchers are supposedly ahead of the hitters. Belt has the abilities to be a force in the Giants lineup, and with their lack of power in the outfield, they could sure use it!

Now, in terms of the battle for the fifth outfield spot and 2nd utility opening, there have been a few guys who have jumped out to clear early leads. In the outfield spot, nobody has made an impression so far like Francisco Peguero, period. I know it's spring, but he's hit .563 through his first 7 games, and has driven in 5 run while displaying that strong defense and speed. Cole Gillaspie is still in the running too, starting out the first few games on fire, Then cooling off until going 2 for 2 Tuesday. I'd say the battle at this point is really between those, though Bochy won't say it publicly. In the infield, nobody has really stood out except for Brock Bond, who can't play short so it really doesn't matter unless there's an injury or he's used as trade bait. Tony Abreu, the former Dodger top-prospect, has still yet to suit up for a spring game, but the consensus on him is that he'll become the front-runner once he does. He's still got those tools that made him an elite-level prospect not too long ago, can play all over the infield, and he's simply the most talented of all those in the running.As far as the others are concerned, Kensuke Tanaka has been overwhelmed at the plate and at short, which is where the Giants would need his availability. 35 year-old Wilson Valdez can pick it, but seems like a last-resort, AAA depth-filler and Brett Pill is, well, Brett Pill (will connect every 20 ab's or so, but will hit .200 in the process). Abreu, while he's never translated his success to the big league level, did have a .322/9/73/.849 line in AAA last season (in just 102 games) and at 28 years of age, still could turn into a useful player. His big weakness is his lack of discipline which, unfortunately, "Bam Bam" Muellens and Joe Lefebvre struggle to impose.

Extras: As far as the final bullpen slot is concerned, the Giants coaching staff (mainly Boch) has been strongly hinting towards Scott Proctor thus far, who's gone five innings giving up just a run on 4 hits. Dan Runzler, Shane Loux and Chad Gaudin have all fared pretty well also though, so it's really too early to judge outside of Proctor being the early front-runner. As far as the youngsters go, I've been impressed with Michael Kickham and Heath Hembree, who've seen the most action thus far but aren't candidates to make the squad... Outside of Belt, the other Brandon (Crawford) has looked pretty good early on, homering for the first time this spring on Tuesday. He's hitting .333 and slugging 1.114 in 6 games and should be another Giant who's in for an upgrade in 2013.

Also, I wanted to give a heads up that we'll be starting our divisional previews and MLB Picks for awards and postseason coming up in about a week or so. Like we always do, we'll continue to mix in Giants news and notes during that time, so it shouldn't take too much Giants talk away. And with the season just weeks away, and your one that likes to wager on games, you can find all your Sports Betting Odds.

Finally, I wanted to thank our readers here at The Giants Baseball Blog. This is our 800th post, starting way back in October of 2005, remember these days. We hope to be around another 800+ more with a handful of championships along the way. I sincerely appreciate all those that read, contribute and follow us here at the site and I look forward to new readers and further improvements here for the 2013 season!
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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