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Monday, March 31, 2014

2014 SF Giants Preview and Predictions

With Opening Day upon us, and what hopes to be the beginning of a trip back to the postseason for the Giants just hours away from starting, I wanted to take a look at the 25-man roster and post predictions for each player.


1. CF Angel Pagan: 147 G, 540 AB, .285 avg, 10 HR, 52 RBI, 84 R, 20 SB, .732 OPS
2. *2B Marco Scutaro: 103 G, 414 AB, .289, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 52 R, 23 2B, .711 OPS
3. 1B Brandon Belt: 152 G, 550 AB, .292, 20 HR, 79 RBI, 67 R. 11 SB, .845 OPS
4. C  Buster Posey: 146 G, 532 AB, .313, 23 HR, 91 RBI, 72 R, 90 BB, .922 OPS
5. RF Hunter Pence: 155 G, 602 AB, .275, 26 HR, 92 RBI, 85 R, 17 SB, .829 OPS
6. 3B Pablo Sandoval: 140 G, 515 AB, .305, 23 HR, 83 RBI, 66 R, 38 2B, .837 OPS
7. LF Michael Morse: 141 G, 498 AB, .269, 21 HR, 71 RBI, 52 R, 29 2B, .740 OPS
8. SS Brandon Crawford: 153 G, 504 AB, .260, 7 HR, 40 RBI, 52 BB, .691 OPS


1. LHP Madison Bumgarner:: 34 GS, 18-7, 2.96 ERA, 215 IP, 205 K, 1.07 WHIP
2. RHP Matt Cain: 33 GS, 14-8, 3.55  ERA, 211 IP, 179 K, 1.15 WHIP
3. RHP Tim Hudson: 33 G, 13-11, 3.86 ERA, 198 IP, 145 K, 1.29 WHIP
4. RHP Tim Lincecum: 32 G, 15-10, 3.69 ERA, 202 IP, 198 K, 1.31 WHIP
5. RHP Ryan Vogelsong: 28 G, 8-11, 4.85 ERA, 151 IP, 114 K, 1.41 WHIP


RHP Sergio Romo
RHP Santiago Casilla
LHP Javier Lopez
*LHP Jeremy Affeldt
RHP Jean Machi
RHP Juan Gutierrez
RHP Yusmiero Petit
**LHP David Huff


C Hector Sanchez
**IF Ehire Adrianza
IF Brandon Hicks
OF Juan Perez
OF Gregor Blanco
IF Joaquin Arias
*Affledt and Scutaro start year on 15-day DL
**Adrianza and Guitierrez are injury replacements to start year

The Giants made two significant additions to last years squad that finished 10 games below .500. They're hoping Michael Morse brings power to the lineup and provides a solid presence in the bottom half of the order. As long as he stays healthy and can collect 500 or so plate appearances, the numbers will be there. The other new addition, Tim Hudson, takes the place of Barry Zito in what should be a huge upgrade as long
as he can stay on the field himself and give the Giants 30 starts. The rest of the cast is practically identical to the the 2013 squad and the 2012 second half squad. Obviously we saw what they could do at their best in 2012, but then we saw the bad side last year. They need to get more consistency in 2014 if they want to make it back to the postseason. They're going to need to keep that top of the order healthy, something they had trouble with last season, and Pablo Sandoval is going to have to step up and be the masher he was in the 2012 postseason if they wanna overtake the Dodgers. I think Pablo really holds the key to the offense. The Giants no pretty much what Posey and Pence can do. They'll expect slight improvements from the Brandons and Morse to provide power. But if Panda is that .325 hitting machine with power and purpose like he was in 2009 and 2011 (when healthy), the Giants offense will be stronger than it's been in a decade.

The Giants have a good squad overall, and one that should compete for at least a NL Wild Card spot. If they get strong rebound seasons from Cain, Lincecum, Sandoval and Morse, then they;ll certainly challenge LA for the division title. If they don't and they battle injury all year like they did last season, then they'll probably finish in the cellar. The NL West has improved a lot over the last year and the Giants will have to be on their game all year if they want to regain their swagger. Their bullpen doesn't have a bunch of depth, and their bench isn't the deepest, so it's hard to stress just how important it is for the Giants' core players to stay on the field. If things go as expected though, and everybody stays healthy for the most part, I think this team will be right around 88-92 wins and finish 2nd in the West but first in the Wild Card race.

Prediction: 88-74,2nd in NL West, 2nd NL Wild Card Spot
The Giants Baseball Blog

MLB Playoff and Award Predictions

Opening Day has arrived! We'll have our annual Giants preview going up a little later today before the game, but I wanted to get our Playoff and Award post out before the games started picking up.


NL Wild Card
Giants over Reds

AL Wild Card
Royals over Angels

Cardinals over Giants
Dodgers over Nationals

A's over Royals
Tigers over Rays

Dodgers over Cardinals (7 games)

Tigers over A's (6 games)

Dodgers over Tigers (6 games)

As hard as it is to pick the Dodgers to run the table this year, I think it's accurate. They've had this team set-up for two years now, and it will be their first full year with Cuban phenom Yasiel Puig. If Matt Kemp comes back healthy, Puig misses a sophomore slump and that pitching staff stays healthy, they just have too much firepower to compete with. The only other team I see up in their class in terms of talent are the Washington Nationals. If there's one team who can take them down it'll be them. I think no matter who makes it, the World Series champion will be coming out of the NL this season. They have a much stronger league than the AL in my opinion. The top teams in the NL have far superior pitching than those in the AL. Obviously a lot can happen, injuries, trades, bad years and so forth, but as of March 31st, I like the Dodgers as the 2014 World Series Champions.

The Dodgers just have that depth to where they can afford to lose an outfielder of a few months and be OK. They can lose a starter for a while and be OK, and that extraordinary depth alone should keep them from enduring any kind of pro-longed losing streaks. They have the top front-end starting rotation built for the playoffs and just have too much firepower in a number of areas for any other team to compete so long as they stay relatively healthy and don't fall apart at the seems like they have so often in the past. I'm not the only one picking the Dodgers to go all the way either, but this year does seem to have many different teams that should be in the mix. ESPN predicted a Tampa Bay Ray's parade at the end of the October while the experts over at Sports Illustrated rolled mainly with St. Louis. According to SportBet.com, these are the favorite teams to win the 2014 World Series. Interesting to see how the so-called experts and odds-makers aren't always on the same page.

National League Awards

NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals- I think 2014 is going to be a huge breakout year for Harper. I could see him going 30-30 with a ton of RBI and a .320 average in a talented lineup. (Runner Up: Yasiel Puig, LA Dodgers)

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, LA Dodgers- I originally typed Madison Bumgarner into this slot, but I have to be realistic, and as long as Kershaw's healthy and with that lineup and bullpen built around him, in that yard, he could win 24 games this year. (Runner Up: Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins)

Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton, Cincinnati Reds- If Javier Baez started the year in Chicago, he'd be the pick here, hands down. Hamilton will start year in Cinci though and should score a ton of runs and rack up a ton of steals. (Runner Up: Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs)

Manager of the Year: Matt Williams, Washington Nationals- Williams is set up well with a strong team in Washington, and the rookie manager will look like a seasoned vet. (Runner Up: Walt Weiss, Colorado Rockies)

Comeback P.O.Y.: Matt Kemp, LA Dodgers- Kemp has the clear leg up in this category, so long as he stays on the field for 140+ games. If that happens, the Dodgers win the NL Pennant and he probably is even in the MVP discussion. (Runner Up: B.J. Upton, Atlanta Braves)

American League Awards

AL MVP: Mike Trout, LA Angels- After coming up just short of Miguel Cabrera in 2013, Trout is destined for his first of many MVP awards in 2014. He should lead the Angels back to October and has the ability to go 40-40. (Runner Up: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays)

AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners- The Mariners improved their lineup this winter, which should lead to more wins coupled with that great K-rate and ERA that King Felix sports. (Runner Up: Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers)

Rookie of the Year: Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees- Another obviously easy choice. If he performs close to how he did in Japan, he's going to be a start in the States right off the bat. (Runner Up: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers)

Manager of the Year: Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals- I think the Royals are going to surprise some people this year, and Ned Yost will be pushing all the right buttons as they sneak into the playoffs. (Runner Up: Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays)

Comeback P.O.Y.: Mark Teixiera, New York Yankees- I'm picking Tex here just because he's going to put up numbers if he's healthy in that yard, and all signs are pointing towards him being healthy. (Runner Up: Michael Pineda, NY Yankees)
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 MLB Previews: AL East

Finally, we've come to the end of our divisional previews, winding up in the AL East. This is by far the toughest division to pick for me this spring. You could make a compelling case for each of the top-3 teams in this division, so basically it'll come down to a coin flip in terms of predicting them. When in doubt though, take the young, exciting talented team!

1st Place: Tampa Bay Rays

Much like the AL West, the East has what is shaping up to be a three team race and whichever team finishes at the top could really be any ones guess. My guess is it goes to the team that stays the healthiest and has young enough core to be playing at a high level come September, and that tells me to pick the Rays. They have some young studs in that lineup led by Longoria and Myers, and the rotation is about as good as any in the AL. Plus, they have the Joe Maddon effect working for them. As long as guys like Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings rebound and provide what they're capable of, and young arms like Alex Cobb and Matt Moore continue their growth, this team has all sorts of potential.

2nd Place: New York Yankees

The Yanks lost a huge piece of their lineup in Robinson Cano, but they also brought in a few guys that I think will help off-set the loss. They're obviously built to win now, and the additions of Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury to the outfield help solidy the lineup. Also, you cant underestimate a full year from Alfonso Soriano in the DH spot. Even if Derek Jeter doesn't ride off into the sunset in spectacular fashion, the Yanks have enough fire power offensively to win. Their rotation is exciting as well, where I expect Masahiro Tanaka to rival Yu Darvish, that's how good I think he can be. They need Sabathia to rebound and the bullpen to succeed without Mo if they're going to earn a postseason spot though.

3rd Place: Boston Red Sox

The reigning World Champions lost quite a bit this offseason when Jacoby Ellsbury elected to take his services to the Bronx, and the Red Sox answer was signing Grady Sizemore. As impressive as Sizemore has been in the Cactus League, he's no Ellsbury, and the BoSox will struggle at the top of the order without their offensive catalyst. Their rotation is hit and miss, as they have some talent, led by Jon Lester, but also seem to underachieve far too often. Just don't appear to have the talent, on paper at least, to keep up with the Yanks or Rays, but they did just win it all and have much of the same unit still intact. There going to be in the thick of things come September for sure.

4th Place, Baltimore Orioles

The O's are an interesting team, like most in this division. They have the talent to be able to take off and earn a playoff spot should they get the right momentum going. They have a couple of guys who can garner MVP hype in Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Chris Tillman is one of the brighter young arms in the game and they have some other talented pieces. Problem for them is, so does the rest of this division, and their weakness in the bullpen and back-end of their rotation should keep them for ultimately making a playoff run.

5th Place, Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays were 2013's biggest disappointment as they spent a ton of money and made significant moves in order to position themselves up their with the Yankees and Red Sox. Unfortunately for them though, practically all of their big name additions fizzled out and/or got hurt and never really made much of an impact north of the border. Jose Reyes was about the only one that lived up to expectations, but he had to miss 3 months in the middle of the year. They'd need a lot of things to go right in order to get back on track, like Jose Bautista re-discovering his 40+ HR power, Brett Lawrie living up to at least a fraction of his potential and R.A. Dickey to prove himself as an ace again. They still have a lot of those names that were supposed to help turn them around so maybe the second time around will go better than the first.
The Giants Baseball Blog

2014 MLB Previews: AL Central

Here's our take on the AL Central for the upcoming 2014 season.

AL Central

1st Place: Detroit Tigers

This is one of the easiest picks of our 2014 previews/predictions. They have three top-notch arms at the top of their rotation, and they have a nice, well-rounded lineup with speed and power. If Justin Verlander gets back to his pre-2013 form, then lookout, Detroit could once again be representing the AL in the Fall Classic. They need to address their shortstop issue though, preferably adding one that can hit to help out the lineup. Stephen Drew could help them.

2nd Place: Kansas City Royals (AL Wild Card)

I really like the Royals young lineup, as they have a ton of guys who I think are primed for big seasons. Alex Gordon needs to breakout and hit 30 jacks and .300 already, and Salvador Perez looks like he may be the best young hitting catcher in the AL. Outside of James Shields and Greg Holland, their pitching staff has questions but they have some young talented arms. If they can get consistent starting pitching, that lineup should be able to score plenty of runs and I think this team can surprise in a weak division.

3rd Place: Cleveland Indians

The Indians have a pretty well rounded lineup, although they don't have a ton of power, they have good hitters that get on base and can run. Their young rotation is really looking like it's going to be a strength for years to come. Justin Masterson had a very nice season last year and returns as the ace. The bullpen has some areas for concern, and may need to be addressed at some point.

4th Place: Chicago White Sox

It's likely going to be a long summer on the South side this year. The best thing they have going for them are the three bright young bats they have in their lineup (Avasail Garcia, Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton) as well as their ace Chris Sale. Other than that, they don't have much and will struggle to keep teams off the board.

5th Place: Minnesota Twins

The Twins are going to be one of the worst teams in all of baseball in 2014, and I think they're pretty much prepared for it. Outside of Joe Mauer, I don't think they had a single guy hit over .250 in that lineup a year ago, and they didn't really make any improvements. The pitching staff is full of guys who are decent at their absolute best, but average to below average consistently. It wouldn't surprise me if they flirt with 100 losses this year.
The Giants Baseball Blog

2014 MLB Preview: AL West

We broke the NL down division by division and team by team, but unfortuantely, we don't have time to do that for the entire AL this year. Instead, I will pick how I thing each division will end up, with a brief explanation why.

AL West

1st Place: Oakland Athletics

The A's should once again be a scrappy, tough to beat team, even after losing talented young righty Jarrod Parker for the year, which is a huge blow. They definitely need A.J. Griffin back ASAP and need to see other youngsters like Dan Strailey and Sonny Gray to take a few more steps forward in 2014. I think Scott Kazmir is going to be a great add though, and they shouldn't miss a beat in the ninth with Jim Johnson taking the reigns. Their lineup has power and speed and should have no issues scoring. If Texas can't get/stay healthy, the A's become the favorites. Right now it's really a crap-shoot between the two anyway as both enter the year neck and neck. Whichever team receives better health throughout likely wins the division. I'm picking the A's because they seem to be the most steady and have been through a few successful postseason races with this core group.

2nd Place: Los Angeles Angels (AL Wild Card)

The Angels cannot be forgotten about after a down 2013. I know their lineup is aging, but they still the best young hitter in the game and two guys who were in the top-5 not more than 3 years ago. If Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols finally get comfortable in Anaheim, then the Angels will be right up their with the A's and Rangers. They have the talent to run away with this division and quite possibly be the class of the AL if those two perform anywhere near the level they're capable of and Trout atop the order wrecking havoc. If they don't upgrade the bullpen at some point though, it may not matter how good of offense they have though. They should have pursued Brian Wilson or Francisco Rodriguez as either, or even both, would have helped solidify the bullpen. They have some bright young arms in their pen after Weaver and Wilson and Mike Scosia is a good guy to have guiding them. I see the Royals, Angels and Yankees as the three front-runners for those two wild card spots, although the BoSox and Indians should be there in the end as well. Angels get the preseason edge because they have the games best player and are expecting drastic rebounds from Pujols and Hamilton.

3rd Place: Texas Rangers

The AL West is a tough division this year and the Rangers injury issues are forcing them to start the year a bit behind the 8-ball. If Texas gets there injured players back on time, they could all of the sudden become the clear-cut favorites, but that's a big if. They especially need Yu Darvish ready by mid-April, Matt Harrison not long after and Derek Holland by July. If that happens and Profar comes back strong in June, they become favorites to take the division.

4th Place: Seattle Mariners

I'm a fan of the Mariners young pitching staff, obviously led by King Felix, but also young Taijuan Walker, Hishashi Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez. They're developing a nice young staff to take advantage of that spacious yard, now they just need the lineup to start coming together. They brought in a slew of players this winter, headlined by Robinson Cano, and they're offense is certainly on the up. It wouldn't surprise me in the least of this team overachieves hangs around with Oakland and Texas. They should really try and find a way to bring back Kendrys Morales if they want to really give that lineup a chance.

5th Place: Houston Astros

The Astros the the epitome of a team in rebuild mode. They have a couple of guys in that lineup that may attract some attention come trade deadline time, but for the most part, they're mainly a AAAA team playing at the big league level. Jonathan Villar, Dexter Fowler and Chris Carter (just for his power) are a couple of guys I'll stop and watch hit, but other than that, they don't have much.
The Giants Baseball Blog

2014 MLB Preview: NL West

Finally, with a few days before opening day, we've arrived at the division all of us are interested in. The NL West. Unfortunately for most, you may not like who we've placed atop the division this year, but it just goes to show you we are as unbiased as possible here when making predictions. I'll tell you one thing though, the NL West is no longer the "NL Worst".

1st Place, Los Angeles Dodgers

LF Carl Crawford
RF Yasiel Puig
CF Matt Kemp*
 SS Hanley Ramirez
1B Adrian Gonzalez
3B Juan Uribe
C  A.J. Ellis
2B Dee Gordon

LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zach Grienke
LHP Hyun-jin Ryu
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Josh Beckett*
SU: RH Brian Wilson
CL: RH Kenley Jansen

Had the Dodgers entered October with a healthy Matt Kemp, who knows what would have happened, as they cruised to a division tittle last season while their star outfielder spent most the year sideline. Kemp is now back and healthy and should be ready to join the team within the first week or two of the season. He'll rejoin a team in which he no longer has to be the offensive catalyst, with Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig each in the fold. The Dodgers definitely have the makings of the best outfield in baseball should Kemp get back to his level of play and Carl Crawford stays healthy for 85% of the games this year. They have a hole at 2nd base, but if they don't find a suitable in-house candidate by June, you can bet your bottom dollar they'll go find one outside the organization... The starting pitching looks strong, led by one of the better 1-2 duos in all of baseball and that bullpen is ridiculously deep, sporting 4 guys with ample closing experience as well as a couple of nasty lefties. The Dodgers, on paper, appear to have it all. Speed, power and average in their lineup, sound defense, and a talented, deep pitching staff. Of course, we know that doesn't always spell success in LA, but they enter the season as legit World Series contenders.
*Kemp and Beckett each start year on 15-day DL (expected back by mid-April)

2nd Place, San Francisco Giants (NL Wild Card)

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

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

The Giants made a couple of acquisitions this winter that they hope helps get them back on track and avoid the mishaps they were unable to last summer. They suffered some key injuries and didn't have the depth to overcome those losses. This year, they're hoping for improved health of course, and also that the addition of Michael Morse to the lineup and Tim Hudson to the rotation make both those units deeper and stronger. The question they have to be most concerned with right now is how often they're going to be able to use Marco Scutaro this summer. Even when he's healthy and returns to the lineup (starting year on DL), he may only be a guy who only can play 3-4 times per week. If they get improvements from 2013 out of Posey, Sandoval and Morse with continued growth from Brandon Belt, the offense could be one of the better ones the Giants have had in recent years (deeper than their Championship runs). However, like it has since Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain became mainstays, this teams success will come down to how they pitch. If 3/5ths of their rotation struggles again, they're not going to be a good ballclub. If Lineceum and Cain show better consistency, Huddy shows he's still got plenty left in the tank and Vogelsong is at least adequate in the fifth spot, they'll be just fine. All those things have a good chance at happening, but are far from locks. Also, the bullpen, again, lacks depth, so if guys at the back end, like Casilla, Lopez or Romo need to miss any time, it's going to cause a ripple effect.

All in all, with the improved lineup, and expected rebound performances in the rotation (at least to some extent), I see them being a strong enough squad to hold off Arizona and be serious players for one of the two wild card spots.
*Scutaro to start year on 15-day DL

3rd Place, Arizona Diamondbacks

CF A.J. Pollock
3B Martin Prado
1B Paul Goldschmidt
LF Mark Trumbo
2B Aaron Hill
C Miguel Montero
LF Gerardo Parra
SS Chris Owings

LHP Wade Miley
RHP Trevor Cahill
RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Randall Delgado
SU: RH J.J. Putz
CL: RH Addison Reed

The D-Backs suffered a huge loss when ace Patrick Corbin went down this spring and needed Tommy John Surgery. That may have cost them their shot at making a serious run in the division, but they still do have some talent throughout the roster. Perhaps the best move they made was swiping up Bronson Arroyo in the 11th hour, which looks even better after losing Corbin. Even so, they don't really have an ace on the roster, and while their staff has some depth, they aren't quite up their with San Francisco or LA. The lineup is a decent one with a lot of speed and big time power in the middle. They do have some questions at the bottom, but most teams do. Goldschmidt may be in the MVP conversation come years end, and Mark Trumbo may have 40 HR potential in that ballpark. Also, their defense is always solid, led by Montero behind the plate and Prado over at third. If a couple of guys step up big, they could very easily sneak past the Giants and should very much be in play for one of the Wild Card spots come September. The bullpen is decent, with new closer Addison Reed taking over the 9th inning, but they can be beaten. I see Arizona as a hair above .500, though an addition or a breakout year by someone could put them firmly over the hump.

4th Place, San Diego Padres

SS Everth Cabrera
RF Will Venable
2B Jedd Gyorko
3B Chase Headley
LF Carlos Quentin
1B Yonder Alonso
C Yasmani Grandal
CF Cameron Maybin

RHP Andrew Cashner
RHP Josh Johnson*
RHP Tyson Ross
RHP Ian Kennedy
LHP Eric Stults
SU: Joaquin Benoit
CL: Huston Street

The Padres are a team that is definitely headed in the right direction, and I've even come across a few baseball sites that have them finishing ahead of the Giants and D-Backs in this division. While I don't hold that high of optimism for this team quite yet, you can see why people are hyped about their future. They have a lineup that's well suited to playing in their spacious ballpark, with a lot of gap power and speed. If Headley and Quentin rebound in the middle and provide the power they can, and the other youngsters take another step forward, they're gonna score runs. Their pitching took a big hit when Josh Johnson went down in the last week of spring, costing him the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season (surprise, surprise). They have some quality arms in that rotation though aside from Johnson, and their bullpen always seems to be strong, ever since the days Bochy was at the helm. They don't quite have enough talent to make a serious play, but there a team that could make a blockbuster deal and maybe enter the mix. The Padres have been notoriously quiet in terms of trading and big free agent moves in recent years, but something tells me their eventually going to make a splash. Right now, they're a solid squad in a good division, so .500 looks reasonable, but an injury to one of the teams ahead of them, or a big move or two by them could ascend them a spot or two.
*Johnson out till early May

5th Place, Colorado Rockies

CF Drew Stubbs
RF Michael Cuddyer
LF Carlos Gonzalez
SS Troy Tulowitzki
1B Justin Morenau
C Wilin Rosario
3B Nolan Arenado
2B D.J. LeMahieu

LHP Jorge De La Rosa
RHP Jhoulys Chacin*
LHP Brett Anderson
RHP Juan Nicasio
RHP Tyler Chatwood
SU: Rex Brothers
CL: LaTroy Hawkins

The Rockies, like the Padres, are definitely headed in the right direction, but aren't quite there yet. I don't think it was a good move dealing away Dexter Fowler on their part, as he was their leadoff hitter and a guy with a ton of talent, but out he goes and in comes Drew Stubbs (who I could actually see thriving in that yard). Their lineup, as alwasy, should have no problem scoring. They have the best 3-4 punch in the game with Tulo and CarGo, but they're also the most fragile combo as well. If both play 140+ games, it will mean good things for Colorado. The pitching staff has a few bright spots but their top arm, Chacin, will miss the first month of the year. If Anderson can stay on the field and provide 30 starts, and Nicasio can find some consistency, the rotation will be better than most expect. While their bullpen has some nice arms (Belisle, Brothers, Logan)  they don't have a clear-cut closer, though Hawkins will take the role to begin the season. I'm surprised they couldn't find a more sure-fire closer though as there were many available in free agency this winter and it would have really solidified their bullpen. They have the firepower in their lineup to play with most teams, but their still a tad short in the pitching department to be taken seriously.
*Chacin out till early May
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, March 20, 2014

2014 Season Previews: NL Central

Yesterday, we broke down the NL East as we see it unfolding over the next 6 months. Today, we'll take a glance at the Central.

1st Place, St. Louis Cardinals

3B Matt Carpentar
2B Kolton Wong
LF Matt Holliday
RF Allen Craig
C Yadier Molina
1B Matt Adams
SS Jhonny Peralta
CF Peter Bourjos
RHP Adam Wainwright
RHP Michael Wacha
RHP Shelby Miller
RHP Lance Lynn
LHP Jaime Garcia
SU: RH Carlos Martinez
CL: Trevor Rosenthal

The Cardinals have done a pretty good job at keeping a stronghold on the NL Central over the last 7-8 years and 2014 looks like it will be no different. No matter who the Cards seem to lose, they always end up finding a replacement and that's a sign of a very good organization. Their lineup doesn't really have that one big superstar like they did when Pujols was around, but it's extremely deep with guys who are tough outs nonetheless. I'm curious to see what Matt Adams does with a full-time gig after hitting 17 big flies in just over 300 plate appearances last summer. The Cards are counting on him making up for lost production from departed outfielder Carlos Beltran. The Cards have a near perfect mix of veteran guys who still get the job done and young up-and-coming talent that has already proven itself at this level sprinkled throughout their roster. Wainwright is one of the more underrated aces in the game, but there hasn't been many other arms as successful as he's been not only before the injury, but especially since. Their bullpen is sound too, led by new young closer Trevor Rosenthal (a guy who I think can become a top-5 closer), but they definitely need Jason Motte to make a strong return in order for them to reach their full potential. They're definitely not the flashiest team in the league, but they always find ways to win and are one of the most well-rounded teams in all of baseball.

2nd Place, Cincinnati Reds  (NL Wild Card)

CF Billy Hamilton
2B Brandon Phillips
1B Joey Votto
RF Jay Bruce
LF Ryan Ludwick
3B Todd Frazier
C Devin Mesoroco
SS Zach Cozart

RHP Mat Latos
RHP Homer Bailey
RHP Johnny Cueto
RHP Mike Leake
RHP Tony Cingrani
SU: RH Jonathan Broxton
CL: LH Aroldis Chapman*

The Reds lost a big component to last years team when Shin-Soo Choo signed with the Rangers over the winter, but Cinci is hoping that bright young speedster Billy Hamilton is ready to take center field and run with it. If last season and this springs small sample size is any indication, he certainly is. They still have Votto and Bruce holding down the middle of their order, and with Phillips and Hamilton at the top, the Reds are as good as anyone 1-4, and their bottom half isn't too shabby either. Although they don't really have a true ace (Cueto was on his way before injuries the last 2 seasons), they have one of the deepest rotations in the game. Just to give you an idea, Cingrani went 7-4 with a 2.77 ERA and 120 K's in 104 innings in 18 starts in his rookie season, and he's slated in the fifth spot. If Cueto can stay healthy for 30 starts, and that they can overcome going through at least 1/3 of their season without ace closer Aroldis Chapman (who suffered those brutal facial fractures after taking a Salvador Perez come-backer to the face), they're going to be right in the thick of things come September. Of course, if Cueto goes down like he did last year, and Chapman doesn't come back in a timely fashion, the Brewers and Pirates could be on their heels.
*Chapman out at least 2 months with facial injuries

3rd Place, Milwaukee Brewers

SS Jean Segura
2B Scooter Gennett
RF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez
CF Chris Gomez
C Jonathan Lucroy
LF Khris Davis
1B Juan Francisco

RHP Yovani Gallardo
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Kyle Lohse
RHP Marco Estrada
RHP Wily Peralta
SU: RH Francisco Rodriguez
CL: RH Jim Henderson

I think the Brewers are going to be real players in the central this season and make a legitimate run at a NL Wild Card spot if they keep their core healthy. There probably aren't a lot of people picking them above the Pirates, but I even considered them over Cincinnati. I think they're one of the more talented teams in the league. Of course, they'll need Ryan Braun to be the pre-2013 version of himself, Jean Segura to hit more like he did in the first half of last season than he did after the all-star break and finally, Yovani Gallardo to pitch up to his capabilities and show last season was a mirage. The good thing for them is all three of those needs have a more than realistic chance at happening and are expected. I really like this lineup, as they have as much speed and power throughout as any starting lineup in either league. There bench is lining up to be decent with Mark Reynolds and Rickie Weeks likely leading the way, and their bullpen looks good with K-Rod and Jim Henderson shutting the door on teams. I think the addition of Matt Garza really helps put that rotation back on the map, as it gives them much more depth. They, to me, are very similarly built to the Reds, and whichever of these two teams can stay the healthiest most likely ends up giving St. Louis the biggest run for the division. Again though, for them to be at their best, Braun has to return to his MVP-like ways and Gallardo to 15+ win, sub-4 ERA form.

4th Place, Pittsburgh Pirates

LF Starling Marte
2B Neil Walker
CF Andrew McCutchen
3B Pedro Alvarez
1B Gaby Sanchez
C Russell Martin
RF Jose Tabata
SS Jordy Mercer

LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Gerrit Cole
LHP Wandy Rodriguiz
RHP Charlie Morton
RHP Edinson Volquez
SU: RH Mark Melancon
CL: RH Jason Grilli

The Pirates lost some guys this winter and didn't do a very good job at replacing them. The biggest departure was ace A.J. Burnett, who made clear his preference to stay in Pittsburgh, but for some reason Neal Huntington and Co. couldn't get it done and wound up with Edinson Volquez as the replacement. That's a huge loss, as it makes Liriano the default ace. Their bullpen, especially the back half with Melancon and Grilli are tough to beat, but their starting lineup, outside of Marte and McCutchen, is not too impressive. If Pedro Alvarez can cut back on the strikeouts and add a 50 points to his batting average, he could be one of the best third basemen in the league with his power (he showed his ability when he's on in the NLDS last season). The rotation, like the lineup, has a couple of big time arms like Liriano and Cole, but other than those two, they're very beatable (a big reason why Burnett should have returned). They're probably a hair over .500, but not much, and most likely won't reach the playoffs for a second year in a row, though an addition or two could get them there. One guy still on the market, and someone they should highly consider is Kendrys Morales, who could take over first base and really help the middle of the order.

5th Place, Chicago Cubs

SS Starlin Castro
3B Luis Valbuena
1B Anthony Rizzo
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Wellington Castillo
LF Junior Lake
CF Justin Ruggiano
2B Darwin Barney

RHP Jeff Samardzija
LHP Travis Wood
RHP Edwin Jackson
RHP Jake Arrieta
RHP Jason Hammel
SU: RH Pedro Strop
CL: RH Jose Veras

The Cubbies are not a threat to compete in 2014, but they aren't too far away from being real factors again with the youth movement that's about to hit the North side. They have a handful of some of the top prospects in the game, including young middle infielder Javier Baez, who's been one of the best hitters in the Cactus League this spring and looks like as close to a sure thing as there is. They have numerous others that are good bets to be impact players at the next level, weather it takes a few seasons or so is still to be determined but things will change for the Cubs soon enough. As for this year, they don't have much talent throughout. They need Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to rebound in a major way, and will be expecting big things from youngsters Castillo and Lake in the middle of that order as well. The rotation is weak, and the bullpen may be weaker. The future is bright, but the immediate future isn't, as the Cubs are lining up to be one of the worst teams in the NL in 2014.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014 MLB Previews: NL East

Every year towards the end of March, we do our MLB Previews so we can kind of get a lay of the land as the upcoming season gets ready to open. Typically we do previews of all divisions, including the AL, but this year, we're going to narrow it down to NL only for obvious reasons. As always, we'll start in the East:

1st Place, Washington Nationals

CF Denard Span
SS Ian Desmond
RF Jayson Werth
LF Bryce Harper
3B Ryan Zimmerman
1B Adam LaRoche
2B Anthony Rendon
C Wilson Ramos

RHP Stephen Strasburg
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Jordan Zimmermann
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Taylor Jordan (R)
SU: RH Tyler Clippard
CL: RH Rafael Soriano

The Nationals were the best team in the NL in 2012, looked like they would cruise to the World Series after taking a lead on St. Louis in the NLDS that fall, then coughed it up and never really recovered in 2013. They still have that squad pretty much in tact, with some improvements throughout. Their front-3 in the rotation can match up with any top-3 in baseball, and their bullpen is rock solid, essentially stocked with at least 3 legit closers (Storen, Clippard and Soriano). They have a lot of speed and power in their lineup, and as long as their rotation stays healthy, they should be the clear-cut favorites in the East, especially with the injuries Atlanta has gone through with their rotation this spring. I expect Bryce Harper to be in the NL MVP mix by season's end, and Stephen Strasburg to be in the Cy Young conversation as well. The scary thing about those guys, is they haven't nearly peaked yet and they're already catalysts who carry this team. Depending on how much growth those guys show will determine just how far the Nationals can go.

2nd Place, Atlanta Braves

RF Jason Heyward
3B Chris Johnson
LF Justin Upton
1B Fredie Freeman
C Evan Gattis
SS Andrelton Simmons
CF B.J. Upton
2B Dan Uggla

LHP Mike Minor
RHP Julio Teheran
RHP Ervin Santana
LHP Alex Wood
RHP Freddy Garcia
SU: RH Jordan Walden
CL: RH Craig Kimbrel

The Braves suffered some of the worst luck of any team in baseball this spring, as they lost not one, but two substantial starting pitchers for the season, as both Kris Medlan and Brandon Beachy each need Tommy John Surgery. Luckily for the Braves, they were able to fill one of the voids by inking Ervin Santana to a deal in mid-March. Another area that raises some questions is the top of their lineup. They'll start the season with Heyward in the leadoff spot, but he's far from your prototypical high on-base/average guy for that slot, and they don't have a standard two-hitter either. Justin Upton or Chris Johnson seem like the best fits, but I'm sure the Braves would like to see Simmons elevate himself into that spot at some point. Other than that, they really need bounce-backs from Uggla and the elder Upton for them to really make a run... Even with the losses of the two starters, their rotation should be decent. I really like young righty Julio Teheran, and Mike Minor is one of the more steady lefties in the game, although he's not an ace and he's being sort of forced into that role. Bullpen is sound, with the best closer in the game shutting the door, but they are a little thin in mid-relief and really need Jonny Venters to come back healthy and quick. They certainly have the talent to challenge for a playoff spot, but they'll need a lot of things to go right.

3rd Place, Philadelphia Phillies

CF Ben Revere
SS Jimmy Rollins
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
LF Domonic Brown
RF Marlon Byrd
C Carlos Ruiz
3B Cody Asche

LHP Cliff Lee
LHP Cole Hammels
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Kyle Kendrick
SU: RH Matt Adams
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

The Phillies are a team with a bunch of big names all over the place. The problem is, their big names are about 5 years past their primes and are trending downward. Some guys are still very efficient players like Utley, Lee and Hamels, but others like Rollins, Howard and Papelbon need to bounce back from sub-par 2013's if they want to get back to relevance. I like Dominic Brown, as he's the best young hitter in a lineup full of thirty-somethings and despite a fall off at the end of 2013, his second full season as an everyday player should yield better results. Their bullpen is average, their rotation should be slightly above average if they stay healthy and get Hamels back in early May, and their lineup is nothing special either. Overall, they are the epitome of a .500 team and a good example of why not to give aging players huge multi-year deals.

4th Place, New York Mets

CF Juan Lagares
2B Daniel Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
CF Chris Young
1B Ike Davis
C Travis d'Arnoud
SS Rueben Tejada

LHP Jonathan Niese
RHP Zach Wheeler
RHP Bartolo Colon
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
SU: RH Kyle Fransworth
CL: RH Bobby Parnell

The Mets have essentially been stuck in neutral for the last three or four seasons as they've been consistently below average and look to be that way in 2014 as well. Losing Matt Harvey for the year is a huge blow, but they've had plenty of time to adjust accordingly and came up with Bartolo Colon to fill that void. I know he was decent in his stint in Oakland, but I doubt he gives the Mets similar results. They still have David Wright, who's as good as any third basemen in the game, and Zach Wheeler looks primed to breakout in his first full season in the bigs. They did add Curtis Granderson in the offseason, and he should bring some power and speed to the lineup, but it'll be interesting to see just how much Citi Field messes with his HR totals. I'm also curious to see how Ike Davis rebounds after a flat out dismal 2013 campaign. Even if David Wright wins MVP, Zach Wheeler does his best Matt Harvey impression and Grandy hits 50 jacks, the Mets would struggle to be a .500 club.

5th Place, Miami Marlins

SS Rafael Furcal
LF Christian Yelich
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Garrett Jones
C Jarrod Saltalimacchia
3B Casey McGehee
CF Marcell Ozuna
SS Adeiny Hechavarria

RHP Jose Fernandez
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
RHP Henderson Alvarez
RHP Jacob Turner
RHP Tom Koehler
SU: RH Carlos Marmol
CL: RH Steve Cishek

The Marlins are still trying to figure things out after they spent all that money and had that major let down of 2012. They then had a rough go of it in 2013, but they had some young guys emerge as mainstays for the organization for years to come. The front three in their rotation look like solid young right-handers with big upsides. We've already seen 21 year-old Fernandez dominate and win Rookie of the Year and the other two behind him aren't too shabby themselves though both need to overcome some inconsistencies. As far as the lineup goes, I like Yelich, and obviously Stanton is a beast and a perennial 50-hr per year threat if he can stay on the field for 150 games but outside of those two, there aren't a lot of great young hitters on the roster. All in all, take Stanton and Fernandez off this team, and they look like a glorified AAA squad.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 14, 2014

Halfway through spring, so far so good

We're roughly halfway through the Cactus League schedule, and with opening day just over 2 weeks away, the Giants look like they're ready to start the marathon!

So far, the only pressing question hanging over the Giants surrounds second base and when exactly starter Marco Scutaro will be ready to go. Aside from recovering from surgery he had that inserted a pin into his mallet-finger last September, Scutaro has been battling some back issues that have become a growing concern. He has taken batting practice a couple of times now, which is a good sign, but he's not close to appearing in a Cactus League game and is all but ruling out being ready by opening day. Scutaro's a veteran and has been around a long time, if he says he's not optimistic about starting the season, you should probably take him for his word. With the 39 year-old a likely candidate to start the year on the 15-day DL, it opens up a door in the infield for someone like Mark Minicozzi, Ehire Adrianza or even Brandon Hicks. Adrianza looks like the most likely of the three to get that spot should it become available. He's shown a 180 turnaround at the plate this spring, hitting for power with 2 HR, a double and a triple in 20 at-bats for a cool .700 slugging percentage. There's also no questioning his glove and rage up the middle either. Minicozzi has cooled off a bit, but Hicks has looked strong leading the team with 5 doubles in 22 at-bats.

The guy to most likely get the starting nod at second until Scutaro is indeed ready, Joaquin Arias, is showing the Giants shouldn't miss a beat without their veteran second sacker with a strong spring. Arias is hitting .391 in 9 games. Of the Giants expected to make the opening day roster, only Buster Posey (.450) has a higher average. I doubt Bochy will slot Arias into the 2-hole on his lineup card, however. My guess is Brandon Belt gets that spot, as Boch has used him there in spring and likes his ability to see pitches and his solid OBP.

Aside from Scutaro's absence though, Bochy really has to be pleased with the way things around unfolding this spring. Pablo Sandoval looks healthy, motivated and ready for a monster year. Posey looks absolutely determined to get back to 2012 form, Pence looks like Pence (blasted two big flies Friday) and Michael Morse has shown signs of heating up recently. The lineup looks like it's going to be a stronger, more well-rounded unit than it was a year ago, and the starting rotation has had just the type of strong spring they needed to in order to put peoples minds at ease. Tim Lineceum needed a strong spring, he's having one. Matt Cain, to a lesser extent, needed one as well and he's been on point. I do have to admit, my only concern with the starting rotation at this point lies with Vogelsong in that fifth spot as he's been hit-and-miss all spring. He did have that nice start Thursday night vs. Texas, but he's become a bit unpredictable and isn't nearly as reliable as he was pre-2013. He is a fifth starter though, so the Giants aren't expecting a sub-3 ERA with 13-plus wins like he provided in 2011-12, nonetheless, they need quality starts out of him more times than not. Whether he can still do that remains to be seen and his mediocre spring thus far is hardly making me optimistic.

Escobar Thriving: In case Vogey fails, or any Giants starter has to miss any significant time, it looks like they have themselves a pretty good security blanket who is damn near major league ready if he isn't already. 21 year-old Edwin Escobar has had one of the best springs of anyone. In 3 games (2 starts) he's allowed just 1 hit over 6 innings of work.

Thoughts on Bonds: I know we haven't really discussed it here yet, but I did want to say a little something about Barry Bonds' arrival in camp a few days ago. I, like most people, and ecstatic he's back with the club and am very encouraged by seeing him jump right in and help players right away. Say what you want about Barry, you can't deny his approach at the plate and his ability to hit (long before any PED use) was really second to none over the last 20-25 years. The Giants have a lot of talent in that everyday lineup too, talent that can use Bonds' imput and expertise. Imagine how much he could help Brandon Belt and Crawford and what kind of tips he could give Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Bonds is in good spirits, ready to teach and apparently really wants to be a part of this thing. All signs are pointing towards this being a great reunion. I like Bam Bam Muellens, but if I'm him, I have to be looking over my shoulder, just a little bit.

Upcoming: We normally start our previews of every division in baseball around this time, but I'm considering keeping it to NL teams only this year and doing a little more in-depth on the teams the Giants will actually be facing 95% of the time. Either way, our divisional previews will start in the next few days.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 07, 2014

Lincecum impressive again

Perhaps the single biggest disappointment on the Giants roster over the last two seasons looks like he may have figured some things out this offseason.

After revamping his offseason workout regimen, signs of the old Tim Lineceum are surfacing. The former ace turned in his second straight impressive start in Surprise on Friday, shutting the Royals down over three frames, allowing just 2 hits with no walks or strikeouts. It took him just 35 pitches to get through the three innings of work, which shows growth in itself. Through his first two starts this spring, Lincecum looks like he's more focused on throwing to contact and keeping hitters off balance than he is on throwing the ball by the hitters. He said at the beginning of spring that his goal this spring was to get quick efficient innings under his belt before flying north to start the year, and so far he's stayed true to form. One of his major problems over the last couple of years has been that long, laboring inning in which he's had to throw 25+ pitches far too often, which drains his arm, makes him less effective and forces him to leave games after five innings of work. I'm not how much input Tim Hudson has had on Lincecum's new approach on the mound, but the younger Tim certainly appears to be picking some things up from his elder. Through two starts to begin the Cactus League, Lincecum has now gone 5 scoreless, allowing 3 hits and a walk to go with a strikeout. Not quite the dominant pre-2012 Lincecum, but just as efficient, if not more so.

It hasn't just been Lincecum either. Each of the Giants' five projected starters all have at least one start under their belt so far, some two, and all have shown up ready to prove last season was a fluke rather than the start of a downward trend. Their newest addition has been as impressive as any, as he's thrown 5 scoreless innings himself over two starts and he's allowed only 2 hits with 4 strikeouts. I know it's early, and we're still 3 weeks out from opening day, but things are definitely looking up in terms of the starting rotation.

As far as the everyday lineup is concerned, there are some questions surrounding one player in particular, and that guy is Marco Scutaro. The 38 year-old veteran has yet to appear in a spring game and Bruce Bochy said Friday he doesn't have an exact timetable for Scutaro to make his spring debut and they could start to explore the possibility of starting the year without him. Scutaro believes he'll be ready to play in the next week or so, but reports are that he still hasn't taken batting practice and has done little to no work with the bat at all yet since arriving in Scottsdale last month. In Scutaro's absence guys like Mark Minicozzi and Ehire Adrianza have been getting some extra looks, and both have been among the better stories in camp this spring. In case the Giants are forced to start the year with Scutaro on the DL, it looks like Adrianza still would have the leg up on securing a roster spot just cause he's got that slick glove and a rapidly improving bat (not to mention he's out of options). Nine-year Minor League veteran Minicozzi and his team-leading 2 HR and .429 average are slowly gaining some steam though.

Right now, the two closest battles for positional roster space are that 5th outfielder and 2nd utility guy behind Joaquin Arias. Tony Abreu and Juan Perez are sort of penciled into those spots, with Tyler Colvin and Adrianza each on their heels. If the season started Monday though, the incumbents would most likely stake claim to those two spots, but there is still plenty of spring to go, and those spots, especially that fifth outfield role, are still very much up for the taking.

Extras: The rest of the Giants' projected lineup has started out well for the most part. Michael Morse (who's numbers would look a lot better had it not been for Josh Reddick), and Brandon Crawford have been a little slow out of the gate, but it's so early that there is no concern there... The slimmed down Panda sure looks good, both at the plate and in the field. He's leading the Giants with five RBI so far... Also, Angel Pagan, who was so sorely missed for most of last season, has looked good himself, batting .357 through his first five contests.
The Giants Baseball Blog