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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Matt Duffy: Overlooked (best) option for LF

Everybody and their mother are aware of the Giants lack of offense heading into the 2015 season, even more magnified now that they'll be without Hunter Pence for at least the first few weeks of April, if not all of it.

Now, the general consensus is Gregor Blanco will slide into left maybe platooning with Juan Perez a bit until Pence returns and moves Nori Aoki back to left. However, with the spring the kid has had, the way he seemed to come up big at times in clutch situations last fall, I'm wondering why the Giants haven't been more active at using Matt Duffy out in left field some more. He's a right-handed bat with power potential and a guy who's been raking all spring long (.383/2/12 with 1.101 OPS) and the Giants' light hitting order can use all the pop they can handle. As far as whether he'd be able to handle it, the 24 year-old infielder has played most his career on the left side of the diamond at shortstop, and has done outfield drills in spring. He's arguably had the best springs of any Giant outside of maybe Brandon Belt, and he's got to have a significant role on this team should that offense carry over into the regular season. If I'm Bochy, I'd be doing everything I could to get that kid as much time in left as possible before the opener and see whether he can be a legit, regular option there.

Each time I watch this guy play and check his box-score, I'm liking him more. The thing is, I don't want him on the roster if it's for 5 at-bats a week. If he makes the 25-man, it's gotta be with a role intended to get him some consistent pt, at least two starts per week. Otherwise they may as well have him polishing his game over in Sacramento for the time being. Based on what he did last year and how he's played this spring, that should not be the case though, and he should be getting platoon time with Blanco in left so long as he's at least at Morse's level with the glove, which I already know he surpasses. Justin Maxwell too is making a name for himself this spring so the only reason Duffy should be sent down is in order to ensure he's in the lineup daily in Sac. I personally would like to see him play role of Michael Morse and let Blanco sub in for him defensively to start the year and see how that goes, but I simply don't see that happening.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: NL East

Ah, finally out of the AL and into the teams the Giants will actually be facing with regularity this season, starting in the East

The NL East is one of the easier divisions in the league (although you may find some argument for who finishes second) and much more predicable than pretty much all of the AL divisions were. The consensus favorite is obviously Washington, but after that, things could go a few different ways. This is how we see things shaking out:

NL East

1st Place, Washington Nationals
Will Bryce finally break-out?

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

RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Stephen Strasburgh
RHP Jordan Zimerrmann
LHP Gio Gonzalez
RHP Doug Fister
SU: RH Casey Janssen
CL: RH Drew Storen

Key Reserves: OF Nate McLouth, IF Danny Espinosa

This team is the one that many have representing the NL, and taking the World Series this fall. They've been close the last few years, but always seem to run into injury problems or have their stars slump at the worst possible time down the stretch. This year, they're hoping things come together and that the huge addition of Max Scherzer puts them over the top. That rotation is now the best in the game, hands down, and the bullpen is no joke either. Stras and Z-man are aces on most staffs and Gio and Fister are legit #2 options, so that just shows you a little about their crazy depth. It's probably gonna come down to lineup health and Bryce Harper stepping up. They need Werth and Zimmerman healthy all year and for Harper to be that .300/25/20 with RBI's and runs and terrific d, basically doing it all like he's proven able before in spurts (still extremely young ballplayer though, keep in mind). If these guys play up to their potential, they have the most talent in the NL, but they've had a hard time doing that that last couple years when they've had pretty much the same squad. Scherzer could be the missing link though, we'll see.

2nd Place, Miami Marlins *NL WILD CARD*
Stanton my pick for '15 NL MVP

2B Dee Gordon
LF Christian Yelich
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Michael Morse
CF Marcel Ozuna
3B Martin Prado
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
SS Adeiny Hechavarria

RHP Matt Latos
RHP Hector Alvarez
RHP Jared Cosart
RHP Tom Koehler
RHP Dan Haren/Jose Fernandez*
SU: RH A.J. Ramos
CL: Steve Cishek
*Fernadnez out until June/July recovering from Tommy John Surgery

Key Reserves: OF Ichiro Suzuki, IF Jeff Baker

The Marlins are another dark-horse team that probably can't overtake the Nats just yet, but should be very much in the Wild Card mix, especially if Fernandez comes back strong in June/July. Even without him, that rotation is sturdy but they really could use him at the top and drop everyone down a rung to make things even deeper. Pen is decent, not overpowering and maybe their one spot where they could improve at the deadline. THe lineup though, I think is going to surprise some people. They have some very good talent all 26 years of age or younger and those guys are just getting better. I think if he plays 155 games, Stanton will win an MVP this year, he's that good and in that much of a zone the last year or so. They have speed, power, average and are all young and not even in their primes yet in that order. So long as Latos stays healthy and Hernandez can return to form for them for AT LEAST half the season, they should have as good a shot at any for an NL Wild Card spot! If Hernandez doesn't come back in a timely fashion or is a shadow of his former self and/or that lineup has injuries (mainly to one of those top-5 hitters or front-3 starters, but especially Stanton, Latos and Alvarez MUST avoid any significant DL time), they're gonna be the same old Marlins. They can make a deal for an arm if need be though. They'll have plenty of time to assess what to expect from Fernandez this year before the deadline and always have trade ammo. but they have to keep the rest of the bunch on the field and I like this squad and their depth.

3rd Place, Atlanta Braves

LF Eric Young Jr.
2B Jace Peterson
RF Nick Markakis
1B Freddie Freeman
3B Chris Johnson
SS Andrelton Simmons
C A.J. Pierzynski/Christian Betancourt
CF Cameron Maybin
Teheran a true ace

RHP Julio Teheran
LHP Alex Wood
RHP Shelby Miller
LHP Mike Minor*
LHP Wandy Rodriguez
SU: RH Jim Johnson
CL: RH Jason Grilli
*Minor to start year on DL

Key Reserves: IF Alberto Callaspo, OF Jonny Gomes, IF/OF Kelly Johnson

The Braves bullpen may be the best in the game and that's going to keep them in he hunt, especially if that solid young staff stays healthy. This is one of the weaker Braves lineups I've seen maybe in 10 years. Losing Martin Prado, Bryan McCann and Justin Upton is basically losing their middle of their order (sans Freeman), but they fell like they'll still score enough to compete with that strong pitching. That rotation is led by Teheran, is one of the best young righties in the game, and Alex Wood who isn't too far behind. Losing Kimbral was huge though and makes this pen much more vulnerable now. Plus they have a decent bench, which always comes into play during the long season. Who knows, if Simmons has a breakout year and puts up Ian Desmond-like numbers (which they're hoping for), Freeman has an MVP-type year and vets like EY Jr. and Pierzkyski prove to play big roles, then they could be compete. They don't have a ton of offense, but have some pitching and a few breakout years or five, plus some breaks their way could have them in the mix come late-September.

4th Place, New York Mets

CF Juan Lagares
2B David Murphy
3B David Wright
RF Curtis Granderson
LF Michael Cuddyer
1B Lucas Duda
C Travis d'Arnaud
SS Wilmer Flores
Harvery's return huge for NY

RHP Matt Harvey
RHP Jacob deGrom
LHP Jonathan Niese
RHP Dillon Gee
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: RH Jeurys Familia
CL: RH Jennry Mejia

Key Reserves: OF John Mayberry Jr., IF Ruben Tejada

The Mets are certainly on the up, but took a huge hit early on in Spring that really diminished their hopes. Right after getting ace Matt Harvey back from season-ending surgery last year, expected number two, Zach Wheeler, will undergo the same process this year and miss the entire 2015 campaign. Big blow to a team who expected the kid to be a 15-game winner and give that rotation three young front-line guys atop the five. They still have an OK rotation, good if Harvey throws like he has this spring. Their lineup lacks balance and speed though so they're gonna have to hit the long ball to score a lot of runs, which they're capable of doing. They could surprise and hang around the hunt into August, but I see the mas a .500 team at absolute best. More like a .470 squad. 

5th Place, Philadelphia Phillies

LF Ben Revere
CF Odubell Herrera
2B Chase Utley
1B Ryan Howard
C Carlos Ruiz
RF Domonic Brown*/Grady Sizemore
3B Cody Asche
SS Freddy Galvis
Hamels the one real value in PHI

LHP Cole Hamels
RHP Aaron Harrang
RHP Jerome Williams
RHP David Buchanan
RHP Kevin Slowey
SU: RH Ken Giles
CL: RH Jonathan Papelbon
*Brown to start year on DL

Key Reserves: IF Cesar Fernandez, OF Grady Sizemore

The Phills have taken such a downward spiral since their 2010 NLCS appearance, and for some reason are still sticking with the same core that's gotten them nowhere the last 5 years (Howard, Utley, Hamels, Papelbon, Brown, Ruiz etc...). I thought this would be the winter they cleaned house, but apparently they just weren't able to find takers for their aging vets, or decided to throw one more last go at it with them. Either way, I think this team is going to struggle mightily and probably start dealing off their players in June and July to start that rebuilding mode. There's really nothing I like about this team outside of set-up man Ken Giles, who is lights out, and ace Cole Hamels. The rest are average-at-best ballplayers. Granted, if Joey Panik has a bad sophomore slump and Utley is raking in July, I wouldn't mind rolling the dice on him for a couple of months cause of all their vets in the lineup, he seems to have the most left.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL West

Onto the AL West, where quite a few teams will sport some different looks from a year ago, especially the Oakland A's. The Mariners are getting better and the Angels will always be competitive with Arty Moreno running the show. The Rangers lost ace Yu Darvish and stud 2nd basemen Jurickson Profar for the year but have so much offense their still gonna hang around in this thing too. It should make for another tight race in the West in 2015, as has been the case generally over the last few years in this division.

AL West

1st Place, Seattle Mariners

CF Austin Jackson
RF Seth Smith
2B Robinson Cano
DH Nelson Cruz
3B Kyle Seager
1B Logan Morrison
C Mike Zunino
LF Dustin Ackley
SS Brad Miller

RH Felix Hernandez
RH Hisashi Iwakuma
LH James Paxton
RH Taijuan Walker
LH J.A. Happ
SU: Danny Farquar
CL: Fernando Rodney

Key Reserves: UT Rickie Weeks, IF Willie Bloomquist, OF Justin Ruggiano

The Mariners are the popular pick in the AL this year. Most everyone has them taking the West, and some even have them making it all the way to the classic. I think they're the most talented team in this division, from top to bottom, and the huge power bat of Nelson Cruz gives them a 40-HR threat they haven't had in years. I also believe Robby Cano is bound to get off to a hotter start and put up better numbers in year two at Safeco. They have the pitching, the have the bullpen and closer. They have the legit leadoff hitter and a really solid lineup all the way through. They also have nice depth they can throw at you in case guys get hurt or need a break. That staff holds the key though. They're gonna score runs, that's a given (barring major injury and/or complete meltdowns all through the lineup), but they need that young, back-end of the rotation to step in if they're going to run away with this division. If Taijuan Walker is what people in Seattle believe he can be, he's going to be a top-end rotation guy and I think he's gonna put it together this year.

2nd Place, Los Angeles Angels

RF Kole Calhoun
CF Mike Trout
1B Albert Pujols
LF Matt Joyce/Josh Hamilton*
3B David Freese
DH C.J. Cron/Matt Joyce
C Chris Iannetta
SS Eric Aybar
2B Johnny Giavotella

RH Jered Weaver
RH Garrett Richards**
LH C.J. Wilson
RH Matt Shoemaker
LH Hector Santiago
SU: RH Joe Smith
CL: RH Hustin Street

Key Reserves: OF Collin Cowgill, IF Josh Rutledge
*Hamilton away from team with personal non-baseball related issues (No ETA) 
**Richards could start year on DL

OK, the top three in that batting order is ridiculous and probably second to none in all of baseball. All three of those guys can hit for power, average and the top-2 can fly on the base-paths. After that though, things get a little hazy with Josh Hamilton's situation unknown at the time. If he's unable to help them until mid-season or possibly not at all this year, then that's a huge hit. If he can get his personal stuff back on track and get back on the field sometime in May, and he's actually in good baseball shape, then they should be OK. The rotation could be really good with further improvements from Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker (both busted out in 2014). They should get another solid season from ace Jered Weaver and Wilson's always good for a dozen or so wins and respectable ERA. They have the pitching to compete, granted Weaver and his diminishing velocity and stuff don't tank this year and G-Rich stays healthy. If Hamilton does get back sooner than later and is still himself, and that rotation gets and stays healthy, then they're going to be a real playoff contender, but they gotta get and stay healthy.

3rd Place, Oakland A's

LF Coco Crisp
CF Sam Fuld
2B Ben Zobrist
DH Billy Butler
1B Ike Davis
SS Marcus Semien
RF Josh Reddick
3B Brett Lawrie
C Stephen Vogt

RH Sonny Gray
LH Scott Kazmir
RH Jesse Hahn
RH Jesse Chavez
LH Drew Pomeranz/RH A.J. Griffin*
SU: Tyler Clippard
CL: Sean Doolittle

Key Reserves: OF Craig Gentry, IF Eric Sogard
*Griffin out until mid-season rehabbing from surgery

The A's have made some head-scratching moves, as well as some savvy pickups over the last 12 months, sort of re-shaping a team I thought was headed in the right direction. Instead, They have a host of new players in the lineup that weren't there to start 2014 and that rotation is praying A.J. Griffin is able to come back strong sometime in June. They have some talent in that lineup, but a lot of guys are coming off down years and have some question marks. They always seem to compete though, and they have enough talent to make a playoff run if they get good health and some big years out of guys like Reddick, Butler, Crisp and Lawrie (all guys shown capable of being all-star level players in the not too distant past). The bullpen, as always, is solid, with about 3 guys that can close if Doolittles injuries nag him all year. They have depth in the rotation too so guys should be plenty fresh come the August/September push. Still have them behind LA, but not by much.

4th Place, Texas Rangers

CF Leonys Martin
SS Elvis Andrus
RF Shin-Soo Choo
3B Adrian Beltre
1B Prince Fielder
DH Mitch Moreland
LF Ryan Rua
2B Rougned Odor
C Robinson Chirinos

RH Yovanni Gallardo
LH Derrek Holland
RH Colby Lewis
LH Ross Detwiler
RH Nick Martinez
SU: RH Tanner Scheppers
CL: Neftali Feliz

Key reserves: OF Nate Schierholtz, IF Adam Rosales

The Rangers lost ace Yu Darvish for all of 2015 and at least some of 2015 as the elite right-hander underwent Tommy John Surgery early in the month. With the loss of him, so goes any hope the Rangers had at contending, as their rotation is simply dreadful without him. Gallardo is decent but more a mid-rotation guy now, Holland is so un-predictable and injury prone he's hard to count on and Colby Lewis is a #5 in most any other rotation in the league but going to be counted on heavily now as a #3. Their lineup is nice, even without Jurickson Profar, who is also gone for the year for the second straight summer, but extremely top-heavy. After Fielder, things take a fall although young LF Ryan Rua could become the guy that protects him.
The bullpen is in decent shape, with Neftali Feliz closing again. He can be dominant at times, but he hasn't thrown more than 30 innings in a season since 2011. They just don't have enough pitching to compete for the division and not quite enough offense to overcome it.

5th Place, Houston Astros

2B Jose Altuve
3B Luis Valbeuna
RF Goerge Springer
LF Evan Gattis
DH Chris Carter
SS Jed Lowrie
CF Colby Rasmus/Jake Marisnick
1B Jon Singleton
C Jason Castro

LH Dallas Keuchel
RH Scott Feldman
RH Colin McHugh
LH Brett Oberholtzer
RH Roberto Hernandez
SU: RH Pat Neshek
CL: RH Luke Gregorson/LH Kevin Chapman

Key Reserves: OF Jake Marisnick, IF Marwin Gonzalez, IF Matt Dominguez

You know, I actually really like how far the Astros have come since being the laughing stock of the league the last few years. While they're still a little young and raw to really be competitive yet, I think this is the year they're going to start putting some things together and winning some ballgames. In a tough AL West, they probably will have trouble finishing higher than 4th or 5th, but they have a young rotation that is a WIld Card. If McHugh, Keuchel and Oberholtzer grown on last year, they're going to have a nice little rotation. The pen isn's great, as they don't have a shut-the-door closer at the moment but they're hoping one emerges, possibly young lefty Kevin Chapman. They have a ton of raw power, a lot of speed at the top and a darkhorse MVP candidate in the extremely underrated, reigning MLB batting champ, Jose Altuve. If I were starting a franchise right now and had my pick of 2nd basemen, It'd be the Altuve (over Cano and Anthony Rendon). They're going to be a fun team to watch this year, that's for sure.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL Central

The AL Central is a much improved division and all five teams have at least a glimmer of hope entering the season. Plus after seeing what the Royals did last year, they all have to feel like they're capable of pulling the same thing off. I think the Tigers, based on sheer star power, depth, and pitching have to be the front-runners, but after that, it's up for grabs. It's not likely, but it's possible both wild card teams could come out of the Central.


1st Place, Detroit Tigers

2B Ian Kinsler
CF Anthony Gose/Rajai Davis
1B Miguel Cabrera
DH Victor Martinez
RF J.D. Martinez
LF Yeonis Cespedes
3B Nick Castellanos
C Alex Avila
SS Jose Inglesias

LHP David Price
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Anibal Sanchez
RHP Alfredo Simon
RHP Shane Green
SU: Joakim Soria
CL: Joe Nathan

Key Reserves: OF Rajai Davis, IF Andrew Romine

Although they lost ace Max Scherzer, their new one should be able to fill his shoes admirably in his first full season in the "Motor City". They're pitching staff is deep, and strong, and they have two guys capable of shutting the door on you in Joe Nate and Joakim Soria, so both should stay fresh. That lineup should have no trouble scoring runs either with the big addition of Yeonis Cespedes. I'd like to see more out of Nick Castellanos and he's had a solid spring. To me though, it comes down to Justin Verlander. If he's the pre-2014 version, they're not only division favorites, but legit 'Series contenders. A full healthy season out of Anibal Sanchez (which they didn't get in '14) could be key if Verlander's decline continues. This team is getting older though and if they run into injury problems or some guys have down years, they'll struggle to keep off the rising, reigning AL Champion Royals and may even fail at topping the young "Tribe" in Cleveland.

3rd Place, Cleveland Indians *AL Wild Card

CF Michael Bourn
3B Lonnie Chisneall
LF Michael Brantley
1B Carlos Santana
C Yan Gomes
RF Brandon Moss
DH Nick Swisher
2B Jason Kipnis
2B Jose Ramirez

RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Carlos Carrasco
RHP Trevor Bauer
RHP Danny Salazar
LHP TJ House
SU: RH Bryan Shaw
CL: RH Cody Allen

Key Reserves: UT Mike Aviles, OF David Murphy

Now I'm not going to pick them to take over Detroit this year, (granted Tigers are healthy) but talk about a big story heading into the season. The Indians are improving too. So much in fact that SI has them as the AL reps in the World Series this fall. They sport a terrific young staff who ALL are going to just get better, and that's scary. They may be a year away from really being legit Series contenders, but they very well could make the jump this year. Michael Brantley took a huge step forward last year, adding power to his game and making him now a legit 5-tool player. They finally have the player Grady Sizemore was supposed to be. He hit's .330 again with 20-25 jacks, 100 RBI and 24 steals though he may just work his way into MVP talks, he's that good. They need more out of Bourn and as well as other veterans Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis, all of which are capable of performing at higher levels than last year. Other than that though, they've got enough talent to be competitive, but not enough polish to win the division as is quite yet, in my opinion. However, they are very much like the Royals (just with much better starting pitching) of a year ago and this division may very well have both Wild Card teams if things go right with the top-3.

3rd Place, Kansas City Royals 

SS Alcides Escobar
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Kendrys Morales
LF Alex Gordon
C Salvador Perez
2B Omar Infante
RF Alex Rios
3B Mike Moustakas

RHP Yordano Ventura
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Edinson Volzquez
LHP Danny Duffy
RHP Jeremy Guthrie/Chris Young
SU:  RH Wade Davis
CL: RH Greg Holland

Key Reserves: OF Jarod Dyson, IF Christian Colon

The young hungry Royals are going to give the star-powered Tigers and uber-taelented Indians a run for their money in this division and the healthiest team likely comes out on top. The Royals did lose Shields, which is huge but they're hoping Ventura is that guy to take this staff over and the other guys step up too (Ventura does look legit, but not overly impressed with rest of rotation). Much like the Giants, this team plays hard and plays for each other and seems to get the optimum talent out of each of their players. Lorenzo Cain is growing into a force who's capable of a 20-20/.300 season once that power arrives for good, and Salvy Perez should be much bigger in 2015 than last season. Alex Gordon is as steady as they come and an anchor in the middle of the lineup as well as a strong defender. The lineup is deep, fast and powerful. That bullpen is second to none in this game. So good in fact that it makes an average rotation a winning one in the regular season just because you just have to give them a lead after 6. They'll be in the wild card hunt, but I don't think they'll sniff the World Series again in 2015.

4th Place, Chicago White Sox

CF Adam Eaton
SS Alexi Ramirez
LF Melky Cabrera
1B Jose Abreu
DH Adam LaRoche
RF Avasail Garcia
3B Connor Gillaspie
2B Micah Johnson
C Tyler Flowers

LH Chris Sale
RH Jeff Samardzija
LH Jose Quintana
LH John Danks
RH Hector Noesi
SU: RH Jake Petricka
CL: Dave Robertson

Key Reserves: UT Emilio Bonafacio, IF Gordon Beckam

These guys are going to be the wild card of the division because they have such a good offense and a strong front-three in their rotation. They should outscore Cleveland, but probably won't out-pitch them from top to bottom so I had to rank them lower but in reality these guys are gonna be neck-and-neck trying to take down KC and Detroit. The rotation falls a bit after Quintana, but not by much and that bullpen's not too shabby. They also have depth. Jose Abreu showed he's the real deal and an MVP candidate and Melky Cabrera is an all-star type talent when healthy. Like most other teams in the division they should score, but unlike the teams ahead of them, I don't think they're quite as deep in the pitching department. Still things are close in this division and it wouldn't surprise me if four teams finished within 8 games of first place.

5th Place, Minnesota Twins

SS Danny Santana
2B Brian Dozier
1B Joe Mauer
DH Kennys Vargas
RF Tori Hunter
3B Trevor Plouffe
LF Oswaldo Arcacia
C Kurt Suzuki
CF Jordan Schaefer/Aaron Hicks

RH Phil Hughes
RH Ervin Santana
RH Ricky Nolasco
RH Kyle Gibson
RH Tommy Milone
SU: LH Brian Duensing
CL:  LH Glen Perkins

Key Reserves: OF Aaron Hicks/Jordan Schafer, IF Eduardo Escobar

Of all the teams in this division, they'd need the most to go right in order to squeak out a playoff birth. They'd need Hunter to find the fountain of youth, Mauer to find his rapidly diminished power stroke, and that pitching staff to all put up career years to have a chance at competing. That said, I do like what they're doing and the direction they're headed. They have some nice young talent like Vargas, Arcacia, Schaefer, Santana and Dozier. They just don't quite have a deep enough or talented enough 25-man roster to keep up with the rest of this division.

The Giants Baseball Blog

Friday, March 20, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL East

We're a couple of weeks away from opening day, and I figured we'd go ahead and get started on our divisional previews/predictions for 2015. As always, we'll start in the AL East and work our way to the NL West.

Note: We will still be posting regular Giants posts as well in between divisional previews.


1st Place, Boston Red Sox

Projected Lineup:
1. 2B Dustin Pedroia
2. CF Mookie Betts
3. LF Hanley Ramirez
4. DH David Ortiz
5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
6. 1B Mike Napoli
7. SS Xander Bogarts
8. RF Shane Victorino/Allen Craig
9 C Christian Vazquez

RHP Clay Bucholtz
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Wade Miley
RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Joe Kelly
SU: RH Junichi Tazawa
CL: RH Koji Uehara

Key Reserves:  Allen Craig 1B/OF, Danial Nava OF, Mookie Betts/Rusney Castillo OF

The BoSox just have so much depth this year, and after going out and adding HanRam and The Panda to an already steady offense makes them now one of the best, if not deepest units in the game. It should be interesting to see how HanRam adjusts to playing in left everyday Their big question lies in their starting staff though which is going to be their downfall this year if they have one. They absolutely need Bucholtz to be in ace-like form all year now that Jon Lester has departed. When he's on, he's a true ace, but injuries and inconsistencies have haunted the 30 year-old right-hander his whole career. After the enigma that is Bucholtz, they're not necessarily dominant, but deep and Uehara is as steady as it gets in the 9th.

2nd Place: Baltimore Orioles *AL Wild Card

LF Alejandro De Aza
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
DH Steven Pearce
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Travis Snider/Delmon Young
2B Jonathan Schoop

RHP Chris Tillman
LHP Wei-Yen Chen
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez/Kevin Gausman
SU: RH Darren O'Day
CL: LH Zach Britton

Key Reserves: OF Delmon Young, IF Ryan Flaherty

I really like the roster the O's have put together the last few years. They've really built from within then made a few big additions like Chris Davis (and Nelson Cruz in '14) that kinda put them over the edge. They lost Cruz, who hit 40 jacks for them in 2014, but they still have enough offense, especially if Wieters and Machado bounce back strong as expected (both young players on the up). The rotation is another strength, with Tillman blossoming into a legitimate young ace the last few seasons and Chen becoming a strong 16-game winner in '14, plus they have depth there as well. If Ubaldo Jimenez ever pitches up to his potential again, they could overtake Boston. Their pen is tough too, led by young lefty closer Zach Britton.

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays

CF Desmond Jennings
RF David DeJesus
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Evan Longoria
1B James Loney
DH John Jaso
CF Kris Kiermaier
2B Nick Franklin
C Rene Rivera

RH Alex Cobb
RH Chris Archer
RH Jake Odorizzi
LH Drew Smyly
RH Alex Colome/Matt Moore*
SU: RH Brad Boxberger
CL: Grant Balfour
*Moore out until mid-season

Key Reserves: IF Logan Forsythe, OF Steven Souza Jr.

The AL East is a tough division and the Rays are solid, but not quite good enough to beat out the teams ahead of them. They're almost like the Braves of the AL East in a way as that they always seem to be both rebuilding but perennial contenders almost yearly. They have a lot of younger players and question marks in their lineup but that rotation is no joke, especially if they can get Moore back strong by mid-June (early part of time-table). Bullpen is decent, but nothing to write home about. They're gonna need Evan Longoria to have an MVP campaign, DeJesus and Jennings to play at their optimum level all year, that rotation to stay injury-free while nearly every other player in that lineup to basically have career-type seasons in order to really have a shot at anything, but they should stay competitive and in the hunt with that starting 5. If they add a hitter or two, it could put them over the top.

4th Place, New York Yankees

LF Brett Gardner
2B Stephen Drew
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
C Bryan McCann
3B Chase Headley
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Garrett Jones/Alex Rodriguez
SS Didi Gregorious

RHP Masahiro Tanaka
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
LHP Chris Capuano*/Ivan Nova*
SU: LH Andrew Miller
CL: RH Dellin Betances
-*Capuano to start year on DL. * Nova out until at least May

Key Reserves: IF Alex Rodriguez, OF Chris Young

The Yankees, once again have all kinds of question marks from team age, to injuries and former superstars becoming all the sudden in-effective and unable to play baseball at the levels they were used too. They added Bryan McCann but it should be interesting to see how this team looks without their former captain Derek Jeter. Rotation has major health questions, major ones, but Tanaka is dominant and a true ace when right, and if C.C. Sabathia ever can get it together and Michael Pineda stay healthy a full season, they could have a decent rotation, but that's a lot that has to go right. Pen looks deep and decent though, that's for sure.

5th Place, Toronto Blue Jays

SS Jose Reyes
2B Maicer Izturis
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
LF Michael Saunders
C Russell Martin
1B Justin Smoak
CF Dalton Pompey

RH R.A. Dickey
LH Mark Buehrle
RH Drew Hutchinson
RH Marco Estrada
RH Aaron Hernandez/Johan Santana*
SU: LH Aaron Loup
CL: LH Brett Cecil
*Santana expected back early season, out opening day and no set eta yet though

The Jays' are going to have a tough time competing in this division unless their pitching staff puts it together from start to finish. Even if R.A. Dickey finally figures out the American League for a consistent 6-month stretch (seems to always show flashes but then regresses) and Drew Hutchinson makes that next step, they need guys in that rotation to perform well on a regular basis (A return by Santana would be huge but who knows what he'll be like after not pitching regularly in almost half a decade. They do have some offense, not a great lineup, but a lot a pop in the middle and speed at the top and enough to compete, that's for sure. But their bullpen has question marks and their rotation just isn't all that great. I do like how Brett Cecil has all the sudden become an ace-closer after his career as a starter flamed out though, and they're one of the rare teams that will throw two lefty's at you back-to-back in the 8th and 9th innings.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Giants Spring Notes: Halfway Point

We've about hit the halfway point of the Cactus League schedule and with about 3 weeks until Opening day in Arizona, the Giants main concern at this point is pretty much getting and keeping everyone healthy.

With so many different things going on with the club, we figured we'd do sort of a "Giants Notes" post were we touch a little on everything going on with the club.

Starters rounding into shape: As far as the starting rotation is concerned, over the next couple of weeks in the desert Bochy would like to get Matt Cain and Tim Hudson stretched out a little bit more. Both have looked strong in their outings so far, but neither has thrown more than two innings yet, and for Cain especially who hasn't pitched a game since July, it's gonna be key these guys get up to 5-6 innings while still in Arizona. In the bullpen, it looks like things are finally starting to shape up as Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo have both thrown and thrown well, but those guys will need a few extra reps as well as they missed much of the early part of spring. We're at that stage where we're going to start to see the starters stick around longer in games and throw 5 innings or so, and although it's just spring, this is when we really can start to see how starting pitchers are really throwing the ball. Madison Bumgarner went 3 innings on Tuesday (in his best start of the spring by far), so they're already starting to stretch it a bit. I bet next time out he goes 5... Tim Lincecum is the only guy who hasn't thrown lately as he's battling a sore neck (insert home run joke here).

Prospects re-assigned: It's also that point in spring were guys start getting optioned off to the teams they'll start the year with. Top pitching prospect Kyle Crick had a nice spring before a rough outing Monday  and has been sent over to minor league camp along with Christian Arroyo, Chris Stratton, Ty Blach, Adalberto Mejia and Mac Williamson while Cuban outfield prospect Daniel Carbonell's was optioned to AA Richmond. Bright young right-handers Derek Law and Joan Gregorio will start the year in A San Jose. None of these guys had any shot at making the big league club so it should come as a surprise to few, though I did expect them to let Crick get another crack at things. The Giants' prized young righty did finish the spring on a sour note but the Giants have to be overall pleased with how he threw the ball this spring.

Bochy expecting more offensively: Well folks, we're not the only ones starting to wonder about the Giants play and lack of offense through the first couple weeks of spring. Manager Bruce Bochy did state Tuesday that he is growing a bit concerned with the lack of performance he's been getting throughout the roster and especially his expected starting lineup. He more so put it on the team as a whole not playing well, but it's the offense that's obviously a problem right now and is the area that's drawn the most concern. Plus they had yet another guy go down as Angel Pagan is now being sidelined because of a stiff back (not the best news for a guy coming off back surgery only half a year ago). Pagan has been on of the Giants' regulars who's struggled, going just 2-16 so far this spring. We can only cross our fingers and hope his back holds up cause that's the last thing they need right now. Nori Aoki is hitting just .148, Posey's sitting at .176, Panik's at .103 and Crawford's hitting .125. That;s half your lineup well below the mendoza line. Practice games or not, that's ugly.... On the contrary, Brandon Belt seems to be getting the bat going, and newcomer Casey Mcgehee's been perhaps the most impressive regular on the Giants roster this spring hitting a cool .440.

Final Roster Spot Battle: With Hunter Pence expected to start the year on the 15-day DL, it opens up another roster spot not expected when spring started. One would assume that the spot would go to an outfielder, but that's not necessarily the case. With Gregor Blanco slated to start, and Juan Perez expected to start the year in the fourth outfielder role, that opens up a spot for a possible fifth. That would give an upper hand to Justin Maxwell, although the former 'Astro has not really seized the opportunity thus far. I've talked about Adam Duval, but he's more of an infield option and has tanked heavily since that hot start. I don't think the Giants will start the year with a guy like Jarrett Parker who's never appeared in a big league game in his life although he's been getting a lot of hype this spring. My guess is they carry an extra infielder with the ability to go out and play a corner outfield spot. Ehire Adrianza, being out of options and unlikely to pass through waivers, seems like the winner if he can prove he can play the outfield in a pinch and holds his own with the bat over the final few weeks of exhibition play.

Extras: In case you didn't see the internet rumors Tuesday, there were a few sources out there stating the Giants had maybe contacted the Red Sox about the availability of Allen Craig. If you've followed us here over the offseason, you know how accepting I'd be to a Craig trade, and hearing that certainly peaked my interest. However, Peter Gammons apparently shot down any truth to that rumor saying the Giants were not actively pursuing any outfielder. I can't think of a better fit for this team than Craig, but it makes sense the Red Sox don't want to sell low. With his track record, all it will take is a hot April for his trade value to sky-rocket again.

Coming Up: We've begun to work our 2015 MLB Previews and will probably start posting those this week at some point, but don't worry, we'll still be mixing in plenty of Giants stuff. We also would like to remind you to check out this spot for MLB Picks for the upcoming campaign. We always enjoy doing our MLB divisional previews just to get a lay of the land on the league for the upcoming year and get an idea of how the Giants stack up vs. the rest of baseball.
The Giants Baseball Blog

Monday, March 09, 2015

Cain strong in debut, offense still struggling

Matt Cain made his first appearance since early July on Monday, and did so in perfect fashion. The Giants' projected number two starter shut down the Dodgers' starters over a couple of frames.

The 30 year-old right-hander is extremely crucial to this rotation's success and with the loss the Giants suffered offensively over the winter (and now starting the year without Hunter Pence), that rotation is going to be as key as ever. Cainer's outing Monday was certainly a huge positive though, as the right-hander ended up throwing two perfect innings before surrendering to expected long-reliever Ryan Vogelsong. In fact, it was the best start the Giants have received early on here in the Cactus League with ace Madison Bumgarner has been roughed up a bit in his two early outings. Nobody's going to be worrying too much, or getting too excited in early/mid-March one way or another but it was one of the biggest positives of the Giants' spring thus far, and refreshing coming off the Hunter Pence news last week. Vogelsong wasn't too shabby himself either, although he did yield one mistake to Yasiel Puig (that really wasn't much of a mistake actually), in which Puig took him deep for a two-run big-fly, he struck out four and allowed just 2 hits in 3 innings of work. Even Hunter Strickland made a perfect appearance with a K and surprisingly, no home runs allowed.

While the Giants pitching has been making strides lately, their expected starting lineup has been abysmal the first week-plus of Cactus League play. It was something Giants fans are certainly aware of and a bit worried about after losing Pablo Sandoval (more on him later) and Michael Morse. Hopefully Pence won't be out more than a few weeks in April and come back to help, but until then, we'll be looking a a middle of a lineup of Angel Pagan, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt, who all combined for a total of 37 home runs between the three in 2014. Sure, home runs don't win you World Series', but the Giants' lack of power, especially without Pence, both in the lineup and on the bench, is a tad worrisome. Again, who really cares what numbers look like 1/4 through spring, heck, I don't care if they don't hit another homer all spring, so long as when April 6th rolls around, they figure out ways to put runs on the board!

Although the expected starters haven't really showed up with the bat, some of the younger guys have really thrived and have been carrying them offensively. One guy I've mentioned with an outside shot at making the roster is Adam Duval, who's depth and power could really help the 25-man roster. Another guy who's had a big spring has been Jarret Parker. If you remember, Parker was taken after Gary Brown back in that 2010 draft, and like Brown, has been a bit of a disappointment. That is, up until last season. Parker hit .300 in the AFL, then went on to hit .275 with 15 HR, 68 RBI and 12 SB split between AA and AAA. He's a big guy who can run and if his power and average show up, he just may be a late-bloomer to keep an eye on the rest of the spring with a thin outfield.

Back to Sandoval though, I was just going to do a mini-post mentioning Cain's outstanding performance, but I had to respond to Pablo Sandoval's ridiculous comments he made Monday to Bleacher Report. First of all, it was no secret to those who follow the team closely that Pablo was upset with the team not re-signing him last spring, and he should have left it at that. Instead, he didn't mention the fans that made him a baseball god in this area, and the teammates that helped land him three World Series rings (only two he had big impacts in though). Still to say the only thing you'll miss about San Francisco is Bochy and Pence is a slap in the face to the fans and all the players he played with here. I'd take his bat back in this lineup in a second, but I don't think that guy is a good investment for five seasons. He's gonna balloon and will be hitting .240 by year 3, you watch! The new red colors suit him perfect, he's no longer a Panda, he's a clown!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Hunter goes down

Well folks, the "odd-numbered year curse" is already rearing it's ugly head and we're hardly into March. Hunter Pence, one of the catalysts and perhaps the most powerful bat in the Giants' lineup will be sidelined 6-8 weeks after breaking his wrist Thursday.

Pence took a Corey Black (a young Cubs right-hander who's now deeply entrenched in Giants fan's hatred) heater off his left wrist in Thursday's game, a game in which Bruce Bochy DH'd the right fielder just to get him some at-bats, and left immediately. X-rays reveled a non-displaced fracture in the wrist, which could have been worse. Had it been displaced, it could have been a few months before seeing Pence on the field again and may have required surgery to have screws inserted into the bone. Nonetheless, the Giants' power-starved lineup will be plan to be without their 2014 home run leader and top run-scorer through the first month of the regular season, at least. Best case scenario is Pence's rehab goes smoothly but since he's had limited spring activity, he may still require a lengthy rehab assignment. With the timetable set, and assuming Pence heals right along that line, the Giants are likely shooting to have their right fielder back by May 1st. However, if it takes him into mid-late late April just to recover and heal, then assuming he'll need at least two weeks to strengthen/rehab, then it could be mid-May. Since it's Hunter Pence though and not Pablo Sandoval, my bet would be the early end of that timeline and he'll make his season debut April 21st at home vs. the Dodgers!

In the meantime my guess is that, once again, Gregor Blanco will have worked his way into a starting gig taking over in left with Nori Aoki shifting to right where he's more experienced than Blanco. This, however, is precisely why I strongly endorsed bringing in another right-handed outfielder, Johnny Gomes for example, but instead the Giants only added Aoki. They could make a deal to bring in some pop to help with Pence out but with Hunter expected only to miss a little over a month of the regular season, it's not like they'll need a season-long replacement. That being said, it still wouldn't surprise me to see them scour the trade market though for an extra outfielder now, and I expect Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans are working on that very thing as I type this.

Outside of the brutal Pence news, the Giants actually played pretty well Thursday, as they came back late to beat the Cubs to earn their first victory of the spring. A couple of young prospects played big roles in the late comeback. 2013 first-round pick Christian Arroyo stood out at the plate with a 2-2 day and Daniel Carbonell, both of which were talked about in our prospect post last month, hit a big two-run homer in the 7th. As far as the regulars, Brandon Belt reached base twice on a couple of walks and Aoki took a free pass as well, but nothing else was really happening, as has been the case for the most part here early on.

The Giants starting offense has looked a tad dull to start with, which is no big deal, but now with the loss of Pence, the panic over the lack of scoring is going to be even more magnified. One guy who's not really penciled into a 25-man roster spot but has been one of the lone bright spots at the plate in the first week has been Adam Duvall. The 26 year-old has hit safely in all three games and has a big fly. He's an interesting option now to possibly take the roster spot left open by Pence to start the year. He was a guy I was going to mention today as a possible battler for that fifth outfield/final bench spot anyway, but this could really open the door for him now if he can keep up this hot start and hold off Travis Ishikawa.

Also with Pence now out, it reinforces the idea of using Angel Pagan in the third spot in the batting order and leading off with Aoki. Besides reaching base more frequently and being quicker on the base-paths than Pagan, Aoki sees more pitching than the incumbent leadoff man does. That's something Gregor Blanco did well in October last year and although he didn't put up great offensive numbers himself, that helps a lineup and wears down an opposing starter. Pagan, in turn, makes some sense in the third spot as well were he may be able to let out a little more swing and flex more of that power that he does have. Anyway, it's something I'm sure will be discussed all spring long, even more so now that Pence will be out to start the year.

Extras: Now, if the Giants are going to look to add outfield depth, a couple of teams they may want to reach out to, and teams we've mentioned here over the offseason, are the Padres and Red Sox. The Padres could dangle Carlos Quentin or maybe Cameron Maybin, while I still would take Allen Craig off Boston's roster in a second. The top free agent put there I believe is Raul Ibanez (gag), so the trade route would seem most logical. Who knows, acquiring Quentin for Pat Burell-type role and playing him just 4 times a week may keep him on the field and fresh.... Right about now, keeping Michael Morse wouldn't have looked so bad, right?!
The Giants Baseball Blog

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Ahh... Baseball Returns!

It may just be me, but it seems like it's been forever since Pablo Sandoval caught that foul pop-up off the bat of Salvador Perez and the Giants won the World Series. Well the wait for baseball (albeit of the exhibition variety) is over with the Giants opening up Cactus League play on Tuesday.

Now, the fact that baseball's back and everybody escaped Tuesday's game in one piece is about the best you can say in terms of the Giants' day. Both Giants' starters who made appearances gave up runs with Madison Bumgarner especially having a difficult day. The one that was so hard for Kansas City and the rest of baseball to figure out in October, got rouged up in his 1 2/3 innings of work. He allowed the A's to get to him for 4 runs (all earned) on 5 hits, including an impressive 2-run blast off the bat off the best player on the field Tuesday, Marcus Semien. On a positive note, Bum did strikeout a pair and didn't walk a batter in just under two innings of work, but otherwise he'll be looking to work on some things before his next outing but hey, that's what spring is for right. Get all the kinks out now and rather than April. After MadBum's rough go, Brett Bochy came in for a sloppy 1/3 of an inning to close out Bum's outing before Tim Lincecum came in to start the 2nd. Besides the bomb that Ben Zobrist just missed from knocking out of the park, instead settling for a double off the wall, Timmy looked crisp. He did allow the run as the A's were able to manufacture Zobrist in from second base but besides that one mistake to a premiere hitter, Timmy wasn't too shabby (2K's, 0 BB).

Other than Lincecum and Bumgarner, the only other Giants' arms who ARE SURE to be on the 25-man roster to start the year each had scoreless outings. Jeremy Affeldt allowed a hit and a strikeout while Jean Machi had a perfect inning with a strikeout. The reliever still on the bubble, Hunter Strickland, didn't get his spring off to a good start as he continued right were he left off last fall, giving up the long ball. The 26 year-old flame throwing right-hander gave up a two-run big fly to Jason Pridie and then allowed an additional run as well, bringing his inning line to: 1 IP 3 H, 1BB, 3 ER, 1 HR. He's got that 99-mph heater nut if your giving up a jack nearly every outing it doesn't much matter. It certainly wasn't a good start though for a guy who's gonna have to be pretty darn good in order to make this roster out of spring.

In terms of the bats, both Giants' newcomers reached base in their unofficial Giants debut. With Buster Posey, Angel Pagan, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence all getting the day off, the lineup was a little different than it will normally be. Nori Aoki hit out of the leadoff spot Casey McGehee hit out of the three spot where he reached base in both at-bats with a hit and a walk. Regulars Brandon Belt and Joe Panik, respectively, went just 1-3 and 0-3 but one guy with an outside shot at making the squad did get the job done. Adam Duval, who just keeps seeming to stay relevant, was the only Giant with a multi-hit day (2-4), getting the team on the board with a solo blast in the 2nd. With the Giants lack of power, Duvall could make a strong case for himself with a huge spring, especially if he could go out and master left field. He'd seem like an ideal fit as a right-handed caddie to Aoki in left with that legit big power. He does have the flexibility to play 2nd, 3rd and 1st so adding LF to his arsenal could be what cinches his spot on the 25-man.

Right now, the only ones 100% sure to get bench spots are Gregor Blanco, Joaquin Arias and at least one catcher (hopefully Sanchez so Sussac can play everyday in Sac). The other two spots are open with Matt Duffy, Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa the clear front-runners, but things could change. That's gonna be one of the few areas to be determined this spring. Aside from the obvious fifth starter competition that Bruce Bochy refuses to admit exists, one of the others I'm curious to see  are just where Aoki ends up hitting in Boch's batting order. I still think it may be wisest to lead him off and try Pagan third, if not then further down in the order. Just my opinion but it stretches out the lineup a bit and Aoki's numbers atop the order back it up!

I'd be totally on board with this lineup: Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt, McGehee, Crawford... I don't know, just looks better than having Aoki down in the 7th spot to me for some reason. Having Aoki so low limits some of his best aspect; his ability to get on and run. He's a higher OBP guy than Pagan and better on the base paths, especially at this point. Speed and contact at the top that wont clog the bases, then the run producers from there on down, then Brandon Crawford. No, no, in all fairness to BCraw though, he keeps getting better each year and I expect 2015 to be his best yet (plus that glove is worth far more than any offensive shortcomings).
The Giants Baseball Blog