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2011 Fantasy outlooks: San Francisco Giants

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What a difference four games makes.

Last season, the Giants won only four games more than they had the year before, but their 92 wins were enough to secure the National League West title and give them the opportunity to win their first World Series championship in 56 years. As in 2009, the Giants were dependent on one the majors' toughest pitching staffs, headed by two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. However, the offense pulled a little more weight this time, benefiting from strong years by veteran Aubrey Huff, rookie Buster Posey and journeyman Andres Torres.

Heading into 2011, the Giants will defend their title with the same formula, as Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito return to the rotation for another year. They will also get a full season from last year's rookie sensation, lefty Madison Bumgarner. For the fourth straight year, Brian Wilson -- arguably the best closer in baseball -- will handle the ninth-inning duties.

The starting lineup is virtually unchanged, with veteran free agent infielder Miguel Tejada filling the hole left by departed veteran free agent infielders Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. The patchwork outfield of Torres, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross should get the bulk of the starts, though Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz are still around to fill in should one or more of the trio falter.

Torres, Burrell and Ross won't be the only Giants on short leashes this spring, as third baseman Pablo Sandoval will have to show that he can bounce back from 2010's dismal performance in which he batted .268 and hit into a league-worst 26 double plays. It's only a matter of time before prospect Brandon Belt forces his way onto the major league roster, moving Huff to the outfield, and possibly shifting DeRosa to third base.

Lincecum, Cain and Wilson have been top-flight Fantasy options for a few years now, but the new reality is that the Giants boast some potent bats as well. Instantly, Posey became an elite-level catcher last year and Huff showed that he still has the ability to carry a lineup, whether in Fantasy or in the real world. Sandoval and Belt have some upside as potentially productive Fantasy options, and both can probably be acquired on the cheap, at least for this year.

Sleeper ... Miguel Tejada, SS

Many owners will likely dismiss Tejeda as an aging player in decline. After all, he turns 37 this year, his batting average dropped from .313 to .269 last year, and his doubles total sank from 46 to 26. While it's unrealistic to expect Tejeda to bat .300 with 40-plus doubles, a miniscule .096 batting average on flyballs in play last season robbed him of what could have been several long doubles. Tejada's home run and contact rates held up last year, so there's reason to think that we will see fewer flyouts and more hits from him in 2011. He is still very much a reliable option in mixed leagues, especially at the thin position of shortstop.

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Bust ... Jonathan Sanchez, SP

Sanchez has made steady and significant improvements in his ERA and WHIP over the last three seasons and is clearly getting better and better as a pitcher. So where's the problem then? Sanchez has increased his effectiveness by inducing more pop-ups and stranding more baserunners, and by last season, he was among the major league leaders in both categories. His improved numbers in these measures have been dramatic, and while the consistency of improvement suggests that skill has played a role, the magnitude of the improvement suggests that luck has played a role, too, especially since these are stats that tend to vary a lot from year to year for most pitchers. At best, Sanchez's progress will hit a wall, and even more likely, his numbers will move in the wrong direction. Particularly in Rotisserie, instead of being the No. 2 starting pitcher option that he was last year, it is safer to draft him as a No. 3 or No. 4.

Can't miss prospect ... Brandon Belt, 1B

The appropriately-named Belt clobbered 24 homers, 15 triples and 51 doubles across four levels in his first minor league season last year. The 22-year-old has also shown himself to be an exceptionally patient hitter and has some stolen base potential as well. The question is when, and not if, he will be promoted to the majors this season. While Belt doesn't have a full-time big league job right now, he will almost certainly have one soon this season, and you will be glad to have him rostered in all formats when he does get the call.

San Francisco Giants Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Andres Torres CF 1 Tim Lincecum RH
2 Freddy Sanchez 2B 2 Matt Cain RH
3 Aubrey Huff 1B 3 Jonathan Sanchez LH
4 Buster Posey C 4 Madison Bumgarner LH
5 Miguel Tejada SS 5 Barry Zito LH
6 Pat Burrell LF Alt Henry Sosa RH
7 Pablo Sandoval 3B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Cody Ross RF CL Brian Wilson RH
Top bench options SU Jeremy Affeldt LH
R Mark DeRosa OF RP Sergio Romo RH
R Aaron Rowand OF RP Santiago Casilla RH
R Mike Fontenot 2B RP Javier Lopez LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Brandon Belt 22 1B Triple-A Triple-A
Mashed his way from Rookie League to Triple-A in his first pro season. Very soon, he'll be in the Giants' lineup.
2 Thomas Neal 23 OF Double-A Triple-A
Gap hitter could get a look sometime this season, but he may not deliver power, at least not right away.
3 Zack Wheeler 20 SP Class A Class A
Giants' top pitching prospect did well in the Sally League, but he may take his time getting to the majors.
4 Gary Brown 22 OF Class A Class A
Defensive standout is about to embark on his first full year in the minors. Could arrive in the bigs by 2013.
5 Francisco Peguero 22 OF Class A Double-A
Has hit for average and shown stolen base potential, but rarely walks. Need to see if power translates to Double-A.
Best of the rest: Ehire Adrianza, SS; Brandon Crawford, SS; Charlie Culberson, 2B; Eric Surkamp, SP; Tommy Joseph, C; Jose Casilla, RP; Henry Sosa, SP; Jarrett Parker, OF; Jorge Bucardo, SP; Kendry Flores, SP; Michael Main, SP; Mike Kickham, RP; Heath Hembree, RP; Chris Dominguez, 3B; Roger Kieschnick, OF; Steve Edlefsen, RP; Conor Gillaspie, 3B; Jason Stoffel, RP; Clayton Tanner, SP; and Ryan Verdugo, RP.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Michael Morse not ready for return Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:36 pm ET) Giants left fielder Michael Morse is still absent from the lineup Wednesday against the host Diamondbacks.

Morse has been out since Aug. 31 with a strained oblique, but is expected back soon. He will return with a stat line of .280/.338/.477.


Angel Pagan still a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:33 pm ET) A back ailment continues to sideline Giants center fielder Angel Pagan in Arizona on Wednesday afternoon. He is out of the lineup.

Pagan has been sidelined since Sunday and has been limited to 95 games this season.


Wilmer Flores upping his stock for 2015
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:55 pm ET) Granted, if the Mets make a play for Starlin Castro or some other high-profile shortstop this offseason, all bets are off, but Wilmer Flores' two-homer performance Tuesday against the Marlins was just the latest indication that the 23-year-old is on the verge of turning the corner.

And that's an exciting prospect for Fantasy owners now that he's proven at least competent at the weakest position in the game.

In his last 18 games, he's batting .303 with five home runs and a .984 OPS. He has struck out just twice in 66 at-bats during that stretch. In 43 games since the All-Star break (or since his return from the minors, more accurately), he has struck out just nine times in 140 at-bats.

That was his calling card in the minors, where he never struck out even 80 times in a season and was typically between 60 and 70. The high contact rate often resulted in a .300 batting average -- particularly in the upper levels, when he began to develop the power to hit 15-plus homers and 30-plus doubles.

It's a skill set similar to the one Edgardo Alfonzo brought with him to the majors in the late 90s. If you were playing Fantasy then, you'll probably remember he had a few years when he was a pretty stellar option even at the height of the steroids era. And he wasn't even a shortstop during that time.

Sleeper alert?


Report: Twins contemplating shutting down Glen Perkins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) The Twins could be considering shutting down closer Glen Perkins for the season, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ron Gardenhire has admitted he's worried about the struggling veteran left-hander.

"Yes, I'm concerned," he said about Perkins' recent drop in velocity. "We're going to talk with him (Wednesday). There's a lot of frustration involved right now. We're going to definitely talk with him and see where we're at and see how he's feeling because he just came off that (neck/shoulder) thing and he's had a couple outings where we think the velocity is down. We just want him to be honest with us and not hurt himself."

Perkins has blown three of his last five save opportunities, including Tuesday night, when he surrendered a three-run homer to Detroit slugger J.D. Martinez in the ninth inning. He has allowed five homers in his last eight appearances and at least one hit in each of his last nine.


Jake Arrieta gives owners something to remember
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:32 pm ET) Just in case you were beginning to have some doubts about Jake Arrieta, noticing that he hasn't been quite as dominant in recent weeks with a 3-4 record, 3.67 ERA and 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 12 starts since his breakthrough June, he made sure that line of thinking wouldn't haunt you in the offseason, regardless of how his final two starts go, with his performance Tuesday night.

Not only did he record his first complete game and shutout, but he threw a one-hitter, setting a career high with 13 strikeouts. It was a start even better than any of those he had in June, and he did against the same Reds team that beat him up for six earned runs in four inning back on Aug. 28 -- one of two ugly starts that served to inflate his ERA during that 12-start stretch.

The 28-year-old right-hander has maintained his velocity throughout and, apart from a trio of three-walk games at the beginning of July, hasn't encountered any of his past control issues. And for all his strikeouts, he has one of the lowest home run rates in the majors, making him the best of both worlds as far as quality pitchers -- a groundballer who won't give up a bunch of cheap singles pitching to contact.

In other words, he checks off every box on the list.

The one exception, of course, is durability. Until he goes 200 innings, you have reason to wonder if he can. But once all the established aces go off the board, Arrieta will rank as high as any pitcher in 2015. Top 25 seems like a lock.


Jake Lamb, David Peralta still out for Diamondbacks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:18 pm ET) Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb (quad) and outfielder David Peralta (back) remain absent from the lineup Wednesday against visiting San Francisco.

Lamb has had just one at-bat since Friday after an encouraging 7-for-19 stretch. Peralta has been sidelined since Sept. 5.


Nolan Arenado down again Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:09 pm ET) Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado is set to sit again Wednesday against the visiting Dodgers with a chest contusion. Rafael Ynoa has been tabbed to man the position.

Arenado was on a 1-for-13 slide before going down.


Hanley Ramirez again a no-go Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:03 pm ET) An elbow strain that prevented oft-injured Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez from playing Tuesday night also has him sidelined Wednesday afternoon in Colorado.

Ramirez, who has missed more than 30 games this season, boasts a stat line of .277/.362/.444. He had nine hits in 17 at-bats before his latest physical setback.


Dee Gordon catching break Wednesday against Rockies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Red-hot Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon will cool his heels Wednesday afternoon in Colorado. He is out of the lineup in favor of Darwin Barney, who will also assume his leadoff spot.

Gordon owns a 10-game hitting streak with seven multi-hit games. He is 18 of 41 during that stretch with 14 runs scored and four stolen bases.


Brad Peacock start Friday pushes Dallas Keuchel back a day
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Astros right-hander Brad Peacock, who lost his Monday start to back soreness, has returned to the rotation, thanks to a pain-free bullpen session Tuesday. He is set to start Friday night against Seattle, the Houston Chronicle has reported.

The move pushes ace lefty Dallas Keuchel back to Saturday, giving him an extra day of rest.


 
 
 
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