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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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Tommy Joseph working way back from wrist injury
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:44 am ET) Phillies catching prospect Tommy Joseph made his return from wrist surgery Thursday, for the Gulf Coast League Phillies.

Joseph, who suffered the injury at Double-A Reading, caught and went 1 for 3 Thursday. He will likely see at least a few more games at the rookie league before he returns to Reading, where he was hitting .282/.345/.551 in 87 at-bats prior to the injury.


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(11:07 am ET) The Blue Jays designated pitcher Bobby Korecky for assignment Friday, to clear up a spot on the 40-man roster.  

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No slowing J.D. Martinez down in July
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:04 am ET) Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez has continued his hot-hitting ways in the month of July, as he put together another multi-hit effort in a 16-4 win over the Royals.

Four days after slugging his career-high 12th home run of the season, Martinez was held in the yard Thursday. He still managed to make his impact felt, reaching base three times and driving in three runs, while going 2 for 3 with a walk. He added a pair of runs scored in the win.

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Dan Johnson to get the call for Blue Jays
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) The Jays will select the contract of infielder Dan Johnson from Triple-A Buffalo prior to Friday's game against the Rays, according to SportsNet.ca.

Johnson signed a minor-league contract with the Jays in the offseason, and was hitting .248/.402/.471 in 94 games at Buffalo. Adam Lind is expected to be placed on the disabled list with a foot injury in order to make room. 


Torii Hunter drives in three more in win
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(10:51 am ET)  Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter has been scorching hot since the start of July, as he put together his sixth multi-hit game in nine chances in a 16-4 win over the Royals.

Hunter went 3 for 6 in the blowout win, with a solo home run. He drove in three runs overall and scored twice, bringing his RBI total for the month to 14 in nine games.

Hunter was hitting just .249 on July 1, but has raised his season average to .276 with his play since. He is hitting .444/.447/.750 with three home runs and 14 RBI in nine July games.


Carlos Santana hits homer No. 14
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Indians catcher Carlos Santana had just one hit Thursday, but he made it count in a 9-3 win over the Yankees.

Santana went 1 for 5 with a two-run home run in the win, while striking out twice. It was his second home run of the month of July and 14th of the season.

Santana is hitting .208/.349/.391 in 81 games. 


Roberto Perez homers in big-league debut
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(10:36 am ET) The Indians got a big performance from catcher Roberto Perez in his major-league debut Thursday, in a 9-3 win over the Yankees.

Perez reached base three times in the win, going 2 for 3 with a walk. He added a home run and two RBI, while scoring twice.

Perez spent two days on the roster before getting his first action, so it is not clear how much playing time he might find moving forward. 


Jair Jurrjens sent down following second start
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(10:28 am ET) The Rockies optioned pitcher Jair Jurrjens to Triple-A Colorado Springs Friday, in order to clear a roster space for the return of Carlos Gonzalez from the disabled list.

Jurrjens made two starts for the Rockies, allowing eight runs over 9 1/3 innings, with nine strikeouts and a 2.46 WHIP. He could return to the rotation after the All-Star break if needed.  


 
 
 
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