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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
Joe Mauer to grab some pine
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(4:37 pm ET) Joe Mauer was left out of the Twins' starting lineup for Monday's game versus the Diamondbacks, as Chris Parmelee got the nod at first base. It is only the third time that Mauer has not started a game since he returned on Aug. 11 after spending time on the disabled list with a strained oblique.

Tyson Ross turns focus to 2015
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:30 pm ET) Padres starting pitcher Tyson Ross, who missed his last start because of discomfort in his lower forearm, realizes he may have pitched for the last time this season, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"I think the focus now is the long term, the 2015 season," he said. "I'd like to pitch, but I also need to get ready for next season and pitching deep into October."

Though Ross played catch Thursday and Friday, he hasn't exactly stayed in his routine since the injury, spending much of his time in the training room, which also diminishes his chances of returning this season.

"If he can amass the same number of innings or more next year, they're probably more important than the innings he might pitch the remainder of this week," manager Bud Black said.


Aaron Hicks returns from brief respite
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(4:28 pm ET) Aaron Hicks was in the Twins' starting lineup for Monday's game against the Diamondbacks. He missed the previous two games with a sore back.

Masahiro Tanaka gets good reviews
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:21 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka said he felt no pain in his right elbow after making his first start in more than three months Sunday against Toronto.

"Obviously, I'm very relieved," Tanaka said through a translator. "I don't exactly remember when, but gradually, as the game went on, I guess I stopped thinking about it."

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild was pleased as well, according to MLB.com.

"His warmups were really good. The sim games, the last one, the warmups were OK. Today there was a difference and you could see it right away in the force with which he threw the ball and the quickness to his arm, all of the things that you saw before he went on the DL. Warming up today, you could see it."

Tanaka will make another start Saturday at Boston to give the Yankees an even better indication if he can avoid surgery to repair the partially torn UCL in his right elbow.

"It's possible that he can get through this for quite a while. It's possible that it comes up and bites him, and that's it," Rothschild said. "We're hopeful that's it's the earlier scenario and that he's going to be fine and have a nice, long career with no problems."


Jason Heyward misses another start
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(4:15 pm ET) Jason Heyward was not in the Braves' starting lineup for Monday's game against the Pirates, as Emilio Bonifacio got the start in right field. Heyward did not play at all during the Braves' three-game weekend series against the Mets due to a thumb injury. He remains day to day.

Evan Gattis hopes to catch this week
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(4:10 pm ET) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Evan Gattis is aiming to return to catching for the Braves sometime before the end of the season. Gattis made an appearance as a pinch-hitter in Saturday's game against the Mets, but he has not played defensively since Sept. 7.

Gattis has been out the last two weeks with strep throat and a kidney stone. He was not in the Braves' starting lineup for Monday's series opener against the Pirates.


Nick Markakis back after five days out
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(3:59 pm ET) Nick Markakis was in the Orioles' starting lineup as the leadoff hitter for Monday's game at the Yankees. He had not played since last Tuesday due to a sore shoulder. Markakis was listed as the team's starting right fielder.

Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams back in the lineup
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(3:47 pm ET) After sitting out with a stomach bug, both Matt Carpenter and Matt Adams returned to the Cardinals' starting lineup for Monday's game at the Cubs. Neither player has appeared in a game since Friday.

Mets not ruling out Dilson Herrera return
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:37 pm ET) Mets second baseman Dilson Herrera didn't play Sunday after leaving Saturday with a strained right quadriceps, but according to MLB.com, he still has a chance of returning before season's end.

"It's not so severe that we'd send him home," manager Terry Collins said Sunday. "We're going to certainly have him make sure he goes through the process of getting back and, hopefully, by this time next week he's running and maybe back in the lineup. I don't know."


Eury Perez joins the Yankees
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:30 pm ET) The Yankees claimed outfielder Eury Perez off waivers from the Nationals Monday. Perez hit .311 with one home run and 20 steals in 212 at-bats for Triple-A Syracuse this year. He has 13 career at-bats in the majors, the last eight coming in 2013.

 
 
 
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