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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
Yu Darvish: 'My elbow feels fine'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Speaking publicly for the first time since he was shut down late last season with right elbow inflammation, Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish said he's feeling no ill effects now, reports MLB.com. Darvish, who's throwing off flat ground, is on track to begin throwing off a mound early next month.

"My elbow feels fine and I am able to throw on my throwing program," Darvish said, per the website.

Darvish has been working out in Texas during the offseason and said his training is "going well." General manager Jon Daniels said Darvish is "right on schedule."

"I think Darvish is very in tune with his body as much as anybody and knows how he's feeling," Daniels said. "He's very confident. Like any of these guys, until they're out there you're always going to have some reservation, but that's the worrywart in me. From all the information we have, I'm encouraged. He's basically been cleared to do just about everything."

Darvish's last start came Aug. 9 against Houston. He went 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts, tossing two complete games and one shutout.


Brewers reliever Jim Henderson throwing again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Brewers reliever Jim Henderson, who had shoulder surgery last August, began throwing off a mound last week and will toss bullpen sessions this week, reports MLB.com. Henderson hopes to be 100 percent by Opening Day, the report added.

Henderson was limited to 14 appearances last season. He went 2-1 with a 7.15 ERA.


Ryan Braun says his thumb feels 'significantly better'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, who underwent a thumb procedure last October, said his thumb feels "significantly better" than at this time last year, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Braun was plagued throughout last season by a nerve issue at the base of his thumb, the paper noted.

"Knock on wood, I feel great; it feels really good," Braun told reporters.

"Everything is going well. Regular offseason, regular routine. I started hitting a little bit earlier than I typically do, just to see how it felt. So far, so good. It feels really good.

"I do everything I regularly do. I don't hit off live pitching but I take regular batting practice like we would during the season, and it feels good. I don't feel anything at all."

Added Braun: "I know it's significantly better than where it was this time last year, which I'm encouraged by. But as I told you guys the last time I saw everybody (at Thanksgiving) the real test will come in spring training, once we've played games for a couple of weeks and that everyday wear and tear. See how it recovers, see how it responds."


Stiff competition for fifth spot in Mariners' rotation
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Taijuan Walker, Roenis Elias and Erasmo Ramirez are the leading candidates for the fifth spot in the Mariners' starting rotation, reports the Tacoma News Tribune. "The more competition, the better," Walker told the paper.

"It brings out the best of everyone who is fighting for the spot."

Walker posted a 1.96 ERA in six outings last September after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma.


Report: Yankees decline reconciliation with Alex Rodriguez
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:50 am ET) After meeting with new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to clear the air over his year-long suspension in 2014, Alex Rodriguez also reached out to the Yankees to set up a meeting, but was turned down, reports the New York Post.

Rodriguez requested to meet with the Yankees to apologize for his role in the Biogenesis scandal, but was told to wait until spring training. Reports also surfaced that Rodriguez is looking noticeably thinner compared to recent seasons, a source told the New York Post.

Rodriguez is set to report to spring training Feb. 25.


Rockies' Boone Logan appears to be fully healthy
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:33 am ET) Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich said pitcher Boone Logan has completely recovered from elbow issues that ended his 2014 season, reports The Denver Post.

Boone struggled in 2014 and was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation. He produced a 6.84 ERA over 25 innings.


Report: Yelich, Hechavarria turn down offers from Marlins
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) The Marlins are no longer discussing multiyear contracts with outfielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, reports the Miami Herald.

A significant gap between Yelich and the Marlins has caused contract talks on a long-term deal to stall. Hechavarria turned down the Marlins' multiyear contract because the offer was not significant enough. He can become a free agent after the 2018 season, while Yelich can become a free agent after 2019.


Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin ready for bounce back 2015 season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jhoulys Chacin had a tough 2014 season. After injuring his shoulder in spring training, Chacin struggled in 11 starts, posting a 1-7 record with a 5.40 ERA in 63 1/3 innings. He suffered right rotator cuff strain, which forced him to miss nearly half the season.

However, manager Walt Weiss is happy with Chacin's progress this offseason.

"He's doing great. He's been throwing and working out really hard. He's had a really good offseason," Weiss said to The Denver Post.

Teammate and pitcher Jorge De La Rosa thinks 2015 will be much kinder to Chacin.

"He surprised me a lot," De La Rosa said. "He was playing catch with me every day (in Scottsdale, Ariz.), and his arm looks really good. His ball really had some life, and he's lost some weight. I think he's getting stronger. He's going to have a good year."


Report: Braves sign reliever David Carpenter
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) The Braves signed relief pitcher David Carpenter, reports Baseball America.

Carpenter spent the last three seasons pitching for the Angels. During his career, Carpenter has pitched 43 innings and produced a 5.23 ERA.


Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki wants to move past injury concerns
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(1/24/2015) Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has heard the rumors about being injury-prone and he said it only motivates him to play better, reports MLB.com.

Tulowitzki only appeared in 91 games during the 2014 season and said his main goal for 2015 is to stay on the field.

"I've heard that I'm injury-prone. I've heard that I'm getting older. I like it," he said. "That stuff fuels me. It makes my workouts better. It makes me want it that much more. I just want to prove that I can do it. For so long, I've worked so hard to try to stay on the field. That's what keeps driving me - to stay on the field, help this team win and try to solidify myself as the best player in the game."

He added that he wants to play between 140 and 160 games, but he knows it will be a challenge as he gets older.

"It's been a battle for me, no doubt," Tulowitzki said. "I do everything I possibly can to prepare for the season and make myself healthy."


 
 
 
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