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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
Indians expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) The Indians are expected to pick up Mike Aviles' option for next season, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group. 

The team has until shortly after the World Series to decide whether to pick up a $3.5 million club option on Aviles. It's expected the club will exercise that option. Aviles hit .247/.273/.343 over 344 at-bats. 


Tigers expected to keep Joakim Soria
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:32 am ET) The Tigers are expected to exercise their option on pitcher Joakim Soria, according to MLB.com.

Soria has a $7 million club option for next season. The team will need to make a decision on the option shortly after the end of the World Series. While general manager Dave Dombrowski said the final decision hasn't been made yet, he hinted at the club picking up Soria's contract. "It's a situation where we look at him as being an important acquisition toward this [coming] year also," Soria said. 

Soria posted a 3.25 ERA over 44 1/3 innings split between Texas and Detroit. 


Giants will know more about Tim Lincecum Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) The Giants will have more information on pitcher Tim Lincecum Thursday, according to Bleacher Report.

Lincecum left after his back tightened up in the eighth inning. The club expects him to be OK, but will have a better idea about the severity of his injury Thursday. Lincecum was able to pitch 1 2/3 innings before departing. 


Royals' Lorenzo Cain won't stop hitting
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:06 am ET) Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain continued to assault baseballs Wednesday against the Giants.

Cain has been on a tear during the postseason, and that didn't stop Wednesday. After doubling in his first at-bat, Cain would come around to score the team's first run of the night. He would later single to lead off the sixth inning, and would come around to score again later in the frame. Cain finished 2 for 4, with two runs scored and no RBI. 


Royals' Omar Infante comes up big Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals infielder Omar Infante came up big Wednesday against the Giants.

Infante wasted no time getting to work, doubling in his first at-bat. He would come around to score during the frame, giving the Royals a 2-1 lead. Infante would strike again in the bottom of the sixth. With a man on base, Infante belted a 98 mph fastball out to left for the two-run shot. He finished 2 for 3, with two runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Billy Butler drives in two Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals designated hitter Billy Butler drove in two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Butler struck in his first at-bat. With men on first and second, Butler managed to tie the game on a single to the left fielder. He would find himself in the exact same situation in the sixth inning, and responded in the same fashion. Butler again singled in a run on a hit to left field. He would finish 2 for 3, with no runs scored and two RBI. 


Royals' Yordano Ventura gives up two runs Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura allowed two runs Wednesday against the Giants.

Ventura gave up two runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. He struck out two and did not issue any walks during the outing. Ventura got himself into trouble immediately. To lead off the game, Gregor Blanco deposited a 98 mph fastball out to right for a solo home run. Ventura would settle in over the next two innings before giving up another run in the fourth. With a man on second, Ventura allowed an RBI double against Brandon Belt. Ventura would pitch into the sixth inning, but was pulled after giving up two singles. He threw 87 pitches during the outing and did not factor into the decision.


Giants SP Jake Peavy gives up four runs in World Series Game 2 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Jake Peavy was saddled with a loss in Game of the World Series Wednesday, allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks in five-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-2 defeat against the Royals.

Peavy (1-1) ran in to trouble immediately Wednesday, giving up a run on three hits and a walk in the first inning after the offense had given him a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. He surrendered another run on an RBI double in the second, but the offense evened the game in the fourth. Peavy opened the sixth inning by giving up a single and a walk before being removed, and the Royals went on to post five runs in the inning en route to running out to an insurmountable lead.

Peavy has posted a 3.68 ERA and 6:8 K:BB ratio in 14 2/3 innings over three postseason starts. The two teams head into Friday's Game 3 tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants OF Gregor Blanco slugs leadoff HR in World Series Game 2
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants outfielder Gregor Blanco went 1 for 4 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 7-2 loss in Game 2 of the World Series against the Royals.

Blanco opened the game by running Royals starter Yordano Ventura to a full count before crushing a ball over the right-field fence to give the Giants an early lead, but the Royals evened the score in the bottom half of the first and didn't trail for the rest of the night. Blanco has hit just .176/.276/.255 in 51 postseason at-bats but has turned it up since Game 3 of the NLCS, going 5 for 15 with three walks, the home run and three RBI. The two teams head to San Francisco Friday tied 1-1 in the series.


Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum leaves due to lower back issue
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/22/2014) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum left Wednesday's game against the Royals due to a lower back injury.

Lincecum tossed 1 2/3 innings before leaving the contest. After going 2-2 against Salvador Perez, Lincecum called the trainer out to the mound. He appeared to slip on the mound during the pitch. After some discussion, Lincecum was removed from the game. Following the game, the team announced Lincecum is dealing with a lower back injury.


 
 
 
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