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2012 Fantasy outlooks: San Francisco Giants

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Despite owning one of the worst offenses in the majors, the Giants' defense of their 2010 World Series title went smoothly well into the second half of the season. They led the National League West as late as August 9, but then they lost 17 out of their next 28 games. A strong September finish was not enough to get the Giants back to the postseason, leaving the organization to ponder how to retool for the 2012 campaign.

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The club's offseason moves suggest the organization thinks it had the right formula in 2010 and 2011. The pitching staff will go largely unchanged, though control-challenged lefty Jonathan Sanchez was dealt to the Royals and bullpen righty Ramon Ramirez was sent to the Mets. The Sanchez trade netted Melky Cabrera, who will replace retired Pat Burrell and departed free agent Cody Ross in left field. Ramirez was packaged with Andres Torres to bring in center fielder Angel Pagan. Midseason acquisition Carlos Beltran was allowed to leave as a free agent, completing the turnover of the outfield and giving defensive whiz Nate Schierholtz an opportunity to play regularly in right field.

The Giants will once again rely on pitching and the upgrade of their defense should reinforce an existing strength. However, they lost their best hitter in Beltran and unless Cabrera can take a step up from his surprising 2011 performance, an already-weak offense will sustain a stomach punch. Pablo Sandoval becomes the Giants' most potent bat and at least he will enjoy the benefit of getting Buster Posey back in the lineup. The young catcher missed the last four months of the season after his nasty home plate collision with the Marlins' Scott Cousins, but he enters spring training ready to catch and hit. To minimize the strain on his ankle and leg Posey will spend some time at first base as well as behind the plate this season.

Posey won't be the only key regular to return from a season-ending injury. Closer Brian Wilson faltered last season, particularly down the stretch, as he battled an elbow strain, but he is reportedly pain-free for the start of spring training. Freddy Sanchez will make his return from shoulder surgery, teaming up with sophomore shortstop Brandon Crawford as the team's double-play combination. Aubrey Huff wasn't shut down but he was limited to 50 plate appearances in September due to back issues. He is the favorite to return as the regular first baseman, though he will have to fend off Brandon Belt and Brett Pill.

The Giants don't have as balanced of an attack as the Diamondbacks or the middle-of-the-order thump of the Rockies, but their rotation and bullpen are strong enough to make them contenders. In fact, if Posey has a successful comeback and the inconsistent Huff can pull out one more rebound season, the Giants could provide their pitchers with a little more -- and much-needed -- support. A return to the playoffs is not out of the question but with so many uncertainties looming, neither is a record around .500.

Sleeper...Angel Pagan, OF

Pagan has been a very good line drive hitter over the last three seasons and his gap-hitting approach enabled him to hit .306 in 2009 and .290 in 2010. He continued to lace the ball in 2011 but his batting average on line drives was curiously low at .645 (last season, the major league average was .722). Despite a sizeable reduction in his strikeout rate Pagan hit just .262 overall in 2011. If he can maintain the improvement in his contact skills, a .300 batting average could be a fait accompli. Pagan stole 32 bases last season despite a diminished batting average and missed time due to an oblique injury. With the potential for 40-plus steals and a high average in 2012, Pagan could return to being the top 25 outfielder he was two seasons ago.

Bust...Melky Cabrera, OF

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After seemingly everyone had given up on Cabrera as a bona fide starting outfielder, the Royals gave him a shot as their center fielder last year. Cabrera seized the opportuntity and gave the Royals his best season by far, hitting .305 with 18 homers and 20 steals. What really stood out were his 44 doubles, which blew away his previous career high of 28. A .309 batting average on grounders helped Cabrera boost his doubles total, but that batting average bested his marks from the previous two seasons by more than 80 points. That's a trend that has regression written all over it and a lower overall batting average will mean fewer runs and stolen bases as well. Though Cabrera was a top 10 outfielder last season, this year he is likely to perform more like a low-end No. 3 outfielder.

One-hit wonder...Ryan Vogelsong, SP

After five less-than-successful seasons with the Pirates and four more years away from the majors, Vogelsong became something like a precursor to the Knicks' Jeremy Lin. Discarded by several organizations, Vogelsong became a phenomenon when he turned a stellar first-half performance into a spot on the NL All-Star squad. Over the first three months of the season, Vogelsong did many things he failed to do earlier in his career: reduce his walks, induce grounders and strand baserunners. Those tendencies, particularly the first two, trailed off in the second half. Vogelsong still posted a 3.26 ERA after the All-Star break but he continued to get a lot of help from a high strand rate. That is unlikely to continue in to 2012 and instead of being the top 40 starting pitcher he was a year ago, Vogelsong could have a difficult time finding relevance in standard mixed leagues again other than as a target for streaming on and off waivers.

2012 San Francisco Giants Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Angel Pagan CF 1 Tim Lincecum RH
2 Melky Cabrera LF 2 Matt Cain RH
3 Pablo Sandoval 3B 3 Madison Bumgarner LH
4 Buster Posey C 4 Ryan Vogelsong RH
5 Aubrey Huff 1B 5 Barry Zito LH
6 Nate Schierholtz RF Alt Brian Burres LH
7 Freddy Sanchez 2B
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Brandon Crawford SS CL Brian Wilson RH
Top bench options SU Sergio Romo RH
R Brandon Belt 1B/OF RP Javier Lopez LH
R Mike Fontenot IF RP Jeremy Affeldt LH
R Eli Whiteside C RP Santiago Casilla RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Gary Brown 23 OF Class A Double-A
Brown, a speedy contact hitter, showed surprising power with 14 home runs in Class A. He could be Giants' starting center fielder in 2013.
2 Joe Panik 21 SS Class A Class A
Panik should hit for a high average when he arrives in the majors within the next two years, though he may get moved to second base.
3 Tommy Joseph 20 C Class A Double-A
Joseph has already developed impressive power, though his other skills lag behind. He could eventually move Buster Posey to first base.
4 Eric Surkamp 24 SP Majors Triple-A
The soft-throwing lefty could fare well at AT&T Park eventually but Surkamp needs some time at Triple-A first.
5 Hector Sanchez 22 C Majors Majors
Sanchez has a chance to be on the opening day roster. He has some power potential and may be viable in deeper NL-only leagues this year.
Best of the rest: Andrew Susac, C; Heath Hembree, RP; Francisco Peguero, OF; Brett Pill, 1B; Kyle Crick, SP; Ehire Adrianza, SS; Josh Osich, SP; Clayton Blackburn, SP; Mike Kickham, SP; Seth Rosin, SP; Jarrett Parker, OF; Ricky Oropesa, 1B; Joan Gregorio, SP; Jesus Galindo, OF; Conor Gillaspie, 3B; Charlie Culberson, 2B, Chris Dominguez, 3B; Roger Kieschnick, OF; Angel Villalona, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Justin Wilson takes loss vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:23 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Justin Wilson was charged with a loss Wednesday, surrendering two earned runs on two hits and one walk in one inning and striking out one in his team's 7-5 defeat against the Giants.

Wilson (3-2) gave up an RBI single in the seventh inning to tie the game before watching the go-ahead run come home on a passed ball. He owns a 4.95 ERA and 41:23 K:BB ratio in 40 innings.


Charlie Morton surrenders four runs vs. Giants
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton didn't factor into Wednesday's decision, giving up four earned runs on nine hits and three walks in five innings and striking out two in his team's 7-5 loss to the Giants.

Morton was touched up for three runs in the bottom of the first inning, but his offense was able to dig him out of the hole, even with the starter allowing another run in the third. The bullpen later gave away the lead to deny him his first win since July 2. Morton owns a 3.54 ERA and 108:47 K:BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings. He is scheduled to take on the Marlins Tuesday.


Tim Lincecum chased in fourth inning vs. Pirates
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:13 pm ET) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum wasn't a factor in the decision Wednesday after giving up five earned runs on five hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings and striking out two in his team's 7-5 win over the Pirates.

Lincecum has now turned in back-to-back poor outings after a nice five-start run, and his rough stretch comes right after he was used to pick up a save in a game last week. He surrendered two-run home runs in the third and fourth inning Wednesday after serving up two home runs in his last nine starts combined. Lincecum owns a 4.21 ERA and 116:50 K:BB ratio in 128 1/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Brewers Tuesday.


Dan Haren to start Friday, Hyun-Jin Ryu moved to Saturday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:12 pm ET) Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren is in line to make Friday's start against the Cubs, with Hyun-Jin Ryu being given an extra day of rest, MLB.com reports.

Haren had his regular turn in the rotation skipped, and he hasn't pitched since July 23. He did throw a bullpen session Wednesday, putting him in line for Friday's outing. Haren owns a 4.49 ERA and 92:26 K:BB ratio in 122 1/3 innings.


Jonny Venters set to throw off mound Saturday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:05 pm ET) Braves pitcher Jonny Venters has felt good with his long toss exercises and will begin throwing off a mound Saturday, MLB.com reports.

Venters hasn't pitched since 2012 after facing a long recovery from his second Tommy John surgery. Saturday's mound work will be a big test.


Mike Pelfrey begins throwing program
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:52 pm ET) Twins pitcher Mike Pelfrey began a throwing program Wednesday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Pelfrey underwent surgery on his elbow in June to alleviate the pressure on his ulnar nerve. He said earlier in July that the numbness was finally gone from his hand, and it appears he's ready to start working his way back toward a return. Pelfrey hasn't pitched for the Twins since May 1.


Rockies tab Pedro Hernandez to start Thursday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:49 pm ET) The Rockies will call up pitcher Pedro Hernandez to start Thursday's game against the Cubs, MLB.com reports.

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Jason Heyward remains out of lineup Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:36 pm ET) Braves outfielder Jason Heyward is not in the starting lineup for Wednesday's game against the Dodgers.

Heyward wasn't able to play Tuesday after coming out of Monday's game with a back injury. He was expected to return to the lineup either Wednesday or Thursday, so it's likely he'll be ready to come back tomorrow. Heyward has hit .260/.350/.379 with nine home runs, 42 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 396 at-bats.


Report: Royals out on Jonny Gomes
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:33 pm ET) The Royals are out on an attempt to acquire Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes, ESPNBoston.com reports.

A report surfaced a few weeks ago that Gomes was on the Royals' list of potential trade targets in a search for a right-handed bat. He has hit .239/.335/.361 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 205 at-bats.


Orioles, Rangers discussing Neal Cotts
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:30 pm ET) The Orioles and Rangers are discussing a potential trade to send pitcher Neal Cotts to Baltimore, MLB.com reports.

The Orioles are on the lookout for a relief pitcher who has success against batters on both sides of the plate. The Rangers have been considering keeping Cotts through the deadline and attempting to resign him for next season. He has posted a 3.52 ERA and 50:18 K:BB ratio in 46 innings.


 
 
 
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