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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
Giants' Sabean: No plans to talk to Max Scherzer
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Giants general manager Brian Sabean said that the Giants have not talked to free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer and have no plans to do so, the Mercury News reports.

Scherzer is the biggest name on the pitching market and could be seeking a deal north of the $155-million pact signed by Cubs pitcher Jon Lester. His price tag may not be feasible for the Giants' budget. The 2013 AL Cy Young winner went 18-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 252:63 K:BB ratio in 220 1/3 innings with the Tigers in 2014.


Report: Nick Hundley has two-year offer, unlikely to rejoin Orioles
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) Free-agent catcher Nick Hundley has a two-year offer on the table from an unidentified team, making him unlikely to return to the Orioles, masnsports.com reports.

The Orioles declined a $5-million option on Hundley for the 2015 season but had interest in bringing him back into the fold at a lesser salary. He hit .243/.273/.358 with six home runs and 22 RBI in 218 at-bats between Baltimore and San Diego in 2014.


Report: Phillies could join Asdrubal Cabrera market
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Phillies could become involved in the market for free-agent infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, ESPN.com reports.

The Phillies traded their longtime starter at shortstop to the Dodgers this offseason and will be looking to fill that hole in the infield. However, the team will have to shed some additional payroll in order to make a run at the infielder, according to the report. Cabrera hit .241/.307/.387 with 14 home runs, 61 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 553 at-bats between Cleveland and Washington in 2014.


Rangers release Ben Rowen
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Rangers have released relief pitcher Ben Rowen . Rowen, who was designated for assignment earlier in the week, posted a 4.15 ERA in 8 2/3 innings with the Rangers in 2014 as well as a 3.45 ERA and 31:9 K:BB ratio in 47 innings with Triple-A Round Rock.

Nationals sign Mark Minicozzi to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Nationals have signed infielder Mark Minicozzi to a minor-league deal.

Minicozzi, 31, hit .298/.400/.470 with 12 home runs and 62 RBI in 315 at-bats with Triple-A San Jose in 2014. He has yet to appear in a regular-season game in the majors.


Indians sign pitcher Scott Downs to minor-league contract
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(12/20/2014) The Indians announced they signed pitcher Scott Downs to a minor-league contract Saturday.

Downs also received a non-roster invite to MLB camp.


Red Sox, Padres complete Hanigan-for-Middlebrooks trade
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Red Sox and Padres completed a trade Friday, with catcher Ryan Hanigan heading to Boston in exchange for third baseman Will Middlebrooks, the Red Sox announced.

Hanigan, 34, is signed for two more seasons with a team option for 2017. He hit .218/.318/.324 with five home runs and 34 RBI in 225 at-bats in 2014.

Middlebrooks, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2015 season. He hit .191/.256/.265 with two home runs and 19 RBI in 215 at-bats in 2014.


Giants get Class A hurlers for Marlins 3B McGehee
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) The Giants are trading minor league right-handers Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo for Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee.

Both pitched at a Class A level last season and averaged more than a strikeout per inning.


Dodgers dump RHP Brian Wilson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Three days after designating reliever Brian Wilson for assignment, the Dodgers have released him.

Wilson struggled in 2014 after a strong stint upon his arrival with Los Angeles in 2013. He finished the year with a 4.66 ERA and 29 walks in 48 1/3 innings.


Report: LHP Craig Breslow staying with Red Sox
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12/19/2014) Left-hander reliever Craig Breslow is set to sign a one-year deal with the Red Sox for $2 million, per WEEI.com.

Breslow pitched for Boston the last two years, but collapsed in 2014 after compiling a 1.81 ERA the previous year. He finished with a 5.93 ERA and 73 hits in 54 1/3 innings.


 
 
 
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