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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
Franklin Gutierrez 'doing fine' in bid to make Mariners
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:46 pm ET) Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez said Thursday that he's "doing fine" after missing the 2014 season while dealing with an inflammatory nerve condition called ankylosing spondylitis, MLB.com reports.

"I'm doing fine," Gutierrez said. "After missing a year, I'm very grateful to be back here. I've been here for a long time now. I just want to give it a shot one more time to see if I can do it."

Gutierrez agreed to a minor-league deal with the Mariners and will see where he's at after being invited to spring training. His illness "has a treatment, but not a cure," and he expects to be dealing with it for the remainder of his life.

"We hope that he's healthy and can make it through the camp feeling good about himself and get back to playing baseball," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "There are no big expectations. Do we expect him to be the guy he was two or three years ago? I doubt it. He's been off a long time. He needs to ease himself back into things and it's going to take time. No. 1, we have to make sure he's healthy."

Gutierrez was limited to 81 games in 2012 and 2013 combined due to a virety of injuries, many of which were later attributed to his illness.


Angels' Matt Joyce to see ample work against lefties this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) Angels outfielder Matt Joyce will see plenty of opportunities against left-handed pitching during spring training as well as extra work in the cage and against the breaking-ball machine as the team primes him for a potential everyday role, MLB.com reports.

"I don't want him looking over his shoulder every time a lefty comes in, thinking he's going to get pinch-hit for," hitting coach Don Baylor said. "I'm trying to get him out of that mentality. He's on a new ballclub now."

Just 323 of Joyce's 2,182 career at-bats have come against left-handers, against whom he has hit .189/.258/.316 with nine home runs and 50 RBI.

"This is something that I've wanted and asked for for a while," Joyce said. "I really don't feel there's a lot of pressure on me. I've done it in the minor leagues. I feel it's something I'm going to have to put some time and extra effort into, but, without a doubt, I know I can do it."

Joyce will have the opportunity to serve as the team's everyday left fielder with Josh Hamilton recovering from injury and dealing with a potential disciplinary issue.


Indians' Francona disagrees with metrics on Brantley's defense
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:28 pm ET) Indians outfielder Michael Brantley was ranked 13th in FanGraphs' overall defensive rating out of 15 players who logged at least 800 innings in left field in 2014, a ranking manager Terry Francona "can't understand," Cleveland.com reports.

"For the life of me, I can't understand it," Francona said. "I really don't. That's something that perplexes me to no end. He is one of the better left fielders in the game. I don't get it. I don't know if I ever will."

Brantley was one of three finalists for the American League Golden Glove Award last year for his position despite finishing the season with a minus-6.3 UZR/150. His minus-10.4 overall defensive rating marked his second season with a mark worse than minus-10 in the category.

"I think the [advanced] stats are deceiving," Francona said. "We see him every time. We see Brantley for 162 games and he does it over and over and over and over and over. He's so consistent and his arm is such a factor. I don't know where they came up with that. I don't care."

Brantley committed just one error in 2014 while racking up a career-high 12 outfield assists. He also delivered his finest season at the plate, hitting .327/.385/.506 with 20 home runs, 97 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 611 at-bats.


Braves' Markakis apologizes for comments about the Orioles
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Braves outfielder Nick Markakis apologized for calling out the Orioles organization, according to MASN.

Markakis was recently quoted saying the Orioles organization couldn't be trusted after he felt they were disingenuous about why contract negotiations broke down. "Don't believe a word they say," Markakis said. "It was all because of my neck. They can say what they want to make them look good."

He backpedaled from those comments on Thursday. "What I said wasn't directed at any way to the Orioles organization or ownership. It's just one of those things where I kind of said sarcastically, 'B.S., I wouldn't believe everything you hear. Don't believe them.'" he said. "I just want to put it behind me and I apologize for what I did, but there's a reason why it came out of my mouth." 

The 31-year-old hit .276/.342/.386 over 642 at-bats last year.


Blue Jays agree to a deal with Johan Santana
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:04 pm ET) The Blue Jays have agreed to sign pitcher Johan Santana, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman.

Santana, who hasn't pitched in the majors since 2012 due to various arm injuries, is attempting to make a come back this season. He pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League, but was shut down after having some shoulder discomfort. Santana resumed throwing in late February. 

The 34-year-old posted a 4.85 ERA in 117 innings back in 2012. 


Reds' Jon Moscot standing out early in camp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(6:02 pm ET) Reds pitching prospect Jon Moscot stood out during the team's live batting practice Wednesday, drawing praise from manager Bryan Price, MLB.com reports.

"He throws efficiently," Price said. "He throws plenty hard enough. He's an 89-92 [mph], maybe a touch better at times. It's command. It's bottom-of-the-zone command, side to side. A very, very good slider. His changeup has made great strides over the last season. As I tell the starters, if you're going to start, you need that offspeed pitch, some kind of change-of-pace pitch, but primarily a changeup, if you're going to be really good."

Moscot wasn't aware that the Reds manager, who caught three or four minutes of his session while roving around, was watching the prospect.

"They're all walking around. We've got three fields going on," Moscot said. "Everyone is trying to make an impression, so I just know that any moment, you can turn a head. Keep your head down and work hard."

Moscot spent most of his 2014 season with Double-A Pensacola, going 7-10 with a 3.13 ERA and 111:43 K:BB ratio in 149 1/3 innings over 25 starts.


Rangers' Michael Kirkman progressing after having soreness
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Michael Kirkman has made progress after experiencing shoulder soreness early in camp, according to MLB.com.

Kirkman was able to play cath for the second straight day on Thursday. He'll attempt to take part in long toss on Friday. The 28-year-old posted a 1.59 ERA in 12 games last year. 


Rangers' Tanner Scheppers impressing early
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Tanner Scheppers has impressed during camp, according to MLB.com.

Scheppers missed a large portion of last season due to an elbow issue. He was able to throw batting practice on Thursday, and drew rave reviews from pitching coach Mike Maddux. "He's coming out free and easy with a loose arm," Maddux said. "He's got a little attitude, but he always does."

Scheppers said he was just glad to be back on the mound. "I'm seriously just happy to be out there," Scheppers said. "It has been seven months since I've faced hitters. I'm just happy to be playing baseball and feeling great."

The 28-year-old posted a 9.00 ERA over 23 innings last season. 


Mariners' Felix Hernandez: I'll be ready for game action soon
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:51 pm ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez, who shed six-to-seven pounds in the offseason, told reporters he's off to a strong start this spring following a 30-pitch bullpen session, according to the Tacoma News Tribune on Thursday.

"Pretty good," Hernandez said. "I'm telling you, that was pretty good."

Hernandez also hinted that he's practically ready for game action.

"I don't need to throw a lot of bullpens," Hernandez said. "Two or three, a live BP and I'll be ready for a game."


Rangers' Shin-Soo Choo won't push himself early
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:46 pm ET) Rangers outfielder Shin-Soo Choo isn't going to go all out yet, according to MLB.com.

Choo had season-ending elbow surgery last August, but feels pretty good in camp. He's been able to participate in every drill with outfielders thus far, but added that he's not going to push himself too hard. "It's a long Spring Training," Choo said. "There are going to be some days when I'm sore, but no issues. I'm not worried about it."

Choo, 32, hit .242/.340/.374 over 445 at-bats last year. 


 
 
 
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