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2013 Fantasy outlooks: San Francisco Giants

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The San Francisco Giants, reigning World Series champions, enter 2013 looking very much like the team that ended 2012 soaked in champagne and dancing around the locker room. The team returns its entire rotation, the core of its lineup, and even most of its bullpen. The Giants even reached into the past with their biggest offseason signing -- bringing back 35-year-old Andres Torres (a member of the team from 2009-2011 before being traded to the Mets) on a one-year deal. While the Dodgers, their NL West rivals, revamped a lineup with big-name stars and high-priced free agents, the Giants made far smaller headlines and quietly re-signed Marco Scutaro. They also added Chad Gaudin to their relief corps.

For all their real baseball success, the Giants aren't exactly teeming with Fantasy All-Stars (outside of catcher Buster Posey, who should be the first catcher taken in most drafts). Last season, for instance, the Giants hit the fewest home runs in all of baseball. And that was with a juiced-up Melky Cabrera (now with the Blue Jays) in the lineup for 113 games. The deadline acquisition of Hunter Pence, who has five straight seasons of 20 or more home runs, should give the lineup a bit of a full-season power boost. And Pablo Sandoval, who has produced seasons of 25 and 23 home runs, was limited to just 108 games in 2012 thanks to a broken hand and strained hamstring. The darkhorse for power, however, could end up being first baseman Brandon Belt, who had a 1.052 OPS over 189 minor league games before making the leap to the majors in 2011. Granted, he hit seven home runs in what was essentially full-time play last year, but Belt is still young (24) and 2013 will only be his fourth season of professional baseball.

2013 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Thanks to the out-of-nowhere flop produced by Tim Lincecum last year (10-15, 5.18 ERA, 1.49 WHIP), the Giants' rotation looks a little shakier than usual. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will anchor the rotation at the top, followed by Lincecum -- who we still scratch our heads about, as there has been no real reason given for his sudden downturn last year -- the resurgent Ryan Vogelsong (a 3.05 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in his two seasons since retuning from Japan, but a messy track record before he went East) and Barry Zito, who shows flashes of brilliance without warning at various points during the season, but has managed a 4.00-plus ERA every year since joining the Giants in 2007.

The bullpen should be a source of strength again. Brian Wilson, who missed 2012 with Tommy John surgery, has departed, but the team has a borderline-elite closer in Sergio Romo, and a nice set of complements in Santiago Casilla (who saved 25 games for the Giants last year before giving way to Romo), Jeremy Affeldt and Gaudin. Even 27-year-old George Kontos emerged as a high-strikeout, low-ratio middle reliever.

Sleeper ... Brandon Belt, first baseman

Belt has a .259 career average, along with 16 home runs and 15 steals in 598 MLB at-bats. All very unappealing to the average Fantasy drafter. But Belt had a .343 batting average and 1.052 OPS in 670 minor league at-bats before his 2011 callup. He was bounced back and forth from left field to first base in 2011, before settling at first last season. While Belt saw gains in average and steals last year, his power actually dipped -- going from nine home runs in 187 at-bats in 2011, to seven home runs in 411 at-bats last year. But he showed flashes of his would-be greatness, with four home runs in June and three in September. He will likely lose starts again to Buster Posey at first base, but with Cabrera gone and the Giants going with Torres and Gregor Blanco in left field, there's a chance manager Bruce Bochy just shifts him to the outfield on those days instead. If Belt gets regular at-bats, and isn't taken out of the playing-every-day rhythm when he has to yield first base to Posey, he could get into a nice groove and rediscover his power swing from the minors. Even if he doesn't, though, Belt has shown he can hit for average, contribute in steals and manage plenty of doubles, which should produce an overlooked player who returns plenty of value for his late-round selection.

Bounceback candidate ... Tim Lincecum, starting pitcher

2013 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Angel Pagan OF
2. Marco Scutaro 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Hunter Pence RF
6. Brandon Belt 1B
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Gregor Blanco LF
Bench Andres Torres OF
Bench Brett Pill IF/OF
Bench Joaquin Arias SS

It seems almost dirty and way too obvious to put him here, but there aren't many other candidates on the Giants -- Sandoval was hurt and nearly everyone else had decent enough seasons. Lincecum, though, was a terribly frustrating enigma in 2012. He entered the year with a 2.98 career ERA and two Cy Young Awards. He produced a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 186 innings. If you're looking for a silver lining, it's that Lincecum still managed to strike out a batter per inning. And he made 30 starts for the sixth consecutive year. But his home run, walk and hit rates surged. And then there was his fastball. He lost 2 mph on the once-reliable pitch. At 28, this was ... unexpected. And unwelcome. Usually, these leaps in numbers indicate some sort of injury. But either Lincecum is insane and didn't tell anyone about pain he must have been experiencing all year long (he was bad right from the start), or there is some other reason, which we have yet to discover. There were plenty of theories, but none were ever confirmed. So we head into 2013 with the hope that whatever threw him off in 2012 has passed, and Lincecum returns to his old form in 2013. Unfortunately, because he has traditionally been pretty bad in spring training (a 5.04 career spring ERA), we will have to wait until the season starts to know for sure if Lincecum is truly back to his old self. If you believe in him and want to take a risk, there could be no bigger payoff in 2013 than a late-mid-round/$8 Lincecum returning to his old self and producing a ton of Fantasy value.

Buyer beware ... Marco Scutaro, second baseman

2013 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Matt Cain RHP
2. Madison Bumgarner LHP
3. Tim Lincecum RHP
4. Ryan Vogelsong RHP
5. Barry Zito LHP
ALT Yusmeiro Petit RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Sergio Romo RHP
2. Santiago Casilla RHP
3. Jeremy Affeldt LHP
4. George Kontos RHP
5. Chad Gaudin RHP

Marco Scutaro had a career year in 2012, hitting .306 (a career high), with 32 doubles, seven home runs, nine steals and 74 RBI. The 37-year-old went batty after a deadline trade sent him from the Rockies to the Giants, hitting .362 with an .859 OPS in 61 games with San Francisco. He even took home NLCS MVP honors. And then we rode that momentum a little too far. Scutaro went from an NL-only middle infield fixture to a legitimate starter in mixed leagues. This was fine for the second half of 2012, but this perception of Scutaro as having mixed league value carried over to 2013, and it may be overrating him a little too much. Scutaro's upside is a .275 average with 30 doubles, eight home runs and five steals. While it helps that he has shortstop and second base eligibility -- two positions that are relatively shallow this season -- owners in mixed leagues (especially Roto formats) with fewer than 16 teams shouldn't really be thinking of Scutaro as much more than a desperation play late. He won't hurt your team, but that isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of him as a standard contributor.

Prospects Report

While the Giants have flipped some solid prospects in trades for Pence and Scutaro recently, they still have an intriguing -- if not promising -- group of players who could have varying degrees of impact. The farm system is anchored by Kyle Crick, a 20-year-old former first-round pick who has drawn comparisons to Matt Cain. He will head back to the lower levels of the minors in 2013 and probably won't make any kind of impact until 2014, at the earliest. ... Gary Brown was the team's 2010 first-rounder and while he took a step back in 2012 at Double-A (average, power and speed all dropped), he still projects as a solid major leaguer with 40-steal potential, a little bit of power and a high average. He'll start in Triple-A this season, but if the Blanco/Torres combo fizzles, Brown could be a mid-season add to the San Francisco roster. He's got tremendous keeper appeal. ... Heath Hembree's name was briefly thrown around when Brian Wilson was injured last year, but the Pacific Coast League was rather unkind to the 24-year-old, as he finished with a 4.19 ERA (but encouragingly low 1.16 WHIP). Hembree throws in the high 90s and could be part of the Giants' bullpen by June. ... Roger Kieschnick is a big power hitter who hit 15 home runs in 58 games in the minors last year, in a season cut short after he fractured his shoulder running into an outfield wall. He may be closer to the majors than Brown and could be a nice sleeper keeper pick.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @nandocbs . You can also send us an e- mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Orioles finalize trade with Pirates for Travis Snider
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) As part of the trade sending outfielder Travis Snider to the Orioles, the Pirates will receive prospect Stephen Tarpley and a player to be named later, the team announced.

The left-handed Tarpley pitched at Class A in 2014 and went 3-5 with a 3.68 ERA.

Snider hit .264 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in 2014 and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said Snider fits in well with the team, reports MASNsports.com. 

"Snider is a solid dependable power-hitting outfielder and is an excellent fit for Camden Yards," Duquette said.


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by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7:40 pm ET) Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday the team plans to stretch out pitcher Ross Detwiler's starts to open spring training, reports foxsportssouthwest.com

Detwiler did not start a game in 2014, making 47 relief appearances with a 4.00 ERA. In 2013, he started 13 games for the Nationals and went 2-7 with a 4.04 ERA.


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(6:40 pm ET) The Red Sox and Rangers announced a two player trade Tuesday where Boston sent Anthony Ranaudo to Texas and the Rangers sent Robbie Ross to the Red Sox, both teams announced.

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Tuesday Ranaudo is in play to become the No. 5 starter in the rotation, but if he doesn't win the job, he will likely start in the minors.

Ranaudo posted a 4-3 record with a 4.81 ERA in 2014 for Boston in 39 1/3 innings pitched. Ross went 3-6 with a 6.20 ERA in 78 1/3 innings for the Rangers.


Report: Blue Jays also interested in Jonathan Papelbon trade
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:20 pm ET) Along with the Brewers, the Phillies have also discussed trading closer Jonathan Papelbon to the Blue Jays, soruces told MLB.com.

Papelbon is due $13 million next season, which is believed to be one of the sticking points in negotiations. In 2014, Papelbon had 39 saves with a 2.04 ERA.


Report: Orioles, Pirates rekindle Travis Snider trade talks
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Orioles and Pirates have revived trade talks regarding Pittsburgh outfielder Travis Snider, a source told The Baltimore Sun. The Orioles are closing in on a framework for a deal for Snider and are encouraged a trade will happen in exchange for one or two minor-league players.

The 26-year-old Snider is in his second year of arbitration and will be a free agent after the 2016 season. He will make $2.1 million in 2015.


Report: Angels, Garrett Richards set arbitration date
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) The Angels and pitcher Garrett Richards have reportedly set an arbitration date for Feb. 11, according to the L.A. Times.

Talks for the new contract have been moving slowly with no discussion of a multi-year deal coming, according to the report. Richards asked for $3.8 million, but the team only offered $2.4 million.

Richards went 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA in 2014, amassing 164 strikeouts in 168 2/3 innings.


Giants SS Brandon Crawford agrees to $3.175M salary for 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:34 pm ET) The Giants and shortstop Brandon Crawford avoided arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a $3.175 million salary for 2015, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. Crawford, who is in his first year of arbitration, made $560,000 in 2014.

Crawford just finished his fourth season in the majors and third full season in 2014. He had career highs in triples (10), home runs (10), runs (54), RBI (69), walks (59) and games played (153).


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by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) The acquisition of J.A. Happ means Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon doesn't have to head into spring training with long reliever Tom Wilhelmsen competing for a spot in the rotation.

However, McClendon hasn't totally given up on the idea of Wilhelmsen potentially transitioning to a starting role down the road, per MLB.com.

"I don't think it's totally dead," McClendon said. "I would say it's probably a long shot. My plan, as we speak right now, is to maybe stretch him out in spring and just play with it a little bit and see what happens, but I think it's a long shot. He was just so good in the role he was in, it'd be hard to take him out of that role."

Wilhelmsen pitched multiple innings in 24 of his 57 appearances last year. The former closer went 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 72 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings.

"I really tried not to change anything at all, [other than] try to simplify a little bit," Wilhelmsen said. "If I was going in in the fourth inning, I knew I'd have to throw two or three innings and I just really attacked the zone. But it's not like you don't attack the zone any other time. It's the same thing. You have to get outs."


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(4:17 pm ET) Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos struggled in his first full year playing third base at the major-league level in 2014, so he is hard at work this offseason improving his defense

"Last year was [about] the actual ground-ball catching," Castellanos said, per MLB.com. "This year is a lot more [about] quickness, working on my range, lateral movement."

On top of committing 15 errors, Castellanos' Ultimate Zone Rating of negative-18.4 was nearly twice as bad as the next-lowest rating among third-base regulars. He also had a Defensive Runs Saved of minus-30 and a plus/minus rating of minus-39, which was lowest in the majors last year.

"I'm going to be more comfortable this year," Castellanos said. "Last year, I knew nobody [in terms of hitting tendencies]. Also I was getting used to the tempo of the game. It wasn't like I was in the big leagues for a while at another position and then had to go to third base. It was pretty much me making my first year in the big leagues at pretty much a new position, or trying to relearn an old position."


Santana, Escobar to compete to be Twins' starting shortstop
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) While Danny Santana is considered the front-runner to be the Twins' starting shortstop, first-year manager Paul Molitor said nothing has been decided yet. Santana will compete with Eduardo Escobar for the starting job this spring.

"It's probably been one of the more awkward things for me this winter in dealing with that situation," Molitor said, per MLB.com. "Obviously, I have to go in there open-minded about how it will play out. I can't say Santana will be the shortstop because things can change. Escobar deserves an opportunity to play and whether it's spotting around the organization or he has to go back to shortstop, I can't tell you it all will work out."

Escobar started a team-high 86 games at shortstop in 2014 for Minnesota. He made it clear he wants to play every day, but is willing to play where Molitor needs him.

"This season is important for me," Escobar said. "I'm coming in ready to play. I don't know if I'm going to be the starting shortstop or not, but I've been working hard to be ready for spring training. If Molitor wants me to play shortstop, or wherever, I'm ready for it."

Santana said he is excited he is moving back to shortstop after making a team-high 62 starts in center field last year. He's been fielding 200 grounders per day in the Dominican Republic to get ready for the season.

"I'm very happy about playing shortstop. I was waiting for that moment," Santana said. "Shortstop is my natural position. I just need to keep working and I can do the same thing as last year."


 
 
 
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