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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
Reds' Brennan Boesch to see time at first base this spring
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:58 pm ET) Reds manager Bryan Price indicated Friday that outfielder Brennan Boesch would see time at all three outfield spots as well as at first base as he competes for a roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

"We already know he's a terrific player," Price said of Boesch, who has never played first base professionally. "He kind of got banged up and lost his way a little bit, but I think he feels -- and we feel -- that he's back on top of his game, and maybe his best days are ahead of him."

Boesch said he doesn't see the battle for a reserve outfield role as a "competition."

"I only care about the competition against the pitcher, and that's really as basic as I keep it," Boesch said. "You aren't competing against other players. We're all on the same side here. We're all wearing Red jerseys. Let the chips fall where they may."

Boesch struggled in limited time with the Angels in 2014 but hit .332/.381/.636 with 25 home runs, 85 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 374 at-bats with Triple-A Salt Lake.


Dodgers' Mattingly: Turner has 'put a lot of time in and it shows'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:44 pm ET) Dodgers infielder Justin Turner earned a nonroster invitation to the team's camp last year and ended up leading the team in batting average, and he's been working on his body like a fiend over the winter, MLB.com reports.

"Going into last year, we felt if he played every day, he'd get in trouble, and we found that out, but this year maybe he can handle more," manager Don Mattingly said Friday. "He's really been diligent about his work, been at Dodger Stadium almost daily. He's put a lot of time in and it shows."

Turner credited strength-and-conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for his workout success.

"Brandon did everything. He's been a one-man wrecking crew," said Turner. "He and his family deserve the credit. I've been able to establish a routine and train consistently. Before I signed a year ago, I was on my own, going to 24 Hour Fitness, had to coordinate everything myself."

Turner added that he lost 18 pounds this winter through a healthier diet. Mattingly said that he intends to use the infielder at the corner-infield positions and also potentially up the middle.


Nationals' Matt Skole: 'I'm eating healthy and working hard'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) Nationals first baseman Matt Skole missed most of 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and struggled at the plate in 2014 but showed up to camp in better shape and will look to rebound in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"This offseason, I had a little more time to work on my body," Skole said. "I really got after it in the weight room. I ate right. I ate healthy. I think that was probably the biggest difference for me. I'm about the same weight as I was. I just leaned out a little bit. I'm eating healthy and working hard."

Skole worked with hitting coordinator Troy Gingrich for a month after the season and learned to keep his hands up in order to hit the ball consistently after having his hands too low during his down 2014 season.

"After taking a year off, it was more difficult than I thought it would be," the left-handed-swinging Skole said. "But coming back, I turned some corners, made some strides as far as getting to know myself as a player and know the things I need to fix. I think everything I did last year was a stepping stone for this year."

Skole hit .241/.352/.399 with 14 home runs and 68 RBI in 461 at-bats with Double-A Harrisburg last season.


Report: Dodgers sign center fielder Travis Witherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:22 pm ET) The Dodgers signed center fielder Travis Witherspoon to their organization, according to a report from Baseball America

Witherspoon has previously been in the Angels and Mariners organizations. In six years of minor-league ball, Witherspoon has posted a career batting average of .252 with 68 home runs. He hit a minor-league single-season best 15 home runs in 2014 with the Mariners' Single-A affiliate High Desert Mavericks. 


Phillies' Buchanan 'working on being a complete pitcher'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher David Buchanan is "working on being a complete pitcher," manager Ryan Sandberg said, per the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The team's coaches spoke with Buchanan in the fall about command and pitch sequencing, executing bunts and thwarting would-be base-stealers, and Sandberg noted while examining the players that arrived early that the pitcher had taken the advice to heart.

"My biggest goal [this spring] is to show our front office and our coaches that I can throw the ball over the plate," Buchanan said. "That's one thing I had success with last year. I wasn't walking guys. I was throwing strikes, and that's what I'm known for. That's why I succeeded in the minor leagues; I was throwing strikes. So that's what I want to do this spring training, is continue to do that, pound the zone, force early contact and keep the ball on the ground."

Buchanan is scheduled to pitch the team's Grapefruit League opener Tuesday against the Yankees.


Giants' Bochy: Hunter Strickland 'needs to get a little smarter'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(9:01 pm ET) Giants pitcher Hunter Strickland is ready to learn from his mistakes from the tail end of his 2014 season.

Starting strong once he was called up from Double-A Richmond, Strickland gave up six home runs in the postseason. Giants manager Bruce Bochy said the remedy to put Strickland back on track is simple. 

"He needs to get a little smarter," Bochy said, per MLB.com.  

Strickland will be competing for a spot in the bullpen during spring training. His fastball is a strength, though it's a matter of his command improving on the mound. 

"The failures are what make guys better, I feel like," Strickland said. "I feel like they made me better. Just being in tune with yourself and knowing who you are and what you've got to do. In this game, you're not going to make it too far if you don't have confidence. If you don't believe in yourself, who else is going to believe in you?"


Mets' Nieuwenhuis, den Dekker competing for roster spot
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:00 pm ET) Mets left-handed hitters Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Matt den Dekker will be battling for one roster spot this spring, MLB.com reports.

While Nieuwenhuis is out of options, manager Terry Collins indicated that den Dekker has responded to the team's request that he reduce his strikeouts when sent to Triple-A last season.

"We'll just see how it translates this spring into what kind of an offensive player he can be," Collins said of den Dekker. "We know he's got the defensive skills."

Collins said that whichever outfielder shows the most promise will make the initial 25-man roster.

"He plays the game right. He's fearless," Collins said of Nieuwenhuis. "But right now, we've got to get some offense from one of those two guys. Which one of those two guys is going to be able to come off the bench as a pinch-hitter? The best closers in our division are all right-handed, so the left-handed hitter off that bench is going to be a big piece."


Stephen Strasburg wants to stay with Nationals
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:40 pm ET) Though Stephen Strasburg's agent Scott Boras denied a report that he wanted to be traded in January, the right-handed pitcher said himself that he wants to remain with the Nationals and has no issues with the organization. 

"I haven't said anything like that," Strasburg said in an interview with MLB.com. "I don't feel like that. You have to accept it because that's how the system works. It's like they pick up on any little thing and they twist it. Some people want to turn it to see how many clicks they can get on the webpage."

Strasburg is set to be the ace of a deep rotation that looks to be on of the best in baseball this coming season. With the Nationals winning their second divisional title in the past three seasons, Strasburg said he's happy with the organization. 

"It's the team that drafted me. I love the players here, I love D.C. Winning cures everything, that's for sure," Strasburg said. "I'm excited to be part of the resurgence so far. It's great to see the type of players we bring in here every year. The expectations keep going up and up. Hopefully, we can do big things this year."


Nationals sign pitcher Rich Hill to minor-league deal
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:26 pm ET) The Nationals signed pitcher Rich Hill to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training, the team announced Friday night

Hill spent time with the Angels and Yankees in 2014 and posted a 3.38 ERA in 16 appearances. 

His career ERA is 4.72 over 10 years, which includes additional stops with the Cubs, Orioles, Red Sox and Indians. 


Tim Melville, Kyle Lobstein to start Monday and Tuesday for Tigers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(8:18 pm ET) Tigers coach Brad Ausmus announced that pitchers Tim Melville and Kyle Lobstein, respectively, will get starts in upcoming games on Monday and Tuesday, according to MLB.com

Melville will start in an exhibition between the Tigers and college team Florida Southern. Lobstein will start in Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles. 


 
 
 
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