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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
David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


Mariners' Austin Jackson looking to bounce back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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