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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: San Francisco Giants

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The Giants fell hard after their 2012 World Series victory. Returning with a roster that changed little from their championship squad, the team went 76-86, tying for third place in the National League West.

Having become accustomed to owning one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, the Giants had to adapt to what was once a strength becoming a weakness in 2013. Matt Cain had a surprisingly poor first half, compiling a 5.06 ERA before rediscovering his control and runner-stranding ability. Ryan Vogelsong underperformed and missed time with a hand injury, and Barry Zito had possibly his most miserable season of his disappointing seven-year Giants career. Though Chad Gaudin and Yusmeiro Petit filled in admirably as substitute starters, the Giants' staff finished with the third-highest ERA in the National League. Only Madison Bumgarner and closer Sergio Romo stood out as a reliable arms over the course of the season.

2014 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

The offense gets its share of the blame, too. Buster Posey was bound to fall off his MVP pace from 2012, but few likely saw a near-halving of his home run-to-flyball ratio (from 17.8 to 9.4 percent) coming. Angel Pagan missed more than half the season due to hamstring surgery, leaving Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres to man two of the outfield spots for much of 2013. Not only did they fail to make up for Pagan's lost production, but neither one came close to replacing the departed Melky Cabrera. (In all fairness, Cabrera fell far short of the standard he set in 2011 and 2012 in his first season with the Blue Jays.)

The Giants apparently feel that the current cast is capable of contending again, as they made few offseason moves. Michael Morse was signed to provide the outfield production they missed by using Blanco and Torres frequently last season. Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury. Otherwise, the team will count on Posey and Vogelsong to rebound, Bumgarner and Hunter Pence to remain consistent, Brandon Belt to build on his growth from the last two seasons, Tim Lincecum to continue the reversal of fortune he modestly began last year and for Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval to simply stay healthy.

There are a lot of "ifs" that will have to come true for the Giants to contend again, and that also means there are few players who are reliable enough to be trusted with an early-round pick in Fantasy. Posey, Pence and Bumgarner are the sole members of that brief list, though Cain will be a must-start option until he proves otherwise. Lincecum, Hudson, Romo, Belt, Sandoval, Morse and Pagan are all worth having in standard mixed leagues, particularly in Rotisserie formats.

Head-to-Head hero ... Hunter Pence, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Angel Pagan CF
2. Marco Scutaro 2B
3. Brandon Belt 1B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Hunter Pence RF
6. Pablo Sandoval 3B
7. Michael Morse LF
8. Brandon Crawford SS
Bench Joaquin Arias 2B
Bench Gregor Blanco OF

Because Pence has a couple of fluky-looking .300-plus seasons on his resume, when I've discussed him during draft prep season in the past, it's been to warn of bust potential. Now that he is two years removed from a .314 campaign, expectations for Pence have receded, and he could be underrated now, at least in Head-to-Head formats. Particularly if Pence doesn't approach his career-high 22 steals from a year ago, he can't be trusted to repeat as a top 10 outfielder in Rotisserie, as he doesn't have tremendous power for his position. However, as Depeche Mode once sang regarding Head- to-Head formats, everything counts in large amounts. With standard categories all being of the counting variety, being durable counts for a lot, and Pence has played at least 154 games in each of his six full seasons. While Pence's rate stats might give him the appearance of being a middle-of- the-road Fantasy outfielder, he could wind up being a top 15 Head-to-Head outfielder for the fourth time in the last five years.

Bust ... Pablo Sandoval, third base

Time missed due to injury is an old story for Sandoval, and in 2013, it was foot and back issues that kept him off the field at times. He did play 141 games, his highest total since 2010, and he lost more than 40 pounds this offseason. Maybe that will help Sandoval to play more games this season, but even if it does, it doesn't mean he will reverse two seasons of disappointing power numbers. Sandoval has hit 20-plus homers in two out of his five full seasons, so he has the potential to repeat that feat, but with underwhelming production in the other three seasons, it's a big risk to bank on it. Because he doesn't strike out much, Sandoval has some Head-to-Head appeal, but that's limited due to playing time concerns, and in Rotisserie, the likelihood of moderate power and run production with no speed leaves him with minimal standard mixed league value.

Bounceback candidate ... Tim Lincecum, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Matt Cain RHP
2. Madison Bumgarner LHP
3. Tim Hudson RHP
4. Tim Lincecum RHP
5. Ryan Vogelsong RHP
ALT Yusmeiro Petit RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Sergio Romo RHP
2. Santiago Casilla RHP
3. Jeremy Affeldt LHP
4. Javier Lopez LHP
5. George Kontos RHP

Through the first two months of last season, Lincecum looked headed for another disaster. He stood at the end of May with an ERA over 5.00, even though he notched more than a strikeout per inning, just as he had done in 2012. Though Lincecum's ERA did not improve dramatically over his remaining 21 starts, he showed signs of a turnaround. He threw a respectable 62 percent of his pitches for strikes and walked 3.1 batters per nine innings, and both stats reflect marked improvement in control. Because Lincecum was still allowing extra-base hits at a higher rate than he did during his better years and was stranding runners at a subpar 69 percent rate, his final ERA was a less-than-impressive 4.37. An upward swing in strand rate is not unthinkable, so if he can maintain decent control, Lincecum's contributions to strikeouts, ERA and WHIP can return him to relevance in standard mixed leagues.

Prospects Report

Righty Kyle Crick and lefty Edwin Escobar are not only the consensus top prospects in the Giants' system, but they could be the first among the organization's best minor leaguers to reach the majors and make an impact. Since both could receive callups sometime this year, both can be targeted in the late rounds of NL-only drafts. ... Andrew Susac will have a hard time cracking the Giants' lineup thanks to the presence of Buster Posey, but the 24-year-old catcher should be able to contribute in the majors at some point within the next year or two. ... The same may not be true for outfielder Gary Brown, but perhaps he can regain his prospect status if he can cut back on strikeouts. He's worth hanging onto for at least one more year in dynasty formats. ... Shortstop Christian Arroyo, outfielder Mac Williamson, second baseman Joe Panik and pitchers Chris Stratton, Adalberto Mejia and Clayton Blackburn have all toiled almost exclusively in the lower minors so far, but all are legitimate dynasty league targets. ... Starting pitcher Michael Kickham and reliever Heath Hembree have some big league experience, and while neither projects to make a major Fantasy impact in 2014, both could make a contribution in deeper NL-only leagues this season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Royals C Salvador Perez homers in Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals catcher Salvador Perez went 1 for 3 with a solo home run in his team's 7-1 loss to the Giants in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Perez struck the only blow the Royals could manage on offense, finally getting a run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner after he allowed only two hits through six scoreless innings. By the time of Perez's bomb, the Royals were dug in a hole from which they couldn't escape. It's a rare sign of life from the catcher's bat, as he's hit just .135/.158/.216 in 37 postseason at-bats despite the Royals racking up win after win in the first three rounds.


Giants' Pablo Sandoval drives in two in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval went 2 for 5 with a double and two RBI in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Sandoval opened and closed the scoring for the Giants in the win, delivering an RBI double in the top of the first inning (and later scoring on a Hunter Pence home run) then adding an RBI single in the seventh to push the lead to 7-0. While he has yet to deliver a home run this October, Sandoval has been hard to conquer at the plate, hitting .333/.396/.438 in 48 postseason at-bats.


Giants OF Hunter Pence homers in Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants outfielder Hunter Pence went 2 for 3 with two walks and a two-run home run in his team's 7-1 win over the Royals in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday.

Pence delivered a monster blast to center field in the first inning to put his team up 3-0, and the Royals would have little answer for another excellent performance by Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. It was the first home run of October for Pence, who has hit .286/.388/.452 in 42 postseason at-bats.


Madison Bumgarner allows one run in Giants' Game 1 World Series win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner earned a win in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, allowing just one earned run on three hits and one walk in seven innings while striking out five in his team's 7-1 victory over the Royals.

Bumgarner (3-1) continued to look excellent fresh off winning the NLCS MVP award. He fired six scoreless innings and was up 7-0 before surrendering a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. Bumgarner has delivered a 1.40 ERA, 0.72 WHIP and 33:6 K:BB ratio in 38 2/3 postseason innings spanning five starts. He'll get the ball in Game 5 Sunday if the Royals can avoid a sweep. Game 2 is set for Wednesday in Kansas City.


James Shields comes up short in Royals' Game 1 World Series loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Royals pitcher James Shields was roughed up in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday, taking a loss after surrendering five earned runs on seven hits and one walk in three-plus innings while striking out one in his team's 7-1 defeat against the Giants.

Shields (1-1) hadn't been having a great postseason despite the Royals' impressive run of wins, giving up 10 earned runs in 16 innings heading into his Game 1 start. His night turned south immediately Tuesday, as the Giants followed up a one-out, RBI double with a two-run home run to take a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Shields retired seven straight heading into the fourth, where he opened the inning with a double, walk and RBI single to get the hook. The loss, which was the first of the postseason for the Royals, puts the AL pennant winner in a 1-0 hole going into Game 2 Wednesday in Kansas City.


Yankees SP CC Sabathia nearly '100 percent'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia said Tuesday that he feels "pretty much back to 100 percent" and expects a full 200-inning workload in 2015, MLB.com reports.

"It's definitely a huge relief," Sabathia said. "I feel good enough to do all my workouts, to play catch and kind of have a normal offseason."

Sabathia, who underwent season-ending knee surgery in July, starting throwing off flat ground in late September and plans to report to spring training early.


Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman likely to play first base in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Nationals third baseman/outfielder Ryan Zimmerman will likely shift over to first base in 2015, MLB.com reports. He's currently resting his right hamstring after suffering a Grade 3 strain in July.

"I'm sure I'll talk to them soon or they will talk [to the media]," Zimmerman said. "I think Anthony [Rendon] is the future third baseman. Obviously, he played great there. He played some second and some third. If he goes into Spring Training knowing that he is playing third base, he has a chance to be a very good third baseman.

"Obviously, I love playing third base. But some of the injuries over the last two or three years made it tougher for me to be an above average third baseman. It's hard to accept that, but I think that's the truth. Sometimes, the truth hurts sometimes. But Anthony has a great chance to be very good over there. I could be an above average first baseman if I work at it during Spring Training and the rest of this offseason. But that's not just my decision. Obviously, I'll talk with [general manager] Mike [Rizzo] and Matt and see what their plans are. I'm sure we'll find out in the next week or two."

The Nationals have first base open due to the impending free agency of 2014 starter Adam LaRoche.


Diamondbacks add Enrique Burgos to 40-man roster
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) The Diamondbacks have added pitcher Enrique Burgos to their 40-man roster, the Arizona Republic reports. He's now protected from the upcoming Rule 5 draft.

Red Sox OF Rusney Castillo day-to-day with hand/thumb injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Red Sox outfielder Rusney Castillo is day-to-day after suffering a bruised hand/thumb during Arizona Fall League play Monday, WEEI.com reports.

Castillo suffered the injury while getting jammed during an at-bat. He signed a $72.5-million deal in August that runs through 2020.


Report: Mike Zagurski joins Hiroshima Carp
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10/21/2014) Pitcher Mike Zagurski has agreed to a deal with the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball, SportsNet reports. He delivered a 2.08 ERA and 83:29 K:BB ratio in 60 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level in 2014.

 
 
 
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