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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 Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury.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
Ryan Vogelsong hurt by poor defense
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:08 pm ET) Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong took the loss in Sunday's 8-2 defeat to the Padres, but it wasn't all his fault. He allowed four runs (two earned) and four hits over five-plus innings as the Giants committed two errors. Vogelsong struck out five and walked one.

Vogelsong (8-12) has gone seven innings just once in his past seven starts. He'll face the Padres again at home Friday.


Ian Kennedy hits milestone with Padres
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy fanned five in an 8-2 victory over the Giants on Sunday, giving him a career-high 201 strikeouts and making him just the fourth San Diego pitcher to fan 200 in a season. Kennedy allowed two runs on five hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings as he improved to 12-13.

Kennedy, who has a 3.76 ERA, will face the Giants again Friday in San Francisco.


Ryan Rua's first homer is a big one
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) Rangers left fielder Ryan Rua belted his first career homer in the ninth inning Sunday to lift Texas to a 2-1 win over the Angels. Rua's solo shot off Huston Street was his first home run in 83 major-league at-bats.

He's hitting .313 with 10 RBI.


A.J. Burnett clobbered Sunday against Athletics
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:46 pm ET) Phillies right-hander A.J. Burnett received plenty of run support Sunday in Oakland, but pitched too poorly to take advantage and came away with a no-decision.

Burnett surrendered six runs on three hits and six walks over 4 1/3 innings. It was his fourth six-walk game of the year. Burnett fanned three along the way. He was all but doomed by a three-run first inning and was knocked out after allowing a two-run double to Geovany Soto in the fifth.

He will try to perform better against Atlanta on Saturday.


Neftali Feliz notches 11th save in 12 chances
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:43 pm ET) Rangers closer Neftali Feliz pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side, to close out a 2-1 win over the Angels and earn his 11th save in 12 chances. Feliz blew away the Angels on 12 pitches.

He has 20 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.


Scott Kazmir struggles continue Sunday against Phillies
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7:41 pm ET) Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir continued his second-half free-fall Sunday against Philadelphia.

Kazmir yielded six earned runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings with one walk and nine strikeouts to take a no-decision. He has allowed 27 earned runs in his last 28 1/3 innings as his ERA has skyrocketed from 2.37 to 3.63 since late July.

He will try to turn it around Friday in Texas in his final start of the regular season.


Nick Tepesch goes seven strong innings
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Rangers pitcher Nick Tepesch allowed one run over seven innings Sunday against the Angels, but did not get a decision in Texas' 2-1 win. Tepesch struck out three, walked two and yielded four hits.

Tepesch (5-10, 4.14 ERA) has given up two earned runs in his last two starts covering 13 innings. He's scheduled to face the Athletics at home Saturday.


Four-hit game extends torrid month for Matt Kemp
by Al Melchior | Data Analyst
(7:12 pm ET) Matt Kemp registered his sixth multi-hit game in September with a 4 for 5 effort in the Dodgers' 8-5 win over the Cubs on Sunday. Kemp slugged a two-run homer off Cubs starter Jacob Turner in the third inning, highlighting an afternoon that produced four RBI and a run.

The home run was Kemp's seventh in September and his 23rd of the season. He is now batting .329 (24 for 73) for the month.


Michael Cuddyer slugs 10th home run Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:10 pm ET) Rockies first baseman Michael Cuddyer went 1 for 4 with a walk and a solo home run in his team's 8-3 win over the Diamondbacks Sunday.

Cuddyer has destroyed the Diamondbacks this weekend, going 7 for 14 at the plate and homering in each of his three games played. His big performance included seven RBI in Friday's win before getting Saturday off. Cuddyer has hit .333/.378/.602 with 10 home runs and 30 RBI in 171 at-bats.


Mark Trumbo homers twice vs. Rockies Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:07 pm ET) Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Trumbo went 2 for 4 with two home runs and three RBI in his team's 8-3 loss to the Rockies Sunday.

Trumbo was the only Arizona hitter to get anything done Sunday, knocking a two-run home run in the sixth inning and following up with a solo blast in the ninth. He's started to get rolling near the end of the season, going 11 for 32 with three home runs and 13 RBI in his last eight games. Trumbo has hit .239/.300/.403 with 11 home runs and 53 RBI in 305 at-bats.


 
 
 
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