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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 Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury.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
Cubs RF Jorge Soler hits game-tying double on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(2:00 am ET) Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler broke out of his recent mini-slump with a two-hit night in Saturday's win over the Diamondbacks. Soler went 2 for 4 with a big game tying, two-run double in the top of the eighth inning.

Soler's two-bagger knotted the game up at six, and set the stage for the team to post three more in the ninth for the victory. 

This was Soler's fourth two-hit performance in his last seven games. However, he was hitless int he other three games, and he is now 8 for 29 over that stretch.


Diamondbacks getting aggressive on the basepaths
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:58 am ET) The Diamondbacks have been speed demons so far this season. Arizona entered Saturday's game tied for second in the National League with 40 stolen bases, led by A.J. Pollock with 10 and Paul Goldschmidt with eight.

"What we've really tried to do the whole year is if there's an opportunity there, be aggressive with it," Goldschmidt said to MLB.com. "It's just another way we can get a guy into scoring position and make it a little bit easier on offense to score."

Pollock is tied for fourth in the NL with his stolen bases and 12 different players have recorded at least one stolen base.

"If it is a good spot and it's a good opportunity to take one, we'll try to take it," Pollock said. "We've got a pretty dynamic team and overall our team speed is pretty good. You've got a couple guys that kind of fly under the radar with speed and they can sneak one here and there."


Diamondbacks LF David Peralta hits three-run double on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:56 am ET) Diamondbacks left fielder David Peralta belted a bases-clearing double in the bottom of the fifth inning in Saturday's loss to the Cubs. It was Peralta's only hit of the game, and it gave his team a 5-4 advantage.

Saturday was Peralta's second three-RBI performance in his last four games as he continues to have a solid year at the plate in his second year as a big-leaguer. He's now hitting .257 with four home runs and 21 RBI on the year.


Rockies SS Daniel Descalso blasts second home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Rockies shortstop Daniel Descalso went 1 for 4 at the plate in Colorado's 5-3 win over the Giants on Saturday.

Descalso did his damage in the sixth inning when he belted a two-run home run off of Yusmeiro Petit, his second of the season. Descalso is now hitting .200 with 11 RBI in 54 at-bats this season.


Rockies reliever John Axford nails down sixth save of the season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Rockies relief pitcher John Axford worked a nearly perfect ninth inning on Saturday in Colorado's 5-3 win over the Giants, earning his sixth save of the season.

After allowing a leadoff single, Axford managed to get a fly out to center field, who then doubled off the baserunner trying to advanced to third. Axford then forced a groundout to end the game. Axford lowered his ERA to 0.90 in 10 innings of work.


Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit allows four runs in losing effort
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Giants pitcher Yusmeiro Petit allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings of work in San Francisco's 5-3 loss to the Rockies on Saturday.

Petit didn't have any issues until the fourth, when he allowed three consecutive batters to reach base safely, including an RBI double by Brandon Barnes. Then, he forced a groundout by Daniel Descalso, but that also brought home a run.

In the sixth, Petit surrendered a two-run homer to Descalso. Petit, now 1-1, moved his ERA to 3.86 in 28 innings of work. 


Rockies pitcher David Hale earns first win of the year in spot start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:55 am ET) Rockies pitcher David Hale allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits in 6 2/3 innings of work on Saturday in Colorado's 5-3 win over the Giants.

Hale, who was called up from Triple-A to make a spot start in a doubleheader for Colorado, ran into some issues in the second when he allowed a run to score on a wild pitch. Then in the fifth, Hale put runners on second and third with two out before allowing an RBI single to Nori Aoki, scoring a run. 

Hale would allow one more run in the seventh before getting the hook. Hale, now 1-0, moved his ERA to 2.70 on the season. 


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by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:52 am ET) Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock went 1 for 4 in Arizona's 9-6 loss on Saturday. It was Pollock's first "bad game" in his last five. Entering Saturday, Pollock was 10 for 16 in the last four, something he can't explain, according to MLB.com.

"Just clicking, I don't know what's going on," Pollock said. "It's just baseball, you feel like you've got something, you're not getting hits, then you do the same thing and you're getting hits. It's just how the game is."

Manager Chip Hale noted his approach change to his recent success.

"He's really turned it up in just the mental part of the game, of picking the pitches that he wants to go after, whether it's the first pitch or a pitch with two strikes," Hale said. "Instead of trying to guess or wait, he's looking for a good pitch to hit out over the plate and using the whole field."

Pollock is now hitting .308 with 16 RBI in 156 at-bats this season.


Diamondbacks C Tuffy Gosewisch blasts first home run of 2015
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:51 am ET) Diamondbacks catcher Tuffy Gosewisch launched his first home run in over a year, as Arizona fell to the Cubs 9-6 on Saturday. Gosewisch's only other home run came on April 22, 2014.

Saturday's solo shot came in the sixth inning off Cubs' starter Jake Arrieta, and gave the D-Backs a 6-4 lead. The 31-year-old Gosewisch has hit safely in nine of his last 11 games and owns a .231 batting average on the season.


Cubs RP Jason Motte picks up relief win on Saturday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(1:44 am ET) Cubs reliver Jason Motte (2-1) earned a win in relief in Saturday's 9-6 victory over the Diamondbacks. Motte entered the bottom of the eighth inning with one away and managed to retire the two batters he faced. The Cubs put up three runs in their half of the ninth, which allowed Motte to pick up the win. 

The hard-throwing right-hander lowered his season ERA to 4.76 and he has not been scored upon in his last four outings.


 
 
 
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