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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 Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury.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
Gibbons: P Felix Doubront coming up, could fill spot in rotation
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:15 pm ET) John Gibbons has confirmed via the MLB Radio Network that veteran left-hander Felix Doubront is set to be promoted by the Blue Jays on Friday and could fill the fifth spot in the rotation when the team plays against the host White Sox next week.

The 27-year-old Doubront has yet to pitch in the majors this season. But he was performing well at Triple-A Buffalo with a 2.44 ERA and just 36 hits allowed in 48 innings.


Phillies' Cesar Hernandez keeps hot streak going with three-hit game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez continued his offensive surge Thursday against the Brewers with three more hits -- all singles -- in five at-bats. He had one run, one walk and two strikeouts.

Hernandez pushed his hitting streak to seven games Thursday, but he has been on a nice roll offensively for a few weeks. Since June 10, he is batting .371 with a .471 slugging percentage and .900 OPS in his last 18 games. He has one triple, five doubles, eight RBI, 14 runs, six walks, 14 strikeouts and eight stolen bases in that span.


Tigers SS Jose Iglesias produces 17th multihit game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:54 am ET) Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias totaled two hits, including his seventh double, in three at-bats Thursday against the Pirates. He had one run, one walk and one strikeout in the 8-4 loss.

Iglesias has totaled 17 multihit games in 67 appearances. He is batting .325 with two doubles, four RBI, six walks, five runs, 10 strikeouts and two stolen bases in his last 22 games.


Twins place OF Shane Robinson on family emergency list
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:54 am ET) Twins outfielder Shane Robinson has been placed on the family emergency list, per MLB.com.

Robinson has played sparingly, particularly in recent weeks. He has started just three of the team's last 15 games and owns a slash line of .250/.303/.315 on the year.


Twins OF Aaron Hicks activated off DL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:49 am ET) Outfielder Aaron Hicks has been activated off the disabled list by the Twins, MLB.com has reported.

Hicks, who has been sidelined for three weeks with a forearm strain, returns with a mediocre slash line of .247/.293/.301.


Taylor's recall won't change Miller's status as M's starting shortstop
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:37 am ET) Although Chris Taylor started at shortstop Thursday immediately following his recall from the minors, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said Brad Miller will remain the starting shortstop, per MLB.com.

"Brad is in a pretty good groove right now," McClendon said. "There's still a lot of room for improvement, but he is improving every day. He has his moments [defensively], but most of the time it's just a mechanical thing where he doesn't move through the ball or he stands straight up. I would say the last 12-15 days, he's been a lot better at that."

Taylor will serve as a backup middle infielder and could get some playing time at other positions as well.

"It's still a progression, but I'm feeling a lot more comfortable and a lot better [at the plate]," Taylor said. "It was good to go down there and take some of the pressure off. I was able to stop pressing and just worry about going out there and having some fun again. I'm feeling a lot better now and I'm ready to go."


Cubs SS Starlin Castro catching break Friday against Marlins
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro has had successive multi-hit games for the first time in two weeks, but a third one is quite unlikely. He is on the bench for the Friday afternoon game against visiting Miami.

Castro has started all but two games at shortstop this season, but he has been fairly unproductive after a bounce-back season in 2014. He owns a slash line of .263/.298/.341 with just 26 runs scored as midseason approaches.


Blue Jays 2B Devon Travis returns from day off with three hits
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis bounced back nicely after receiving a day off Wednesday by tying a season high with three hits during a 12-6 loss to the Red Sox on Thursday. He has totaled three hits three times.

Travis had three singles, one RBI and one run Thursday. He continues to do well since coming off the DL on June 26, as he has hit safely in five of his first six games since returning. He is batting .381 (8 for 21) with two doubles, two RBI, four runs and two strikeouts in that span.


Giants 2B Joe Panik has six multihit games in last 11 starts
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:28 am ET) Giants second baseman Joe Panik produced his third straight multihit game during a 5-4 loss to the Marlins on Thursday. He went 2 for 4 with one run, one double and one walk.

Panik has racked up six multihit games in his last 11 starts. He is batting .378 (17 for 45) with four RBI, five doubles, six runs, five walks, five strikeouts and one stolen base in that span.

Panik has 25 multihit games and 21 doubles through 77 appearances this season.


D-Backs' Yasmany Tomas contributes two RBI Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:23 am ET) Diamondbacks outfielder/third baseman Yasmany Tomas extended the lead to 5-1 on Thursday against the Rockies with a two-RBI double off Scott Oberg in the bottom of the seventh inning. It was his only hit in four at-bats. He also scored a run.

Tomas has two multi-RBI and four multihit games in his last nine starts. He is batting .333 with one home run, three doubles, six RBI, six runs, three walks and four strikeouts in that span.


 
 
 
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