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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 Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury.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' Jake Arrieta changing diet, workout routine
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:40 am ET) Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta revamped his offseason program, and he hopes the changes will pay off this season. 

Arrieta cut back on weight training in favor of Pilates. He does the yoga workouts six days a week, which will improve his range of motion and stamina. 

"A lot of guys are starting to get way from trying to jerk these heavy weights and throw all these heavy weights around," Arrieta said, per the Baltimore Sun. "Building strength is very important, but there are many ways to do that. That's why I got into Pilates because I can reduce the stress and impact in my joints while still being able to increase strength and flexibility, and it's going to pay dividends."

Arrieta also cut back on red meat and added a high concentration of fruits and vegetables, including kale juice. 

"The first thing you have to do is understand the nutrients your body needs," Arrieta said. "The best way to get those sources of nutrition is from vegetables, nuts, beans and things that aren't processed."

Arrieta has a 2-1 record with a 5.40 ERA this spring.


Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph should start on Opening Day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:35 am ET) Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph is the likely starter on Opening Day, which will not only be a first for him, but the first time he's ever broken camp with a Major League team. 

Joseph locked up a roster spot, and a likely start in the opener, when it became clear Matt Wieters wouldn't be ready by the start of the season. 

"Things happen in this game that nobody really expects and just like we've had to do in years' past the next guy has got to step up," Joseph said, per the Baltimore Sun. "Hopefully, we get Matt back really soon but, as long as he is out, I'm going to try and step up and do my best and try to continue what I did last year."

Joseph is hitting .333 this spring with five RBI. 


Rays remain undecided on No. 2 catcher
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Rays manager Kevin Cash said the race for the backup catcher job between Curt Casali or Bobby Wilson has "been made difficult simply because the guys have performed well," according to the Tampa Bay Times on Saturday.

Casali has a .190 batting average with a .217 on-base percentage in 10 Grapefruit League games. Wilson owns a .143/.250/.143 slash line through 12 games this spring.


Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson still battling for Dodgers' CF job
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Dodgers manager Don Mattingly still hasn't awarded the center field job to anyone. 

With a week to go in spring training, Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson are still vying for the starting role. Mattingly said he hasn't made a decision, "Because I don't have to yet," per MLB.com's Ken Gurnick

Pederson is hitting .375 with nine RBI this spring. Ethier is at .333, also with nine RBI. 


Twins could use trio of Schafer, Robinson, Escobar at CF
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:27 am ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters that he'll use a blend of Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson at center field, but wouldn't describe the position as a straight platoon, according to the Star Tribune. With Danny Santana named the starting shortstop, Molitor added that Eduardo Escobar would also see some time in the outfield.

Danny Santana named Twins' starting shortstop
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) As expected, Twins manager Paul Molitor announced that Danny Santana will be Minnesota's Opening Day starting shortstop, according to MLB.com on Saturday. Santana beat out Eduardo Escobar for the job, who started a team-high 86 games at shortstop in 2014 for Minnesota. Santana made only 32 appearances at shortstop.

Santana hit .319 with 40 RBI and 70 runs scored in 405 plate appearances in 2014. He has a .341 batting average this spring.


Tigers release Luke Putkonen
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:17 am ET) The Tigers released pitcher Luke Putkonen on Saturday. 

Putkonen missed most of last season with an elbow injury, and the team outrighed him to Triple-A in January, removing him from the 40-man roster. He had a non-roster invitation to Major League camp, but he had a 7.36 ERA in four games. 


Twins' Molitor: Josmil Pinto failed his concussion test
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:15 am ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters that catcher Josmil Pinto did not pass his concussion test, and has not been cleared to play in games. Pinto, who suffered concussion-like symptoms after he was hit on the back of the head three times by an Adam Jones backswing last week, was limited to working out on Saturday.

Molitor hopes to have Pinto play games by Monday, and added that the backup catcher decision is "still in flux," per the Pioneer Press.


Bobby Parnell plans mid-April return to Mets
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:14 am ET) Mets pitcher Bobby Parnell believes he'll return to the mound two weeks earlier than planned. 

Parnell is recovering from Tommy John surgery a year ago and was slowed by a groin injury during spring training. The team is aiming for a May 1 return date. 

Parnell will pitch in a minor league game on Sunday and believes he'll be back by mid-April. 

"Make sure you get your tickets," Parnell said to ESPN's Adam Rubin.


'No mention' of MRI for Tigers' Justin Verlander
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:10 am ET) Justin Verlander was having his best outing of the spring on Friday before being forced to leave in the third inning with an arm cramp. 

"The first couple were nice and easy," Verlander said, per MLive.com. "and then I threw a curveball and it just kind of felt like when I got extended that my tricep kind of grabbed on me a little bit. Then from that point on, the rest of the pitches I threw there was a similar feeling. When I got fully extended out, it just kind of felt crampy. It was weird. I've never really felt anything like that before. But it doesn't seem like anything serious."

On Saturday morning, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said that there has "been no mention" of an MRI for Verlander, per MLive's James Schmehl. "They're still quantifying it as a cramp."

Ausmus added, "As of right now, I have no reason not to expect him to pitch in his next start." 


 
 
 
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