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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 Zito's tenure mercifully came to an end, and he has been replaced by free agent Tim Hudson, who will try to bounce back from a gruesome ankle injury.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
Twins' Kris Johnson heading to Japan next season
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:29 pm ET) The Twins have sold pitcher Kris Johnson to the Hiroshima Carp, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press

The club received "mid six figures" in the deal. Johnson received just 13 1/3 innings last season, posting a 4.73 ERA. 


Phillies sign John Hester to a minor-league deal
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:24 pm ET) The Phillies have signed catcher John Hester to a minor-league deal.

Hester will receive an invite to spring training, where he'll attempt to make the 25-man roster. He spent most of last season in Triple-A. 


Report: Indians likely to exercise option on Mike Aviles
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:30 pm ET) The Indians are expected to exercise their $3.5 million option on versatile veteran Mike Aviles, according to the Northeast Ohio Media Group.

Aviles played outfield and all infield positions aside from first base last season in earning 344 at-bats. He finished the year with a stat line of .247/.273/.343 and tied a career-best with 14 stolen bases.

He was part of a lopsided deal before the 2013 season for Esmil Rogers in which the Indians also received emerging standout catcher Yan Gomes.


Bochy: Illness kept Tim Lincecum out of pregame ceremony
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:15 pm ET) Giants reliever Tim Lincecum declined to elaborate about his absence from pregame introductions Tuesday night, claiming he was in a back room and that he preferred not to run out in the middle of the ceremony.

Bruce Bochy, however, came up with another explanation. He said Lincecum was busy throwing up. "That's the honest truth," Bochy told the San Jose Mercury News. Lincecum, who told trainer Dave Groeschner that he was feeling ill, made it out to the bullpen after the first inning.

"He said he was good to go," Bochy said. "Timmy was available."


Pirates giving prospect Josh Bell shot at first base in AFL
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:43 pm ET) The Pirates are determined to find out if premier prospect Josh Bell can fill their longstanding hole at first base. That's why he's playing that position in the Arizona Fall League.

Bell split the first 10 games at designated hitter and first base, where he has already committed four fielding errors. His unfamiliarity with the position has proven problematic.

"Getting to feel overall comfortable has been the biggest challenge," Bell told MLB.com. "I'm sure that will come with reps. When I get more playing time, I'll be able to just run with it, react. It's definitely something different. You're a lot more active. It keeps you more in the game, always on your toes."

Bell is coming off another strong year offensively, batting .325 with nine home runs, 60 RBI and nine stolen bases at the Class A Advanced and Double-A levels combined.


C Jackson Williams hooks up with Angels
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) The Angels have signed catcher and former top prospect Jackson Williams. The 28-year-old Williams finally reached the majors in late August and earned 13 at-bats with Colorado before undergoing right knee surgery.

Williams was a first-round pick of San Francisco in 2007.


Dodgers still waiting for SP Dan Haren to act on option
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) The Dodgers have confirmed that veteran right-hander Dan Haren has yet to exercise his $10 million option for 2015.

Haren certainly had other concerns Wednesday, when he underwent arthrocopic surgery on his non-throwing shoulder.

The 34 year old, who did not pitch in the playoffs, finished strong in the regular season. He yielded just 10 earned runs in his last 43 innings and concluded the year at 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA and just 36 walks in 186 innings.


Twins allow reliever Jared Burton to leave for free agency
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:08 pm ET) The Twins have declined their option on veteran right-hander reliever Jared Burton, making him a free agent.

The 33-year-old Burton, who finished the year as the closer after Glen Perkins was shut down, compiled an ERA of 4.36, his worst since 2009. His control has weakened in each of his last three seasons and his strikeouts were well down in 2014.


Orioles facing dilemma in regard to future of 1B Chris Davis
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) The Orioles have a difficult decision to make regarding Jekyll-Hyde first baseman Chris Davis, who followed a stunningly productive 2013 with a stunningly horrible 2014.

Davis batted .196 with 26 home runs and 72 RBI before losing the last 17 games to suspension for PED use. The team might not want to risk taking him to arbitration, however, CSNBaltimore.com has speculated. Davis earned $10.35 million this season, a raise of more than $7 million from the previous year.

Further speculation is that the Orioles will not cut his salary 20 percent because they believe $8.65 million is too rich for their blood considering his monumental struggles this year. In addition, that move would likely prompt Davis to seek arbitration.


Tigers OF Torii Hunter believes he proved his worth in 2014
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:34 pm ET) Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter appears to be leaning toward a return in 2015. That will allow to play into his 40s - he turns 40 in July.

Hunter maintained his consistency and productivity in 2014 by batting .286 with 17 home runs and 83 RBI while batting mostly second in the lineup. But his team was knocked out without winning a game in the postseason.

"Playing for a contender is very important to me," he told MLive.com. "But taking a lesser role will be hard for me when my core numbers are pretty good, not just for a guy that's 39 years old but also for a 22-year-old player. The last three or four months of the season, I played pretty good defense as well.

"I know that we all get older, but until I give you signs that I can't help a team, don't count me out just yet. I've been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball. Everybody knows what they are going to get."


 
 
 
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