Monday, March 25, 2013

2013 Preview: San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants
(2012: 94-68, 1st Place NL West)
(2013: FC Prediction: 1st Place NL West)

The defending World Champions enter 2013 with a target on their back and the same roster they had in 2012, so does that make them the early favorites?  The big question for the Giants is what can they do for an encore.  Led by All-Star catcher Buster Posey and a tremendous pitching staff, the Giants are fueled for another late playoff run.

Unsung heroes were the story of the Giants' postseason run last year.  Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro, and Barry Zito all were pivotal in the Giants push toward the playoffs and their eventual hoisting of the World Series trophy.  Yes, the stars like Posey and Cain were excellent, but the role players made a huge difference, and the NLCS MVP award went to Marco Scutaro (he probably deserved the World Series MVP award as well).

How do the Giants look for their repeat effort:

PITCHING:
The starting rotation is the backbone of the Giants' success.  Matt Cain has become the anchor of the staff.  Cain is a bonafide ace in this league who gives the Giants a chance to win every time he takes the mound.  Young lefty Madison Bumgarner has continued to get better in his couple of years in the big leagues.  If Cain is the number 1 starter for the Giants, Bumgarner has become the 1A starter.  Ryan Vogelsong has excellent control and has become a very effective starter.  Vogelsong has underwhelming stuff, but he knows how to pitch.  Barry Zito has failed to live up to his giant contract, but he was awesome at the end of last year.  Zito won't be the ace he was signed to be, but the soft tossing lefty should be a solid back end starter.  The big wild card is Tim Lincecum.  Lincy has a wild motion, but he no longer has the wild hair, but how will that affect his pitching ability.  Lincecum was awful last year, but he should bounce back nicely, even if he doesn't get back to his Cy Young form. 

The bullpen is also very good for the Giants.  The eccentric bearded man, Sergio Romo, steps in for his first full season replacing the old eccentric bearded man, Brian Wilson.  In the middle and late innings, the Giants can matchup with lefties Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopes, and righties Santiago Casilla and Niles West graduate and Skokie native George Kontos.  While Kontos is still young, the rest of the pen is very experienced and all of them have a history of success.

The best prospect in the Giants' system is right hander Kyle Crick.  Crick has excellent stuff, but the 2011 first round pick probably won't be ready until late 2014 or the start of 2015.  For now, the Giants will have to roll with what they have at the big league level.

LINEUP:
The Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) leads the way for the Giants infielders.  The switch hitting third baseman has the rare ability to hit for average and power.  The shortstop is light hitting Brandon Crawford.  He is great with the glove, but Crawford struggles to hit.  Marco Scutaro returns to play second base, and has really come into his own in San Francisco.  The oft-traded utility man found a home in the Bay Area last year and had an absolutely incredible playoff run.  First baseman Brandon Belt has struggled with the bat early in his career, but with the incredible Spring he has had, is he finally ready to break out and become a star at first?  I don't think so, but he will definitely be better in 2013.  Catcher Buster Posey is an absolute stud behind the plate.  His game calling abilities are phenomenal and he is probably the best hitting catcher in the game, but he needs to stay healthy.  Some starts at first base should help him keep his legs under him for a full season.

In the outfield, the Giants have Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence from left to right.  Blanco can hit for average and is great defensively, but he lacks the power usually coveted in a corner outfielder.  Pagan in center had a great 2012, and after having stops in New York and Chicago, Pagan seems to have found his game in San Francisco.  The guy just flat out hit last year and another strong year will help ease the loss of former suspendee Melky Cabrera.  Hunter Pence brought a great deal of leadership to San Francisco, but his bat has tailed off the last couple of years.  He can still hit 20-25 home runs, but Pence's average has really slipped after some strong years in Houston.  I don't know where Pence gets the power from, but it's definitely not his calves (seriously, the guy has no calves).

Outfielder Gary Brown is the Giants top position prospect.  Brown can absolutely fly and although his average took a bit of a dip in 2012 at double A, he should rebound nicely in triple A this year.  If he can play well down in the farm, Brown could be looking at a mid-season call up, although with Pagan firmly entrenched in center, one of them will have to make the move to left field.

NON-ROSTER INVITEE TO WATCH:
Admittedly, I haven't looked at who has been cut this late in the Spring, so I'm going off the original list, but a guy like Scott Proctor probably has the best chance to make the club.  The veteran reliever would be a good addition to this already stacked bullpen as he has proven throughout his career to be an effective middle reliever.

PROGNOSIS:
The defending World Series champions return pretty much the exact same team in 2013.  The rotation is strong, though it might lack a bit of depth.  Lincecum bouncing back is very important for this team.  The Giants bullpen is very good and shortens games, especially with guys like Romo and Affeldt at the back end.  The lineup doesn't strike fear in their opponents, but they are definitely a balanced group with some stars like Posey and Sandoval in the middle of the order.  In a strong NL West, look for the Giants to be in a dogfight with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks but ultimately look for them to emerge victorious due to their very well constructed roster.

TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE DAY:
Got a question for Brandon Belt?? Go ahead and ask him as he is usually ready and willing for some Twitter Q & A.  Follow him @bbelt9

Did Tim Lincecum cut his hair?? Or did Joseph Gordon Leavitt sign with the Giants??


And you've been Romo-bombed


And just for fun, check out these hilarious San Francisco Giants GIFs.  My favorites are #'s 1, 3, 6 and 8