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January 15, 2014

Fantasy Team Preview

San Francisco Giants

by Mike Gianella

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It was an odd-numbered year, so it only stands to reason that the San Francisco Giants didn’t win the World Series (like they did in 2010 and 2012). Instead, the Giants put up an underwhelming 76-86 record, good for a third-place tie in the NL West with the San Diego Padres. Michael Morse and Tim Hudson were brought in via free agency, but for the most part San Francisco is relying on a return to form and good health by a cast of steady and reliable veterans.

Projected Lineup

  1. CF Angel Pagan
  2. 2B Marco Scutaro
  3. 1B Brandon Belt
  4. C Buster Posey
  5. RF Hunter Pence
  6. 3B Pablo Sandoval
  7. LF Michael Morse
  8. SS Brandon Crawford

Even though they play in an extreme pitchers’ park, there will be a fair amount of fantasy value in the Giants lineup once again in 2014. After slipping in 2012, Pence was a fantasy monster in 2013, primarily because he started running again. Even in a down year, Posey was one of the more dynamic catchers in the league and a top option behind the plate in any format. In deep leagues, Pagan’s injury suppressed his numbers, giving a slight sleeper sheen. New addition Morse will suffer somewhat due to the park, but Morse’s biggest challenge will simply be staying on the field. He has logged more than 450 plate appearances only once in his career.

One nice thing about the Giants from a fantasy perspective is that the starting eight appears stable. There aren’t any platoons to speak of, and there isn’t a top-tier prospect banging down the door. Gary Brown could reinvent himself with a strong minor-league campaign, but his timetable no longer is as imminent as it once was.

Projected Bench

Move along, there isn’t much to see here fantasy-wise. Sanchez was a better option as a second, NL-only catcher when the Giants were weak at first base, but with Belt ensconced at the position Sanchez is stuck behind one of the Major League’s best. Abreu and Arias might spell Scutaro from time to time, but unless there is an injury they won’t start. Blanco and Kieschnick are in the same boat, although Morse’s fragility will probably lead to some reps for one or both. Blanco’s speed makes him a better end-game play in NL-only.

Projected Rotation

The strong pitchers’ park makes every pitcher in the Giants rotation worth considering in any format for spot starts at home. Cain might be ahead of Bumgarner on the depth chart, but Bumgarner is the fantasy ace. If he takes another step forward, he could be a top five starter if everything clicks. First half/second half stats are generally poor indicators of future success, but Cain’s 2.36 ERA in the second half speaks to a valid resurgence based on his prior track record. The strikeout rate dropped, but like Bumgarner he’ll be back as a top tier option. The rest of the staff is for deeper leagues, but Hudson’s move from Atlanta to San Francisco gives him a definite bump up in value.

Projected Closer Candidates

Anything can happen in terms of injury or ineffectiveness, but Romo should have a stranglehold on this job based on last year’s performance. If you are a believer in handcuffs, Casilla had two of the three non-Romo saves in 2013 and is the logical next in line. Affeldt’s numbers weren’t very good last year and he might be more of a name-only in fantasy. In NL-only, try Jean Machi instead.

Position Battles
As mentioned above, the Giants line-up appears to be fairly stable. Scutaro is 38 years old and could fall apart, but with guaranteed money through 2015, the Giants won’t make a change unless he deteriorates. Ryan Vogelsong and the fifth starter’s slot is probably the job the watch. Yusmerio Petit was terrific down the stretch and if Vogey struggles, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Petit snuck into the rotation in May or June. Vogelsong is only making $5 million in 2014, which isn’t enough to justify keeping him in the rotation if he repeats his 2013 5.73 ERA.

Player to Target: Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt now has over 1,200 plate appearances under his, um, belt and has improved every season since his call-up in mid-2011. There might be another moderate power spike coming but—even if there isn’t—Belt’s value at the first base is underappreciated. Expect another moderate step forward but even if it doesn’t happen Belt will be pretty useful in 2014.

Player to Avoid: Michael Morse
He shouldn’t be avoided, but don’t pay for a full season worth of at bats either. Morse is perpetually injured, never plays a full season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see 400 plate appearances this year as opposed to 600. There are better, more reliable power options in standard mixed leagues, and even in deep leagues there are enough outfielders out there that you shouldn’t pay for Morse expecting peak performance.

Deep Sleeper: Gary Brown
This isn’t a good team to go trolling for deep sleepers, but if you must, a post-hype prospect like Brown is the way to go. A .231 batting average in the PCL is beyond abysmal, but the power/speed combination that enticed fantasy owners in the first place was still on display in 2013. Brown isn’t young, but at 25 he isn’t finished either. There isn’t a lot of reason to put your faith in Brown, but on a stable Giants team he is the best of a weak lot of “sleepers.”

Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

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