|SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS|
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Head Trainer: Dave Groeschner
Player Days Lost: 857
Total Dollars Lost: $8.6 million
Injury Cost: $13 million
Trend: Negative. The number of player days lost represents a three-year high for the team, but most of them came from injuries to older players like Dave Roberts and Omar Vizquel, the strange elbow injury that sidelined Merkin Valdez for most of the year, and Noah Lowry missing the season. It was the the team’s first season P.B. (Post Bonds), so it will take a few more years to accurately assess the staff and find out what a Bonds-free training room can do. For the most part, they’ve done an excellent job keeping aging players on the field, including Bonds in 2007. The late DL stint for Jonathan Sanchez due to a strained rotator cuff is a bit of a concern given his heavy workload. Now that the Giants are finally getting younger, Groeschner and his staff will ultimately be judged on how healthy they can keep the organization’s prized young arms.
The Shape of the Season:
The Big Question: Chris Haft, the Giants beat writer for MLB.com, asks, “Can Noah Lowry recover from a lost season to give the Giants a surplus of starting pitching?”
Chris points out that this is an interesting question on two fronts. First, Lowry has to prove that he can return to form on the mound and be an effective pitcher, and that may be much easier said than done. Lowry underwent two surgeries last season that kept him out for the entire year. The first, on his forearm, was to relieve pressure on a nerve that was weakening his hand. That was followed by arthroscopic elbow surgery in September, and now Lowry is experiencing some tightness in his left shoulder that has forced the Giants to shut him down for a few days in camp. Chris says that if Lowry is healthy, it will give the Giants one more trade chip should they decide to pursue a proven hitter, preferably a corner infielder. A healthy Lowry would likely make him or Jonathan Sanchez trade bait, but the Giants won’t part with Sanchez easily, and at this point it’s going to take a very impressive spring for Lowry to prove to the Giants and to the rest of the league that he’s healthy.
Fantasy Tip: Outside of obvious stud Tim Lincecum, this isn’t a roster stacked with guys that are going to win you a fantasy title. However, there are a combination of players that certainly could help. Instead of waiting for a breakthrough from Matt Cain (although it certainly could come), you can almost assemble a team of late-round or waiver-wire all-stars here. Randy Johnson and Sanchez are both capable of big strikeout numbers, while Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn are notoriously streaky. Jump on these players throughout the course of the season, but don’t ride them too long, as they could leave you cursing. Pablo Sandoval‘s qualifying at catcher in most leagues may make him the best value here. PECOTA’s projections for him don’t jump off the page at first base or third base, but for a catcher you can do much worse.
CF Aaron Rowand: His high-effort style is reminiscent of Jim Edmonds, while his production tracks like the career path of Rondell White, and neither is a good sign when it comes to staying healthy or reliably productive. With his steep drop-off at the plate last year, you can see why the system is worried about him and his 31-year-old body. This is the type of player and contract (four years remaining) that seems to have the Giants in some sort of rebuilding limbo.
SP Matt Cain: Cain’s heavy workload at such a young age raises a red flag here. Just 24, he’s averaged over 200 innings in his first three big-league seasons, and his continued control problems have placed him among the league leaders in pitches thrown. On the plus side, Cain has remained healthy and is still capable of the breakout season that many have been waiting for. Perhaps Lincecum’s emergence as the team’s unquestioned ace will take some pressure off of Cain and allow him to settle in as a solid second starter.
SP Randy Johnson: A 45-year-old pitcher with a bad back is considered a risk? What’s next, one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball history being unable to find a team? Since we all know that the Big Unit is a big risk, let’s talk instead about the potential rewards. Johnson remains hell-bent on continuing to prove that the Yankees‘ doctors who said that his career was over three years ago were wrong. The back remains an issue, and it’s unlikely he’ll make 30 starts again, but if the future Hall of Famer can be effective for 20 or so outings, he’ll achieve that Cooperstown-clinching 300th win while helping round out one of baseball’s more underrated rotations.
SP Jonathan Sanchez: Sanchez is a low red, but questions remain as to whether he can hold up over an entire season as a starter. A big increase in workload took its toll, and Sanchez went on the DL late in the season with a strained rotator cuff. His strikeout numbers are impressive, but he still walks too many batters-both of which led to high pitch counts and contributed to his second-half slide. Sanchez compares to a young Erik Bedard and a young Casey Fossum. This season may decide which one he becomes.
3B Pablo Sandoval: This is a very low yellow, as Sandoval has been healthy in his brief career, but the system sees his time as a catcher and makes a comparison to others who played the position for longer stretches. He’ll likely see occasional time behind the plate, and there’s always an injury risk in a young player’s first full season, but PECOTA sees a solid sophomore year for the 22-year-old.
C Bengie Molina: Molina really has aged well considering all of the time he’s spent behind the plate, so “only” being yellow isn’t bad for a catcher who turns 35 in July. Molina is coming off of his best offensive season, one that included a career-high in at-bats and games played. The Giants will likely try to squeeze everything they can out of him in the final year of his contract before making way for Buster Posey in 2010.
RF Randy Winn: Winn turns 35 in June, but the system recognizes how well he’s aged for a speed player, even one with a history of hamstring issues. He always seems to be a decent source of cheap speed who can also help out in a few other fantasy categories when he’s hot. Entering the final year of his contract, Winn may be trade bait, and PECOTA thinks that he can stay healthy while posting similar numbers to last season.
SP Tim Lincecum: He’s shown he’s a freak by reaching the big leagues and becoming a Cy Young winner in his age-24 season despite a delivery that, frankly, terrifies many observers in the game. For an encore, can he avoid the Verducci Effect and prove once and for all that conventional rules just don’t apply to him? We’ll find out in 2009. Cutting down on his walks will make him more efficient and help keep his pitch counts down (as will improvement from a Giants’ defense that was one of the game’s worst in 2008), but now we’re just nit-picking.
SS Edgar Renteria: One of many disappointments in Detroit last year, Renteria reported to the Tigers out of shape and had to deal with a lingering hamstring injury at midseason before rebounding for a decent second half. His struggles in the American League are well documented, so perhaps a switch back to the NL will help, but Renteria’s games played marks the past two seasons are his two lowest totals in the past decade.
OF Fred Lewis
SP Barry Zito: From last year’s Team Health Report: “Say what you will about his 2007. The fact that he stays healthy gives him the chance to come back.” Has anything changed other than the lowered expectations that he may ever come back?
CL Brian Wilson
RP Bobby Howry