The Dodgers may have added a ton of talent and payroll, but the Giants are the team they spent that money to try to beat. The Giants pitching staff has two real frontmen in Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, a solid enough pitcher in Ryan Vogelsong and some question marks.
The addition of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro late last year should help improve the offense too, but can the World Champions repeat? Certainly they have talent, and tons of fantasy talent.
You won’t find Matt Cain in the below rankings as we focus on upside, downside, questions and risks.
Here are 10 to watch in 2013.
Tim Lincecum (SP): At this point you better be concerned about what is going on with the Freak. He lost it last year during the regular season, posting a 5.18 ERA with a 1.47 WHIP as a starter as his walk rate and home run/fly ball percentage skyrocketed. He looked good again in the playoffs as a reliever but has been dreadful so far this spring. Typically I don’t worry too much about Cactus League numbers, but I’m looking for some reason to believe that Lincecum will be fine and have a bounceback campaign, yet aside from his strikeout rate I haven’t really seen it yet. Clearly at this point it’s safer to consider Lincecum a middle round pick and let someone else take the risk if they value him that higher. Upside is there, but if he struggles as much as last year he won’t help with much more than strikeouts. Velocity is a concern.
Pablo Sandoval (3B): Sandoval is one of the games best pure hitters, but he’s dealing with a touch of nerve inflammation right now that should be a concern to would be fantasy owners. While this type of injury can be minor, it can also linger. Odds are he’ll bounce back and quickly, but if he doesn’t it could be the type of thing that could sap power and affect the mechanics of his swing. The risk might not be worth it as there are at least another half dozen third basemen ranked above him or in the same tier.
Brandon Belt (1B): If Belt can carry his hot spring (.453 with seven home runs) he could be the breakout player the Giants expected back in 2011. The biggest difference between the 2011 version and the one we’ve seen this spring has been the increase in fly balls. That should be sustainable. Still don’t get too excited. Belt isn’t going to hit 30 home runs. But 20 home runs with a .270 or so average will still be useful.
Sergio Romo (CL): If you aren’t concerned at least a bit with Romo’s delivery and body type you should be (he has a history of elbow pain). He’s a health risk, and not all that experienced as a closer with just 17 saves to his name. While Romo will get plenty of opportunities to hold the job, don’t be surprised if Romo isn’t the only guy getting the call in the ninth, especially if Romo has pitched a couple of days in a row. That said, he’s got lights out stuff and deserves to be the closer, but the Giants have other options in Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and maybe even Jeremy Affeldt.
Ryan Vogelsong (SP): Before his 2011 breakout, which was largely fueled by good luck there really wasn’t much of a hint that Vogelsong would ever be anything more than a journeyman hurler brought in because of his propensity to eat innings. Yet last year he repeated the success, though not quite to the same level. At some point you have to become a believer, especially when you look at the peripherals. The strikeout rate is rising, the walks are falling and his WHIP is trending in the right direction. He’s too old to ever become an ace (35), but there is reason to be optimistic that he can keep the ERA under a 3.75.
Hunter Pence (OF): It was tale of two halves for Pence last year and the second half was one for concern as his contact rate fell dramatically and his home run/fly ball rate plunged from 21 percent in the first half to just 11 percent, which is considerably less than his career number. Part of that could be playing at AT&T Park, which kills power numbers, but he hit only .219 from the time he put on the Giants uniform. Something was clearly wrong. He’s looked fine in Cactus League games hitting .361 with two home runs in 61 Abs, so things do look under control. Still at 30 health concerns and that second half have to weigh on your decision.
Angel Pagan (OF): Scutaro has no real power, but he hits for good average and steals bases. As the leadoff hitter for the Giants he should continue to get plenty of runs scored too. There are warning signs here though. Age (31) is one of them, but so are declines in steals over three consecutive seasons. He managed just 29 in 605 ABs last year after 32 in 2011 with just 478 ABs. So the higher number of at-bats last year could be hiding at least some decline in speed (although he did get the green light a lot less in 2012).
Marco Scutaro (2B/SS/3B): Scutaro doesn’t offer speed or power but as one of the primary table setters for the Giants he offers average, runs scored and a surprising number of RBIs. He’s certainly not an upper tier option, but with multi-position eligibility he’s a solid choice in the middle to late rounds. The big concern with him is age and injury risk as he enters the season at 37. Better figure on some DL time.
Madison Bumgarner (SP): Bumgarner is a pitcher on the rise. Really that’s all you need to know. The 23 year old is likely to reach ace status at some point, and he came close last year: 208 innings pitched, 191 strikeouts, a 3.37 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP and that includes a September where he had a 5.47 ERA and opponents hit .302 against him. It's hard not to like that bottom line, but if he hadn’t tired in September while setting a new high in innings, he could have been even better. This year he might be.
Buster Posey (C/1B): Posey is the best catcher in the game after last season, but he might not be quite as good as last season’s number suggest. Huge spikes in BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and his home run/fly ball rate (19%) are just about impossible for him to repeat. That said, expect a little regression but remember he is the elite catcher in the game.