The Giants are a rebuilding team that has decided to rebuild via the draft and the depth of their own farm system.Â That means Giants fans are in for another couple of tough seasons as they wait for their youngsters to turn into quality Major League players.
That doesnât mean that those next few years need to be absolutely brutal, and expecting a modest improvement makes some sense -- especially when you look at some of the young arms that the Giants possess.
2008 Regular Season Record: 72-90
Will the crowds that come to fill AT&T Park see a contending team this season?
Rank: Fourth in the NL West, 12.0 Games back
Home Park: AT&T Park
IF - Juan Uribe* (Free Agent from White Sox)
SS - Edgar Renteria (Free Agent from Tigers)
LHP - Randy Johnson (Free Agent from Diamondbacks)
LHP - Jeremy Affeldt (Free Agent from Reds)
RHP - Bob Howry (Free Agent from Cubs)
RHP - Luis Perdomo (Rule V selection from Cardinals)
Feeling Rather Small:
SS - Omar Vizquel* (Free agent signed with Rangers)
OF/1B - Dan Ortmeier (Free agent signed with Rockies)
OF - Dave Roberts (Given his release, unsigned)
RHP - Kevin Correia (Free agent signed with Padres)
RHP - Brad Hennessey* (Free Agent signed with Orioles)
RHP - Tyler Walker (Free agent signed with Mariners)
*Signed minor league contract.
Strengths: Youth and pitching upside
You only need to ask who the best three pitchers in baseball and one name youâll hear is the Giants Tim Lincecum.Â Heâs the standout among a team that features two other young-plus type arms, those belonging to Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.Â Â But while Lincecum ranks among baseballâs elite pitchers, the other two are works in progress.
Matt Cain just over a year ago was ranked higher than Lincecum when it came to raw stuff but not surprisingly has had some young pitcher rough spots.Â Â Part of that was just bad luck, but as his development continues expect to see a steady improvement.
Sanchez is another case entirely.Â Â Heâs got a dominating fastball, mixes in pitches well, but has problems with finding the strike zone and consistency. If he ever puts it together he could be an elite pitcher, and that might be part of the reason they brought in Randy JohnsonÂ
Johnson could prove to be exactly the mentor that Sanchez needs, as heâs cast very much in the same mold as Johnson, despite being shorter by some 8 inches (Sanchez is only â6â2).Â If Johnson can help the young lefty take a step forward Sanchez alone could improve the team by a handful of games.
Then there are a handful of talented youngsters who could be impact players -- Travis Ishikawa, who can hit for average and power; Pablo Sandoval who had an impressive cup of coffee last fall (.345-3-24-24 in 145AB); and Fred Lewis, who possesses great speed and is developing power as he matures.Â Â Lewis may well get a chance to find that power from the number three spot - where manager Bruce Bochy apparently intends to play him.
Weaknesses: Inexperience, lack of talent
While the Giants will be fielding four veterans in their everyday lineup, Bengie Molina, Aaron Rowand, Randy Winn and Edgar Renteria, the rest of the Giants lineup doesnât have a lot of experience.Â Â Pablo Sandoval has 145 Major League at bats, Travis Ishikawa has 95, Eugenio Velez has less than 286, Emanuel Burress has 240, and the veteran of this group Fred Lewis has a grand total of 636.Â That makes their ability to hit long term at the Major League level suspect.
While its likely that several of them will develop into credible Major Leaguers over time, right now this crew doesnât have the talent (which is still developing), or the consistency, to match up well against most Major League clubs.Â That will lead to some rough spots along the way, with occasional flashes of brilliance. While there is plenty of talent here, most of it is raw and some of it wonât last at this level.
RF - Randy Winn
SS - Edgar Renteria
LF - Fred Lewis
C - Bengie Molina
3B - Pablo Sandoval
CF - Aaron Rowand
1B - Travis Ishikawa
2B - Kevin Frandsen/Eugenio Velez
SP1 â Tim Lincecum
SP2 â Randy Johnson
SP3 â Matt Cain
SP4 â Barry Zito
SP5 â Jonathan Sanchez
CL â Brian Wilson
One question that need answering:
How fast can the youngsters develop?Â For the Giants to succeed they need to mature quickly and shake out the pretenders from the real players.Â Â For all the hype that Pablo Sandoval, Fred Lewis and Travis Ishikawa have gotten, they are still relatively untried.
The Giants will battle to stay out of the cellar this season, and in truth, they are probably a few steps ahead of the Padres in the rebuilding process, so itâs a goal they should accomplish.Â Getting to third and outclassing the Rockies would be a major achievement, and one I think they are unlikely to accomplish unless Jonathan Sanchez takes a big step forward.