One year after winning the World Series, the San Francisco Giants scored the fewest runs in the National League. They had to go most of the 2011 season without one of their most important offensive and defensive weapons, catcher Buster Posey, after a gruesome home-plate collision in May. Posey is fully recovered, and the team is looking to increase its offensive output.
The Action: General manager Brian Sabean dealt outfielder Angel Torres and reliever Ramon Ramirez to the Mets for outfielder Angel Pagan. Sabean then sent lefthanded starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to the Royals for Melky Cabrera, who is coming off a year in which he set career highs in all the major offensive categories (.305 batting average, 18 HR, 87 RBI, 102 runs, 20 stolen bases). They’re counting on the switch-hitting 27-year-old to match or even improve on those numbers.
It’s A Lock: The awesome starting pitching is intact, with former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum leading the way, along with Matt Cain (whose contract re-negotation is ongoing amid a great spring), Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and the increasingly fading Barry Zito. Brian Wilson is back from injury and ready to resume closing duties with his trademark beard.
Bumgarner in particular had a great second half last season (7-2 in his final 10 starts of 2011 with a 2.17 ERA) and is only 22; if he keeps on the way he’s been going, the six-foot-five righthander could soon join the ranks of the league’s elite starting pitchers.
Posey has been given direct orders not to block home plate, so that should help to keep the young star healthier. They could certainly use his savvy behind the plate and his bat. Freddy Sanchez is back from a season-ending shoulder injury and is set at second base as well as second in the batting order. Manager Bruce Bochy will also give rookie Brandon Crawford every chance to prove he belongs as the starting shortstop at AT&T Park.
Hedge Your Bets: Pagan had a rough 2011 season, and it had been carrying over into this spring; then he made an adjustment to his batting swing and saw immediate results. Nate Schierholtz is apparently supposed to be the starting right fielder, but his production is nowhere near what is expected for the position: he doesn’t hit much, he has little power, he doesn’t walk and he strikes out too much.
Aubrey Huff is slated to be the starting first baseman, but it’s difficult to see the club getting $10 million in value from the 35-year-old. Some observers feel it’s Brandon Belt’s time to see whether he can unseat Huff at first or Schierholtz in right field. Similarly, Pedro Sandoval has a lot to prove at third base, and the pressure will be on the “Kung Fu Panda” to perform.
The Payoff: The MLB futures betting has the Giants rated slightly ahead of the Diamondbacks to take the National League West title, and within the top 10 teams in the World Series chase. As long as everyone stays healthy, it wouldn’t require too gigantic an effort for this club to wreak havoc in the regular season and the playoffs.