San Francisco Giants' Ideal 2012 Opening Day Lineup

Josh Cembellin@@JoshCembellinCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2012

San Francisco Giants' Ideal 2012 Opening Day Lineup

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    For San Francisco Giants fans, there’s no better way to kick off a new MLB season than to gather at the yard and listen to the sweet sound of Renel Brooks-Moon’s voice echo throughout the stadium.

    Thousands of anxious Giants supporters erupt with excitement as Brooks-Moon emphatically takes us through the starting lineup.

    We hear our favorite players’ names.  We recognize the new faces.  We remember the old ones. 

    But most importantly, we believe in what we have.

    Giants fans are eager to see 2012 through after a disappointing 2011 campaign.  Last year’s team was riddled with injuries, and the chemistry clearly was not the same as it was in 2010.

    This year, it feels like the Giants are back on the right path. 

    As we head into the new season, fans and analysts alike are beginning to speculate as to how teams are going to fill out their Opening Day lineups.  For San Francisco, that means making some tough decisions but also embracing easier ones like how to incorporate the returns of Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey.

    Here is my take on how the San Francisco Giants should set their 2012 Opening Day lineup.

1. Angel Pagan, CF

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    I’ll admit that I was a little bit sad to see Andres Torres go.  Initially, I wasn’t a huge fan when he arrived in 2009, but Torres grew on me with his great work ethic and persistence.  Gradually, he seemed to become more and more clutch, and he proved to be a spark plug for the 2010 championship team.  

    Nevertheless, the trade with the Mets to acquire Angel Pagan was a smart one for both organizations. 

    The Mets received relief help in Ramon Ramirez, and the two outfielders were swapped in hopes that a change of scenery would help both guys return to form.

    San Francisco gets a solid center fielder in Pagan, who is four years younger than Torres.  He is probably an upgrade defensively, and perhaps the warm weather in the West can light a fire behind his bat.

    Pagan is fast and can get on base.  If he can bounce back in 2012, the Giants will have themselves a quality leadoff man.

2. Freddy Sanchez, 2B

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    What a welcome sight for Giants fans.  San Francisco’s offense missed Sanchez’s clutch hitting last season.  Since arriving from Pittsburgh, Sanchez has become a leader for the Giants’ clubhouse. 

    When he’s healthy, he plays a terrific second base.  He can light up AT&T Park with a perfectly executed hit-and-run.  And he can get his teammates pumped up when he crosses home plate.

    Sanchez should be inserted into the No. 2 spot in the lineup because he is a superb contact hitter who is mature at the plate.  Not only does he have a great eye, but he also plays small ball exceptionally well and can send one into the gap when a defense least expects it. 

    The epitome of a "gamer," Sanchez will provide a huge lift to the Giants offense if he can only stay off the disabled list.

3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B

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    In January, Sandoval received a three-year contract extension after his productive 2011 bounce-back season.  Dropping weight and becoming healthier, the Panda saw results last year even though the rest of the offense struggled.

    Giants' beat writer Henry Schulman reported on Twitter that manager Bruce Bochy expected Sandoval to drop some weight heading into 2012, implying that the young slugger may have gained some of the unwanted pounds he shed a year earlier. 

    I expect the Panda to be ready.

    Further hoping to continue on his successful turnaround, Sandoval supposedly had LASIK eye surgery on his left eye and is planning on doing the same for his right eye. 

    But seeing the ball clearly isn’t the only reason Sandoval should bat third.

    With Buster Posey tentatively locked into the cleanup spot, Sandoval should see plenty of hittable pitches.  As he continues to mature as a hitter—laying off high heaters and dirt-scraping junk—Sandoval should produce yet again in 2012 and deserves to be in the heart of the order. 

4. Buster Posey, C

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    The news on Buster Posey last season was devastating for Giants fans.  In one fluke play at the plate, San Francisco lost its superstar catcher and best offensive weapon. 

    I can’t get over what a terrific player this guy is.  Posey is superb behind the plate, manages games better than anyone and can hit a ton. 

    And he’s only 24 years old.

    Since the injury last season, there’s been chatter of the Giants moving Posey to first base, even if it’s not a permanent move.  Regardless of whether that comes to fruition or not, one thing is for sure: Posey in the cleanup spot is a no-brainer.

    This is a guy who batted .305 with 18 homers and 67 RBI as a rookie catcher and offensive centerpiece on a World Series championship team in 2010.  With 124 hits and 30 walks that year, Posey proved to be already mature beyond his years. 

    If the guys ahead of him can get on base regularly, Posey should be able to close in on 100 RBI in 2012.

5. Aubrey Huff, 1B

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    Huff had a disappointing 2011 season to say the least.  He’s a 35-year-old first baseman who received a hefty new contract, and he failed to live up to expectations in 2011. 

    Now, youngsters Brandon Belt and Brett Pill will be challenging Huff for playing time, so he better be ready to turn it around.

    Hitting behind the new-and-improved Pablo Sandoval as well as Buster Posey should give Huff ample opportunities to bounce back offensively. 

    The five-spot is an appropriate place for the lanky lefty, as he figures to be the middle man between Posey and newly acquired Melky Cabrera.  That means he’ll either be counted on to knock guys in or to get things going for the bottom of the lineup. 

    As a veteran, Huff should be up to the challenge.  He’s aware of the criticism he took after last season’s letdown, and I’m confident he’ll play an important role in fixing the offense’s latest struggles.

6. Melky Cabrera, LF

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    According to Henry Schulman, Bruce Bochy is toying with the idea of trying Cabrera at leadoff.  While he may bat there from time to time and could even eventually end up there, I’m not convinced that’s where he’ll start.

    Pagan is more of a prototypical leadoff man.  And even though Cabrera has proven he can get on base, Bochy will like what he can work with in terms of Pagan’s superior speed. 

    The six-spot might seem a little late in the order for Cabrera, but take that as a sign of the improved offensive lineup.  With Sanchez and Posey returning, the Giants will have options with the rest of the order, much like they did in 2010 when they won the World Series. 

    Bochy is a strategist who thrives on creativity. 

    Meanwhile, Cabrera is a versatile hitter who potentially can hit 20 home runs for the Giants this year.  Having a player like that in the sixth spot is a luxury and makes for a dangerous second half of the lineup.

7. Nate Schierholtz, RF

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    Nate Schierholtz has a strong arm and plays a mean right field.  That’s important at AT&T Park, where outfielders have to predict the brick and cover triples alley.

    But Schierholtz is also a feisty hitter.  He’ll never be a powerhouse, but he has a knack for working the count and finding the gaps.  With surprising speed, Schierholtz also can run the bases better than most would think.

    His defensive skills put him in right field as opposed to left, and his high contact rate makes him an appropriate hitter later in the lineup.

8. Brandon Crawford, SS

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    Many people might expect recently signed Ryan Theriot to start at shortstop on Opening Day, but I think Crawford should get the first crack. 

    Both Theriot and Mike Fontenot will be valuable for San Francisco throughout the long MLB season.  Bochy can plug either player in at nearly any infield position.  In fact, I’m sure all three of these guys (Crawford included) will rotate on a fairly regular basis. 

    Even though Crawford isn’t much of a hitter, defensively he’s a superior shortstop than Theriot or Fontenot.  He has a stronger arm and arguably has more range than his veteran teammates. 

    Neither Theriot nor Fontenot offers the kind of offensive upside that would give them the clear edge to be in the starting batting order anyway. 

    With a hopefully upgraded offense, the Giants will bite the bullet that they may take from Crawford’s weak bat and in return they will benefit defensively. 

9. Tim Lincecum, SP

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    Hey, if we were only talking offense, I’d go ahead and plug Matt Cain in here.  The big guy can mash from time to time.

    But obviously, Tim Lincecum is going to be the Opening Day pitcher for the Giants. 

    What else can be said about the Freak?  Recently signed to a two-year, $40.5 million contract, Lincecum figures to be as good as ever in 2012.  He should benefit from more run support and continue to strike out hitters at an unfair rate. 

    After reportedly dropping about 20 pounds over the offseason, the Giants' ace is feeling good as he prepares to challenge for the NL Cy Young once again.