The 2012 season is the dawn of a new day for the San Francisco Giants.
With the pressures of defending a World Series title now a thing of the past, the Giants are ready to reclaim the National League West and make a return trip to the postseason.
While players such as Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are the obvious choices to be excited about in 2012, let's examine five players who aren't receiving as much attention but are still poised to excite this season...
With Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum's expiring contracts dominating the offseason chatter, the third ace of the Giants staff, Madison Bumgarner, has flown under the radar.
After a slow start to the season (0-6, 4.82 earned run average), Bumgarner rebounded beautifully going 13-7 the rest of the way to finish the year with a paltry 3.21 ERA.
The 22-year-old phenom also threw over 200 innings to go along with 191 strikeouts.
Now that Bumgarner has the experience of pitching an entire year at the Major League level under his belt, he is poised for a breakout year in 2012.
The lefty may not receive the same publicity as the top of the rotation guys, but it would surprise no one to see him pitch like an ace this season.
Few young pitchers have been able to accomplish what Bumgarner has in just one and a half years in the league. Look for MadBum to dominate from start to finish in 2012 on his way to a Cy Young caliber campaign.
Giants fans were given just a sample size of Belt's potential in 2011, as the rookie played in only 63 games for San Francisco.
Now that he has seemingly solidified himself a spot on the 25-man roster, Belt, like Bumgarner, is a threat to do major damage in 2012.
Belt fell victim to multiple transactions in 2011, which saw him bounce between the AAA Fresno Grizzlies and the Giants. Because of these constant call-ups, Belt was unable to establish a comfort level in the Majors, resulting in a sporadic season.
Belt finished the year batting .225 with nine home runs and 18 runs batted in, but he did show flashes of brilliance along the way, both with his bat and his glove at first base.
It's unclear whether or not the 25-year-old budding star will beat out veteran Aubrey Huff for the first base job on Opening Day, but it's clear Belt has enough talent to force manager Bruce Bochy to put him in the lineup consistently.
Look for Belt to contribute mightily in 2012 to an otherwise anemic Giants offense.
Pagan is the top of the order guy the Giants have been lacking for years. Andres Torres and his .343 on base percentage in 2010 was a pleasant surprise, but the aging outfielder (.221 batting average, .321 OBP in 2011) was never the long-term answer at the leadoff spot.
Arguably the Giants biggest offseason pickup, Pagan will not disappoint in his debut season by the Bay.
Pagan brings a veteran presence to a relatively young cast of players. The 30-year-old also possesses great speed that helped notch him 32 steals in 2011.
Pagan will be a spark plug at the top of the lineup for San Francisco, and he will almost certainly breathe life into a Giants offense in need of a boost.
Romo established himself as one of the premier relief men in baseball with a stellar 2011 campaign. Romo yielded just eight earned runs in 48 innings of work, good for a 1.50 ERA.
The fifth-year man out of the University of North Alabama will only continue to see his stock rise in 2012 as he becomes the elite setup man in the league.
With closer Brian Wilson still recovering from elbow inflammation, more pressure will be placed on Romo to perform early in the season. If 2011 is any indication, the 28-year-old is more than up to the task.
Romo will pick up right where he left off in 2011. His slider is one of the best in baseball and is virtually unhittable from the right side of the plate.
Romo would likely be a closer on a number of other teams in the league, but with the depth of the Giants bullpen, the relief ace can afford stay in his comfort zone and continue to thrive in the setup role.
There always seems to be a player that comes out of left field (or in this case, center field) and surprises. This year, it's Gary Brown.
Don't expect Brown to be on the Opening Day roster because he won't be. Don't expect him to be called up by the All-Star break because, in all likelihood, he won't be.
Brown is an electric outfielder who is blessed with top-notch speed, plus fielding ability and a well above-average bat.
Brown had a stellar 2011 season as a member of the San Jose Giants in high-A ball, amassing a .336 batting average, 80 RBI and 53 steals on his way to California League Rookie of the Year honors.
Whether or not Brown's hitting ability translates to the Major Leagues remains to be seen, but there's no denying that the talent is there.
Should Melky Cabrera, Nate Schierholtz or Angel Pagan falter, you can expect to hear a lot of people clamoring for Brown to be called up.
Again, Brown's early season impact with the club will be nonexistent, as he is likely to begin the season in AA Richmond. But if an outfield spot opens up as the season progresses, look for Brown to come in and shine in San Francisco.