San Francisco Giants: Opening Day 2012 Predictions for Each Roster Member
Now that we can count the number of days left until Opening Day on one hand, it's the perfect time to make a prediction for every player on the San Francisco Giants' 25-man roster.
Even though the Giants have yet to announce their Opening Day roster, and probably won't until the very last second, I will also project which players will make the final roster.
Here's one prediction for every player on the Opening Day roster.
Tim Lincecum will keep his walk total under 70 and pitch over 220 innings.
Even though Lincecum was not satisfied with his fastball command during his last tuneup start before Opening Day, there is no need to fret; it's spring training, after all.
And while his velocity has continued to drop, along with his strikeout totals since 2008, there is also no need to panic. Lincecum is simply trying to become more of a pitcher, and what I mean by that is he's not trying to strike everyone out in every single at-bat.
When pitching to contact, he'll be able to go deeper into games by not driving his pitch count up when striking out 10 batters every start. Lincecum threw an average of 4.01 pitches per at-bat in 2011, which was fifth-most in baseball.
If Lincecum decides to become more of a pitcher, his strikeout totals will continue to fall, but so will his walk totals. He'll pitch more innings as a result.
Madison Bumgarner will be an All-Star in 2012.
The sky is truly the limit for Bumgarner, and I believe this will be the year that everyone will finally mention his name in the same sentence as Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.
Bumgarner had an incredible second half in 2011, as his 19/99 BB/K ratio was among the tops in the league. His 2.32 ERA and 1.07 WHIP weren't too shabby either.
I wouldn't be surprised if Bumgarner has the best season of all the Giants starters in 2012, but I think it's too early to make that prediction.
And at only 22 years old, he is still five years away from even reaching his prime.
That is a scary thought.
Matt Cain will win 16 games.
That might not sound like much of a prediction, but it would actually be a new career high if Cain is lucky enough to win 16 games.
And what I mean by lucky is that Cain usually has no say in whether or not he gets a win, as the offense generally doesn't give him a lot of run support.
But with a new and somewhat improved offense and a record-breaking contract, this will be the year that Cain establishes himself as one of the elite starting pitchers in baseball.
And surprisingly enough, winning 16 games will be enough to move him into the next echelon of starting pitchers.
Barry Zito will not be in the rotation at the start of June.
It has been a miserable spring training for Zito; don't expect his fortunes to magically change once the games start to count. He has accumulated a 7.91 ERA during 19.1 innings pitched, along with a BB/K ratio of 12/13.
Those aren't exactly promising stats, especially for a pitcher who is set to make around $19 million in 2012.
(Giants fans: Please refrain from punching your computer screen after reading those last two sentences.)
Once Ryan Vogelsong returns to the lineup and Eric Surkamp heals from his elbow injury, Zito's spot in the rotation will be up for grabs.
If Zito fails to produce this year, they'll find a way to keep him off of the field.
Buster Posey won't hit more than 15 home runs.
Posey was playing out of his shoes during his rookie year. His 18 home runs in 108 games did not accurately demonstrate what type of player he is.
Posey is not known for his raw power, but rather his ability to use the entire field and take what the pitcher gives him.
Posey's 2010 campaign gave people a false conception that he could hit 30 home runs a year if he played the majority of the season.
Aubrey Huff will hold onto the starting job at first base throughout the entire season.
Bruce Bochy doesn't hide the fact that he favors his veterans over the youngsters, and this certainly bodes well for Huff.
Combine that with his offseason workout regimen and the fact that history tells us he's due for another solid season—Huff has alternated between productive and nonproductive years ever since 2007—and I wouldn't be surprised to see Huff return to his 2010 form.
And it's not just a pattern that makes me believe that Huff can have somewhat of a resurgence in 2012. He has been working hard this offseason and knows that both Brandon Belt and Brett Pill are nipping at his heels for the starting job at first base.
Competition brings out the best in all of us.
Emmanuel Burriss will find himself back in the minor leagues come June.
Despite his impressive spring training this year, Burriss has had ample opportunities to prove himself as a major league hitter.
In 651 career at-bats, Burriss has only managed to hit .250 with an OBP of .310.
Even with Freddy Sanchez out for an indefinite amount of time, Ryan Theriot will likely take over at second base if Burriss doesn't quickly prove that he can hit major league pitching.
Pablo Sandoval hits over 30 home runs.
The Giants haven't had a player hit over 30 home runs in a season since Barry Bonds (45) did it in 2004.
That will change this year when Sandoval hits 30 home runs during the regular season, which isn't that outrageous of a claim.
He hit 25 during his breakout year in 2009, and finished with 23 last year after a broken hamate bone forced him to miss 41 games.
Hypothetically, if Sandoval didn't get injured last year and played in at least 38 of those 41 games, he would've been on pace to hit 30 home runs. That estimation doesn't even factor in that Sandoval was about to get hot before he went down with that injury.
Brandon Crawford will hit at least .260.
It's not a foregone conclusion that Crawford can't hit major league pitching.
First of all, the sample size is way too small. It's unreasonable to judge a player's potential based on 196 plate appearances.
Second of all, Crawford never enjoyed the luxury of learning how to hit in Triple-A before he was called up to the majors, which is the level that best exemplifies major league pitching.
Bypassing that level and going straight to the major leagues is a very tough situation to overcome.
Let 2012 be the season we determine whether or not Crawford can hit.
Melky Cabrera will prove that 2010 was a fluke.
When people hear that Cabrera's 2011 season was a stroke of luck and go to look up his stats to see for themselves, they'll see that he hit only .255 with the Atlanta Braves in 2010.
However, Cabrera has been proving his critics wrong throughout spring training, and will continue to do so once the regular season starts.
Cabrera might not duplicate his numbers from last year, but he'll certainly capitalize on batting in front of Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey all season.
Angel Pagan will hit at least 12 triples.
This might seem a bit ambitious, but AT&T Park was built for Pagan.
He is a switch hitter who made contact with the ball 89 percent of the time in 2011, which was the 12th-highest rate in the majors (h/t FanGraphs).
Combine his speed with Triples Alley out in right-center field, and Pagan could very well hit 12 triples this season.
Nate Schierholtz will lose his job to Gregor Blanco.
Schierholtz has had a very tough spring thus far, and his .220 batting average speaks to that. Blanco, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise, and has made a very strong case to earn some significant playing time in 2012.
Blanco will likely overtake either Angel Pagan or Schierholtz's spot if they continue to struggle, but Pagan should have the longer leash since he's a proven veteran.
If Schierholtz fails to figure things out at the plate a month into the season, he could find himself on the bench.
2012 will be Brian Wilson's final season with the Giants.
This is probably the boldest of all the predictions, but the Giants will elect to not re-sign Wilson at the end of the season.
While he, along with Tim Lincecum, are the most marketable assets on the roster, it won't be enough to keep him in San Francisco past the 2012 season.
First of all, he will likely be demanding elite closer money, which the Giants simply won't be able to afford.
Second of all, Heath Hembree, the Giants' third-overall prospect, will make Wilson expendable (h/t BaseballAmerica).
Unless Wilson is willing to take a significant pay cut to remain with the Giants, it could be the last year "The Beard" pitches in the Bay Area.
Sergio Romo will allow fewer than five walks.
I know it sounds crazy, but Romo only surrendered a total of five walks last season in 48 innings of work.
Take a moment to let that stat sink in.
Even more impressive was his BB/9 and K/BB ratios of 0.94 and 14.00, respectively, which were both tops in the league among eligible relievers.
Romo has pinpoint control. He'll continue to demonstrate that in 2012.
Javier Lopez will log over 75 appearances.
Bruce Bochy has made a name for himself when it comes to managing the bullpen. Arguably his favorite piece to use, Lopez, made 70 appearances last year, which was the most of his career.
If Bochy decides to go with Jeremy Affeldt and Lopez as the only two lefties in the bullpen, Lopez could see his workload increase from last year.
Santiago Casilla won't allow more than one home run.
I was surprised when I saw it, but Casilla only surrendered one home run last season, which is truly remarkable considering he pitched over 50 innings.
The year before, he only surrendered two home runs throughout the entire season.
After back-to-back seasons with a sub-2.00 ERA, it looks like Casilla has finally figured out how to pitch in the major leagues. And with Ramon Ramirez now with the New York Mets, Casilla will assume greater responsibility coming out of the bullpen.
Guillermo Mota will be a valuable piece in the bullpen because of his ability to eat up innings.
Even though Mota isn't considered to be as important as the other well-known relievers in the Giants bullpen, he's just vital to the team's success.
During long relief appearances in 2011, Mota pitched at least three innings during seven different outings (24.2 innings pitched) and only allowed four runs.
Even though the Giants only won three of those games, he ate up innings so that Bruce Bochy wasn't forced to use up the rest of his bullpen. This kept them fresh and ready to pitch during games that weren't blowouts.
Mota is definitely one of the most underappreciated players on the Giants.
Jeremy Affeldt will learn how to separate frozen burger patties without slicing open his hand.
Let's hope so, at least.
And if you don't know what I'm talking about, read this.
I couldn't even make this up.
Clay Hensley will find a home in the Giants bullpen.
As a starter, Clay Hensley hasn't had much success in the past. But as a reliever, it's a completely different story.
His ERA as a starter throughout his career is 4.64, as opposed to a 2.96 ERA as a reliever (h/t McCovey Chronicles).
Hensley will be the emergency starter on the pitching staff, but he'll likely be most effective coming out of the pen.
Ryan Theriot will be the starting second baseman for at least 100 games.
With Freddy Sanchez's career in doubt and Emmanuel Burriss' inability to hit major league pitching, it opens the door for Theriot to become the everyday second baseman for the Giants.
Despite his disappointing spring, he will come out and hit like he did prior to 2012.
Chris Stewart won't play much, but he'll catch late in games when Buster Posey's bat is no longer needed.
With Buster Posey still recovering from that infamous collision in 2011, the Giants have already announced that he will get some significant playing time at first base in order to prevent any further injuries.
And while Hector Sanchez will likely receive the majority of the at-bats due to his offensive abilities, Stewart is by far more polished with the glove.
He'll likely only see the field when the Giants have the lead and are trying to maintain it.
Brandon Belt will continue to be the most mishandled prospect in baseball.
There seem to be too many things going against Belt already.
First of all, Aubrey Huff will be the everyday starting first baseman as long as he keeps his batting average above .260.
Secondly, with Buster Posey playing first base every other three days and Brett Pill also fighting for a roster spot, there just aren't enough at-bats to go around.
Lastly, the Giants have already come out and stated that they don't like Belt's approach, which is a pretty good indicator that he won't even start the season in the major leagues.
Even though Belt is the future at first base, the Giants will continue to mishandle him.
Gregor Blanco will win a starting job at some point in the season.
Blanco is simply too hot this spring to not at least get a spot on the Opening Day roster.
He's second on the team with 25 hits, and first on the team with 12 steals during spring training. His speed and defensive capabilities will prove to be useful as the season progresses.
If one of the starting outfielders—Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan or Nate Schierholtz—fails to produce at a certain point of the season, Blanco will take some at-bats away from them.
Hector Sanchez will receive the majority of the starts at catcher during Buster Posey's days off.
While Chris Stewart is the more experienced and better defensive catcher, Sanchez can hit.
He is currently batting .390 with a team-high four home runs during spring training.
The Giants need all the offensive help they can get. Starting Sanchez at catcher instead of Stewart and Eli Whiteside would do just that.
Brett Pill will play the majority of the season in Triple-A.
With Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Vogelsong starting the season on the disabled list, it will open up a couple of roster spots for players on the bubble like Pill to make the roster.
However, once they return from the DL, Pill will likely be one of the odd men out. There are just too many first basemen on the roster for Pill to receive a significant amount of playing time.