Which San Francisco Giants Role Players Must Deliver in 2010?
San Francisco should be a very fun and interesting team to watch this season, and should be able to possibly win the National League WIld Card.
But don't expect the Giants to be able to win the NL West, because they won't be able to beat the Rockies. The Rockies are just too good.
San Francisco's success will be based on the pitching again, which is still very strong, and possibly even better than last year's pitching. The Giants have some of the best young players in baseball including Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval.
Lincecum will likely carry the pitching again, and Sandoval will probably carry the offense once more. San Francisco did improve its offense with the additions of DeRosa and Huff—they aren't necessarily star players, but they will help.
Having players like Madison Bumgarner, John Bowker, Dan Runzler, Waldis Joaquin, Freddy Sanchez (if he can stay healthy), Joe Martinez, Buster Posey, Kevin Pucetas, and Henry Sosa for an entire season will also help the Giants success in 2010. Re-signing Molina and Uribe was a smart move, but San Francisco should have tried harder to re-sign Penny.
The re-signing of Molina means Posey will wait another season to assume the role of starting catcher. He will likely gain some experience at first base, but he needs another year of seasoning before he takes over the full-time catcher role. He should also get mentoring from Molina.
Let's take a look at the players who will be key the Giants success for 2010.
I'm not including those players who have proved they can carry the team. They are: Lincecum, Sandoval, Cain, Affeldt, Runzler, Wilson, Freddy Sanchez (if he can stay healthy), DeRosa, Molina, and Uribe.
Pitching and defense is huge, but offense is what gets a team to the playoffs and wins championships.
Time will tell if the Giants have all of the tools to get to the playoffs again and win the NL Wild Card.
No. 75 Barry Zito: Starting Pitcher
Zito has not lived up to his seven-year, $126 million deal he signed with San Francisco before the 2007 season.
Zito has shown some signs of brilliance and dominance in a couple of starts, but he is nowhere near the pitching form he had in Oakland.
He remains one of the better second-half pitchers in baseball. Overall, however, he is inconsistent and needs to be more productive. Not only is he a prominent part of the Giants franchise, he anchors the pitching rotation.
Once Zito arrived in San Francisco, he changed his pitching mechanics and style. An altered arm angle and pitching stance drastically diminished a curveball that was once baseball's best.
He has a decent changeup, curveball and fastball—although it only hits 87 to 89 miles per hour—and an average slider when he pitches like his old self. Unfortunately, his lack of production has dropped him from ace to the No. 3 starter for San Francisco.
Zito has 31 wins and 43 losses, has not had better than a.500 pitching record or more than 11 wins in a season, and has not had an ERA under 4.00.
It's a no-brainer. or even just the way he does the second half of every season. If Zito stops changing his mechanics and return to his old form—or even to his second-half form—he can be dominant, productive, and consistent.
That combination could make him a dangerous No. 3 in a nasty pitching rotation, possibly one of the best with Lincecum and Cain leading it off.
Zito will never win another Cy Young award, but let's hope he can return to pitching the way we know he can.
No. 33 Aaron Rowand: Center Fielder
Rowand is another player who has not played up to his contract.
A former Philadelphia Philly, Rowand signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Giants after the 2007 season.
The transition from hitter-friendly park like Philadelphia to pitcher-friendly AT&T Park will understandably impact the numbers. Don't expect Rowand to hit over 15 home runs in a season at AT&T Park. It's no Citizens Bank Park.
Rowand, however, can perform better, and he knows he can be more productive.
Rowand has gone through some mechanical changes as well. He changed his batting stance, and it's not working for him; previously, he was hitting over .310.
New hitting coach Hensley Meulens has been helping Rowand this spring with his stance, and Rowand is having a great spring. He has been up and down, and has even shown signs of brilliance.
If the Giants are to be successful, Rowand needs to get back to his career numbers. Rowand had only a .261 average last season and a horrible OBP (.319).
Look for Rowand to improve. He is a very good defensive outfielder, has the potential to hit over .300 and has some pop as well. He is not as fast as he once was, but still has average speed and range.
Let's wait and see how productive Rowand is in the leadoff spot this season. He is not the typical leadoff hitter, but he thrived there for a few weeks last season. Out of all of the other spots, he hit best in that position.
He can continue that success as long as he avoids swinging at questionable pitches and averages at least six pitches per at bat.
It is likely that he won't pick up a lot of stolen bases, but if he can play like he did in Philly and Chicago, play closer to his career numbers, and get back to his old batting stance, Rowand should be very successful.
And his success will make him a huge part of the Giants offense and lineup.
No. 16 Edgar Renteria: Shortstop
Yet another player has not been even close to performing up to his contract: Edgar Renteria.
Last year, Renteria signed a two-year contract for $18.5 million. Unfortunately for the San Francisco faithful, he played all of last year with an injured shoulder, bone spurs and chips in his elbow and an injured knee.
Renteria finished the season with a .250 average, 5 HR, 48 RBI, 50 HR, .307 OBP, .325 SLG, and .635 OPS.
He would have been even worse if he had played in the American League last season. He is a National League type player and has excelled for much of his career in the NL.
He hit well below all of his career numbers, but hitting at AT&T Park, as well as having bone spurs and chips in his elbow and a hurt knee, is not necessarily the best recipe for success. No wonder his production was down last year.
If Renteria can come back this year, hit close to his career numbers and play some good short stop, then he will help the Giants immensely and will be a huge part of their team and lineup.
Even if Renteria can hit .275, he will help the Giants. He has been a very productive and consistent player through most of his career.
The Giants brought in Renteria last year to replace Vizquel at short and bring them some offense. Renteria is an average defender, but he is valued for his offense. Even with a down year last year, his production was better than Vizquel's. But it was not worth the money the Giants signed him signed for.
Renteria needs to improve if the Giants want to win the NL Wild Card.
Pitching and defense don't win championships; offense is the key—which means Renteria's success is also key. Look for him to have a better season this year.
No. 17 Aubrey Huff: First Base
We can't count on Huff to play good defense, but if he can provide the Giants with some good offense, then it is a risk worth taking.
Other than Sandoval, the offense is going to be controlled by Huff, especially the power numbers. He is the power hitter the Giants desperately need.
Huff is also versatile. He can play outfield, third base, and first base. If Huff has an excellent year, then the Giants will have picked up a great deal this offseason.
Hitting at AT&T Park will not benefit Huff. But since he is a left-handed hitter, he should be able to hit over 20 home runs for San Francisco.
Giant fans are hoping that he has a year like he did two years ago in Baltimore—not the type of year he had last year with Baltimore and Detroit. Regardless of how he performs, the Giants didn't pay too much for him. He is sure to provide them with some pop and runs.
In 2008, Huff hit .304, with 32 HR, and 108 RBI. In 2009, Huff hit only .241, with 15 HR, and 85 RBI.
Even if Huff can hit .270 or better, notch 20 home runs or more, and 80 RBI for the Giants next year, he would help their offense.
And with those numbers, the only one who will be hitting better than him is Sandoval. Even if Huff's defense is poor, we'll trade that for good offense.
No. 12 Nate Schierholtz: Right Field
This is Schierholtz's chance to shine.
Already slotted to be the Giants' starting right fielder, he can take advantage of starting in right field full time and show everyone his abilities.
Giant fans should be happy about this move. He is a huge upgrade over Randy Winn, and he has a lot of potential. He has been with the Giants for three years, but he is still only 26 years old, and has plenty of time to develop and continue to get better.
Schierholtz has never really been given the opportunity to play extensively. Last year, he had a chance to play regularly and had a decent number of at bats (285).
He has potential to be a huge player for the Giants franchise, both offensively and defensively.
Schierholtz is an above average defender and has one of the strongest arms among outfielders, but he only has 472 total career at bats. If he is given the chance, he can display his versatility.
He also has raw power, but so far it hasn't showed in games. He has only six home runs in 472 total career at bats. But when you watch him in batting practice, he hits many baseballs into McCovey Cove.
He can do it all. He can run, field, hit for average, has pop, can play defense, has a cannon of an arm, and can even steal. He is the fastest player in the Giants starting lineup, and one of the faster players on the Giants.
He needs to play well if he wishes to maintain his starting job. He has the potential to be a consistent player who can hit .280 to .300, along with 15 to 20 home runs, and 70 to 90 RBI. He has the potential to play Golden Glove defense and become one of the top outfielders in baseball.
Look for him to break out for the Giants—as long as they have faith in him, and stick with him.
No. 37 Todd Wellemeyer and/or No. 40 Madison Bumgarner: Starting Pitcher
Both of these players are key, because they are both competing to win the No. 5 pitching spot in the Giants rotation.
As of now, Todd Wellemeyer has the edge over Bumgarner, but anything can happen between now and opening day. Whoever wins the spot in the rotation will be key to improving it.
If Wellemeyer wins the spot then Bumgarner will either be demoted to AAA Fresno, or the Giants may use him as a reliever/auxiliary starter for the 2010 season.
Bumgarner is only 20 years old, so there is no need to rush. But if he can pitch some good games, and dominate like he did last year both in the minors and the majors, then he will help improve the Giants bullpen.
Although Bumgarner only threw an 88-90 mile-per-hour fastball, he still compiled a 1.80 ERA in 10 innings and 10 strikeouts. He is also a lefty.
Bumgarner has the potential to be an all-star dominant pitcher. Just wait for him to get more experience.
If Bumgarner wins the No. 5 spot in the rotation, then Wellemeyer will be the Giants long-inning reliever. He would also get some starts as well.
Wellemeyer is no all-star type pitcher, but he showed success in St. Louis the last couple of years. He didn't have a great year last year, but in 2008, he had an ERA of 3.71 to go along with 13 wins. Those numbers aren't bad for a No. 5 starter.
Wellemeyer will have better success pitching in San Francisco, because he has pitcher friendly AT&T Park.
If San Francisco wants Bumgarner to relieve or get seasoning in AAA, then it should start Wellemyer. If San Francisco wants to start Bumgarner, then have Wellemeyer relieve.
Either way, the Giants have a win-win situation on their hands. Whatever happens, Bumgarner and Wellemeyer will be a huge part in pitching for the Giants.
If they are both very successful, then they will give the Giants one of the best all-around 1-2-3-4-5 starting pitching rotations in all of baseball.
No. 57 Jonathan Sanchez: Starting Pitcher
Another left handed pitcher on the Giants.
The Giants are loaded with left handed pitchers, which is definitely a good thing. Throwing that no-hitter last season not only boosted Sanchez's confidence; it also showed everyone how good this young left-handed pitcher is.
Sanchez is only 27 years old, and has proved himself to be a reliable pitcher for the San Francisco Giants.
If he continues to improve, he will be one of the better No. 4 starters in baseball. But in order to improve, Sanchez needs to be consistent and have better command of all of his pitches.
He should maintain an ERA below 4.00 and pitch either 5.00 or better. He has dangerous stuff. It shows in his no-hitter last year, 177 strikeouts and nine wins.
The Giants need to have faith in Sanchez and stick with him.
Once he establishes himself, he will help give San Francisco the best all-around 1-2-3-4-5 starting rotation in baseball.