San Francisco Giants: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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San Francisco Giants: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 

Last Year: 90-72, 1st in NL West

Manager: Bruce Bochy 

PROJECTED LINEUP

C- Buster Posey (R)

1B- Aubrey Huff (L)

2B- Freddy Sanchez (R) 

3B- Pablo Sandobal (S) 

SS- Miguel Tejada (R)

LF- Pat Burrell (R)

CF- Andres Torres (S)

RF- Cody Ross (R) (Will start season on DL)

The Giants' offense is an odd bunch of promising young talent and discarded veterans, but proved to be successful in the Giants' 2010 World Series run.

The Giants will get a full season out of NL Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey, and he should continue to established himself by hitting 20-25 home runs with a .300/.360/.500 line.

Andres Torres, the club's leadoff hitter, surprised most of baseball with his 2010 performance. His speed and surprising power helped fuel the struggling offense. Torres strikes out too often for a leadoff hitter (25 percent of at-bats), but he does post a decent OBP and provides the only real speed in the lineup. I see a similar 2011 season with 13 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a .260/.340/.435 line.

Cody Ross is set to miss the opening of the season with a pulled calf muscle, and should provide 15-20 home runs when he returns. 

Pat Burrell will hit sixth in the lineup and he should be able to produce a 20 plus home run season. Burrell is known for his high strikeout rate, but he has always possessed an ability to get on base. I see Burrell hitting 25 home runs if he gets 500 at-bats with a .245/.350/.450 line.

Aubrey Huff should be the key to the offense in the third spot in the order. He is detailed in the key player section.

Freddy Sanchez is a decent number two hitter with a lack of power and low walk rate. He should hit 7-10 home runs with a line near .295/.340/.395.

Tejada shouldn't be an offensive drop off from Uribe. I see Tejada returning to a .290/.330/.410 line with 15 home runs. Pablo Sandoval looks like a different player this spring, and is poised to return to his rookie year form. Sandoval should post a .295/.345/.480 line and 18-20 home runs in a comeback season.

The Giants had the second best UZR rating among all major league teams. The infield defense will lose a lot of range with the loss of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. Miguel Tejada has very little range at the position, but he should make all the routine plays.

Despite his weight issues, Sandoval played a decent 3B last season, and he should improve with the increase in his mobility. Sanchez is one of the better defensive second basemen in the league, and Aubrey Huff provided solid defense at 1B with a 5.4 UZR, despite his poor reputation at the position.

Buster Posey established himself as one of the better all around defensive catchers in the league last season. The outfield defense is led by Andres Torres, was one of the best defensive outfielders in the league during the 2010 season. Ross is a decent option in LF, but Burrell is one of the poorer defenders in baseball.   

 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

BENCH

IF- Mike Fontenot (L) 

1B- Travis Ishikawa (L)

OF- Nate Schierholtz (L) 

C- Eli Whiteside (R)

IF/OF- Mark DeRosa (R) 

OF- Aaron Rowand (R) 

STARTING ROTATION 

RHP- Tim Lincecum  

LHP- Jonathan Sanchez

RHP- Matt Cain

LHP- Madison Bumgarner 

LHP- Barry Zito 

This pitching staff led baseball in team ERA, and there is no reason to think they cannot do it again.The Giants' top four starting pitchers might be the best in baseball, and the club should only benefit from having Bumagarner in the rotation for the entire season.

Tim Lincecum lost some velocity in the middle of last season, and averaged his lowest velocity over his career at 91.4 mph. However, the development of his slider benefited him, especially in a year when he struggled with his curveball. His strikeout pitch is still his change, and fans can count on a 3.00 ERA, 10 K/9, and 3.10 BB/9.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Jonathan Sanchez had a career year in 2010. He averages 90.6 mph on his fastball, but hitters have a hard time picking up the ball out of his hand. His repertoire also includes a good tight slider, and an inconsistent changeup. While Sanchez needs to work on his command (4.47 BB/9), he records more than a strikeout per inning and he keeps the ball in the park. Look out for a 3.60 ERA, 9.5 K/9, and 4.2 BB/9. 

Matt Cain lost one mph on his fastball this season (avg. 91.6 mph), but his improved his walk rate and more consistent offspeed pitches helped Cain to have a 3.14 ERA. He has always pitched better than his xFIP, because of his ability to be an extreme flyball pitcher and have very low home run rate. He should pitch to a 3.20 ERA with 7 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 rates.

Madison Bumgarner averages 91.3 mph on his fastball, and he mixes in three plus offspeed pitches. He throws his slider the most, but adds a slower curveball and very good straight changeup. He won't impress with his strikeout numbers, he should average 6.5 K/9, but Bumgarner has excellent command and keeps the ball in the park. Look for something of a 3.50 ERA this season.

Zito is the weak link in the rotation, but I wouldn't say he is a bad number five starter. He averages 85.7 on his fastball, and his slider, slow curveball, and circle-change were all average to above average pitches. He doesn't have good command, but his strikeout rate should be around 6.5-7 K/9 and he will keep the ball in the park. 

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

BULLPEN

RHP- Brian Wilson (Closer) (Bochy says it is less than 50-50 for Wilson to begin year with team)

RHP- Sergio Romo

LHP- Javier Lopez

RHP- Santiago Casilla 

LHP- Jeremy Affeldt 

RHP- Guillermo Mota

LHP- Dan Runzler 

The Giants' bullpen had a great 2010, and this group as just as important to the Giants' World Series run as the starting pitching.

Brian Wilson has become one of the top closers in baseball with his 95-97 mph fastball and hard cutter/slider. Bochy made it seem like Wilson will start the season on the DL, but he should return soon to a 2.90 ERA and strike out 10 per nine innings.

Sergio Romo slings a 87-90 mph fastball from the right side, but his out pitch is a very good slider with tons of horizontal break. He is a flyball pitcher, but he has good command of both pitches and he will strikeout more than a hitter per inning. Santiago Casilla is the other primary right-handed setup man. He averages 96.6 mph on his fastball last season, and he throws a good curveball and slider. He will should strikeout a hitter per inning.

Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt will be the left-handed specialists for Bruce Bochy. The lefty slinging Lopez was a revelation for the Giants last season, after acquiring him from the Pirates. Lopez won't pitch as well as last year, but he should strikeout around six per nine innings and have a mid 3 ERA. Affeldt has the better stuff (averaged 93.2 mph), but his command remains inconsistent. The veteran, Mota, provides some depth in the middle innings and should have a strikeout rate around 6.5 K/9. 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

RHP- Guillermo Mota 

KEY PLAYER- Aubrey Huff

Aubrey Huff's production kept the Giants in the playoff race for the entire year when the rest of the offense struggled to produce. Huff led the team in home runs, runs, OBP, wRC (runs created, and 2nd on the team in SLG and WAR). Huff has historically followed up his best seasons with below average ones, but I still think Huff will provide 20 home runs with a .275/.355/.465 line. 

PROSPECT TO WATCH- 1B Brandon Belt (L)

Many Giants fans are excited ready for Belt to make his major league debut this week after a very strong spring training. Brain Sabean drafted Belt in the 5th round of the 2009 Draft, and reached AAA in his first pro season. Belt showed good power during his first season (24 total home runs), and he earned a reputation as a good all-around player by stealing 22 bases. I am impressed by his plate discipline, but scouts say his swing gets a little long. However, Belt might be with the club by midseason. 

PROJECTED FINISH- 1st in NL West

I like the Giants to repeat as NL West champs in 2011. The rotation will be better with the addition of Bumgarner for an entire season, and the bullpen is almost identical to the one that thrived in last season's playoff run. If that wasn't enough, the Giants may have an improved offense, and if any of the corner outfielders struggle, Belt could come up to add some punch and Huff could move to the outfield. This club is a serious contender to make another World Series run. 

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