San Francisco Giants: 5 Players Poised for Career Years

Jason HooverCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2011

San Francisco Giants: 5 Players Poised for Career Years

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    "A World Series ring your first year. It's all down hill from here," -Aubrey Huff to Buster Posey after receiving their 2010 World Series rings.   

    There will be no Train concert to start this season. No flags will be hung or rings given out, but of course there will still be the pomp of opening day.

    This year, however, there will be significantly less self-congratulatory pre-game ceremonies. The 2012 season will give Giants players and fans a chance to focus on new achievements.

    Here are five players who will use the clean slate of the 2012 season to break out with career years.   

    Also in anticipation of this new season, I'd like to personally ask Huff to contain his (Charles) Dickensian foreshadowing. Lest I go all fireplace to his Miss Havisham.     

Heath Hembree

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    The price tag for an established closer has continued to rise.

    Jonathan Papelbon's four-year, $50 million deal sets the bar extremely high for re-signing Brian Wilson, which in turn opens the door for Heath Hembree to become the Giants' new closer (beard not required).

    Hembree's stats last year were impressive: 78 strikeouts in 53.1 innings and a 1.86 ERA. Hembree also amassed 38 saves while splitting time between San Jose and Richmond.

    Would the Giants trade away the cult favorite but soon-to-be-pricey Wilson for a bat?

    Short answer is yes.

    And don't be surprised if Hembree picks up right where Brian Wilson left off, sans beard.  

Buster Posey

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    Buster Posey played 108 games during his rookie season, then decided to take his sophomore season off to pursue baby saving and develop a cure for hiccups.

    Nothing awful or tragic happened. I certainly didn't stand out in a rain storm screaming up to the heavens like Lieutenant Dan.

    We've already seen what Posey can do.

    The World Series win and Rookie of the Year award.

    Rebounding from what-shall-not-be-named and playing a full season would be a breakout season for the already established young star. 

Dan Runzler

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    It's going to happen.

    You'll hear all about the newly found love for baseball.

    How he is in the best shape of his career. How marriage has made him rethink his baseball priorities.

    There might even be a string of games that fool you into a false sense of trust. But then the walks will start and they won't stop and he'll walk his way right out of a job.

    I'm not even going to mention his name. I'm worried he'll see me in my sleep like Voldemort.

    But rest assured before midseason, Dan Runzler will be the No. 5 starter for the Giants.

    Runzler's numbers weren't good last year: 25 strikeouts in 27.1 innings with 16 walks and 29 hits. And so many 3-0 counts that even my dog started to comically cover his eyes.

    But the Giants showed they were willing to test Runzler out as a starter.

    Look for Runzler to be this year's pitching staff darling.    

Brandon Belt

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    yo-yoed, yo-yo·ing, yo-yos Informal—To undergo frequent abrupt shifts or reversals, as of opinion or emotion; vacillate.

    Brandon Belt should get sustained playing time this year. That alone will make for a career year.

    The young lefty struggled last year and was never really given a shot. With increased playing time and a new Venezuelan-winter-league-developed eye for breaking balls, look for Brandon to belt out a career year...ugh...kill me.

NOT Gary Brown

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    Gary Brown might have a career year next year, but it will be in the minors. Don't expect Brown to make an appearance with the big club until September call-ups.

    The Giants are cautious with their minor league hitters, to a fault some might say. After last year's yo-yoing of Brandon Belt, the Giants will be gun shy when it comes to Brown.

    Another career year in the minors is what you can expect from Brown.