This article contains who I believe are the best 25 guys in the San Francisco Giants organization. If spring training was over today, this is what I think our team should look like.
SP: Tim Lincecum - Lincecum had the first Cy Young campaign by any pitcher wearing orange and black since Mike McCormick in 1967. The guy is simply one of the best in the game, and it's a pleasure to see him pitch.
SP: Randy Johnson - A stopgap for this season to buy the younger arms some time, Johnson was solid for Arizona last season, but like the starting pitching in San Francisco, suffered from a lack of run support. It will be nice to be able to slot someone dependable into the rotation, which provides the media with stories to write about all season while the offensive players are coming around.
SP: Matt Cain - Matt Cain is my favorite Giant, and I think the fact that he has pitched so well over his career, only to constantly fall victim to the horrendous lack of run support, is a huge crime. If the Giants can support him even just a little bit, I think the rest of the baseball world might realize what we have here.
SP: Barry Zito - Zito showed signs of life after his demotion to the bullpen in which he never pitched. He stated the reason for his emergence was the fact that he stopped caring about carrying the weight of the huge contract he signed and just started pitching.
I don't think he will ever earn the money the Giants are paying him, but he is a great guy to have around the clubhouse, and he should be counted upon to at least eat a lot of innings. I am hoping he turns it around and continues to develop, because if he does, it could get very scary.
SP: Jonathan Sanchez - The man I nicknamed "Dirty" two spring trainings ago has the luxury of pitching fifth in what could be one of the best rotations in the game this season.
I am hoping it will be a low pressure situation in which he can build his confidence and learn a bit from Righetti. His ceiling isn't as nearly high as the other guys in the current rotation, or some of the hot prospects in our minor league system, but Dirty can evolve into a pretty solid pitcher, perhaps even a No. 3 someday. Don't get too close to him though, because he'll probably be traded within two years time.
Relievers past Wilson, Affeldt and Howry were the hardest thing for me to project based on the Giants roster on MLB.com, so bare with me.
RP: Alex Hinshaw - In 39 innings pitched in 2008, Hinshaw finished with a 3.40 earned run average. He is 26 and a lefty, so I expect that he'll probably pitch his way onto the roster depending on his stats in spring training.
RP: Billy Sadler - Sadler pitched great for the Connecticut Defenders in 2006, earning up a call up when Armando Benitez (I have a nickname for him too, but I can't use it here) got injured. He was sent down to Fresno for most of 2007, and pitched for the Giants in 2008 when Brad Hennessey collapsed. I think he will be a generally solid pitcher at the major league level, but as the case with most Giants relievers, you never know.
RP: Jack Taschner - Taschner was just recently offered a 2009 contract by the Giants, and I expect him to battle for one of the last relief spots on the roster. He isn't great, but hey, at least he's not Tyler Walker.
RP: Keiichi Yabu - Yabu isn't great, but he isn't terrible either. I think he will win a spot on the roster and pitch solidly. I am thinking he will be one of the first guys to go once some of the younger relievers start coming up through the system.
RP: Jeremy Affeldt - When the Giants initially signed Affeldt, I laughed, remembering a passage from a book I had read that said Affeldt named his curveball "the Affy". That was in Kansas City, and he has grown considerable as a pitcher since then. I was hoping for him to sign as the lefty setup guy, and the Giants ended that speculation quickly, getting him to be the first free agent to sign. He has playoff experience, and should do well pitching in the National League West again.
RP: Bobby Howry - Howry is coming back to the organization that originally drafted him. He is one of the best setup man in the game, but my friends in Chicago laughed and said that I should hope the Giants never use him as a closer. With Wilson around, I am pretty confident that will never happen. I was really happy with the addition of both Howry and Affeldt. The Howry deal being only one year is something I am hoping the Giants continue to do on a more consistant basis now.
CL: Brian Wilson - Wilson pitched brilliantly last year and I personally found it nice the Giants actually kept an up-and-coming closer this time, instead of trading him away. Whenever he is in games, I hear the Barenaked Ladies songs dedicated to the Beach Boys singer with the same name. In all seriousness, I have no problem with Wilson as our closer, and hope he will continue to pitch in the role for years to come.
C: Bengie Molina - I am a huge Bengie Molina fan and I am especially happy that his contract should end right about the time Buster Posey is ready. There isn't much that I can say about Bengie that hasn't been stated before. He has been one of the only bright spots on this team for the two seasons he has been here. I hope Posey overlaps with him for a couple months so Bengie can rub off on our future catcher a bit.
C: Steve Holm - I am putting Holm on the roster because I am not sure how much time Pablo Sandoval will spend behind the dish in 2009. Molina is traditionally a very durable player, so Holm will only see action at the end of the year if the Giants are not contending. Lets hope we don't see much of him next year.
1B: Travis Ishikawa - The year the Giants drafted Ishikawa, lots of teams were passing on him because of a perceived signability issue. The Giants drafted him in the 21st round and made an offer to him since he wanted to forego college. Ishikawa is a solid 1B spec, and its going to be interesting to see what he can do with some decent playing time.
2B: Emmanuel Burriss - The shorstop of the future is going to play the next two years of his career at second base after the Giants made one of the most boneheaded signings of the offseason in Edgar Renteria. Burriss is very, very fast and should give the Giants a good threat on the bases. One thing I am really looking forward to about 2009 is seeing this kid continue to develop.
3B: Pablo Sandoval - If Sandoval can cover third base adequately enough, that would fill a big hole for the Giants. I am personally hoping the Giants can sign a power hitting first baseman and move Ishkawa to the bench. That addition would put a lot less pressure on Sandoval's shoulders to produce. He played really well at the end of last year, and it will be interesting to see how this raw player continues to develop.
SS: Edgar Renteria - A lot of people have been talking about how the Johnson signing blocks the way for the future, but my reply to that statement is who is being blocked? The Giants have most of their pitching in the A level, and the Johnson signing enables us to have a known commodity while those players develop for another full season.
The Renteria signing, on the other hand, blocks Emmanuel Burriss at short. I even thought Brian Bocock could at least draw walks at the major league level, so it would be interesting to see him develop in Fresno for 2009 and get another shot in 2010.
This signing blocks all of that, and to put the icing on the cake, he is getting paid $9.5 milllion to block our guys. Renteria had his worst offensive season last year and his range, which has never been great to begin with, is continuing to shrink. I would have preferred Burriss, who could defensively be fast enough to cover Sandoval at third if need be. This signing is ridiculous.
LF: Dave Roberts - Another contract that was signed for one year too long, I am hoping that Renteria is the last aging player the Giants do this to. At the very least, Roberts is a good contact hitter who infuriates pitchers when he gets on base. He is probably going to get hurt and give more playing time to the younger players, but that is me thinking objectively.
LF: Fred Lewis - I am listing Lewis as a starting outfielder because he should be splitting time with Roberts in left. Lewis could be starting up to 75 percent of the games when Roberts gets hurt. Lewis is another raw talent who should be ready for the majors age-wise. If the Giants didn't constantly sign over-the-hill losers to contract lengths they had no business getting, Lewis should have gotten 600 AB's last year, a number which he will be lucky to see this year.
CF: Aaron Rowand - Aaron Rowand is a class act that has one of the goofiest batting stances I have ever seen. I don't know how trying too hard can ever be a negative thing, but Rowand seems to be the exception to the rule. He tries so hard that he injures himself. A solid power threat that will put up 20 home runs, is great defensively, and is one of the best overall team leaders in baseball. Once again, his contract is too bloody long.
RF: Randy Winn - Randy Winn would have been traded last year had it not been for his no-trade clause, which I guess makes Randy Winn very smart for putting that in his contract. He is the fourth outfielder I have listed so far that has the offensive numbers of a center fielder, but cannot handle it defensively on a day-in, day-out basis.
I like Randy Winn a lot, and he should get his share of AB's from playing all three outfield positions. Like Roberts, I think the Giants gave him a year too long on his contract.
RF: Nate Schierholtz - The story that developed in the Olympics involved Schierholtz playing the game properly and running over a Japanese catcher. It was a fun thing to come out at the end of 2008. In my eyes, he is most ready outfielder the Giants have that can still be considered a prospect, and he should have been starting last year. As with Lewis, I am hoping that when Dave Roberts gets injured, the amount of at-bats the remaining four outfielders get will go up as a result. Schierholtz should develop into a good major leaugue hitter and is an asset to this team.
Kevin Frandsen - Frandsen is one of my favorite guys to watch on this roster, and I am hoping he stays the primary backup at 2B, 3B and the second backup at SS. I would like to see him chip in offensively and develop into an above average off-the-bench bat and think he has a strong future in that role no matter whom the Giants bring up over the upcoming years.
John Bowker - Like most Giants prospects, Bowker is raw and he can play a variety of positions, which should come in handy if he makes the roster. He would be the guy I would cut if the Giants sign the power bat everyone here knows they need at first base.
Noah Lowry - The Johnson signing enables Lowry to fully rest his injury and heal up properly. When he does, his contract status should get Dirty Sanchez bumped off the rotation, either into the bullpen—which would need a quality innings eater in it like Sanchez—or traded to another team for a solid bat. Lowry is one of my favorite pitchers in the organization, and I hope he comes back and becomes the pitcher he was before the injury.
Merkin Valdez - I am pretty sure I read that Valdez was scheduled for surgery this offseason, and it was something I wasn't too happy about. I think this kid has tremendous talent and can serve the organization well if he can just stay on the field. He should be a key part of the bullpen whenever he does make a full recovery though.