San Francisco Giants: 5 Key Players Who Will Have a Big Year in 2013

Dan MoriCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2013

San Francisco Giants: 5 Key Players Who Will Have a Big Year in 2013

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    The San Francisco Giants are the reigning world champions and have won two titles in the past three seasons.

    As we look forward to the 2013 season, the Giants appear set at every position. In addition, their pitching staff returns their five starters and core group of relievers.

    Several of these players will be key to another championship run. Let's take a look at who will be poised for a great 2013 campaign. 

Honorable Mention: Brandon Crawford

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    The Giants installed Crawford as their regular shortstop last year and were not expecting him to hit much. They did, however, expect him to make all the plays defensively. In the first couple months of the year, he was struggling in both areas.

    When second baseman Ryan Theriot returned from injury, his veteran presence definitely helped calm Crawford. As Theriot settled in at second, Crawford's defense improved.

    Then, later in the season, when Marco Scutaro took over for Theriot, Crawford had the confidence to continue making all the plays at shortstop. He and Scutaro also played well together and were a good combination.

    Crawford also hit .248, which was higher than the Giants may have expected before the season began. His OBP was only .304, which is an area that he can improve on this season. In 435 at-bats, Crawford had four home runs, 45 RBI and scored 44 runs.

    Although the Giants can expect a modest increase in offensive production from Crawford, where he will show the greatest improvement is on the diamond. 

    Crawford displayed his defensive prowess in the 2012 postseason and has an outstanding chance to win a Gold Glove in 2013.

5) Tim Lincecum

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    Tim Lincecum had a dismal regular season, going 10-15, with a 5.18 ERA and a 1.468 WHIP. He allowed 107 earned runs and had 17 wild pitches, which were the worst in the National League.

    Lincecum struggled with his velocity, confidence and stamina throughout the year. He was so bad that Giants manager Bruce Bochy had Lincecum pitch out of the bullpen in five of his six postseason appearances.

    It was out of the pen that Lincecum had his greatest success in the Giants' postseason run.

    In 4.2 innings of work in the World Series against Detroit, Lincecum struck out eight and did not allow a run. 

    Lincecum is a very proud player and he was very frustrated and embarrassed about his performance throughout the regular season.

    Expect him to enter the 2013 season in the best shape of his life. He will be a free agent after this year and will need a positive rebound if he wants to cash-in with a huge contract.

    With Lincecum in better physical condition, his velocity and stamina should be much improved. He may not be the type of pitcher to throw a lot of complete games any longer, but he should be able to give the Giants six or seven strong innings on a consistent basis.

4) Madison Bumgarner

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    Madison Bumgarner pitched a career-high 208.1 innings during the 2012 regular season. He finished the year with a 16-11 record, 3.37 ERA and 1.114 WHIP. He also struck out 191 batters and allowed only 55 walks.

    Bumgarner seemed to run out of gas late in the season and into the postseason. He was not nearly as effective in September and October as he was earlier in the year. He did step up in the World Series, however, throwing seven shutout innings in Game 2 for the win. 

    At 6'5", 235 pounds, Bumgarner is the poster boy for the term "country-strong."

    He has a long, slow and smooth delivery, then the ball explodes on the hitter before he's ready, in many cases.

    At only 23 years old, Bumgarner still has room to improve. Expect him to make more positive strides in 2013. 

3) Matt Cain

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    You can look at Matt Cain's performance over the years and call him "Mr. Consistency."  Over the past seven seasons, Cain has started at least 31 games every year.

    Last season Cain emerged as the leader of the Giants' starting rotation, throwing 219.1 innings with an ERA of 2.79 and a WHIP of 1.040. He also struck out 193, while walking 52.

    Cain breezed to a 16-5 record during the regular season and also threw an additional 30 innings in the postseason.

    In years past, Cain shared the spotlight with fellow ace Tim Lincecum. In fact, it was Lincecum who was the fan favorite. However, while Lincecum struggled in 2012, Cain threw a perfect-game against the Houston Astros and was also the starting pitcher for the NL in the All-Star Game. 

    Cain, whose nickname is "the horse", should have another stellar year in 2013. 

2) Buster Posey

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    Buster Posey had an outstanding season in 2012 and was named the National League MVP. Posey made a remarkable recovery from the devastating ankle injury he suffered in 2011, hitting a league-leading .336 with 24 home runs and 103 RBI.

    It will be hard to improve on Posey's MVP season, but expect him to continue to perform at a very high level.

    In addition to his offense, Posey is also a leader behind the plate, doing a fine job defensively and handling an extremely talented pitching staff.

    Posey will be 26 years old when the 2013 season begins. Even though he has helped lead the Giants to two world championships in the past three years, Posey can still get better. At his age, the exciting thing is that Posey's best years may still be in front of him.

1) Pablo Sandoval

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    Pablo Sandoval has battled injuries over the past two seasons. Over that span, he has missed 99 games.

    In 2012, Sandoval had surgery on his left wrist to remove his fractured hamate bone. Incredibly, he also had the same injury to his right wrist the year before. In addition to the wrist surgery, Sandoval spent more time on the DL last year due to an injured hamstring.

    Sandoval has had nagging leg problems periodically throughout his career and a major reason for this is his excess weight. If he comes into the 2013 season in decent shape, look for him to have a big year.

    Sandoval's injuries robbed him of his power in 2012, as he hit just 12 home runs in 396 regular season at-bats. He also batted only .283, twenty 20 below his career average. Amazingly, Sandoval's power returned in the postseason as he connected with six home runs in 66 at-bats.

    Sandoval hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series, two of which came off Detroit ace Justin Verlander. These blasts set the tone for the series as the Giants swept the Tigers in four games. 

    With his three blasts, Sandoval joined Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Babe Ruth as the only players in history to hit three home runs in a World Series game (though Ruth actually did it twice). 

    If Sandoval stays healthy, he is poised to have a big year for the Giants.

The Giants Are Well-Positioned for a Return to the Postseason in 2013

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    The San Francisco Giants return all of the starting position players who helped lead them to their 2012 World Series win. In addition, all of the starting pitchers are back and so is their core group of relievers.

    A return to the postseason will not be easy, however, as the Dodgers are trying to outspend everyone in their quest for a championship. Arizona is also a young and improving team.

    The key for the Giants will be staying healthy. It is a concern that so many of their players will be participating in the World Baseball Classic. This is an interruption in the normal spring training process and many players who have participated in the past have had injuries or subpar seasons with their MLB teams.

    Currently eight Giants, Ryan Vogelsong, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Jose Mijares, Angel Pagan and Javier Lopez, are on WBC rosters.

    It is critical for these players to make sure they are in proper game shape, not only to play in the WBC, but also to be ready for the start of the regular MLB season.

    If the Giants stay healthy, they have what it takes to try and defend their World Series title.


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