2013 Giants Overview
When it comes to the San Francisco Giants, there has never been any debate that their greatest strength lies in the hands of their pitchers. That was never more clear than during the 2013 season when, as the pitching staff struggled, so too did the team’s record. After two World Series titles in three years, the Giants ended the 2013 season with a 76-86 record, their worst since 2009. The “elite” pitching staff was anything but that, as Barry Zito finished the season with 5-11 record, Matt Cain battled an injury and one of his worst seasons as a Giant, and Tim Lincecum was as inconsistent and unpredictable as he’s ever been, getting rocked one week and throwing a no-hitter the next. The Giants offense didn’t do much to help support their struggling pitchers either, as several power-hitters struggled and injuries battered the lineup. Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval both failed to live up to the numbers they posted in previous seasons, and an early-season injury to lead-off hitter Angel Pagan affected the entire lineup. The end of the season left many players headed for free agency and plenty of questions in regards to who would return to the orange and black in 2014.
2014 Giants Preview - Hitters
Looking forward to 2014, many Giants have a lot to prove, especially from a fantasy perspective. Some players need to prove they can continue the hot streak they had to end 2013, while others need to rebound from a rough year. The player who made the biggest splash on offense and who will likely be one of the first Giants selected in many fantasy drafts in the 2014 season is Hunter Pence. 2013 was a big year for the outfielder, and now the question is whether or not he can he continue his success heading into 2014. He finished last season with a September to remember; 11 home runs and 32 RBIs. His biggest asset is his incredible consistency and ability to stay healthy- he’s one of only a few players who played all 162 games in 2013.
Another player who found fantasy relevance in 2013 was Brandon Belt. The first baseman finally came into his own in the second half of last year, correcting some major issues at the plate, and will look to continue that in 2014. The Giants proved their faith in the young first baseman by releasing backup Brett Pill. The confidence Belt gained by finishing 2013 strong should go a long way towards what he is capable of in the coming season.
Buster Posey’s performance in 2013 fell below what he did in 2012, but he still remains the MVP-level player he’s been since joining the Giants. He finished last season with a .294 average and 15 home runs, compared to .336 and 24 home runs in 2012. His power faltered in 2013, but he committed to improving his strength in the offseason. He could easily find himself in the top tier of players in the league one again if he makes necessary improvements this winter, and he still deserves an early-round selection in 2014 fantasy baseball drafts.
One of the biggest story lines for the Giants throughout 2013 was Pablo Sandoval. His weight fluctuated dramatically throughout the year, and he was marred with injuries. He is hard to trust right now, and needs to focus on maintaining a healthy weight and finding consistency at the plate in order to be a reliable fantasy starter. He’s proven on countless occasions in years past that he has the talent to be an incredible power hitter, and as the Kung Fu Panda faces a contract year, there is never a better time for him to stay focused and have another .315 / 25 HR / 90 RBI type season.
2014 Giants Preview - Pitchers
In 2013, as his fellow starters struggled, Madison Bumgarner solidified himself as the anchor of the Giants rotation. He had a 2.77 ERA and quietly became the best, most consistent pitcher on the staff as Matt Cain had his worst season since 2008. It's tough to imagine Cain struggling again in the coming year, and both Bumgarner and Cain should be considered early in 2014 fantasy baseball drafts.
Tim Lincecum returns to the Giants in 2014 on a contract many didn’t think he would get. Will it be another roller coaster season, or will the two-time Cy Young winner play the way he did early in his career? There have been more than a few whispers of sending “The Freak” to the bullpen, something Lincecum has indicated he isn’t interested in. He will spend the 2014 season trying to prove why he deserves to remain in the starting rotation, and his ability to get strikeouts, even when he is otherwise struggling, should keep him relevant in fantasy leagues.
The Giants roster looks to be very similar to what it was in 2013 as Pence, Vogelsong, Lincecum, and Javier Lopez all resigned. The biggest departure was Barry Zito, whose volatile relationship with the Giants and their fans finally came to an end after a painful season. The Giants also released several other smaller name players including Brett Pill, Eric Surkamp, Francisco Peguero, Sandy Rosario, Jose Mijares, Guillermo Quiroz, Chad Gaudin and fan-favorite Andres Torres.
The Giants made two major moves in the offseason to fill existing holes, signing starting pitcher Tim Hudson from the Braves and left fielder Michael Morse from the Orioles. Hudson, who signed a 2-year, 23 million dollar deal, will slide into the rotation in place of Barry Zito and will look to use his veteran status to bring consistency to the Giants pitching staff. Hudson, 38, finished 2013 with an 8-7 record and a 3.97 ERA and should be able to find success at AT&T park, known for it’s leniency toward pitchers. The Giants offensive acquisition, Michael Morse, might not find AT&T so friendly. The 6-5, 240 lb powerhouse left fielder signed to a 1-year, 6 million dollar deal on December 19, the Giants attempt to bring some power hitting to the position. Morse certainly has the potential to have the power the Giants so desperately need but he is coming off one of the worst seasons of his career in which he hit just .215. He was also troubled by injuries to his quad and wrist, playing in just 88 games. Because he signed just a one year deal, this season will be Morse’s chance to prove he deserves a long term deal and if he can’t rebound this year, his fate is likely sealed. Morse is a classic “upside” player and a huge wild card at this point. AT&T is not an easy place to hit home runs, so it remains to be seen if San Francisco will be the kind of place Morse can find success.
As we look forward toward the 2014, check back for more in-depth info on hitters, pitcher, prospects, and predictions for the Giants season and their fantasy relevance. Can the recent repeat champions return to form or will 2014 be proof that 2010 and 2012 were magical anomalies? Only time will tell.