The San Francisco Giants finished a disappointing 2013 season ranked 29th in HR and 22nd in RBI, but tenth in hits and eighth in BA. What does this disparity indicate? The Giants consistently got hits and men on base and consistently left them stranded. If the Giants are going to be successful in 2014, this is going to have to change. Players like Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, two key power hitters the Giants depended on in their recent championship seasons, need to return to form. Injuries wreaked havoc on the lineup last season, and their ability to avoid the DL will also be a difference maker if the Giants are going to become contenders in the NL West. Here is a breakdown of how the Giants starting hitters look heading into the coming season.
2014 Giants Lineup - Fantasy Players To Draft
Buster Posey, C: Despite a slight dip in performance in 2013, look for Buster Posey to rebound in 2014. He finished 2013 with a .294 average and just 15 home runs, compared to .336 and 24 home runs in 2012. His struggle to hit for power last season may actually end up helping him as he looks forward to 2014, as he’s committed to focusing on his strength in the off-season. This focus could result in a monster season ahead for the talented young catcher. With Angel Pagan back in the lineup and Brandon Belt hitting more successfully, Posey could also see a rise in RBI opportunities. His ability to play first base boosts his already high value, and there should be no question that Posey is at the top of my list of fantasy catchers (although Ryan Rufe may disagree in his Top 20 Catchers for 2014 Fantasy Baseball Rankings). Don’t let his 2013 numbers give you any doubt-- he should go early in drafts, somewhere around the fourth round.
Hunter Pence, RF: One player on the Giants roster who outplayed expectations in 2013 was Hunter Pence. With 22 stolen bases, 27 home runs, 91 runs, 99 RBI and a .283 average, Pence made 2013 one of the best years of his career. He played in every game and was arguably one of the healthiest players in the majors. With Posey and Sandoval slumping, Pence led the team in home runs and stolen bases, both clearly a product of his intense focus on personal fitness and health. There is no reason to believe that he can’t have another strong, healthy season, which could be made even stronger if his teammates can get back on track. If Brandon Belt can repeat his high OPS from last season and Posey can once again present a big enough threat to draw walks ahead of Pence, Hunter could easily put up the numbers he achieved last season. Pence is worth drafting early, as his ability to stay healthy gives him a great edge and I don’t see any of his numbers dropping drastically in 2014. He’s a very safe bet, worth a look in the fifth round.
Pablo Sandoval, 3B: Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is a player whose career has truly been defined by his weight and inability to stay healthy. Each year, the third baseman has struggled with his weight, allowing it to fluctuate dramatically throughout the season. In 2013, we saw his weight balloon once again and the heavier he got, the more injury-prone he became, and the more sluggish he was defensively. He reached as high as 280 pounds, and his poor performance showed it, as he finished the year with a .278 average and just 14 home runs. Last time he came off a season in which his ballooning weight resulted in disappointing numbers in 2010 (.268/13 HR), he rebounded with a 23-HR, .315 season the following year. As he heads into a contract year, rumors are that he has lost a significant amount of weight (upwards of 40 pounds) and could be coming into Spring Training in peak physical condition. The kind of motivation that comes from playing for a new contract could be the push Sandoval needs to stay on track this season. When he is in shape and focused, he is one of the best hitters in the game and I expect him to be an offensive powerhouse once again in 2014. His performance in 2013 will lower his draft order, likely pushing him to around the 8th-9th round, but he should outplay that value this year.
Brandon Belt, 1B: After finally coming into his own midway through the 2013 season, 2014 holds a ton of potential for Brandon Belt. He corrected the issues he'd had at the plate in previous seasons and saw a massive increase in confidence as a result. Confidence has always held Belt back, but the end of 2013 he showed what he was capable of once he learned to relax at the plate. He finished the season leading the team in OPS (.841) and he should continue to trend upward. After a 17-HR season last year, I expect a him to break 20 HR now that he has solidified the starting role, especially now that the team has released backup first baseman Brett Pill. While he won’t likely be drafted before the 11th or 12th round, Belt could be a player whose play far outweighs his draft value.
2014 Giants Lineup - Take the Wait and See Approach
Angel Pagan, CF: 2013 was mostly a lost year for the speedy outfielder, as injury took him out the lineup early on in the season. A healthy Pagan could make a huge impact for the Giants in 2014, as his effectiveness at the top of the lineup was sorely missed. If the Giants hope to rebound from last year, they’ll need Pagan to be incredibly productive as a table-setter once again. When healthy, he certainly has the talent to be a difference-maker; in 2012 he led the majors in triples and led the team with 29 stolen bases. Missing much of the 2013 season to injury should impact his draft value this year, but he could be a great late-round snag, especially if he can put up impressive stolen base numbers again this season.
Marco Scutaro, 2B: In his time with the Giants, Marco Scutaro has been incredibly steady and consistent when healthy. Injuries affected him in 2013, but he still led the team in batting average at .297 and finished with two stolen bases, 57 runs and 31 RBI. His ability to get on base is one of his best assets, but he isn’t much of a difference maker in the power-hitting department. If Posey and Sandoval can perform better with runners on base this season, Scutaro could see a significant boost in runs scored, and having Pagan back at the top of the lineup could also be a huge boost for Scutaro's productivity. Second base isn’t a deep position for fantasy purposes, so Scutaro is definitely worth keeping an eye on early in the season.
Michael Morse, LF: Left field was the biggest hole in the Giants lineup last season, and Michael Morse was brought in to fill that need. His MLB tenure has been marred by injury, and he is coming off the worst statistical season of his career. If Morse can stay healthy, he has potential, but he's a big risk until we can see how he performs at AT&T park. He’s not worth drafting; you should consider him if he gets off to a hot start and proves that he can fit into this new team successfully.
2014 Giants Lineup - Unlikely to Be Drafted
Brandon Crawford, SS: While he remains a key player on the Giants due to his incredible defensive skills, Crawford is still not a player worth considering for his offensive skills. He is the kind of player who defines what it means to be relevant in reality and almost useless in fantasy. His .248 average in 2013 was identical to 2012, as he remains consistently underwhelming offensively. He’s proven thus far in his career that even though he shows flashes of power throughout the season, the final result is generally the same: unimpressive. Consider Crawford undraftable once again this year.