There is always a lot of focus in San Francisco because they have had such a track record of success. They have shown to have the pitching while adding some of the games most interesting characters (talking about you Brian Wilson) just to keep things interesting. Today we take a look at what fantasy owners need to know about the Giants. And, yes, it’s more than about just the garlic fries and bread bowls of chili in the park.
5. So it’s finally safe to draft Brandon Belt, right? Actually, yes. The Giants made Belt a mainstay in the lineup after the All-Star Break and he rewarded them with a .326 average in the season’s second half. The questions for Belt come in his ability to produce the needed power out of the first base spot. Belt took huge strides last year in hitting 17 home runs, but 14 were against righties and 11 of the 17 were on the road. The good news though is he still had a HR/FB rate of just over ten percent, which should leave room to grow. He showed a consistent BABIP from 2012 to 2013, so penciling him in for a .280 average is not far off. Belt at 20 home runs, .280 average, and 90 RBI is a startable commodity in nearly all formats.
4. What should we expect from Matt Cain? This whole situation seems odd. Cain went from one of the more reliable pitchers in baseball in 2012 to a fringe player in 2013 when you just looked at the surface numbers. With only eight wins and a 4.00 ERA, he was not helping as a front-end starter, but fantasy GMs need to dig deeper. Batters still only hit .228 against him and his BABIP has been .260 in each of the last three seasons. His 1.16 WHIP was the worst he has had since 2009, but it is far from horrible. Two things stick out. He walked half a batter more per nine innings last year and he saw his strand rate drop eight points. Cain threw a lot more sliders (28% of his pitches compared to 20% in 2012) largely at the expense of his changeup and curveball. Command seems to be his issue as even his zone percent was slightly down. He is far from done, but he is not as bad a pitcher as he was in 2013.
3. There seem to be a lot of questions in the rotation. What about Ryan Vogelsong? Vogelsong struggled, to say the least, last season and missed two months with a broken hand. That said, there were signs a season like last year was on its way. The pitcher was stranding nearly 80 percent of runners and had a HR/FB rate of eight percent. Add in a BABIP that was near elite pitcher levels (.280 in 2011 and 2012) and you have a problem. People also forget that he is going to be 37 this season and has walked at least three batters per nine innings in each of the last three years. Expecting him to bounce back at this age is highly unlikely and it makes him barely draftable in NL-only formats.
2. Is Hunter Pence really a top-25 pick? He is closer than you think in rotisserie scoring leagues. In head-to-head leagues, he is still a top-10 outfielder but the HVaC scores have him outside the top-50. Pence has shown consistency and that makes him a top-10 option in any format. Last year, he was one of only eight players to go for 20 home runs and 20 steals and he can largely be penciled in for 90 RBI and 80 runs scored. He has reached those last two marks in each of the last four seasons. While his contact rates were up compared to the past several years, his history makes him an intriguing option and one too often buried in fantasy circles.
1. Last year I was told to draft Buster Posey early. What about this year? Posey still needs to be the first catcher off the board in my mind. To temper that, catchers always make me nervous. The fact Posey hit .233 in September, .265 in July, and an overall .244 after the All-Star Break continue to show how this position can wear on a player. He had just two home runs after the break as well. Sure, these numbers are very different than the splits he showed in 2012, but they have to raise flags. Posey certainly can provide a .300/25/100 line for fantasy owners, but it could just as easily be .275/15/80. It is the risk that comes with drafting catchers. He will have more power than not, but owners need to slow their roll in drafting him in the second round. Wait a couple more rounds and look to grab him closer to pick 55-60 to get the right value for what you are adding to your roster.