2009 outlooks: San Francisco Giants

The Giants found scoring runs after Barry Bonds wasn't easy. They don't need much, though. The development of Tim Lincecum as an ace of baseball leads a rotation that can win a lot of 2-1 ballgames.

The Giants are now about pitching and defense, and they just might have enough of that to shock the NL West.

They add the Cy Young experience of Randy Johnson, who should reach 300 victories this season, to a rotation of Lincecum, Matt Cain, overpaid but not over-the-hill Barry Zito and a slew of No. 5 starter candidates that include: Noah Lowry, Jonathan O. Sanchez and perhaps Kevin Pucetas. If there is a Tampa Bay Rays in the group of baseball bottom-feeders, it has to be the Giants with the starting pitching they have.

Heck, even Zito could rebound to being a serviceable back-end starter. He was in the second half, going 6-5 with a .232 batting-average against. Those aren't Cy Young numbers, but it is a far cry from the Fantasy trash he has otherwise proven to be since signing a huge contract in the post-Bonds era.

This is a rotation that can win ... if they can only find ways to score runs.

Failing to get Manny Ramirez, they don't have a real threat in their lineup and will have to play small ball to score runs. The problem with that strategy is most of their hitters are on the older, past-their-prime side. Definitely not the ages of guys you want to play small ball with.

Bengie Molina is one of the few catchers in baseball that hits cleanup, but that is more a function of the lack of punch around him. If Pablo Sandoval can hit the ground running as a sophomore, it can help, but they really have a lot more work to do to build a championship-caliber and Fantasy-worthy offense.

If the league makes a mistake and keeps the Giants in the race until late in the year, watch out for their farm system generating some big-time rookie sleepers. They have some of the most elite prospects in baseball. It happens when you struggle to win for a few years. A Double-A trio of Madison Bumgarner, Timothy Alderson and Buster Posey could be great additions for the stretch run.

First thing's first, though. They need those pitchers to live up to their potential and the hitters to scrape some runs together.

Sleeper: Pablo Sandoval, 1B

The slugging Sandoval played games at first base, catcher and third base last season, but he only qualifies at first base on CBSSports.com because he didn't reach 20 games at any one spot and first was the position he played the most. That sounds like bad news for Fantasy owners, but it is really only bad news on Draft Day and until he gains eligibility at another position. Sandoval, who enters spring training as the penciled-in starter at third base (if Joe Crede doesn't sign), can catch the standard five games and gain third base eligibility in a hurry. While his rookie power numbers won't play all that well at first right away, they will be great if he can qualify at catcher in addition to third and first. This is someone to watch very closely this March. We think he will hit enough to be a viable Fantasy starter at first base even. That says plenty about his offensive potential.

Bust: Brian Wilson, RP

A bust in his prime? Yeah, we can't like everyone who is 27, right? Wilson is popular in Fantasy leagues because he saved 41 games last year for a team that wasn't a contender. That is why he is popular, 40-save guys don't grow on trees. Well, those saves came with a 4.65 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Those are not closer numbers and scare this writer off. It happens every year, someone overpays for saves and that closer loses his job. We are not saying Wilson can't improve his ERA and WHIP, but the mere fact the added pressure of contending could lead to him losing his closer's job. He is a risk we think you might want to avoid taking at the cost it will take to get him.

Breakout: Matt Cain, SP

Last season was supposed to be a breakthrough year for the 16-game loser from 2007. Instead, he went 8-14 for the lowly Giants and his wistful Fantasy owners. Granted, that losing record came with a solid 3.76 ERA and 186 strikeouts, but there were some who thought it would be Cain (read: this writer) who would have the season that Lincecum had before his teammate would. Perhaps this is the year, although how could it possibly be Lincecum-good? The Giants should improve offensively, if only because they can't be any worse, so the full-go arm of Cain can rise up to win 15 games with a mid-3.00 ERA and 200 strikeouts. Those are numbers of a top 20 option. On a good team, he has 20-win stuff.

San Francisco Giants Outlook
Projected lineup
Projected Rotation
1 Randy Winn RF 1 Tim Lincecum RH
2 Edgar Renteria SS 2 Randy Johnson LH
3 Aaron Rowand CF 3 Matt Cain RH
4 Bengie Molina C 4 Barry Zito LH
5 Pablo Sandoval 3B 5 Noah Lowry LH
6 Fred Lewis LF Alt Jonathan O. Sanchez LH
7 Travis Ishikawa 1B Top bullpen arms
8 Kevin Frandsen 2B CL Brian Wilson RH
Top bench options SU Bobby Howry RH
R Rich Aurilia UTL RP Jeremy Affeldt LH
R Juan Uribe UTL RP Sergio Romo RH
R Dave Roberts OF RP Jack Taschner LH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2008 high Destination
1 Madison Bumgarner 19 LH SP Low Class A Double-A
Our pick for the No. 3 prospect in baseball behind major-league ready David Price and Matt Wieters; the next Scott Kazmir?
2 Timothy Alderson 20 RH SP High Class A Double-A
It will be a very interesting competition on who will be the ace of the Double-A staff, but Alderson can certainly hang.
3 Buster Posey 22 C High Class A Double-A
He will work with those two elite arms ahead of him and all three could be in the major leagues by September.
4 Angel Villalona 18 1B Low Class A High Class A
The scouting reports and hype exceed the number right now, but he can develop into a real burly slugger some day.
5 Conor Gillaspie 21 3B Majors High Class A
Last year's No. 1 pick had a quick rise to the majors last September, but he will need a couple years back on the farm.
Best of the rest: 2B Nick Noonan, SP Kevin Pucetas, 1B Travis Ishikawa, OF Rafael Rodriguez, SP Clayton Tanner, LHP Scott Barnes, OF Roger Kieschnick, SS Brandon Crawford, RHP Waldis Joaquin, OF Wendell Fairley, SP Henry Sosa, C Jackson Williams, SP Mike Loree, SS Ehire Adrianza, OF Mike McBryde, LHP Aaron King, OF Ben Copeland, P Kelvin Pichardo, RP Merkin Valdez, SS Brian Bocock, SP Jose Casilla, OF Brian Horwitz, SP Kyle Nicholson, SS Ryan Rohlinger, RP Osiris Matos, OF Francisco Peguero, 1B Thomas Neal, OF Matt Downs, SP Joey Martinez, RP Edwin Quirarte, SS Charlie Culberson and RP Luis Perdomo.

You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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