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The Giants barged to the title just two season ago, but in 2011 they slipped to 86 wins and allowed more runs than they scored. The pitching was again outstanding, but the offense's utter inability to score runs undermined San Fran's efforts to repeat. They'll once again be a pitching-strong club, but is there any reason to believe the offense will be significantly better? It must be if the Giants are going to be of consequence in 2012.

Major additions: OF Melky Cabrera, OF Angel Pagan
Major departures: OF Carlos Beltran, OF Cody Ross, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, OF Andres Torres

Probable lineup
1. Angel Pagan CF
2. Melky Cabrera LF
3. Pablo Sandoval 3B
4. Buster Posey C
5. Aubrey Huff 1B
6. Nate Schierholz RF
7. Freddy Sanchez 2B
8. Brandon Crawford SS

Probable rotation
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Matt Cain
3. Madison Bumgarner
4. Ryan Vogelsong
5. Barry Zito

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Brian Wilson
Set-up: Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla

Important bench players
1B/OF Brandon Belt, INF Ryan Theriot, C Eli Whiteside

Prospect to watch

It's doubtful that outfielder Gary Brown will reach the highest level before the rosters expand in September, but he's easily the closest thing the Giants have to an elite prospect. Brown boasts blazing speed on the bases, an outstanding glove in center and the ability to bat .300 with decent power in the majors.

Fantasy sleeper: Angel Pagan
"Pagan has been a very good line drive hitter over the last three seasons and his gap-hitting approach enabled him to hit .306 in 2009 and .290 in 2010. He continued to lace the ball in 2011 but his batting average on line drives was curiously low at .645 (last season, the major league average was .722). Despite a sizeable reduction in his strikeout rate Pagan hit just .262 overall in 2011. If he can maintain the improvement in his contact skills, a .300 batting average could be a fait accompli. Pagan stole 32 bases last season despite a diminished batting average and missed time due to an oblique injury. With the potential for 40-plus steals and a high average in 2012, Pagan could return to being the top 25 outfielder he was two seasons ago. " -- Al Melchior [Full Giants fantasy preview]

Fantasy bust: Melky Cabrera
"After seemingly everyone had given up on Cabrera as a bona fide starting outfielder, the Royals gave him a shot as their center fielder last year. Cabrera seized the opportuntity and gave the Royals his best season by far, hitting .305 with 18 homers and 20 steals. What really stood out were his 44 doubles, which blew away his previous career high of 28. A .309 batting average on grounders helped Cabrera boost his doubles total, but that batting average bested his marks from the previous two seasons by more than 80 points. That's a trend that has regression written all over it and a lower overall batting average will mean fewer runs and stolen bases as well. Though Cabrera was a top 10 outfielder last season, this year he is likely to perform more like a low-end No. 3 outfielder. " -- Al Melchior [Full Giants fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook

The pitching staff meets expectations, and on offense Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez all stay healthy. Brandon Belt forces his way into regular playing time, and the NL West turns out to be as winnable as anticipated. The rotation is exceptional, and modest offensive improvements help the Giants take the division.

Pessimistic outlook

Posey, on whom so much depends, is unable to handle regular catching duties. The signs of decline that Tim Lincecum showed last season worsen. Brian Wilson struggles with arm problems, Madison Bumgarner fails to take the next step, and GM Brian Sabean takes no steps to improve the self-defeating offense he's assembled. According to run differential, the Giants should have been a losing team in 2011. This season, their luck subsides.

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