FanHouse continues its 2009 MLB Preview with a look at the San Francisco Giants.
Scoff all you want, but a youth movement is in full effect in San Francisco. No longer shackled by the compulsion to build a winner now around one of the greatest hitters of all time (Barry Bonds), general manager Brian Sabean has begun to turn over the Giants' roster and turn the organization's focus to player development.
That shift has already begun to take root on the big-league roster. Sandwiched around aging and effective Randy Johnson and albatross Barry Zito is a trio of young pitchers that are as good as any in the majors -- Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and reigning NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.
The offense hasn't come quite as quickly, but it is on the way, with Pablo Sandoval coming off an impressive 41-game debut in 2008, and talents like Conor Gillaspie, Buster Posey and Angel Villalona on the horizon. The question this year is whether a lineup that finished 15th in the National League in runs in 2008, but seems to be gradually improving, can make enough strides to help a championship-caliber rotation get to October.
In:Edgar Renteria, SS (free agency); Randy Johnson, SP (free agency); Bobby Howry, RP (free agency); Jeremy Affeldt, RP (free agency); Juan Uribe, IF (free agency)
Out:Ray Durham, 2B (trade); Jose Castillo, IF (free agency); Omar Vizquel, SS (free agency); Dave Roberts, OF (release); Kevin Correia, SP (free agency); Tyler Walker, RP (free agency); Vinnie Chulk, RP (free agency)
Tim Terrific ...
Tim Lincecum morphed into the most entertaining pitcher in baseball last year on the way to his first-ever Cy Young Award. At 24, you get the feeling it won't be his last. With unique mechanics, a small frame, a blazing fastball and an array of off-speed pitches, Lincecum has become the must-see event the Giants were hoping to have when they let Barry Bonds go after the 2007 season. The only question is what he'll do for an encore in '09.
Big Unit's Big Milestone ...
The Giants went out and got another attraction this winter, giving their rotation depth in the form of future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. The left-hander is five wins away from becoming a member of the prestigious 300-win club. Milestones are nice, but San Francisco needs him to win a whole lot more than five times to hang in the NL West race. Based on the early returns from Spring Training, Johnson might be able to deliver.
Pablo's Potential ...
When, Not If ...
There is a ton of prized talent waiting in the minors, and it's only a matter of time before the Giants begin to tap into it. Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson are two of the top pitching prospects in the game (as if San Francisco needed more help in that area) and Buster Posey might be the best catching prospect this side of Matt Wieters.
Why You Should Watch: Lincecum and Johnson are enough reason to tune in two out of every five days, but San Francisco has enough talent up and down the roster to make things interesting in the NL West. If nothing else, that should inject some sizzle back into a Dodgers-Giants rivalry that has been relatively quiet the last few seasons.
What Defines Success: This team is well positioned to make a serious run at the NL West title, but with a questionable lineup, expectations aren't that high. Finishing above. 500 would represent serious progress, particularly if the young and talented nucleus -- both at the major-league- and minor-league-level -- continues to develop.Related Links