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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Giants early spring analysis: Everything as expected

The Giant' full squad has been in town a few days now and has gone through some workouts together, and just as many expected, there's hardly any news or anything crazy to report on thus far.

One of the most stable, most professional clubhouses in all of baseball has shown up for work and they look like they're focused on not falling off after another championship. Just as they always tend to be in Spring Training under Bruce Bochy, things have been calm, cool and collected and there's really been nothing but good news to report so far. Of which, one of the most important is the health of catalyst center fielder and leadoff man Angel Pagan, who in his own words says he feels like "never before". Having him back healthy atop the lineup will make a huge impact. Not to take anything away from Gregor Blanco, who managed fine in the postseason last year in the leadoff spot, but we're talking apples and oranges in terms of these guys' talent levels. I mean, Blanco's quick and can get on base and play great defense, but Pagan is a guy who can be a difference maker when he's on his game. Remember that run at the end of 2012 when he hit .342 in August and was crucial down the stretch and in the playoffs. He's a good offensive player on a team without a lot of them, so keeping him healthy in 2015 is going to be so crucial.

Obviously, health with all the core guys are key, but Pagan and even Brandon Belt are two guys in particular who've missed significant time over the last couple of seasons with injury and with the losses of Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse, the Giants can't afford to have those guys hit the DL multiple times this summer. Whether that means babying them along in spring or working them harder and getting them in better shape, those two are another injury away from being tagged "unreliable" and "injury-prone". To Belt's credit, some of his injuries have been freak injuries as that baseball just keeps finding him at inappropriate times. Hopefully his concussion issues are a thing of the past though.

The other two guys with the health questions on the Giants 25-man roster each got glowing reviews during their first workouts as well which is great. We talked a lot about Matt Cain in out last post, but Tim Hudson threw his first bullpen on Wednesday and got positive results in both the way he threw the ball and the way he felt. It was the first time he's taken a mound since Game 7 of the World Series last fall, and of course with the had the ankle surgery over the winter (not even 8 weeks ago in fact), the Giants are going to take it easy with their elderly, albeit above-average right-handed starter. It's great news, nonetheless, that he was able to take the mound so soon and provide such solid results. Eli Whiteside caught Hudson's session and said he hardly had to move his glove away from where he had it targeted through the outing. With that news coupled with the way Cain reported no issues after his outing the other day and Tim Lincecum as focused as he's ever been in his life for the most important year for his professional career, the Giants pitching staff could end up being better than many people are expecting. 

In reality, the bottom line is there's still a long ways to go, and Cactus League games are still a week out, but seeing as everybody has reported healthy and in at least decent condition, then passed the test of their first workouts, it's kind of all you can ask for as a fan at this point. Once games start we'll start getting a better grip on bench roles and if Ryan Vogelsong may be able to knock Timmy out of the fifth spot. Until then, the main goal is just to keep everybody healthy. Losing players to injury before the season is brutal enough, let alone before the exhibition games start.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Giants third tittle defense unofficially begins

The road to the 2015 Major League Baseball has kicked off, as the reigning World Series champions just went through their first pitcher and catcher workout yesterday. The first full-squad workout is just around the corner too with all positional players due in Scottsdale Monday, then their first full-squad workout scheduled for Tuesday.

Alas, although the regular season is still 6 weeks out and spring training games are still a couple weeks away, we'll finally have some on-field baseball stuff to talk about moving forward. Obviously the two big pieces of news early on in regards to the Giants are the fact that Bruce Bochy has put to rest any potential battle for the fifth starters spot saying flat out it belongs to Tim Lincecum. May felt it would be a battle between Timmy and Ryan Vogelsong this spring but if that is the case, the Giants certainly aren't letting anyone know. I personally can't see how Boch would enter the year with Linececum in the rotation if he absolutely stinks in March and Vogey puts on a clinic, but unless that's the case, I do expect Timmy to enter the year in the fifth spot of the rotation with Vogey in the pen or taking the spot of Tim Hudson should his surgically repaired ankle take longer than expected to heal. Huddy is still on track to start the year with the big club but with him being up around age 40, you can't quite count on that body bouncing back like you would someone 10-15 years his junior. That being said, Hudson is rebounding greatly from his surgery and may even be a tad ahead of schedule and just may be a few days away from throwing off the mound. While that it great news, it doesn't necessarily mean Huddy will be ready to make his first start of the spring and may still be behind schedule, but that certainly is great news for the starting rotation.

Down in the pen, the back-end looks identical as to what they have been the last half decade or so. Once again anchoring things are the main four; Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez. After that foursome, however, things may look a little differently than what we saw heading into last year at least. Right now, the favorites for those last three spots are Jean Machi, Yusmiero Petit and Ryan Vogelsong. Despite Machi's regular season success last summer, he's kinda the odd man out should the Giants indeed decide to carry 12 pitchers out of the gate and all everyone stays healthy (certainly no given with Hudson's age and injury). There's also Hunter Strickland (who at the tail end of august looked like the closer of 2015) and others who are also right there in the mix as well, so Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti are going to have their work cut for them trying to decipher which 12 (or 13) arms they decide to break north with.

So far, reports on all who've thrown sessions have been glowing. The guy who's first bullpen session I was most curious in seeing the results of were Matt Cain's, who's coming off the elbow surgery and is obviously one of the most key components to the Giants staff becoming a powerhouse again. According to Henry Schulman and others in attendance on Friday for Cain's first throwing session of the spring, things went just fine for the 30 year-old right-hander. The health of Hudson is huge, but to me, the Giants' chances for success in their rotation hinder largely on Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. Getting the  Peavy that we saw in August/September and during all those years in San Diego would be huge. I have expectations for Peavy to be a big add and pitch like the mid-rotation guy with #2 upside. Bottom line is if Peavy pitches to his career norm and Cain his, things will be just fine. Hey, surgery on a pitchers throwing arm, shoulder or hand is never anything to scoff at but the Giants need Cain to actually revert back into pre-2013 as he wasn't quite himself  that year either. Plenty of pressure, I know, but your making a cool $21,000,000 in 2015 so deal with it Matty and step it up (elbow permitting)! As for Peavy, he kind of get's lost in the afterthought of Cain and Bumgarner, but he showed after the trade last summer that he still had front-end stuff on many occasions. A full year back in the NL and pitching in the spacious AT&T Park could easily have the 33 year-old in the 15-win territory for 2015. Granted, he has to stay healthy and motivated after he just got his new deal.

Now with Hudson, I think Bochy is really going to take it easy on him the first half of the year. A lot of 5 and 6 inning starts even if he's dealing. I think that's part of the reason why they wanted another guy capable of eating innings in their pen (Vogelsong). Heck, they may just give Hudson the occasional start off and use Vogey as his spot-starting back-up. As good as he was the first half of last year, we can't expect Hudson to deliver an ERA in the low-2's into June again. Brings me back to the fac that those top-3 that really carry the rotation, to start with at least.

Other than that though, not a whole lot to report yet as positional players make their way into camp over the next 24 hours. Should be interesting to see how Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki interact with the club but I think they'll fit in just fine.

So far, the biggest scare, outside of how they're going to score runs consistently, was Bruce Bochy's hospital stint and operation just over the weekend. We here at The Giants Baseball Blog wish him well and hopefully it's something that's fixed for good and will not persist.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Changes aplenty in the NL West

After their last two World Series Championships, the Giants suffered major meltdowns in the following seasons (2011 and 2013). They're completely aware of this, and although they didn't make any earth shattering moves in replacing Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval, they feel like they're in good shape heading into spring training, which kicks off this week.

Giants' pitchers and catchers just arrived in Scottsdale with their first workout scheduled for tomorrow morning. The positional players won't be too far behind, as they report on the 23rd with the first full-squad workout scheduled for the 24th. Then, finally, we'll have baseball again as the Cactus League kicks off on March 3rd. Now, as we get ready to enter the 2015 season, there are plenty of questions surrounding the reigning top dogs. Many felt they failed in replacing Pablo Sandoval, so much so that their offense will take a noticeable tumble. Plus, while I didn't mind the Nori Aoki addition when you factor in who and what was available at that point in the offseason and the cheap price he came at. Seemingly every other team improved in the NL West though, so repeating not only as World Champs, but making a postseason run is going to be much more challenging.

First off, the San Diego Padres look re-stocked and ready to rock. They brought in a trio of all-star outfielders; Wil Myers from Tampa to play center, then Matt Kemp from LA and Justin Upton from Atlanta to flank him in the outfield. They then dove into the free-agent pool and landed highly sought-after free-agent RHP James Shields on a 4 year/$78M deal. Not a bad deal for the Pads after seeing what guys like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester just signed for. They have the depth in the rotation after Shields as well, with Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy (coming off his best year since '11). RHP's Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow are each making their way back from injury and could really deepen an already solid staff if they're right. In fact, if those dudes get and stay healthy and the newcomers all mesh, it's going to pose major problems for the rest of the West. The Padres look like one of the most improved teams in baseball in 2015 and so long as Joaquin Benoit and that bullpen hold up while they avoid injury in their outfield, they could be major contenders come September.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, took a different approach than they have in recent years, letting some of their big name, big priced guys go in trade and free-agency and spending a little more judicially in the '14/'15 offseason. They still have enough talent with that staff, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford finally becoming a full-timer (which could elevate him back into all-star status with health). They also brought in a couple of veteran, good clubhouse guys who still get it done to play up the middle in Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins. I have to say, adding those two make me a little more worried than when LA added HanRam, Josh Beckett and co. during the '12 season just cause those guys will help build a winning attitude in a clubhouse. Then there's that dreaded starting rotation, led by Clayton Kershaw and Zach Grienke which is the best 1-2 right/left handed punch in baseball.  (sorry guys, but unless Matt Cain is in 2011 form or Justin Verlander gets back to his ace-like ways ). That bullpen has about as much talent as any in the league, but health and performance issues always seems to weigh them down a bit.

That's kinda where the competition for the division tittle and wild care spot(s) end in the NL West because barring some minor miracles, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies likely aren't sniffing postseason play in 2015. Despite talks of dealing one and/or both of their star players, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, both return in 2015 to at least start the year in Denver. Colorado also has up-and-comers like Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado and some high-upside starting pitchers. Still, they have a ways to go before being competitive again in the division. The Diamondbacks, while still possessing one of the best right-handed power bats in the game ( first basemen, Paul Goldschmidt) added the biggest prized international free agent of the winter in Yasmany Tomas. They'll use this spring to figure out if he or Marc Trumbo will fit better at the hot corner with the other taking right field playing alongside AJ Polack and  David Peralta to form a solid young outfield. The D-Backs' problem will be their lack of experience as well as their lack of overall talent in their starting rotation. They could have really been the ones to use James Shields, or at least made a play at one of the other second-tiere starters )

Then, we finish up with the Giants, who had a really quiet all-around offseason. They tried to strike big and early with offers to re-sign Pablo Sandoval and nearly lured Jon Lester into town with a huge contract, but ultimately he chose to reside on the North Side of Chicago instead. After missing out on their top two priorities, they flirted with guys like James Shields and inquired about Chase Headly and maybe dealing for Justin Upton or Ben Zobrist. However, in the end, it wasn't any big new name coming to town to replace Pablo and Michael Morse. Instead, the Giants went with 2014 NL Comeback POY Casey McGehee, in hopes of finding someone who would come close to Pablo's regular season production at a fraction of the cost. To replace Morse, they went out and made another bargain move in signing Nori Aoki to a one-year deal worth just under $5M. I certainly would have loved that Aoki signing more had they found some legit power at third or re-signed Pablo, but all in all, I think Aoki is my favorite new add of the offseason. Instead of that big signing or trade, the Giants will more so be counting on in 2015 is the development of Belt, Crawford and Panik as well some of their other young pitchers.

What the Giants will be banking on most is there returning guys all staying healthy and some improving on sub-par 2014 seasons. Belt and Pagan are another injury away from getting tagged"fragile", and they need Buster Posey to be MVP-like without Pablo around to have his back. We know that as long as they're within striking distance they'll be active at the trade deadline and they saved a lot of their trade chips this winter because of that. No, they don't necessarily look like a World Series favorite on paper right now, but we all know how things change when the games start, and I think they're gonna add some pieces in season.

However, that's about the lay of the land in the ever-changing NL West. Although the Dodgers slashed payroll and lost a couple of stars in Kemp and Ramirez, I actually think they'll be better than many expect. The Padres are going to be the Wild Card for me. If they mesh well, which they very well may be able to do, then they could become the new powerhouse in this division, but a lot has to go right. Right now, I'd place the Dodgers maybe slightly above SF and the Giants slightly above the Pads, but again, these teams went through so much change I really gotta see them play together before getting too serious with predictions.
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Friday, February 13, 2015

GBB's 2015 Giants Top-10 Prospects, Plus Extras

With spring training just days from kick-starting, I definitely wanted to get out our version of the Giants top-10 prospect list.

Now, since Joe Panik has a starting job and has exceeded his rookie requirements obviously I'm not going to include him in the list. I will, however, include Andrew Susac since he's still yet to exceed rookie status and is not a lock to make the 25-man out of spring

1. Andrew Susac, C: So with the above mentioned, you kinda had to see this one coming. Susac has the upper hand here because he's shown in brief, but clutch, situations that he's capable of being a plus back-stop at the Major League level, and at age 24 has plenty of room still to grow. Looks like he's going to have at least 15-20 HR power with good .270+ average projection and should only get better behind the dish. At worst he'll become a league average starter but I think he's better than that. Plus we all saw how the last catcher with big upside turned out....

2. Kyle Crick, RHP: The big right-hander drops down a spot after spending last two years atop the pack. He just hasn't shown enough development on his command to really make him a can't miss guy like Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner all were. Still, he'd dominant when on and at age 22 still has a few years to lock down that command which I think will eventually happen. Ceiling: #2 or #3 with big strikeout totals but never big 18+ win seasons because of command issues forcing him from games early.

3. Tyler Beede, RHP: The Giants 2014 first rounder out of Vanderbilt impressed in his very brief showing in 2014 for the organization. He struck out 18 batters in 15 innings over 6 starts and sported a 3.00 ERA split between rookie ball and low-A. Expect the 21 year-old to start in either low-A or possibly San Jose. Scouts have compared him to being a Matt Cain-type if all pans out and I'll be keeping close tabs on him  his first full year in pro ball this summer. Plus, he was drafted in the first round in two different amateur drafts, which has to tell you something. At best, your looking at another mid-rotation guy, possibly even #2 material

4. Keury Mella, RHP: It was tough to pick between he and Beede for the 3 spot but I had to go Beede based  on his college track record and showing last summer. Mella has electric stuff though, with a mid-90's heater with heavy sink, a hard curve and an improving change-up. If he gets a grip on that change, he could present a Pedro Martinez-type arsenal. Too early to tell possible upside but if he can put it all together, could certainly be a mid-rotation candidate down the road.

5. Clayton Blackburn, RHP: This guy has been in our top-10 the last 3 years, so it's hard to believe he just turned 22. Doesn't have the upside of the guys ahead of him but threw well in Richmond in '14, striking out nearly a batter an inning while sporting a solid 3.29 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 93 innings. He kinda seems to have a Ryan Vogelsong-type ceiling to me, and I hope they let him go the full year at AAA at 22 to give him that experience. He may be the most Major League-ready of any other Giants pitching prospect right now so he could get a call if the rotation goes into shambles. Projectable back-end rotation guy with #3 upside.

6. Christian Arroyo, IF: Based on what the 19 year-old middle infielder showed in Augusta last season, ranking him this high may look like a stretch. However, he did tear the cover off the ball in low-A (.333/5/48/.847 in 243 ab's) and at 19 he looks like he's only going to keep getting better and better. Look for him to start in Augusta, or possibly even San Jose. Still too early to tell what he could become at the bigs if all pans out but a guy who can hit for a solid average (.280+) with at least gap-to-gap power is not out of the question and reasonable for a middle infielder.

7. Adalberto Mejia, LHP: The 21 year-old was one of the bigger buzzes in the organization prior to the 2014 season, but he didn't necessarily blow their socks off in AA Richmond. He wasn't terrible, posting  4.67 ERA with 1.39 WHIP in a league notoriously known to favor the pitcher. That said, Mejia is still just 21, has a ton of attributes that scouts like as a lefty, despite the sub-par showing in 2014. One reason he's not ranked higher is because he'll face a 50-game suspension to start 2015 for PED infraction which is hardly what the kid needs at this point.

8. Ty Blach, LHP: Now the only slight issue working against Blach is he came out late and is already 24 with very little minor league experience. Other than that, the lefty has looked like a stud since joining the organization in 2013. His numbers over those two seasons speak for themselves, going a combined 20-12 with a 3.02 ERA and a solid 208:57 K:BB ratio over 270 innings as a pro. He's another guy who could be atop the list should the Giants need a starter called up in a pinch. Best case is he ends up almost like a left-handed version of Ryan Vogelsong or even a Noah Lowry-type. Throws 4 pitches for strikes and gives his team a chance to win but won't really overwhelm you with strikeouts or swing-and-miss stuff like some of the others higher up on the list..

9. Steven Okert, LHP: Rarely will you see a releif pitcher, unless a sure fire future closer, ranked in my top-10, just because they're always the easiest to come by. The 23 year-old left-handed Okert, however, changes my stance do to the way he dominated last season  with 92 K's to go with 2.13 ERA in just 68 innings of work split between San Jose and Richmond. With his ascension, I wouldn't rule out seeing him in a Giants uniform in 2015, but I think 2016 could be the year he really steps in, with Jeremy Affeldt's pending free agency after the year.

10. Daniel Carbonell, OF: "Carby" is kind of like my "project pick" here. The 23 year-old Cuban defector's raw talent could have him much higher on this board, but the fact is he's gonna be 24 by the start of the 2015 season and still has a ways to go before being Major League ready. He's not gonna be Yasiel Puig or Yeonis Cespedes, but he does have a nice combo of average power with the ability to hit for a high average. Plus he's athletic, can run and field and with a developing frame, I don't think his power has fully arrived. Likely to start the year in San Jose, although could ascend up quickly if he hits like he did last fall.

Just Missed:  Matt Duffy, IF: 'Duff could have easily made this list, but like Panik I see him as too Major League-seasoned to be on this list and right now should have a spot on the 25-man out of spring, unlike Susac. I see Duffy as a middle of the road starter at second, maybe a .270 hitting Freddy Sanchez-type, as a best case scenario with a role as a key utility guy, a la Joaquin Arias, much more realistic.

Honorable Mentions: There were a ton of guys that just didn't make the cut. 24 year-old outfielder Mac Williamson was right there, but he's yet to show much beyond A-ball. However, he may still be the best power guy in the system so a full healthy year out of him could have himself back in the top-5 mix next year.... Former first-round pick, RHP Chris Stratton, has seen his stock fall quite a bit the last two seasons. He had a rough year in San Jose, sporting a 5.07 ERA in over 100 IP. Still young and skilled enough to become relevant again though with a big start in 2015... Then there's 26 year-old Hunter Strickland, who at times looked like the closer of the future at times, then like he had no idea of where the ball was going at others, in his brief stint in the 'bigs last year (including postseason). Gary Brown is 26 now and it's basically do or die for him this year. If he doesn't make the club at some point and contribute, he'll be gone in 2016... 21 year-old backstop Aramis Garcia and (1.068 OPS in college last year) and 22 year-old lefty Luis Ysla (2.45 ERA in low-A with almost a 3-to-1 K:IP ratio) are also climbing their way up.

_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Vogelsong last piece to 2015 roster?

On Friday, the Giants completed what very well may have been their last major league free-agent signing of the offseason, returning free agent right-handed Ryan Vogelsong to the Bay Area for one more season on a $4M deal.

Now, it was quite a change of events over that 72-hour period last weekend. There were multiple sources that had Vogey just inches from inking in Houston with him making the trip out there and spending significant time with Astros' brass. Instead, the Giants persuaded Vogey back with a base salary of $4M that will keep the 37 year-old in 2015. Right now, however, it's not quite certain as to what the popular right-hander's role on the staff will entail. With questions surrounding 3/5 of the Giants rotation heading into February though, having Vogey around as insurance and possibly someone to stretch the rotation when need be may not be such a bad plan. I could see Vogey and Lincecum in a private battle (to avoid an publicity) for the fifth spot in spring training, but with Yusmiero Petit thriving in that long releive/spot start role, what would happen to the loser of that battle? My guess is the Giants will see how the first half of spring goes, then depending on where players stand, someone may be DL'd with a phantom injury until the best-5 emerge and Bochy can solidify his staff. But, assuming all are healthy coming out of March and everyone, including Lincecum and Petit are pitching well, it would seem the only plausible scenario would be to slide Vogey into the pen to start the year with Hunter Strickland possible starting down in Fresno.

It's still a tad early to speculate but who knows, maybe Tim Lincecum lights it up this spring and regains at least enough trade value to where the Giants maybe find a taker. Even as cliche as it sounds though, you really can never have too much pitching, but with Yusmiero Petit already locked into that long-relief/spot start role, it could force Vogey into a mid-reliever type of role, something which he hasn't done much in his career. Guys might be entering new territory and may need to put their ego in check. Obviously Tim Lincecum makes way more since in short relief and in my opinion would thrive there and possibly give the Giants a closing option should Santiago Casilla falter, but I don't see the Giants giving up on that $17.5M in the rotation (at least until June). It is a contract year, he is just 30 and has apparently tried some new things this offseason, so who knows, maybe he becomes a 15-game winner again with a sub-4 ERA. We can hope right? Heck, a big year, with his Cy Young track record, could land himself a deal in the 5 year/$70M ballpark in this market (see Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Ervin Santana), giving him plenty of incentive. A lot would have to go right for his value to reach that staus again but stranger things have happened.

My guess though is that no matter what happens, Vogey will find his way into the rotation for at least 20 starts. The idea of a 6-man rotation, maybe even in the second half, could make since with the age of Huddy and Vogey mixed with Cain heatlth issues and Bumgarner workload concerns, but that is just so rare these days. I' still just really like the idea of making Lineceucm a short-reliever for his last year hear, even though he may hate it unless he was closing. I thing that's where his future is and he can be a solid weapon in that late role going multiple innings.

So, with January flying on by and just a few weeks before pitchers and catchers arrive in Arizona, the Giants' heavy lifting for the offseason appears to be finished, and if that is indeed the case, let's take a look at what exactly transpired:

Lost: Pablo Sandoval 3B (signed w/Boston), Michael Morse LF (signed w/Miami)
Added: Casey McGehee 3B (one-year deal from Miami), Nori Aoki LF(one-year deal from KC)

Now, looking at that Add/Lost list probably doesn't inspire most Orange and Black fans. They replaced 33 big flies (in which both Panda and Morse each had down power years) with a total of 5 between McGehee and Aoki in 2014 (though I would expect that to rise somewhat in 2015). In fairness, the RBI difference and OPS weren't that far off and while Panda has the edge defensively over McGehee at third, Aoki runs circles around Morse in left. But let's face it, the Giants not only lost a ton of power and run production from those two, but the impact those two guys had on opposing manager/pitcher stragiees. The fact of the matter is that unless Casey McGehee parties like it's '09/'10 all over again and Aoki reverts back into 2012 form, it's going to be a noticeable drop off offensively in those spots. Sure, a healthy Pagan and Belt for a full year will help, but this team does have some depth issues (although signing Aoki did help a ton).

Anyone would tell you they'd gladly take the Panda/Morse combo over the new regime, but it's not like you can really fault them for losing Panda and Morse. Pablo wanted out obviously wanted out and Morse, while entertaining and good for some homers and big hits while fitting perfectly into his role, certainly isn't a long term guy in the outfield. I'm just more so concerned with the inability to bring in a little bit more adequate replacements. If you've read us this winter, you know my push for Justin Upton well, then Allen Craig , but I must say I didn't dislike the Aoki signing, I would have liked it had they gone out entertained some of the more impacting third basemen to replace Pablo than McGehee, but it may not have been a realistic option without giving up Crick, Panik and Sussac. There were a ton of names from Pedro Alvarez to Will Middlebrooks, but the three I was most interested in were David Freese, Brett Lawrie and Lonnie Chisenhall.

Oh well, sometimes things don't work out exactly as hoped. The offseason isn't officially done, so I'm not ready to shell out grades quite yet. Who knows, they could surprise us with a late splash for a right handed left-fielder with some thump or someone else who can put balls in the seats, but I think they're going to enter the year with this team. See which of their needs becomes most pressing and go from there, which Sabean seems so well versed at doing.

Extras: The Giants officially cut-ties with Marco Scutaro earlier this week. Letting the 2012 pennant race/postseason stud go with just one year left on his deal and his future very much in doubt. They did so in order to make room for Nori Aoki on the 40-man... Speaking of 40-man, it's about that time of year where the yearly prospect lists for teams start hitting the wires and we here are the Giants Baseball Blog will present out top-10 along with 5 guys not in the mix to keep an eye on in 2015 and beyond and we hope to have that up by Friday, so do check back!
_________________________________________________ Get expert matchup reports and predictions on every single MLB game at Doc's Sports click Here _________________________________________________

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Aoki signing a solid low-risk move

Well, with the free agent market dwindling and the Giants trying to avoid going the trade route to fill their left field void, there weren't a plethora of options for Brian Sabean to choose from. That being said, the decision to bring in Norichika Aoki on a one-year deal at $4M doesn't look too shabby at all.
Giants introduce Aoki Tuesday

No, it wasn't a big splash for Justin Upton, Yasmany Tomas or Ben Zobrist (who were all linked to the Giants at some point this offseason) but the Giants got themselves a player who's skill-set should translate well at AT&T Park. He may homer just a handful of times in 2015, but with his speed and contact ability, a 20-triple season may not be out of the question. He gets on base at an above-average clip, puts the ball in play with frequency and is lightening quick on the base-paths. He'll bring some versatility to the lineup as well, as can hit both atop the order or at the bottom. He gives Bochy a legit leadoff option on days Angel Pagan can't go and would be a fine 2-hole hitter if Joe Panik has some sophomore slumping in 2015. I kind of like the idea of having the speedsters 1-2 in the order but that stuff will all play itself out through spring training and the beginning of the year. He does have a higher OBP than Pagan the last few years too so he may end up in the leadoff spot with Pagan maybe moving down to third. Then there's the defensive flexibility with Aoki as well in the outfield where he's more than adequate at all three spots and provides a plus throwing arm.

So yes, the Aoki addition does improve the team. Ideally, the Giants would have found that big right-handed thumper to help fill the power void left by Sandoval and Morse but that's not part of Aoki's game. Heck, Blanco may have a little more pop than Aoki, but Aoki makes contact and drives the ball more regularly. Some are worried that Aoki and Blanco are too close to being the same type of player to make Aoki and big upgrade, but let's take a look at that real quickly. He surpasses Gregor in every aspect offensively and on the base-paths and they're close to a wash defensively, with Blanco getting an edge in range and Aoki maybe in the arm category. They are both somewhat light-hitting outfielders with great speed and good defense, but Aoki is clearly the better player. Plus, judging by Tuesday's press conference, I'm thinking he's going to fit right into the wide array of personalities that always seem to gel in the Giants clubhouse. I also thought it was cool how he wore his jersey when he appeared on CSN later in the evening with Brody Brazil to do an interview.

With Aoki's arrival, the big question I have now is what happens to Travis Ishikawa? The Giants just gave him over a $1M to return next year, but now with left-handed Nori Aoki starting in left and Blanco now sliding back into the fourth outfield role, they need a right-hander for that fifth spot. Juan Perez is penciled in there but Sabes could still go out and get a guy like Jonny Gomes to give them some pop off the bench and someone to spell Aoki against tough left-handed throwers. That said, there has been no indication made by the team that they're further pursuing outfielders.

Although they may be done adding to the positional part of the roster before spring, they still may still be pursuing starting pitching depth. It surfaced early Tuesday morning that Ryan Vogelsong reportedly close to a one-year deal with the Houston Astros (which apparently hit a snag cause it failed to happen). James Sheilds is still floating out there, someone the Giants apparently do like a lot, but have also let go as a possibility (especially after Scherzer just raked in over $200M.)...At this point, I think the Giants heavy lifting for the offseason is done.
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

Giants still searching for OF and rotation depth

With a little over a month now until pitchers and catchers file into Scottsdale, the Giants reported that Tim Hudson will undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from his right heel. He is expected to be out at least 8 weeks but the Giants are expecting him back in time to start the season.

Anyhow, it has sort of enhanced their search for rotation depth again. I mean with Huddy pushing 40 and the workload his small frame has endured the last 16 seasons, it's probably not a bad idea to look into adding some rotation depth. This guy was pitching for the A's when the Giants were still playing at Candlestick Park after all. Add that to the fact that Tim Lineceum couldn't get anybody out in the second half of last season and the Giants have major question marks surrounding at least 2 of their 5 starters heading into spring. They do have Yusmiero Petit as a fallback, but the Bochy prefers being able to use him in different roles and would rather not tie him into a rotation spot if they can avoid it (at least early on in the season). There were reports early on this week that the Giants had inquired about Dan Haren, who was just traded to Miami earlier this winter. Haren is coming off a decent year in LA and wouldn't be a bad option to replace Lincecum if Timmy struggles out of the gate as well. Ryan Vogelsong is also still dangling out there. I'll tell you one thing, with this news about Hudson and the Giants inability to get close with any other prominent free agent starter, it's sure making the return of Jake Peavy look better and better.

Now, as for their continuing search for a potential left fielder, I know I wasn't the only one that had to shake their head after the A's were able to land the guy many Giants fans were pinning for for. The A's picked up Ben Zobrist from Tampa Bay, along with Yunel Escobar, in exchange for 3 minor league players. Zobrist is hardly a superstar, but is a solid player that would have fit well with the Giants both in the clubhouse and in the middle of that batting order. I for one would have viewed an acquisition of Zobrist (granted the Giants didn't part with too much) as a potential savior in an otherwise bland offseason, and I wasn't the only one. Instead, the Giants are again left searching for a plan B, like they did at third base after missing Sandoval and like they did in the rotation after missing Lester. Last post, I mentioned Allen Craig as the other guy besides Zobrist as a reasonable bat to target in a trade, and now he's probably now taken over as the number one target I'd like to see them go after. Not far behind him would be Houston's Dexter Fowler who I think would be a tremendous fit in this yard both offensively and defensively almost like Melky was in '12.

At this point though, if they are unable to bring in an upgrade like Craig or Fowler, I'd be open to signing a guy like Nori Aoki and making Blanco strictly the 4th outfielder again and bringing some stability to the everyday lineup. He'd be an upgrade over Blanco and significantly so if he could re-discover his sneaky power that evaporated last season. He just does everything a little better than Gregor. Colby Rasmus is the kind of talent and situation I'd ideally like to roll the dice on a one-year deal with but I highly doubt  the Giants will take a chance on him with his reputation as a clubhouse cancer (although if there is a clubhouse that can change someone like that, it would be San Francisco's). Better yet, they could sign the combo of Aoki and Gomes and really add some depth out there, but in all likelihood the guy your going to be seeing the most of in left field this summer is Gregor Blanco.
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