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Diving into the depths: San Francisco Giants

Feb 2, 2011, 7:00 PM EDT

Miguel Tejada AP

This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Tim Lincecum
2. Matt Cain
3. Jonathan Sanchez
4. Barry Zito
5. Madison Bumgarner
6. Jeff Suppan
7. Clayton Tanner
8. Dan Runzler
9. Henry Sosa
10. Shane Loux
11. Ryan Vogelsong

I don’t want to overestimate the Suppan signing, but before his addition, the Giants’ sixth starter was a guy who had a 79/64 K/BB ratio in 149 innings in Double-A last season. It’s going to be very important that the team’s top five stays relatively healthy once again.

Bullpen
1. Brian Wilson
2. Sergio Romo
3. Jeremy Affeldt
4. Santiago Casilla
5. Javier Lopez
6. Ramon Ramirez
7. Guillermo Mota
8. Dan Runzler
9. Marc Kroon
10. Waldis Joaquin
11. Alex Hinshaw
12. Steve Edlefsen
13. Casey Daigle
14. Ryan Vogelsong
15. Felix Romero
16. Shane Loux
17. Matt Yourkin

Because the Giants have two lefties guaranteed spots, they may well try Runzler as a starter this spring. If that happens, he’d start the year in the Triple-A rotation. … I’m very interested in seeing what Kroon has left. He always had a terrific arm, but command woes prevented him from establishing himself in the majors in his 20s. Now 37, he spent the last six years as one of Japan’s best closers. If he’s still throwing in the high-90s, he’s a sleeper.

Catcher
1. Buster Posey
2. Eli Whiteside
3. Jackson Williams
4. Chris Stewart

First base
1. Aubrey Huff
2. Travis Ishikawa
3. Brandon Belt
4. Pablo Sandoval
5. Brad Eldred

Second base
1. Freddy Sanchez
2. Mike Fontenot
3. Emmanuel Burriss
4. Mark DeRosa
5. Ryan Rohlinger

Third base
1. Pablo Sandoval
2. Mark DeRosa
3. Mike Fontenot
4. Ryan Rohlinger
5. Conor Gillaspie

Shortstop
1. Miguel Tejada
2. Emmanuel Burriss
3. Mike Fontenot
4. Ryan Rohlinger
5. Brandon Crawford

The Giants’ big question headed into spring training is whether Belt can force the team to carry him after his outstanding pro debut last season. If he does make the team, we’ll probably see him at first base and Huff in left field most of the time. Still, my guess is that he’ll head to Triple-A for at least two months. … Sandoval’s status will be another hot topic, but assuming that he’s made an effort to keep his weight down, he should get every chance to hold on to his job.

Left field
1. Pat Burrell
2. Aubrey Huff
3. Mark DeRosa
4. Brandon Belt
5. Aaron Rowand
6. Nate Schierholtz
7. Thomas Neal

Center field
1. Andres Torres
2. Aaron Rowand
3. Darren Ford
4. Cody Ross

Right field
1. Cody Ross
2. Aaron Rowand
3. Nate Schierholtz
4. Mark DeRosa
5. Terry Evans

Let’s assume Belt doesn’t make the team. There would still be four locks for the bench in DeRosa, Rowand, Fontenot and Whiteside, leaving just one spot for Schierholtz, Ishikawa or Burriss. Rowand’s demotion would seem to leave Schierholtz with no role at all, but Schierholtz’s defense would make him useful in the right situation.

  1. Jeremiah Graves - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:56 PM

    So if/when Rowand/Burrell/Huff/Tejada are all off the books, do you suppose there’s any chance these cats decide to go “young” with the offense?!

    Reyes is–in theory–a free agent after this year as is Prince/Pujols/Gonzo (extension ain’t signed yet, y’all)…if they could land Reyes and one of the slugging 1B, they’d IMMEDIATELY change the dynamic of these time.

    Just food for thought.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Feb 2, 2011 at 10:46 PM

      There’s no way they would sign a slugging 1B or a huge injury risk like Reyes with Belt no more than a year away and with the fact that in the next 3 years or so they will have to be paying a lot more for Cain and Lincecum (and possibly J Sanchez). The money that’s being paid to Zito, Rowand, Huff, F Sanchez, and Tejada will eventually go to Lincecum and Cain, and whatever’s left will ultimately go to Posey, Belt, Bumgarner, and possibly Sandoval if he’s gotten himself in shape. As a fan, and I can’t believe I am saying this, they really don’t need to bring in anyone from the outside for a long time unless something disastrous happens. A core of Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Posey/Belt/Sandoval is stronger than any in the NL, and possibly all of baseball. That’s 3 dominant, homegrown starters and a potent middle of the order that goes R-L-S. If they can keep that core together and keep winning they can fill out the rest of the roster with players who are looking to take short, cheap, prove it deals with a chance to win it all. They’re in great shape for now and the future, and I haven’t even mentioned Zach Wheeler, who struggled with a split fingernail but supposedly has mid 90’s fastball and a great curve. I believe the stadium debt has either been paid off or will be paid off in the near future, and if they can continue to build the brand and be the premier franchise in the western US they can continue to expand the payroll past the $120 million it will be this year.

      • Ari Collins - Feb 3, 2011 at 12:35 AM

        I agree that that’s a strong core, and that a lot of their freed-up money will go towards locking those guys up (hopefully!). And I agree that getting a 1B would be a bit of a redundancy of resources. (Though they could always sign Fielder and trade Belt for something else tasty at a position of need. Lotta teams would want a young 1B.)

        But there could still be plenty of money to add to that core with maybe a MIF or OF. Belt needs to prove himself at the major league level and Sandoval needs to get back in shape, though I doubt his BABIP will ever let him repeat that tremendous year he had. They could really use another bopper or two, but unfortunately most of the FAs the next couple years are SPs, which is the one thing the Giants don’t need.

      • loungefly74 - Feb 3, 2011 at 8:14 AM

        i like the positive vibe “sticks”.
        Lets go back to fundamental baseball…what wins games? great pitching, excellent defense, and timely hitting. …that said, we got that! do we have a legit shot at the NL West? absolutely! the NL Pennant? yes.
        the line-up will be better this year as the chemistry is meshing. i do hope Panda steps up, he has plenty of motivation to do so. another great thing about this team? no egos! the line-up is loaded with “blue-collar” guys. our pitching staff, amazingly, is over-shadowed by the phillies (purely because of name recognition and huge contracts…yeah, yeah, don’t get me wrong, the phillies are loaded but we proved we could match up well to them. in fact, beat them in a series!…haha). and we got the best closer in the game right now with “Sea Captain” Brian Wilson! (that appearance on the george lopez show was one for the ages!).
        The Giants and Giants fans should be brimming with confidence. I am.

  2. kiwicricket - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    That would have to be one of the most expensive benches in baseball would it not??? Teak I believe

  3. nancygill3 - Feb 3, 2011 at 5:44 AM

    “123 Get Samples” is promoting a new line of detergent, tooth paste, lotion etc by giving away free samples. It’s more of the “try it before buy it” marketing model and who can resist a free useful household product like detergent? This free sample is limited to one per household and only available while supplies last.

  4. mercyflush - Feb 3, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    “A core of Lincecum/Cain/Bumgarner/Posey/Belt/Sandoval is stronger than any in the NL, and possibly all of baseball.”

    Easy now. That’s a ridiculous statement. I’ll give you Lincecum and Cain as established stars, and Posey looks like the real deal, no question. But…

    Bumgarner had a great 2nd half and playoffs, He had a drastic drop in velocity last year and leading into the 2010 season, which he recovered from. Who’s to say that wont happen again, or worse? He’s a prime candidate for the Verducci Effect this season. And there are plenty of pitchers who’ve had success early and then flame out. but let’s see him do it again before we list him as part of the best cores in baseball.

    Brandon Belt is currently ranked as the 17th best prospect in mlb by Keith Law. He’s is in no way, shape or form a lock to be a stud player. He’s not Heyward or Posey. Could he be a star? of course, but so could the 16 prospects ranked ahead of him. In reality, only about 5 of the top 40 each year reach their potential as star players. Listing Belt right now as a player that gives SF the best core in the NL is idiotic.

    Sandoval had 1 good season and 1 poor season. Is he a lock to be a great player moving forward? His approach at the plate has been terrible, and to me it’s that more than his weight that’s the problem. As with Bumgarner, let’s see him put together a consistent string of greatness before he annoint him, ok?

    • seeingwhatsticks - Feb 3, 2011 at 10:22 AM

      A lot to rebut in that comment but I’ll start with this: if that’s NOT the best core in the NL and possibly MLB for the next 7-10 years, who is better? You sort of failed to make any attempt to answer that part of the equation, so while some of your arguments are valid you didn’t really refute the overall point. Teams like the Royals and Rays might have deeper teams but there’s a 0% chance those teams can hang on to all their players past arbitration if they end up being good, whereas the Giants can.

      As far as Bumgarner I don’t really buy into the “Verducci Effect.” Every pitcher is a little bit different and it’s tough to make any predictions about who is going to get hurt and who isn’t before it actually happens. Case in point: most everyone thought Lincecum couldn’t last more than a couple of years because of his size and the toll his delivery takes on his body, and some even suggested moving him to the bullpen. Bumgarner got stronger as the year went on, not weaker. And not a little stronger, he picked up 5-7mph between June and September and was at his best at the end of the year. I believe he is the third youngest starting pitcher to win a WS game, and he did so on the road in a crucial game (if the Giants had lost the series would have been tied, instead they took a commanding 3-1 lead). Grant at McCovey Chronicles yesterday posted a list of the starting pitchers 21 or younger to post a K:BB ratio of 3.00 or higher over the last 110 years and the list goes like this: Gooden (x2), Blyleven, Gary Nolan, Walter Johnson, (x2) Greinke, King Felix, Bumgarner. That’s not bad company. So you’re right in the sense that he doesn’t have a long track record to rely on, but what he accomplished in less than a full MLB season is pretty remarkable.

      Plus, you have to take into account the way the organization has developed young pitchers over the last few years. Lincecum’s change is the nastiest pitch in baseball and he didn’t even throw one when he was first called up to the big leagues. Cain was a fastball-curveball pitcher who has added a change and I believe a slider and doesn’t throw the big curve nearly as often as he used to. Wilson has added a cutter. Bumgarner doesn’t have any consistently great secondary pitches thus far but there is every reason to believe he will develop 1 or 2 to go along with a heavy fastball that generates a lot of groundballs. When you’re a lefty, you can spot a 93-95mph fastball, you can bury the ball inside to righties, a great pick off move, and you have even a middling change or curve, the world is your oyster. Also, and this is what’s awesome, we’re talking about the team’s THIRD starter and your beef seems to be that he might not be an elite ace.

      If you follow Keith Law or regularly read his chats he mentioned that the only reason he didn’t rank Belt higher was because he doesn’t play a premium position (SS, 2B, C, CF, SP). Of the 16 players ahead of Belt, at least 12 play one of those premium positions and another is Bryce Harper. Last fall Law tweeted that he thought Belt was arguably the best 1B prospect in the game, neck and neck with Hosmer. In the final rankings that Law recently put out age is a factor, and Hosmer is a year younger, and has been a position player longer, which probably contributed to him being 12 spots higher on the list. Is Belt a lock? No, but no prospect is. There’s a chance he won’t develop into an elite slugger but the Giants proved this year they don’t need a lineup full of elite sluggers to win, and with his eye at the plate (93BB:99K) his floor would appear to be pretty high.

      Sandoval is a huge question mark but if you follow him on Twitter there’s no question he’s shown a commitment to his conditioning during this offseason. His approach at the plate is unusual but a similar approach will put Vlad in the Hall of Fame some day so it’s not impossible to succeed while swinging at everything, it just ads a high degree of difficulty. What gives me hope for Pablo, other than his conditioning, is that he put up that one great season on a HORRIBLE offensive team. Bengie Molina was his “protection” in the lineup and batting cleanup. Bengie Molina! The truth is, with Posey in the lineup along with Huff and Burrell and DeRosa and others, Sandoval probably doesn’t have to be as individually great to put up numbers that are as good or better than what he did in 2009. That’s not to say that all those players are elite, but they are competent, which is a massive improvement over the lineup the Giants used for most of 2009.

      In the end what I want to come back to is what I actually said, that no team in the NL and arguably no team in MLB has as strong a core lined up for the next 7-10 years as the Giants do. There are teams that might have more talent and might be deeper, but they have no chance to keep any of those players past arbitration if they turn into stars. Meanwhile the Giants have a guy who has 2 Cy Youngs, 3 K titles, and a World Series ring in his first 3 full seasons (Lincecum), a guy with a 0.00 career postseason ERA (Cain), a kid who has great stuff and won a pivotal World Series start at age 21 (Bumgarner), an NL ROY who was the best player on a championship team while playing the toughest position and who looks like he will eventually be the best C in the game if he isn’t already (Posey), a guy who hit .330 with 25 hr and received MVP votes 2 years ago (Sandoval), and one of the top prospects in the game (Belt). The oldest guy in that group is Lincecum at 26, and none of those guys will be going anywhere any time soon. Who else can boast a young group like that right now?

  5. mercyflush - Feb 3, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    you make good points… but what i’m saying is that you’re counting your chickens before they hatch. Other than Lincecum, Cain, and Posey (who also has only done it one year but there seems to be little argument that he will keep it up), everything you’re saying is based on potential and assumptions. IF belt becomes a star and bumgarner becomes a great pitcher and sandoval becomes a perrenial MVP candidate, ok those 6 make up a great core. (and don’t say bumgarner is only the #3 so he doesnt have to be great, that’s not what we’re talking about. you’re including him in your “best core in mlb” so for that to happen he can’t just be a solid #3).

    if you’re going to go just based on the *possibility* that those 6 all play up to their potential, you should say that *potentially* they could be a great core. But I can turn around and say the same for the Marlins, Braves, Red Sox, Rays, Royals etc. The Marlins right now have a crop of young players that could potentially be the best in baseball in a couple years, none over 26 years old. Josh Johnson doesnt have Lincecum’s resume, but no young position player on the Giants has Hanley Ramirez’ either. Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Coghlan et al, have the potential to be a great core. Plus with the new stadium there’s a great chance the payroll skyrockets (they already locked up Johnson and Ramirez). The Braves have one of the top 5 minor leagues systems in baseball and are loaded with young talent, both in the majors and the minors, and as recently as 2008 had a payroll over 100 mil. Whose to say that Hanson, Tehran, Jurrjens, Heyward, Freeman, Kimbrel and Venters won’t be far and away better than the Giants core? Either of those two teams i mentioned could easily have the best “core” in 5 years. However, it would be dumb for me to say that because it’s mostly based on potential, and that’s exactly what your saying about the Giants.

    And how do you know that the Giants will pay to keep them around? Lincecum and Cain aren’t going to be cheap. How can you say that you’re absolutely sure the Giants will give both Lincecum and Cain the big money contract that he will probably be looking for when arbitration runs out? And if so, and Sandoval becomes a star, and the other two, they’re definitely going to sign with the Giants? Will the Giants be willing to become a top 3 payroll in baseball?

    By the way i didn’t knock Bumgarner’s performance last year. He was excellent, especially in the playoffs. Again, my point is that you’re counting on A) a 21 year old to continue to be the pitcher he was at the end of last year B) a prospect who has never played at the major league level and C) a player with a history of weight problems coming off of a dreadful season last year. It just seems like an odd, totally non-objective giants fan kind of thing to say.

    Just say that the future looks bright for the Giants, since they have a lot of young talent. And worry about making the playoffs in 2011. not saying they won’t, just saying that most WS teams in the last decade have not gone back the following year.

  6. mercyflush - Feb 3, 2011 at 11:35 AM

    and please for the love of god don’t ever mention Sandoval and Guerrero together again. That’s crazy. Yeah, they both have unusual approaches. Let Pablo produce like Vlad for, oh, 10 years and then talk about their similarities. Sandoval has more in common with literally hundreds of average hitters than he does with the HOF Vlad.

  7. shaggylocks - Feb 14, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Whatever happened with this series? Keep diving!

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