After a long winter waiting for baseball to begin again, opening day is finally here. For sports fans in the San Francisco Bay Area it has been a great winter: the 49ers appear to be on track to be a dominant franchise once again; the Warriors look to finally have that dominant center that they have been needing; and the Giants’ have made some interesting trades and wrapped up one of their dominant starters – Matt Cain – for years to come. Lets’ take a closer look at the Giants’ and their 2012 prospects.
The 2012 Giants’ finally have a home grown roster and that is exactly what hard core fans have been waiting for. The years of the mid level free agent acquisition appear to be a thing of the past. The 2012 roster has 15 home grown players on the 25 man roster. The pitching staff home grown guys are: Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Vogelsong, Wilson, Romo and Hensley. The position players that are home grown are: Posey, Sandoval, Belt, Crawford, Burriss, Schierholtz, Pill and Hector Sanchez. Not only does this make it more fun for the fans to see these guys come up through the system and be successful, but it makes the team younger and more athletic. The combined salaries of the 8 position players is around $7.5 million. Of course, the salaries of the 6 home grown pitchers is much higher at around $55 million. But that is all according to plan. Pitching is what got the Giants a World Series Championship in 2010 and pitching is what will get them there again. In the National League West, pitching is the key. The ball parks, for the most part, are big and spacious and strong pitching is the most important factor in the success or failure of the teams in the division.
A couple of key trades have also made the Giants’ younger and more athletic. Getting Melky Cabrera from the Royals for Jonathan Sanchez is going to go down as a great trade for the Giants! Cabrera has shown all the tools this spring to be a very good everyday player in the outfield. He can play all 3 outfield positions and has looked very potent at the plate; he is also a switch hitter and has shown great speed and instinct on the basepaths. The other key trade was bringing Angel Pagan from the Mets for Andres Torres and Ramon Ramirez. Pagan is also a switch hitter and even though he has had a tough spring, I believe that he will live up to the stats on the back of his baseball card: generally a .270-.290 hitter with around 30 stolen bases. Both Cabrera and Pagan have injected one thing into this year’s lineup that has been sorely missing in the past: Speed! Also having 3 switch hitters in the opening day lineup (Pagan, Cabrera and Sandoval ) should make it tougher for pitchers to pitch around certain hitters.
And, of course, the return to full health of Buster Posey should be huge for the Giants’. After all, this was the 2010 Rookie of the Year on a World Series Championship team! Posey has looked very good and has shown no signs of his devastating injury from last year. In fact, the Giants’ only kept Hector Sanchez (a young and untested catcher) as Posey’s backup. I believe that shows that the Giants’ feel that Posey is ready to resume a full load behind the plate this year. There is talk of Posey playing first base once in a while to give him a day off from catching, but I don’t think that will happen very often.
The other big injury last year was to former All-Star second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez will start the year on the DL because his throwing shoulder is not fully healed. If Freddy should come back at close to full strength in a few weeks, the Giants’ will indeed become a formidable opponent for the rest of the National League West.
I will break down the roster more closely in the coming weeks as we get into the season.