Key Losses–Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe
Lineup—Really, this lineup was nothing special last year, just got lightning in the bottle in the playoffs. And what did they do to get better? Really, nothing. I actually think they went backwards a little bit with this offense, but the maturation of Buster Posey could help with that gap. The infield will need a much better year from Pablo Sandoval to stay competitive, they but do have 2 professional hitters in Aubrey Huff and Freddy Sanchez on that side of the infield. Cody Ross was a very nice addition in the outfield during their playoff run, but I expect him to come back down to earth. Andres Torres is very good defensively, but leaves something to be desired, and Mark DeRosa, although a very sound hitter, is not the type of guy you want in your left field spot. I just don’t think this is a very good offense, and think that they will really struggle to score runs.
Rotation—The rotation was the reason this team won the World Series last year, and it will be the reason that they are in the hunt to do so again in 2011. Obviously they are headlined by Tim Lincecum, who has accomplished so much in such a short career. I think the key to this rotation though is the horses they have in the middle slots. Matt Cain is an absolute beast who continually eats innings, and the young southpaws Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner should continue to improve and perform very well for this team. I still think that Barry Zito has something left in the tank, and if he can find a little magic in the 5 spot that will only cement this rotation as one of the best in baseball. Top to bottom, this is a top 3-4 rotation in baseball.
Bullpen—The injury to Brian Wilson has to be concerning, as they don’t have another shut down guy in that pen. They do have some very solid lefties in Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez, but neither is good enough to step into the closers role. I don’t expect the Wilson injury to be a huge problem, but I do think that the lack of run scoring potential will mean plenty of save opportunities, and that could spell trouble early. I don’t expect this bullpen to get as much work as others, but a healthy Wilson is much needed.
Impact Rookie—Brandon Belt, 1B. Belt was a good, but not spectacular player on a Texas team that made an Omaha appearance in 2009. In his first year as a professional however, his stock skyrocketed. Belt posted a .352/.455/.620 line through three levels last season while totaling 76 XBH, 23 HR, 112 RBI and 22 SB, and he has a shot to make this team.
Outlook—It was a magical run for the Giants in 2010, and with the pitching staff that they have they could easily do it again. But I just don’t think they have enough offense to do so, barring another streak of hitting like they had last year. The division is much improved, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them out of the playoffs entirely. It is going to be a fun year in the west, as well as all of baseball.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
NL West Preview: