Sunday, March 30, 2008

Your 2008 Giants: Big 6 Questions

Named in honor of Big 6, Giants Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, I will posit on what I see as the Big 6 questions that the Giants face this season. I will give my thoughts on the possible answers.

1) How Many Losses?

As I've outlined in previous posts, I think the Giants are capable of besting last year's 71 win total, even without Bonds and Feliz, and perhaps even reach the .500 mark, or 81 wins. I think they will be closer to 81 than they will be to 71. I'll give further detail in my upcoming post on my thoughts on the 2008 season.

But I will say that it looks like the theory that Sabean has been espousing in recent years, that the league will switch from power to speed, much like the 80's and the Cards, will be put into practice, as speedsters like Davis, Velez and Lewis are added to the Giants roster, with Bocock, Burriss, Richardson, and others moving up the system as well. If they can execute this well, then their offense will be better than expected (and not much is expected), and will contribute to getting their record closer to .500 than last year's record.

2) Which Young Position Players Will Shine, Which Will Fail?

Obviously, I cannot answer this question at this time but can give some thoughts. I think Dan Ortmeier can hit well enough to hold the position until one of our better prospects come up and take it over, most probably Angel Villalona by 2009-11, but it could be another prospects, as I'll go into later. Kevin Frandsen might have lost his best chance to get to start in the majors, as Eugenio Velez looks to take 2B this season at some point, but either appear to be keeping the position warm for when Nick Noonan is ready, 2010-11 time period.

The Giants could keep 3B waiting for Frandsen for 2009, but while I like his bat, I don't think it's one that is suited for 3B unless we can get power (or speed) from other positions. But there is no one in the minors who look ready to take 3B, so that works to Frandsen's advantage. My only speculation there would be perhaps the Giants might move Travis Denker there, as he has shown some power in the minors (but not real 3B power, just more than Frandsen). Velez will get a chance to be the Giants "Figgins" until he finds a position he can stick at.

In the outfield, I think Nate Schierholtz will take RF at some point, and it looks likely to me that John Bowker will eventually win LF, but unless trades happen neither will do it this season. Fred Lewis' defense appears to be pretty bad, and his offense is not good enough to counter that. As athletic as he is, he might be best suited for the DH role in the AL, utility OF role in the NL. Rajai Davis can't hit righties but mashes lefties; Dave Roberts can't hit lefties but mashes righties. Both run like the wind and are similar leadoff hitters. A better match for platoon buddies does not exist.

I think Winn will be traded by mid-season once Schierholtz shows that he can duplicate his hitting for average and power again to start the 2008 season in AAA. Winn might go earlier if the Giants are serious about letting Lewis start more, but they admit that Lewis doesn't hit lefties that well.

3) Will the Pitching Rotation Be As Good As Advertised?

I think they will be better than projections currently show, and they are pretty good already. I guess the corollary question is then, will they be healthy? And by they, I mean Cain and Lincecum. Right now, it looks good, but you can never really know. Lincecum has developed a new slider that appears to be working quite fine, thank you. So the top of our rotation looks pretty good right now and should be quite an effective 1-2 punch eventually; they will be manning the #2 and #3 spots this season, which is good, less pressure on them, particularly Lincecum, to do well.

I think Zito can do as well as he was doing in the last 1-2 months of the season, plus he added some tweaks this spring training by changing his pitching motion. He should be in the high 3's ERA range. Lowry I think will do as well as he has been doing for most of the past two seasons (around 4.00 ERA) once he returns from the DL in early May/late April and become the best #4 starter in the majors. And between Sanchez and Correia, I think at least one will do well enough and that would be good enough for the #5 starter.

4) Will Brian Wilson Sing At Closer?

I think he is finally ready. He needed his butt kicked last season and responded well to being sent down. He was superb at the end of the season pitching for us as the closer. He will greatly improve the 2007 bullpen all by himself.

5) Which Vets Will We Eventually Trade?

I think the fire sale rumor was true, as it was reported from two different media sources citing their own sources. So I think that eventually all the ones named will be traded - Aurilia, Durham, Winn, perhaps even Roberts, opening spots for young prospects to take over. I think some of the young bullpen might be traded as well, as add-ons, to get a better position player.

In a recent interview, Sabean noted that he wants a lefty to break up Molina/Rowand/Durham, but if they trade away Randy Winn and insert Nate Schierholtz there, Nate can be that lefty bat. In fact, if Schierholtz can hit like he has, we could put Molina lower in the lineup and bat Rowand or Durham in the #4 and #6 spots, with Schierholtz #5.

6) Who Will the Giants Pick With their #5 Pick Overall?

The Giants need an impact bat. Most experts I've seen think that such a bat exists for us at the #5 overall. Unfortunately, most of them are 1B, which is where the Giants are trying to move Villalona to this season. Most mock drafts have the Giants picking Justin Smoak, college 1B. There were some speculation that they might go for pitching again, but in a recent interview on KNBR, Sabean admitted that they may have overdone the pitching drafting thing, and thus would put more emphasis on position players. There is also a current 3B in Pedro Alvarez, but he's expected to go #1 and some think he's eventually moving to 1B.

The Giants also have a high supplemental first draft pick because of the Phillies signing Feliz, and a number of good hitters fell there in 2007, such as Nick Noonan. But each year is different in terms of talent pool, so you can't rely on that fact, you can only note that 2007 was good. And Noonan is no sure thing to reach the majors and do well.

2 comments:

  1. Hello Martin. Our questions will overlap, but for me the questions are:
    1) how will the #5 SP shake out? i.e., will Sanchez pitch well enough to take the job from Correia?
    2) How will the back of the pen shake out? i.e., will either Valdez or threets be able to stick all year - and show they can be counted on for '09?
    3) Can Velez learn to catch? Jeez, how can a guy be so bad at catching a baseball? It would be nice if we were to hear that he, like Frandsen before his injury, is going out at 8:30 a.m. and taking ground balls. I hope the major league coaching helps him. A lot.
    4) I am with you, I don't see a future for Lewis as a starting OF. I wonder if the Giants will keep running him out there or trade him. I would be prett happy if one of the OF prospects establishes himself this year in one of the corners. That would mean we would have 2 of the OF positions covered and it would set up a competition for the 3d slot for next Spring.
    5) This question won't be palying out at ATT, but will be in the background all year: Who will play SS in '09?

    ReplyDelete
  2. There's something I want to point out, my error above, I meant that the Giants will be closer to .500 than they would be to losing 100 games, not the 71 games I put there. Unfortunately I rushed through it a bit to get it out, my bad.

    ReplyDelete

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