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Baseball preview: San Francisco Giants

The biggest issue facing the San Francisco Giants in 2008 is finding a way to replace left fielder Barry Bonds, who hit 586 home runs in his 15 seasons with the Giants. Although his power decreased over the last few seasons, Bonds still hit 26 home runs in 2006 and 28 home runs last season.

The Giants signed center fielder Aaron Rowand to a five-year deal in an attempt to fill the void. However, Rowand has never hit more than 27 home runs in a season (which he did last season with the Philadelphia Phillies), so the Giants will still need other players to step up and help to replace Bonds' power.

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Unfortunately, Rowand looks like the only player in their lineup who is capable of hitting more than 25 home runs. Second baseman Ray Durham hit 26 home runs in 2006, but he's only hit 20 home runs in one other season in his 13-year career.

First baseman Dan Ortmeier hit six home runs in 62 games last season and he could hit 15-20 home runs if he's given more playing time in 2008. However, it's still a stretch to think that he could become a legitimate power hitter this season.

In order to be successful, the Giants will need to rely on their starting pitching to make up for the absence of a true power hitter. Barry Zito needs to rebound from last season's performance (11-13, 4.53 ERA) and make an impression on the young starters with his veteran leadership. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have shown that they have the potential to have successful careers, but they need to both learn how to win games when the offense doesn't offer much run support.

The Giants could surprise a lot of people this season if they are able to show that they don't necessarily need to replace Bonds in order to win. All they need to do is find a way to win without relying on the long ball. That could be difficult to comprehend when you've had a player hit almost 40 home runs per season for the last 15 years.

San Francisco Giants

2007 record: 71-91 (5th in NL West)

Key additions: CF Aaron Rowand

Key losses: LF Barry Bonds, 3B Pedro Feliz

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Bengie Molina, C – Although he's one of the slowest people in the major leagues, Molina is still one of the better options at catcher. He'll hit around .280 with 15-20 home runs and 65-75 RBIs. Last season, Molina had a career-high 81 RBIs. Since he's so slow, he won't score more than 30-40 runs. Don't draft him if you rely on your catcher to give you a lot of runs. Otherwise, he's a good pick in the middle rounds.

2. Aaron Rowand, CF – You should be hesitant about drafting Rowand even though he established career highs in home runs (27), RBIs (89), doubles (45) and runs scored (105) in 2007. There's a chance that he could post similar numbers this season, but Rowand could also hit .270 with 10-15 home runs and 60-70 RBIs. He still holds some fantasy value, but it'd be better to select Rowand in the later rounds instead of early in your draft.

3. Tim Lincecum, RHP – While Lincecum's rookie year wasn't spectacular (7-5, 4.00 ERA), he'll be drafted around the ninth round because of his potential. He had 150 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings last season, so he could be among the league leaders in strikeouts if he pitches around 200 innings. Lincecum could win 15-20 games, but it's more likely that he'll have 10-15 wins. He's only going to improve over the next few seasons, so grab him in keeper leagues if he's not already owned by someone else.

4. Matt Cain, RHP – Despite finishing 10th in the NL last season with a 3.65 ERA, Cain finished with a 7-16 record. Cain will win at least 10-15 games in 2008 if he's able to post a similar ERA. He's even younger than Lincecum, but Cain has already been in the major leagues for two full seasons. He could be headed for a breakout year, so mark him as one of the top players to grab in your draft. Don't take the chance that he'll still be available in the middle rounds. Pick him up in the eighth or ninth round and be satisfied.

Hidden gems:

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1. Brian Wilson, RHP – Wilson had a 2.28 ERA in 24 games last season. He picked up six saves and has been named the closer to start this season. Wilson could emerge as one of the top closers in the National League, so he'd be a good option if you're searching for a closer in the later rounds. He should be available with one of your last few picks, so it would be a good idea to wait until then to draft him.

2. Dan Ortmeier, 1B – In 62 games last season, Ortmeier hit .287 with six home runs and 16 RBIs. He's not worth a draft pick at this point, but keep an eye on his performance during the first month of the season. He could be a tremendous pickup that will help your team for the rest of the season. Look for him to hit 15-20 home runs if he's the starting first baseman for the entire year.

3. Barry Zito, LHP – It's hard to believe that a former Cy Young winner could be hidden from anyone in fantasy baseball, but Zito's 2007 season may have scared a lot of owners away. It's hard to believe that he'll have more losses than wins again in 2008, so go ahead and draft him if everyone else passes. Zito will likely have 13-17 wins with an ERA closer to his career average (3.67). It's not often that you can pick up a pitcher with Zito's credentials in the later rounds, so take advantage of it.

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