That was Then...
There’s really little you can say about a Championship season.
The Giants fought through an 0-2 deficit to stun the Reds in the NLDS, then stormed back on the Cardinals after the defending champs took a 3-1 NLCS lead before handily sweeping the Detroit Tigers.
A lot went right. Matt Cain re-signed for six more years, then went out and tossed a perfect game. Buster Posey won NL MVP honours a year after a devastating plate collision sidelined him indefinitely. Pablo Sandoval became just the fourth player in Major League history to homer three times in a World Series game and two of them came off Justin freaking Verlander.
Sure, Brian Wilson got hurt and is probably done in San Fran. Sure, Melky Cabrera almost won a batting title but then got popped for performance-enhancing drugs. Sure, Tim Lincecum had such an off-year that he didn’t even start in the playoffs.
But, guess what? All that happened and they still won their second World Series in three years.
...This is Now
They Might Be Giants
With two World Series titles in three years, the Giants could close in on dynasty territory with another in 2013.
The Giants are fine.
Okay, Melky’s gone, Wilson is most likely gone and Lincecum got a haircut.
The team has locked down a lot of its 2012 roster, keeping Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt and Marco Scutaro in San Fran and they’ve brough Andres Torres back for another kick at the can.
Lincecum is playing for a contract, so he’s either going to be a Cy Young candidate or off the books in a year. Either way, the Giants probably aren’t sweating it.
Cain and Madison Bumgarner are locked in long-term and Sergio Romo has proven to be every bit the closer that many suspected he was while serving as Wilson’s set-up man.
The Giants were good on the road and even better at home last year, so the only area for improvement they have is playing .500-plus against the AL and trying to beat the teams they had problems with last year (the Nationals, Reds and – believe it or not – the Marlins).
If they can play that well and the Dodgers’ year-long construction project isn’t a grand success, there is really nothing preventing the Giants from another busy October.
Every year, we look for players 26-years-old or younger that could make an impact on their team in the upcoming season. The player might have already established himself with a regular role with the team, or he could make their mark later on in the season.
Past Picks: 2012 - Buster Posey, 2011 - Brandon Belt, 2010 - Madison Bumgarner, 2009 - Pablo Sandoval, 2008 - Tim Lincecum, 2007 - Jonathan Sanchez, 2006 - Matt Cain, 2005 - Noah Lowry, 2004 - Todd Linden, 2003 - Kurt Ainsworth
The defending World Series champions fall out of the Top 5 to start the season.
Sitting 6th overall is Buster Posey, who is one of the best hitters in the game.
For the defending World Series champs, the Giants don't have amazing fantasy appeal.
There's some debate over C Buster Posey, who is undoubtedly a fantastic player but, for fantasy owners, it can be a risky play to go for a catcher in Round One (incidentally, I rank Posey as a first-round selection).
RF Hunter Pence is durable, 2B Marco Scutaro is a moderately productive middle infielder and 3B Pablo Sandoval could be great, but has played 225 of 364 games over the last two seasons. CF Angel Pagan is one Giant that quietly provides value.
If there's a breakthrough player to target, it could be 1B Brandon Belt, who has been brought along slowly, almost painfully so, but has the stroke to be a middle-of-the-order presence.
Okay, enough with the mediocre offence. What about that pitching staff?
RHP Matt Cain and LHP Madison Bumgarner are both very good. Both won 16 games last season and have the stuff (and peripheral numbers) to win more.
RHP Ryan Vogelsong can't be ignored. He has 27 wins with a 3.05 ERA in the last two years since returning to the Majors.
The real question mark revolves around RHP Tim Lincecum, an elite starter up until last season, when he fell off a proverbial cliff, posting a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 33 starts. He was better in his playoff appearances, so he could bounce back, but his value is going to be lower than usual heading into the season.
With this quality starting staff in front of him, closer Sergio Romo should be a premium option, even though he only has 17 career saves.