We’ve made it to the two real contenders in the NL West. This race is going to come down to the last week of the season.
San Francisco Giants
What a pitching staff. Clearly, the strength of the Giants in 2012 is going to be pitching. The top three in the starting rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner is rivaled only by Philadelphia (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels) in the NL. Even Ryan Vogelsong had a very solid year in 2011, going 13-7 with a 2.71 ERA. The trade of Jonathan Sanchez will force Barry Zito into the rotation, but I think it was a good move to add Melky Cabrera to an offense that ranked 29th out of 30 teams in runs scored in 2011.
There are quite a few questions with the offense. How healthy is Buster Posey? The young catcher broke a bone in his left ankle in a home-plate collision on May 25 and missed the rest of the season. If healthy, Posey is one of the best five catchers in baseball. Second baseman Freddy Sanchez is coming off a shoulder injury and will make a huge impact if he’s healthy. Unfortunately, he’s already had a setback in camp, so his health is in question.
Notice a trend? The Giants need to get (and stay) healthy. Carlos Beltran has moved on to St. Louis, and I think the offense is improved anyway. Aubrey Huff needs to bounce back from a slow 2011 after a monster 2010. If not, Brandon Belt is waiting to take over an everyday spot in the lineup.
Staying with the injury theme, closer Brian Wilson and his beard are also recovering from one. He missed much of the second half of 2011 with an elbow injury and he confessed to pitching the entire season with a sore elbow. That sounds like a red flag to me. Wilson’s health will be a question mark all season long.
Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Posey should be a pretty good middle of the order. Good enough to score the runs needed to win games with such a superb rotation. Their pitching is going to lead to a ton of wins. With the extra Wild Card spot available, the Giants have a great shot to grab one of them, and I believe they will.
Position players: C Posey, 1B Huff, 2B Sanchez, SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Sandoval, LF Cabrera, CF Angel Pagan, RF Nate Schierholtz
Bench: INF Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, C Eli Whiteside, INF/OF Belt, Emmanuel Burriss
Starting rotation: 1. Lincecum, 2. Cain, 3. Bumgarner, 4. Vogelsong, 5. Zito
Bullpen: Brian Wilson, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javy Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Clay Hensley, Guillermo Mota
Projected finish: 92-70, 2nd in NL West, Wild Card winner