In 2011, the San Francisco Giants had the second-fewest runs scored and the third-worst batting average in the league. A year removed from their magical World Series run and the Giants couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn. The lack of offense by the G-men was unfathomable. In 2010, many players had career years that they just couldn’t repeat in 2011. The Giants traded Andres Torres after his abysmal 2011 season. Torres hit .221 out of the leadoff position, the Giants biggest need during this offseason. They picked up a few players, but made no big splash. The Giants are hoping that a few key healthy players will help lead them back to the promise land.
Catcher – Buster Posey will return, and the Giants expect him to produce right away. After a horrifying ankle injury that ended his 2011 season early, Posey has been rehabbing and will be back in time for spring training. He was hitting .284 before the injury. Many are calling for Posey to be moved to first base, but Posey and General Manager Brian Sabean have expressed no interest in playing him anywhere except catcher. Posey is set to make $575,000 in 2012. His backup will be Eli Whiteside.
First Base – Aubrey Huff is going to be the starter opening day barring an unforeseeable event. This, most likely, will not be permanent. Huff had a very good year in 2010, but fell off last year, which was a big reason for the Giants offensive struggles. Unless Huff has a strong resurgence, he will be replaced by Brandon Belt. Belt is the future at first base and will most likely be there in a year when Huff’s contract is up. Huff is making $10 million in 2012.
Second base – Freddy Sanchez was hitting .289 before a shoulder injury forced him to miss the second half of the season. Sanchez should return to form this season and, as always, will be a big asset as a defender. If he can stay healthy, Sanchez will be a big factor in the Giants success in 2012. The G-men really missed his bat during their offensively inept 2011 season. Speedy backup Emmanuel Burriss will give Sanchez needed rest, if he’s going to stay healthy, and will also be available as a pinch runner. Sanchez will get $6 million in 2012.
Third base – Pablo Sandoval became one of the best young players in the league in 2011, hitting .315 with 23 home runs. With a full season in 2012, if he can continue to stay in shape, Sandoval should be in the running for MVP. Offense wasn’t the only thing Sandoval excelled at in 2011. His defense was much improved from 2010 when he had weight issues. With his weight down, Sandoval became one of the better all-around players in the game. Conor Gillaspie will backup Sandoval, who is expected to make $500,000 in 2012. The best part is Sandoval is only 25.
Shortstop – It looks as though the Giants have no other choice but Brandon Crawford. Crawford is an excellent fielder but he lacks at the plate. Crawford hit only .204 last season. The Giants seem to be all-in on Crawford, though, which means if he doesn’t start hitting, he is going to have to be a gold-glove fielder in order to keep his starting status. Mike Fontenot isn’t much better, but Bruce Bochy could swap the two should Crawford start to struggle. Crawford is pre- arbitration eligible.
Left Field – Belt is going to start the year in left because the Giants desperately need his bat in the line-up. Hopefully, he can come in and do what many thought he would do last year. In his rookie year in 2011, Belt was back and forth between triple-A and the majors. He didn’t have a chance to get comfortable, but if the Giants go all-in on Belt, he should answer the call. He could also move to first base if Huff doesn’t preform, leaving Nate Schierholtz to play in right, with Cabrera moving from right to left. Schierholtz is a very capable right fielder who had a good year at the plate last year. Belt is arbitration-eligible and made $414,000 in 2011.
Center Field – With Cabrera in right, and Justin Christian not exactly busting down the major league door, the Giants went out and got Angel Pagan from the Mets for Torres and Ramon Ramirez. Pagan will replace Torres as the leadoff batter, which is an upgrade in both OBP and steals. Pagan will also be a great asset in center field; he had a .968 fielding percentage a year ago. The Giants and Pagan agreed to a one-year $4.85 million deal.
Right Field – Melky Cabrera will most likely play in right, owing to the fact that he is one of three center fielders on the Giants roster. Cabrera was the Giants first “big” offseason move. One good season in six and Giants fans are supposed to be excited. Just one more “they had one career year, let’s hold onto them through all the bad years” guy on the Giants roster. Cabrera will be an improvement on defense, though, which should help with the Giants pitching, especially at AT&T Park, with the big right field. Cabrera has never liked leading off, so he will most likely hit low in the order. The Giants agreed with Cabrera on a one-year $6 million deal.
The Giants didn’t make any huge splashes but did enough to stay relevant all year long. With players coming back healthy, a few minor additions, and one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, the Giants are in a good position heading into 2012. It will be torture again, and I wouldn’t expect them to break the bank with runs, but that’s what the Giants do. With this pitching staff, if they can make the postseason, anything can happen.