Barring an injury or a late offseason acquisition, the Giants' 2013 lineup is going to look almost identical to the one that closed out the World Series with an extra-inning, 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers to finish the sweep.
In my previous career as a paralegal, one of my tasks was to loudly announce each day's Giants lineup. Okay, that wasn't really an assignment, but I was the type of employee who went beyond the call of duty to keep the office informed of important developments like the selection of the lineup order by manager Bruce Bochy.
So without further ado, here is how Bochy's lineup and pitching staff project to look next season. I have put each starter's batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in parentheses as projected by Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection system from FanGraphs:
- CF Angel Pagan (.270/.320/.403)
- 2B Marco Scutaro (.269/.316/.360)
- 3B Pablo Sandoval (.285/.338/.467)
- C Buster Posey (.299/.372/.482)
- RF Hunter Pence (.262/.317/.410)
- 1B Brandon Belt (.264/.358/.429)
- LF Gregor Blanco (.227/.322/.326)
- SS Brandon Crawford (.230/.292/.340)
Bench: C Hector Sanchez, OF Andres Torres, OF Francisco Peguero, IF Joaquin Arias, IF Brett Pill
Rotation: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito
Bullpen: Sergio Romo (closer), Santiago Casilla, George Kontos, Chad Gaudin, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Jose Mijares
Bochy has said that the left-handed Blanco and switch-hitting Torres will not necessarily platoon in left field. Instead, they will battle each other for playing time and Bochy will go with the hot hand. Belt could also see time in left field to get more pop into the lineup on the days when Sanchez catches and Posey moves over to first base.
The Giants could still acquire an additional utility infielder for the bench to go along with Arias in order to provide more versatility. Re-signing infielder Ryan Theriot would be one way to go given that Pill can only really play first base.
Francisco Peguero seems like a good bet to make the team as the fifth outfielder, while top prospect Gary Brown could get his first big league cup of coffee at some point next season.
Prospect Joe Panik could be a fast mover because of his advanced approach at the plate and ability to handle shortstop and second base. He'll likely start the season at Double-A Richmond after a solid campaign at Single-A San Jose last season.
On the pitching side, the Giants will return a five-man rotation that made 160 out of 162 possible starts last season. The only two starts not made by the big five were due to a rainout that forced a doubleheader and a game played after the team clinched the division.
The key to the success of the rotation next season will be how well Lincecum bounces back from the worst season of his career in 2012. He'll have plenty of motivation, as he can become a free agent after the 2013 season. A bounce-back year could set him up for a very large payday next winter in what appears to be a weak free-agent crop.
The Giants will return at least six of the seven relievers from the World Series roster. Minor league free agent Chad Gaudin will likely battle with Dan Runzler, Dan Otero, prospect Heath Hembree and others for the final bullpen spot during the spring.
The Giants' offseason plan was to keep the championship squad together, and they did that by re-signing Affeldt, Scutaro and Pagan while also extending Casilla. The rest of the offseason will likely involve adding minor league free agents to compete for the remaining bench and bullpen spots.
Additional contract extensions for arbitration-eligible players like Posey and Romo would make a lot of sense as well.
The saying goes, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it," and winning two of the last three championships certainly proves that the Giants are far from broken. However, regression or injuries could force general manager Brian Sabean back to the trade market during the season.
That's a familiar place for Sabean, who added Scutaro, Pence and Mijares last season, Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera in 2011, and Lopez, Ramon Ramirez, Chris Ray, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen during 2010.
For now, the roster appears to be about set. However, the roster that opens the season will likely be vastly different from the one that closes it out.
The big question is whether or not the roster will be good enough to defend the title and further cement the Giants as the first dynasty of the 21st century.