The San Francisco Giants have faith that their 2012 roster is good enough to repeat. Former free agents Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, and Marco Scutaro have all been re-signed, the pitching staff remains intact, and no major, lineup-shattering moves have been made.
Rather than filling in minor holes or shaking up a champion-winning chemistry in the clubhouse by signing a superstar free agent, San Francisco is looking for its existing G-men to step up their game in 2013.
Luckily, the Giants have several youngsters ready to break out, and veterans who need to redeem themselves after coming off of downer seasons.
While the names and faces will be familiar in 2013, individual performances could make certain returning players unrecognizable. Here are the five San Francisco Giants who will improve in 2013.
1. Hunter Pence, RF
Hunter Pence effectively replaced the scorned Melky Cabrera in the outfield in 2012. While Pence underperformed on the field, he provided a needed spark in the clubhouse during the playoffs. His rousing inspirational speech before the Giants' first elimination game against Cincinnati in the NLDS might have been season-saving.
Still, Pence struggled at the plate all season in 2012, and his struggles only worsened in San Francisco. He pressed, he lunged, and he whiffed at the ball far too often, especially given his role as Buster Posey's protector in the 5-hole.
But Pence's career statistics tell a different story. In 2012, Pence hit .219 with the Giants. In his career, Pence has batted .285 in six years of MLB service. Prior to 2012, Pence's career was on the upswing. In 2011, his batting average was an impressive .314.
Now settled into his new home in San Francisco, Pence should return to all-star form in 2013.
2. Tim Lincecum, P
Tim Lincecum can't do worse next season. He can only improve. And he will.
The good news? Lincecum leveled out in the second half of the 2012 season, posting a serviceable 3.83 ERA along with a 7-5 record.
The slate is officially clean. Any mental blocks going through the young ace's head in 2012 should be silenced after his stellar performance in the postseason. The winter months have provided Lincecum with ample time to fix any mechanical issues and build up more muscle mass.
The Giants have faith Lincecum will again become "The Freak" in 2013. And so should fans.
3. Brandon Belt, 1B
Brandon Belt is not merely potential, and the second half of 2012 is proof of the young first baseman's abilities. While Belt continued to experience growing pains prior to the All-Star break, only posting a .254 batting average, he finally began to find a comfort level at the plate over the course of the second half. In that span, Belt batted .293, raising his season average to a solid .275.
Belt has youth on his side, and the confidence of Giants' manager Bruce Bochy. Additionally, San Francisco GM Brian Sabean believes in the up-and-comer, as the front office passed on looking for a veteran player at the position in the offseason.
2013 should be an exciting year for Belt and fans of the "Baby Giraffe."
4. Brandon Crawford, SS
Watching Brandon Crawford play shortstop is like drinking a fine wine or listening to a brilliantly composed symphony. His glove work is truly an art form.
Crawford is poised to earn his first Gold Glove in 2013, an honor he arguably should have received in 2012. With Marco Scutaro, a consistent partner at second base, Crawford's rhythm in the middle infield will remain undisturbed.
While Crawford's bat is less than impressive, his competence at the plate is increasing as he sees more and more Major League pitching.
The young shortstop is an integral piece to the Giants' puzzle, and fits right in with their small-ball style of play. Crawford is perfectly suited to wear a San Francisco uniform for seasons to come.
5. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
Yes, the Kung Fu Panda enjoyed an impressive 2012 regular season and an even more impressive postseason. The guy hit three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series.
And two of those HR's came off of Justin Verlander. That's right. Justin. Freaking. Verlander.
This performance showcases Sandoval's potential to become one of the deadliest hitters in all of MLB. When he's on, you can't pitch to him. You can't even pitch around him, because he'll probably swing. And he'll probably get a hit. There's no game plan in pitching to Sandoval.
Not to mention Sandoval battled injury throughout 2012, barely playing enough games to represent the NL in the All-Star game. A game in which Sandoval smashed a bases-clearing triple against...Justin Verlander.
Pablo Sandoval is already a good hitter. In 2013, he could become a great one.
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