Pablo Sandoval posted photos of his new svelte self in the offseason. Yes, again. Sandoval’s slimdown is a hot topic once more this season as the slugging third baseman enters a contract year. General manager Brian Sabean said previously that Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, could earn himself a new long-term contract before the start of the season if he indeed shows the club what it expects from him in terms of improved fitness and discipline.“It’s evident he’s put in a lot of hard work, has lost some weight, and he looks stronger to me,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. “I’m excited about seeing him.”
2. Pagan’s return
Fresh off a new four-year, $40 million contract, energetic center fielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan was limited to 71 games last season because of a left hamstring injury. He returned late in the season, but his absence hurt the 2012 World Series champions. They will need his presence atop the lineup this year. “Getting Pagan back healthy, we really missed him,” Bochy said. “That showed up even more than I thought it would.”
3. Pieces stayed in place
For the most part, the Giants did little to their roster in the offseason. The big move was adding Tim Hudson to take Barry Zito’s spot in the rotation. Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong were free agents, but Lincecum signed a two-year, $35 million contract in late October, while Vogelsong earned a one-year, $5 million deal in early December. “It makes my job easier,” Bochy said of the returners, a group that also includes lefty reliever Javier Lopez.
1. Angel Pagan, CF
(.282, 5 HRs, 30 RBIs)
Pagan only played 71 games last year due to a severe hamstring injury and the Giants sorely missed his presence atop the lineup. The Giants need him to be his usual spark plug self and add stability to the outfield defense.
2. Marco Scutaro, 2B
(.297, 2 HRs, 31 RBIs)
The 38-year-old is a solid contact hitter, but he battled back and finger injuries last year and it has been much of the same this spring. Without any proven options behind him, Scutaro’s ability to stay on the field is key.
3. Brandon Belt, 1B
(.289, 17 HRs, 67 RBIs)
Arguably the most debated player amongst Giants fans last year, Belt turned in a very solid season. He’s generally a defensive whiz and his 4.4 WAR (wins above replacement) in 2013 was fourth-best among NL first basemen.
4. Buster Posey, C
(.294, 15 HRs, 72 RBIs)
Posey took a step back in just about every major offensive category from his 2012 MVP season. He still put up terrific numbers for a catcher, but returning to his 2012 form would go a long way for the Giants’ playoff hopes.
5. Hunter Pence, RF
(.283, 27 HRs, 99 RBIs)
Pence finished the season on a tear, with 11 home runs and 32 RBIs in September. The Giants showed their faith that he can do it again by rewarding him with a five-year, $90 million contract extension.
6. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
(.278, 14 HRs, 79 RBIs)
After losing a good amount of weight in the offseason, 2014 is a big year for “Kung Fu Panda.” He is entering a contract year and needs to prove he can stay healthy and productive if he wants a long-term deal.
7. Michael Morse, LF
(.215, 13 HRs, 27 RBIs)
After hitting 31 homers in 2011, Morse has struggled to be productive and healthy. If he can get back on track, Morse would provide the power bat the Giants desperately need.
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
(.248, 9 HRs, 43 RBIs)
Crawford’s greatest value to the Giants is his glove and after hitting .248 each of the past years, he will likely end up in that neighborhood again in 2014. His home runs did jump from four to nine in 2013.
13-9, 2.77 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 199 Ks
The left-hander was clearly the Giants’ best pitcher last season and was rewarded by being named the team’s Opening Day starter. He has picked up right where he left off this spring and could easily be in the running for the Cy Young Award in 2014.
8-10, 4.00 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 158 Ks
Whether it was fatigue from two deep playoff runs the past three years or just an off year, Cain was clearly not himself at times in 2013. For the first time since 2006, he didn’t pitch 200 innings or finish with a sub-4.00 ERA. Still, Cain’s track record gives reason for optimism.
8-7, 3.97 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 95 Ks
Now 38, the new member of the staff isn’t the ace he used to be, but he is still a solid big-league pitcher, assuming he is fully recovered from the ankle injury that ended his season in 2013. Hudson throws strikes and pitches to contact, which should play well in spacious AT&T Park.
10-14, 4.37 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 193 Ks
“The Freak” is back. After questions of whether or not he would leave via free agency, Lincecum re-upped for two years and $35 million in the offseason. The Giants are banking that the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner can recapture his form after going 20-29 with a 4.78 ERA the past two seasons.
4-6, 5.73 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 67 Ks
The veteran came back to the Giants on a one-year deal in hopes he can put his disastrous 2013 behind him. Playing in the World Baseball Classic seemed to take a toll on Vogelsong. He also broke his hand after being hit by a pitch, which sidelined him nearly three months.