Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Preseason Projections Part 1 - Outfield

Ahhh baseball,

Jon Miller, Kruk and Kuip, David B Flemming on the radio, freshly cut grass, the sound of a bat cracking against a baseball, and your regular Left Field Laws fix! Horay!

To start off the season I'll be starting my four part season projection for your


Can't hear enough of that can you?

Most of these projections are going to get pretty boring and the outfield isn't really going to start out with a bang either.  The reason for that of course is that the Giants did the very sensible yet snooze worthy thing of keeping almost the exact same roster intact.

Angel Pagan of course signed a 4 year 40 million dollar contract to stay on as the Giants' center fielder, and Hunter Pence stays on for the last year of his arbitration at just over 13 million this year.

What we did add was the still speedy but often injured 2010 World Series hero Andres Torres to split time with Gregor Blanco in left field.

Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled, if you look at the holes the Giants had to fill this offseason and the amount that was spent by other teams for those same holes, I couldn't be happier.  (Upton to the Braves for 75 MILLION!!).

Here's the bad news.  If you look at the four sections I'm going to cover, Outfield, Infield, Starting Pitching and Relief Pitching, The outfield is probably going to be the weakest link for the Giants this year.

Reason being is there is not one consistent stat producer in the bunch at least not for the purposes of the 2013 Giants.

Angel Pagan had a great year last year hitting .288 with 29 stolen bags and 95 runs scored.  Great numbers for your leadoff guy.  But much like an old crowd favorite, Aubrey Huff, Pagan has never strung two good years back to back.  He's been an every other year type guy and has never gotten the value that the Giants are paying him for until 2012.

All that said, I don't see Pagan having as down a year as he did in 2011 (.262 with 65 runs), but he'll probably have some drop off from his performance spike in 2012.  if he can stay around .280 with 30+ stolen bases and a .330 on base percentage I think he'll be outdoing most projections.

Even with those misgivings he's not the guy I'm worried about the most.  The one I worry about is 'ol crazy eyes, Hunter Pence.  Sure he finished with a .253 average, 24 homers and 104 RBI, but look at the numbers he had last year at AT&T Park.  He hit .220 with 3 home runs in 109 at bats.  On top of the home woes, Pence has never seen an outside slider he didn't like and has to work on his plate discipline if he's going to get some better numbers in San Francisco.

Pence's numbers are going down this year thanks to 81 games at AT&T park, but I think he'll still manage close to 20 homers this year and 90 RBIs.  If he can work on those line drives, you'll also see an increase in doubles and even triples as he has 'momentum speed' on the bases.

The left field combo is very intriguing to me as a replacement for the now officially departed Melky Cabrera. Gregor Blanco will take the lefty platoon while Andres Torres who is absolutely abysmal hitting from the left will work mostly from the right side this year where he hit .284 last year and had a very good .380 on base percentage.  From the left side Torres hit only .195 with a .292 OBP bad enough to retire from hitting left handed ever again.

Together these guys not only represent a serviceable hitting tandem, but they also combine to become one of the best defensive left field platoons in baseball.  Plus whoever sits on the bench becomes a weapon as a pinch runner.  (Torres, 13 steals last year, Blanco, 26).  As the most likely candidates to hit 7th in the order in front of Brandon Crawford or to replace Pagan on his off days, Torres and Blanco will be very useful this season so long as they both stay healthy.

Blanco had an OBP of .332 against righties and had a majority of his at bats against righties, so that combined with Torres' success against left handed pitching will give them a lot of versatility from that spot in the order whether it be 1st or 7th.  Expect a total of over 30 stolen bases and 100 runs scored between the left fielders this year.

Lastly, the Giants may be looking right now to see whether there is someone in camp that will satisfy their need for a 5th outfielder.  Since Brett Pill has been having a great spring, some think he is the solution, not as an outfielder replacement, but as a 1st baseman while Brandon Belt moves to left field, but with Posey taking off days as well, and pushing Brandon out to left or to the bench, I don't see Pill being the answer as much as I like having him on the bench.

Another idea is to have the Giants' last prized prospect, Gary Brown to shore up the outfield and play off the bench as yet another defensive replacement for any outfield position and a speed guy.  Of course Brown having basically the same skill set as Blanco, Pagan and Torres, it doesn't seem to make much sense to take him out of the minors where he gets at bats every day and can continue to mature.

No, the guy I like the best for that 5th outfield spot right now is Cole Gillespie.  Cole was most recently with the Diamondbacks' triple A affiliate in Reno hitting above or near .300 for the past 4 years in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League.

He plays good defense, has some speed on the bases and close to .400 OBP all four of those years.  Also he's not a prized project like Brown is, so the Giants are not going to care that he might have to languish on the bench a bit, but will also be equally pleased to put him into right field on occassion to spell Hunter Pence or even take left field as either Blanco or Torres takes center field.

So what we have now is a a guy who just had the best season of his entire career hoping to repeat it (Pagan), a guy who just had a really bad stretch of hitting in now his home ballpark (Pence), a theoretically solid left field tandem since neither is an actual complete answer at the position (Torres/Blanco), all followed by a 7 year minor league outfielder who might get his first chance to crack a major league roster for a full season (Gillespie).

Bring it ON Dodgers.

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