Today the San Francisco Giants position players officially reported to Spring Training in Scottsdale, Arizona.
This marks the time of year when guys start bringing out their Wilson beards and panda hats, while girls have begun fantasizing about Buster Posey again. The Giants bright side of last year, their pitching, have already been in Scottsdale, but their bats are what really needed the fine tuning of Spring Training.
Last year the Giants went from 2010 World Series Champions, to major disappointments by missing the 2011 playoffs. The Giants may be poised to make another surprising run for the World Series, but the team has some giant question marks heading into the 2012 season.
1. Will Buster Posey be the same after his terrible knee injury?
This is obviously the biggest question heading into the Giants 2012 season. Buster Posey is one of the most promising young talents in all of baseball, and after a 2010 season that earned him National League Rookie of the Year, Giants fans had huge expectations for him in 2011. Unfortunately Scott Cousins decided he “could not” go around Buster Posey at home plate last year, which put a devastating end to Posey’s 2011 season. Posey’s slugging was off to a slow start last year, when he hit only four homers in 45 games, but don’t expect a power outage from Posey. Giants fans can only hope that Posey has fully recovered and he is the same baby faced assassin that he was as a rookie. The Giants will need Posey’s bat big time in order to make a playoff run in 2012.
2. Do the Giants have their everyday shortstop?
After hitting a grand slam in his first at-bat in Milwaukee, Brandon Crawford had a rough season at the plate when he was the Giants starting shortstop in 2011. Last year, Crawford had a rough .204/.288/.296 slash line in the bigs and the Giants hope the 25-year-old can greatly offensively this year. However, Crawford is smooth at shortstop and will take away runs on from the opposition on defense. The Giants did a great job of signing veteran 2B/SS Ryan Theriot, to give Crawford help and competition for 2012. Theriot is a winner and had a solid .271/.321/.342 slash lane as a contact hitter in 132 games last year for the St. Louis Cardinals. Its Crawford’s job to lose going into the season, but it was smart of the Giants to add a veteran to their bench.
3. What will the Giants do with Brandon Belt?
Brandon Belt had a sensational 2011 Spring Training, which forced Bruce Bochy to make Belt his everyday first baseman. Unfortunately the season did not go as planned for the 23-year-old Belt and he spent time in both the majors and minors. In 63 games in the majors he had a disappointing .225/.306/.412 slash line. Now what will the Giants do with the young Belt this year? Does Belt beat out Aubrey Huff at first base, who also had a disappointing year, or does he get put somewhere in a stuffed outfield. The Giants already have Melky Cabrera, Angel, Pagan and Nate Schierholtz in the outfield. It will be very interesting to see what Belt’s role in 2012 will be, but their is no denying if he hits how he should, he will be a major factor in the Giants season.
4. How will the starting pitching produce after the ‘Big 3’?
Everyone knows about the San Francisco’s very own ‘Big 3’ in Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner, but the two spots after them are still question marks. Fans may think that the number four spot in the rotation is a lock after Ryan Vogelson’s surprising 2011 season, but assume too soon. Yes, Vogelsong was a great surprise after making the Giants rotation and eventually being an All-Star. However, he had a 2-4 August and lost his first two starts in September. Will Vogelsong be a one hit wonder or one-up his production from last year. Then there’s the five spot. Barry Zito and his contract that is bigger than McCovey Cove will begin the season as the starter for the fifth spot in the rotation. Zito clearly hasn’t lived up to his contract and his 2011 campaign didn’t help. Zito’s injury plagued 2011 season consisted of a 3-4 record with a 5.87 ERA. Who knows what Zito will do this year. If he is hurt again or simply can’t produce look for Eric Surkamp to step into the rotation. Surkamp looked like a present day Kirk Reuter for the Giants and posted a 2-2 record with a 5.74 ERA. The back end of the rotation will be very vital for the Giants.
5. Do the Giants have a bat to carry their team?
Plain and simple, the Giants offense was terrible last season. Surprisingly they have more bright spots than you would expect. Pablo Sandoval had a fantastic season after shedding tons of pounds for the 2011 season. Sandoval posted a .315/.357/.552 slash line to go along with 23 homers and phenomenal defense at third base. The Panda was not only a fan favorite, but he had a great year and Giants fans should be excited about his 2012 season. Coming back from an injury will also be Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez was showing once agin that he is the perfect two-hole hitter when he was hitting .289 before getting injured. Sanchez will never hit for huge power, but he’s a professional hitter that the Giants should be happy to have back. The biggest choice to carry the team is clearly Buster Posey. If healthy, Posey will be productive and have a great combination of average and power. The Giants had a great hitter in Sandoval last year and get two greats back in Sanchez and Posey, but will any of them lead the Giants back to the promise land?
The San Francisco Giants have a very intriguing team in the sneaky NL West for 2012, but their five question marks must be answered in order for them to get back to the playoffs and ultimately the World Series.