The good news is that this past offseason the Giants added a Gold Glove shortstop (Omar Vizquel) and catcher (Mike Matheny), a top-line closer (Armando Benitez) and a heavy-hitting outfielder (Moises Alou). The bad news is that their opening day ages will be 37, 33, 32 and 38, respectively. The NL West is wide open, however, and with arguably the best hitter and best pitcher in the baseball wearing the black and orange, the Giants have a solid shot at making some noise this year. They'd better because father time is not their friend.
Worth Every Penny
It would be so easy to put Barry Bonds in this slot. The guy has umpteen MVP awards and gets more respect from pitchers and umpires than anyone in modern baseball history, but the key player is starter Jason Schmidt. One of the few great pitchers who got away from the Braves organization in their prime, Schmidt started last season on the DL with a sore elbow, yet he still managed 32 starts, his most since his days as a Pirate in the late '90s. Given a stronger bullpen with a solid closer this year, Schmidt is a prime contender to lead every NL fantasy pitching category.
About To Blossom
Right-hander Noah Lowery had a very good rookie campaign last year, going undefeated with a sub-4.00 ERA and sub 1.30 WHIP. He'll be counted on to serve as the third starter and faces a big challenge, which he's quite capable of meeting, especially with the addition of pitching handler extraordinaire, Matheny, behind the plate.
J.T. Snow resurrected his career last year after spending much of the first part of the season on the DL, and played his way into a new contract despite the fact that his presence means Pedro Feliz won't have a permanent position ... or does it? If Bonds' knee is healthy, the only way to get Feliz into the order regularly will be at first, where Snow is more likely to hit .250 than the .327 from last season.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Ray Durham's stats as a Giant have been a shadow of what they were in his years with the White Sox, so in the offseason he rededicated himself to getting healthy and fit to try to ecapture the magic. If he does, he's good for 20 home runs and 20 steals, so he's worth the risk.
Vizquel has stolen at least 15 bases in seven of the last eight seasons, and it's my hunch that NL fantasy players are going to shy away from the aging middle infielder. He's got some pop and has always been a more-than-adequate RBI man, so if you can snag him in the later rounds, or for a couple of bucks, you should have a solid, everyday bargain on your hands.
If Something Should Happen To Armando Benitez
Last season's on-again, off-again closer, Matt Herges, is still around, so he'd likely be the first to get a chance. Class AAA closer David Aardsma could get a look, but since Felipe Alou doesn't like to rely on rookies, it's rather unlikely.
Don't Forget About
Alou, Brett Tomko, Jerome Williams
Don't Bother With
Edgardo Alfonzo, Kirk Rueter, Matheny, Michael Tucker
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).