In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering each team’s potential depth charts in an effort to shine a spotlight on the interesting playing time battles that will be waged this spring. Obviously none of these depth charts are set in stone — rather they should function to focus your attention in the right places to find cheap fantasy value.
At first glance, it may not seem like there’s much to look out for on the Giants’ infield. As is often the case with champions, there aren’t many jobs up for grabs, and the positions are mostly manned by returning veterans. But if you dig a little, you’ll find some opportunity.
First base is the obvious one. Brandon Belt was only recently told that he’s the regular first baseman. That should help him hit the 550-plate-appearance threshold for the first time. More times at the plate is already enough reason to think he could hit double-digit home runs for the first time. Maybe he’ll even be able to hit the 16+ home runs that all the projections have in sight for him this season. Our auction values based on those projections have him right on the cusp — not good enough to start at first base, but interesting enough to roster and slot into the utility spot.
Still, that kind of work can be worth as much as $10 in any setting, so it’s worth monitoring the conversation around the Giant’s first baseman. There’s nothing encouraging in his batted ball data — despite pulling the ball more often as the season went on last year, Belt’s batted ball distance remained stagnant — but Belt did pull his 2012 season out of a tailspin in August and September, hitting .300 in each month and finishing with three home runs in September. If he can bring the second-half strikeout rate (20.8%) to the table with his second-half line drive rate (29.7%… well, okay not that number in particular, that’s unsustainable), then maybe Belt will have a nice batting average along with his double-digit homers and steals. If the Belt pendulum has swung too far towards ‘hate’ in your league, maybe a good spring will help you realize there’s some reason for love still.
Speaking of pendulums, there might be a little too much love for Marco Scutaro these days. Sure, he’s shortstop-eligible, and makes more contact than just about anyone, but the postseason hero lacks two skills that are very important for fantasy baseball: power and speed. He’s projected for about 12-14 combined home runs and stolen bases — and his 16 last year were tied for fourth-worst in baseball among players with more than 600 plate appearances. Scu-Scu-Scutaro has also hit .275 or less twice as many times in his career as he’s hit above that number. If he hits .275 with six homers and six stolen bases, he won’t be worth a ton.
But there isn’t anyone ready to take his job. Joaquin Arias will help platoon with Brandon Crawford — taking plate appearances against lefties away from the kid with the hair and the smile — but the former top prospect’s power outburst was unsustainable and he’s seems ill-fit for a full-time job at second base. Kensuke Tanaka is the wild card, but if Hiroyuki Nakajima’s bat has questions, then Tanaka’s must have a ‘questionable’ rating at best. It’s probably not worth mining for gold in the backup infielders on the Giants. Unless you think Tony Abreu is going to change things.
Third base? Pablo Sandoval has it locked down. I suppose it’s worth tracking his weight — a couple times he’s come into camp, or back from rehab, with a couple extra pounds. Hasn’t hurt him terribly yet, but a slim Panda might mean something. At least he’s got no more hamate bones to remove! Catcher? Yeah Buster Posey is good. And will be good again, unless he gets torn up on the basepaths again.
The Giants’ infield should produce a top-tier catcher, a low-cost utility bat and an undervalued third baseman, but it doesn’t look like there are any mega-sleepers in the bunch.
Early Depth Chart:
Catcher: Buster Posey / Hector Sanchez
First Base: Brandon Belt / Buster Posey
Second Base: Marco Scutaro / Kensuke Tanaka
Shortstop: Brandon Crawford / Joaquin Arias
Third Base: Pablo Sandoval / Joaquin Arias