Predicting the San Francisco Giants' 25-Man Playoff Roster

Now that the San Francisco Giants have clinched the NL West, it’s time to start predicting their playoff roster.

Obviously, some players, like Buster Posey and Matt Cain, are locks to make the roster. But others, like Francisco Peguero and Clay Hensley, aren’t locks. It’s hard to know exactly who will make the roster and who won’t, but we can certainly predict.

Here is my prediction for the Giants 25-man roster.

Starting Pitching Locks-Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner

Despite his horrible first half and stats, Tim Lincecum is a lock to be in the Giants’ rotation. The same goes with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.

Lincecum is 10-14 with a 4.91 ERA this year, but he’s done well lately. Cain is 15-5 with a 2.86 ERA, and he’s the ace of the Giants. Bumgarner is 16-10 with a 3.26 ERA, as he has continued to dominate as San Francisco’s top southpaw. All three have recent playoff experience, and all three thrived under the pressure.

All three had shutouts of more than seven innings in the postseason, and Cain went 2-0 with an 0.00 ERA in 21 innings pitched during the playoffs. Lincecum went 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA, while Bumgarner won two games and the Giants won all four games that he pitched. All three have done somewhat well lately (although Bumgarner was in a bit of a funk).

I don’t know the order of the rotation, although I predicted it in a previous article. However, it looks like Cain is sure to start Game 1, while Bumgarner will likely start Game 2 and Lincecum will start Game 3. The order will be determined later, but it would work no matter how it’s arranged. All three have great stuff, and all three are capable of dominating.

Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong will both be on the playoff roster, but they aren’t locks to start in the rotation. The movie script for Vogelsong’s magical season was torn in half when he started to struggle mightily, watching his ERA springboard from 2.27 to 3.65 in just seven starts. Zito has been great lately, but he’s been unreliable and inconsistent as a Giant.

Starting Pitching Fill-in-Barry Zito

Yes, Zito is sometimes unreliable and inconsistent. But, I doubt Bochy will leave a proven veteran who’s doing very well right now out of the rotation.

The Giants have won Zito’s last nine starts, and Zito is5-0 with a 3.96 ERA in that span. In some games, the offense has picked him up and guided the Giants to lucky wins. But other times, he’s been filthy, especially when he locates his curveball.

On August 23 against Atlanta, Zito was absolutely amazing. He located his curveball and made Freddie Freeman and other lefties look like complete fools, mixing up his pitches effectively to torment a powerful lineup. When he can locate his pitches, it’s nearly impossible to get a hit off of him. But can the Giants really trust the man who hasn’t posted an ERA less than 4.00 in six years with the team?

I think they can. Bochy has to like what he’s seeing, and he isn’t the kind of person who would leave off a hardworking veteran who is getting great results. Unfortunately for Vogelsong, he will probably be coming out of the bullpen come playoff time. Hitters have been more patient with him, and he hasn’t been able to adjust to that change.

Vogelsong did well in his last start against the Padres, but his defense saved at least one run, and it was against a poor offense. He still hasn’t shown the ability to keep his pitch count down and bounce back when things don’t go his way, and I don’t believe he can do that before the playoffs.

 

Bullpen Locks-Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Ryan Vogelsong, Santiago Casilla

All five of these guys have great stats this year, and four of them have playoff experience.

Romo has been magnificent this year, continuously keeping hitters off-balance with his frisbee-like slider and his heavily breaking change-up. Lopez has been masterful in the second half, as he seems to hide the ball when pitching. Casilla has done a spectacular job relieving starters in the middle of an inning and stranding runners on base, while Affeldt has turned in a lot of great performances.

Oh, and Vogelsong? He isn’t really a lock for the bullpen. But, whoever doesn’t get the final spot in the rotation will be in the bullpen, and I think Zito will secure the final spot.

The four regular relievers have been spectacular, and there’s no way that Bochy can possibly leave them off of the postseason roster. Guys like George Kontos and Jose Miljares have also done well, but I don’t see them as locks. For me, the player must have his playoff status firmly in place, and both Kontos and Miljares haven’t been very consistent.

Lopez had his struggles this year, and the same goes for Casilla, San Francisco’s former closer. But both have pitched well as of late, and there’s absolutely no way that any of the five guys on here won’t be on the playoff roster (unless one of them gets injured or suspended).

Bullpen Fill-ins: George Kontos, Jose Miljares

When the Giants reported to spring training, Miljares was in Kansas City and Kontos was in New York (with the Yankees). But a trade and a waiver acquisition netted the Giants both of these players, and both have done a great job.

Kontos has a 2.75 ERA, while Miljares has a 2.65 ERA (he has a 2.87 ERA with the Giants). Miljares has struggled a bit at the beginning of innings, and he isn’t the kind ofguy who will throw a perfect inning every time he trots onto the mound (as you can tell by his 1.25 WHIP). Kontos hasn’t done a great job stranding inherited runners, but he can be dominant.

Neither has real playoff experience, but neither has folded under the pressure of a pennant race. Miljares is more of a short-term pitcher, who may come in during the sixth inning to face a lefty with a runner on first and two outs. Kontos can chew up a couple innings, and he has been known to come in to relieve starters after short outings.

Both have decent stuff. Kontos has a nice breaking ball, and usually, his success is determined by how he uses and where he throws the pitch. Miljares isn’t overpowering, but he knows how to get hitters out. Both have done well enough to make the postseason roster, and barring a collapse, both will be on the playoff roster.

Well, unless Bochy wants Brad Penny, Guillermo Mota or Clay Hensley taking the ball in the playoffs.

Infield Locks: Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval, Joaquin Arias

The Giants probably won’t have a ton of pitchers on their postseason roster. So, they’ll cope by adding a lot of infielders.

All seven of the guys listed deserve to be on the playoff roster. Posey has hit at a blistering pace since the All-Star break, and he seems to be the favorite for NL MVP. Hector Sanchez has done a nice job handling the staff and hitting while giving Posey, who had his knee destroyed in a horrific collision last year, occasional days off.

Brandon Belt is very streaky, but he plays good defense and rarely expands the strike zone. Scutaro has also hit at a staggering pace since being traded to the Giants in late July, making him the clear second baseman and No. 2 hitter for the Giants. Sandoval is on fire and is hitting around .300, while the combination of Arias and Crawford at shortstop has worked to perfection.

So, it’s safe to say all seven of these guys will be on the playoff roster. Posey, Scutaro and Sandoval will start every game, and Belt will start most. Crawford will too, since the Giants will likely play the Reds in the NLDS (and the Reds have all right-handed pitchers). So, Arias and Sanchez will fill in as valuable pinch-hitters.

Even though some of these guys probably won’t get the playing time they want, it’s pretty much a sure thing that they’ll all be on the playoff roster. And, surprisingly, some other players will, too.

Infield Fill-ins: Aubrey Huff, Ryan Theriot

No, I’m serious. Aubrey Huff will probably be on the playoff roster.

I really don’t want it to happen. Despite all he did for this same team in 2010, I scream in horror every time I see him getting ready to pinch-hit. Sure, he is 5-for-9 since being activated from the DL. But he continues to turn doubles into singles, and he continues to avoid hustling. Oh, and he’s hitting just .200.

Theriot has respectable numbers, but he isn’t a good defensive second baseman, and he has zero power. Theriot is a singles hitter, and he doesn’t bring anything different to the team. He hasn’t done that much good for the Giants this year, and Scutaro is a definite upgrade at second base. Unless Scutaro gets hurt, I don’t see Theriot getting that much playing time.

But he has earned Bochy’s trust, and he has playoff experience. And, who else is there? The Giants will already have five outfielders, and since there are more off days, the pitchers will be able to stay fresh. So there’s no need to add an extra reliever, especially since that spot would probably go towards Clay Hensley and Guillermo Mota, who have both been erratic.

Bochy knows what Huff can do, so he will make brief appearances. Theriot will hold a roster spot, but he won’t do much.

Outfield Locks: Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Xavier Nady

With the 50-game suspension of Melky Cabrera (and the announcement of him not coming back in the playoffs), a huge hole was created in left field. The Giants have created a nice system there, platooning Nady and Blanco. But, it’s definitely a weak area, and it makes the Giants weaker as a team.

Pence and Pagan are both great players. Pence is a free-swinger, but he has lots of power and can easily change a game with one speed. Pagan is a great hustler who has some power, but has used the space of AT&T Park to shatter the franchise record for triples (he has 15, and the old record was 12). He leads off for the Giants, and he has excelled there.

Just like Pagan, Blanco is great on defense. He saved Matt Cain’s perfect game with a breathtaking catch, and he’s supported his pitchers with amazing catches numerous times this year. He gets on base a lot, despite his high strikeout rate and tendency to be very on-and-off. Blanco is a decent guy to have patrolling left field and providing speed and hustle at the bottom of the order.

Nady is very different from Blanco. He has the ability to take pitches and work the count, but he also has a tendency to chase pitches and strike out a lot. Nady is a very streaky hitter, but luckily for the Giants, he has done well since joining the team. In 29 at-bats, Nady has nine hits (for a .310 batting average) and six RBI. In his first at-bat with the Giants, he hit a three-run double to spark a 5-2 win over the Chicago Cubs.

Even though Nady has done well with the Giants, I have trouble trusting him in the postseason. Luckily for me, Blanco will be starting more often than not, and Nady will mostly be regulated to pinch-hitting duty. Blanco is a lefty and Nady is a righty, and the Reds have four righties. The Nationals, the other team the Giants could play, will have two lefties and two righties in their playoff rotation.

Blanco isn’t great, and neither is Nady. But the fact that the Giants need a left fielder means that Nady and Blanco are both locks for the playoff roster, and the same goes for Pence and Pagan. That leaves one roster spot open, and it’s up to Justin Christian and Francisco Peguero to seize control of it.

Outfield Fill-in/Final Roster Spot: Francisco Peguero

Unless you’re a huge Giants nerd or a huge prospects geek, there’s a very small chance that you knew who Francisco Peguero was last month. And, he hasn’t done much to make a name for himself.

Peguero recorded his first two hits on Sunday, going 2-for-3 in San Francisco’s 6-4 loss to the Padres. He is 2-for-12 in the big leagues, as he only has one start for the Giants. Peguero has the reputation of a free swinger, and his minor league OBP (which was around .300) reflected that. But, Peguero still deserves to make the playoff roster.

He has become Huff’s designated pinch-runner, and he has three stolen bases (on three attempts) and four runs. He scored a run on Saturday night, when the Giants clinched the NL West. Peguero also plays good defense, and he will run down a ball if he has to. He could be used as a defensive replacement late in games, and he is perfectly capable of doing so.

Christian is better on defense, but he just snapped a 25 at-bat hitless streak yesterday. He has decent speed, but he definitely isn’t a good hitter. Peguero has more power than Christian, although that probably won’t be a factor. Christian rarely strikes out, so if the Giants are looking for someone who can make contact often, they should go with Christian. However, his .125 batting average in almost 60 at-bats isn’t encouraging.

Neither player is great, and neither will get much playing time in the playoffs. Expect Bochy to factor both into his rotation in left field, and expect Pence or Pagan to get a day off so Bochy can evaluate Christian and Peguero. This answer is subject to change, but I haven’t seen anything special from Christian. This is a tough call, but if I were Bochy, I would choose Peguero.

Conclusion

This is always the case when the playoffs come around: some players don’t care about playoff rosters, because they hit in the middle of the order or they are in Cy Young conversations (although the Giants don’t have any). Others have to sweat it out until the roster is released.

The Giants’ roster will be very different from the 2010 roster. Players like Huff and Lincecum will still be on the roster, but they won’t have as big of a role. Zito and Sandoval will have an increased role, while newcomers like Pagan, Pence, Scutaro and Vogelsong will look to make an impact. And then, there are new players on the roster bubble.

However, the playoff roster will leave some players disappointed. Either Peguero or Christian will be watching the playoffs at home, and the same goes for players like Brett Pill, Eli Whiteside, Brad Penny, Clay Hensley and Emmanuel Burriss. However, with great performances in the last nine games, some of those players currently on the outside looking in could make it on the roster.

Want to find out who will make the playoff roster and who won’t? Find out by checking back in for more playoff updates and Giants coverage.

Tags: 2012 MLB Playoffs Buster Posey Matt Cain MLB San Francisco Giants

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