As the players for the San Francisco Giants gear up to defend their World Series title, there are a few things fans can watch for as spring training unfolds:
1) New Faces
The Giants have a few new players that are worth taking a look at during spring training. One of which is the minor league standout Brandon Belt. Belt led the minors in OPS during his first pro season, batting .352 with 76 extra-base hits, 93 walks, and 22 steals in 136 games. Now, Giants brass has not decided on whether or not he will be on the opening day roster, (my guess would be no) but will likely be a mid-season call up (a la Buster Posey) once the team decides where he would be most useful to them. Belt will get lots of time around the clubhouse and good major league at bats in Arizona this spring, I urge you to check him out, this kid is worth your time.
2) Old Faces
Giants fans know that we won the World Series last year because our ridiculous pitching and team-first mentality, which hopefully will overflow into 2011. Luckily for us, we have players like Tim Lincecum to shore up our rotation and our clubhouse. It’s crazy to think that a guy so young is a veteran already, but with two Cy Young awards and a W.S. championship to his name I would bet that he’d be someone who brings stability to the team as a whole. He’s upped his game, just check out what Anthony Witrado from Sporting News had to say about him. Hopefully all that hard work by Timmy will help carry the Giants back into the playoffs come October.
3) Promising Turnarounds
Coming off of his worst season in the big leagues, there really is no where to go but up for Pablo Sandoval. And after his second go round of an offseason weight loss program (for those who don’t know it’s called Operation Panda and the first time failed) Pablo is ready to work. He’s looking much slimmer, it’s obvious that he’s been working his tail off. Kung-Fu has spent most of the offseason working out with personal trainers in Arizona, and was one of the first people to report to spring training. I know, some fans say we went through this last year with Pablo, but this year he actually lost the weight and is fully committed to being a better player. I expect him to be more like his 2009 self (hit .330 with 25 HR and 90 RBI) than his 2010 self (hit .268 with 13 HR and 63 RBI).
4) Back to the Grindstone
For some players the joy of the game comes from the journey of the season; the routines, the workouts, gradually improving and honing in your skills. This is true for the fans as well. Personally I love the grind of the season, and I especially love the players who are grinders. Like Freddy Sanchez. Here’s a guy who puts on his hard hat everyday and comes to work, constantly fine-tuning himself for the long haul of the season and the difficulties it entails. He has a clubbed foot for Pete’s sake! This guy is scrappy and a downright winner, which is was why I’m glad he wears the black and orange. Can you believe he arrived to spring training early too?
5) Brian Wilson