By Will Carroll
February 29, 2012
The Giants have been among the best -- or, at least, the healthiest -- teams in MLB over the past decade. Dave Groeschner and his staff built on what Stan Conte had done, which is shown in the Five-Year Rank below. But even in 2010, when they came home with a ring, the team wasn't healthy to its normal levels, dropping to mid-pack status. The 24th-place finish last season continues a troubling slide that will be tough to arrest with the risk profile of the current team. Some of the DL days are attributable to the extended rehab of Barry Zito, whom everyone knows was dragged past the point he could have returned. Surgeries for Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey also kicked down the rankings and racked up the days and dollars lost. There's an element of luck to any one-year ranking. Maybe Posey's ankle isn't broken in a parallel baseball universe and things are different in many ways. In this one, over a period of years, the luck drains out and we're left with the results, pure and simple.

Health Keys: Keep the pitching staff healthy and try to minimize the inevitable DL stays from their risky red light offense.

(HEAD TRAINER: Dave Groeschner; FIVE YEAR RANK: 8; 2011 RANK: 24)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
SS Brandon Crawford
He didn't hit last year in almost 200 at-bats. He didn't hit in AAA either, so it's not an adjustment. Crawford's a plus defender who will help the pitchers, but so does run support. For our purposes, Crawford is young and athletic, so he's Bruce Bochy's issue, not Groeschner's.

SP Tim Lincecum
Lincecum seems to be toying with hitters, effortlessly going 200 innings while experimenting with things that make his game easier. If Chris Lincecum really can teach more people to do what his son has, I'm stunned no team has signed him, starting with the Giants.

SP Matt Cain
It's Cain, not Lincecum, who scouts are looking for when they scour the country looking for prospects. He's big, strong, and has a simple, easy motion that repeats. I'm not sure if this rating is the lowest green ever, but it's close.

SP Ryan Vogelsong
He was a great story and a solid pitcher last year. He did hit something of a wall in the second half, but it looked more like fatigue (and bad defense.) I don't think he'll push 200 innings, but the Giants would gladly take another 175 like he gave them last season.

Also Green:
RP Sergio Romo
LF Melky Cabrera
RF Nate Schierholtz
Schierholtz is a solid enough corner OF who is best at the 300 PA mark. His season ended with a foul ball causing a broken foot. It shouldn't be an issue going forward, but he's best paired up with someone. Brandon Belt is the most likely partner. Schierholtz gets riskier as his PAs go up.

CF Angel Pagan
Pagan has had a litany of injuries, some serious, like colitis, and then there was the topper last year; he missed a couple games after hitting himself in the head with his bat on a swing. There's bad luck and then there's pattern, and at this stage, Pagan's risky enough to anticipate these kinds of things, if not that backswing.

CL Brian Wilson
His elbow is not Black Ops. To say Wilson is "high effort" is an understatement, unlike anything else in his life. The chips and spurs that ended his season are still in there, lurking like the ninjas in his beard. Forget velocity -- watch to see if he's as reliant on his cutter early to see how healthy that elbow is.

C Buster Posey
This shouldn't surprise anyone. While I think Posey can make more-or-less a complete comeback from his ankle injury, there may be some limitations. It's precisely the activities of catching that will be the most difficult -- squatting, explosive moves, lateral mobility. They're also easily fixed by a shift to almost any four corner position. The Giants didn't get a more experienced backup, so it looks like they expect Posey to be back catching full-time or that they're willing to put up with the likes of Chris Stewart and Eli Whiteside again.

1B Aubrey Huff
Huff went from World Series hero to ... well, a joke overnight. He's still useful, but the more he plays off 1B, the more risky he is. This red light was based on a half-split, closer to what he did in 2010 and assumes Brandon Belt will get time at 1B. As a full-time 1B, Huff would be a midlevel yellow. Yes, he's that bad in the outfield.

2B Freddy Sanchez
I'm not sure how much is left in Freddy Sanchez's shoulder to fix. He's had multiple surgeries and at best, you could steal another '10 type season out of him. Ryan Theriot could shift over to 2B when Sanchez needs a rest, but that would be a big offensive and defensive drop-off. Which tells you more about Brian Sabean than these two players.

3B Pablo Sandoval
Sandoval came into camp lighter, played well, but broke his wrist. He came back, showed no real loss of power, but siffered a fluke year in 2010. Sandoval's reportedly more heavy this offseason, but that doesn't factor into this rating. The wrist problem won't recur, but Sandoval's lack of athleticism is concerning. Something like that is likely to cost him bits of seasons here and there. Doesn't mean he's not fun to watch.

SP Madison Bumgarner
There were concerns about his mechanics heading into last year, and while those are still there, he did put up 200 innings without any real issues. But that's the problem. He had a massive innings jump at age 21. There's bound to be some kind of consequence unless Bumgarner is just a physical freak. I'm not ruling that out yet, but he's as risky as they come.

SP Barry Zito
There may be no more incorrect ranking than this, but I'll explain it. There's something I call the "Ironman Effect," after Cal Ripken, but it's been seen in many similar players across sports. Most players aren't as lucky as Ripken and learn to play with pain, to adjust their games, and to deal with small injuries. They've rehabbed and spent time with the trainers. When something finally, inevitably, happens, these players tend to fall apart in a hurry, and while it doesn't end their career, they seldom go back to being fully healthy. (Wave to Peyton Manning, kids.) Zito's like that and if the logic holds, his career will end about the time this contract does. Soon.

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