Closer: Brian Wilson
, 6/7 saves, 2.28 ERA in 2007
RH setup man: Tyler Walker
, 2-0, 1.26 ERA in 2007
LH setup man: Steve Kline
, 1-2, 4.70 ERA in 2007
The new guys
San Francisco's only major offseason acquisition is expected to be the hub around which the new Giants will revolve. The Giants hope that other players, particularly younger ones, will follow Rowand's fiery, hustling example. Ideally, the Giants will have caught Rowand's apparently infectious spirit by Opening Day. They need his kind of desire to compensate for a lack of big bats in the lineup.
Jose Capellan: Not to be confused with the Colorado Rockies right-hander of the same name, the 21-year-old left-hander has a chance to claim a bullpen role despite never having pitched above Double-A. The Giants selected him from the Boston organization in last December's Rule 5 Draft. Capellan is said to possess a decent slider and plenty of movement on a fastball that travels in the low-90-mph range.
Prospects to watch
The fleet switch-hitter probably won't open the season in the Majors, but he'll get a phone call from San Francisco as soon as an opening arises. He provided hints of his ability to stimulate the offense during a September callup last year and in a strong Arizona Fall League campaign. The Giants still need to find a position for Velez, who began dabbling in the outfield last season.
A non-roster invitee to Spring Training, Burriss will receive the opportunity to prove that he'll be a worthy successor for shortstop Omar Vizquel in a year or two. After struggling at high Class A San Jose last season, Burriss rebounded at low Class A Augusta and continued raising his profile with an impressive AFL showing.
The 17-year-old won't be in Major League camp, but everybody who cares about the Giants is curious about him. Villalona displayed considerable power and a fair understanding of the strike zone in the Arizona Rookie League last year, suggesting that he's ready for his first full professional season. The Giants realize that they might have to move the big-framed Villalona, who's still growing, from third base to first.
Returning from injury
Tightness in Lowry's left (throwing) forearm sidelined him for last season's final month, but he could have been pressed into service had the Giants been in postseason contention. After missing part of 2006 with a strained right oblique, Lowry would like nothing more than to remain injury-free.
Numbness in Chulk's right middle finger due to a circulatory problem ended his season in late August. The Giants said that he'll be ready for Spring Training, although he'll have to prove he can withstand the rigors of throwing daily.
Once a top prospect, Valdez sat out the entire 2007 season while recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery performed in September 2006. He might need some time to regain the fastball that helped him amass 548 strikeouts in 613 2/3 Minor League innings.
On the rebound
Coping with expectations and exposure after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract challenged Zito, who finally looked like himself toward the end of the season. Coming off his first sub-.500 campaign and a career-worst ERA, Zito must regain at least a semblance of an ace's form to be an asset.
General manager Brian Sabean called 2007 a "lost" season for Durham, who hit .218 with 11 home runs after batting .293 with 26 homers the year before. The Giants can't trade Durham, so he'll have a chance to re-establish himself at second base, although he'll face spirited competition from Frandsen.
The switch-hitter's 49-point drop in batting average to .246 didn't faze the Giants, who re-signed him primarily for his defense. But Vizquel must play in 140 games to guarantee another season on his contract, and he won't get that activity unless he rouses himself offensively.
Having made at least 67 appearances in each of the past 10 seasons, Kline recorded his worst ERA (4.70) of that span in 2007. Ominously, left-handed batters hit .318 off Kline, who might need a strong spring to make the Opening Day roster -- despite a guaranteed contract.
The Giants announced last Sept. 21 that they would not re-sign the all-time home run leader for 2008, ending his 15-year tenure in San Francisco. Hardly an offensive powerhouse even with Bonds, the Giants will be forced to rely more on pitching, defense and a "small ball" hitting approach due to his absence.
His free-swinging tendencies drove fans nuts, but his outstanding defense at third base prompted the Giants to offer him a two-year contract. Feliz spurned the offer, which he reportedly considered ill-timed and financially insufficient, to sign with Philadelphia.
He appears to be among the scores of veteran free agents who won't have a job this season. Partly due to injuries, the first baseman-outfielder faded last year, hitting .295 before the All-Star break and .219 afterward.
A member of last year's season-opening starting rotation, the 33-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last Aug. 29 and will miss the entire 2008 season.
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
2007 hitting leaders (min. 200 at-bats)
Avg.: Winn, .300
OBP: Bonds, .480
SLG: Bonds, .565
Runs: Bonds, 75
RBIs: Molina, 81
Hits: Winn, 178
2B: Winn, 42
3B: Roberts, 9
HR: Bonds, 28
SB: Roberts, 31
2005 pitching leaders (min. 30 IP)
IP: Cain, 200
W: Lowry, 14
L: Cain, 16
Win %: Lowry, .636 (14-8)
S: Hennessey, 19
ERA: Cain, 3.65
K: Cain, 163
K/9: Sanchez, 10.73
WHIP: Cain and Chulk, 1.26
1. Who's going to play second base?
2. What about third base?
Frandsen appeared to gain an edge by hitting .370 last September. But Durham will receive every chance to show that he's still worthy of starting, since the Giants are hungry for offense and they don't want to pay him $7.5 million to sit on the bench. The outcome of this competition might not be decided until late in the exhibition season.
Whatever unfolds at second base could influence what happens here. Should Frandsen and Durham both excel, the Giants might consider giving Frandsen more time at third, a position he played in college. Rich Aurilia figures in the third-base mix, but not as much if he's providing reinforcement for Dan Ortmeier at first base. But none of that will matter if the Giants trade for the Chicago White Sox's Joe Crede, as has been rumored.
3. Who will survive the inevitable roster crunch?
Outfielders Rajai Davis, Fred Lewis and Nate Schierholtz have nothing to prove in the Minors. But Davis and Lewis have no options left, meaning Schierholtz could face a tough demotion unless he significantly outperforms the others. As usual, the bullpen will be the site of intense competition, with at least 10 pitchers seeking three or four relief openings. The Giants haven't completely decided whether left-hander Jonathan Sanchez will compete for a starting spot or relieve; once that's determined, the rest of the staff will be affected somewhat.
The bottom line
Although exhibition results are meaningless, the Giants must perform well in the Cactus League to bolster their confidence as they approach life without Bonds, who has been the warmest of security blankets. Establishing the "small ball" offense would help. Wilson must prove that he deserves to be the closer. And the starters must pitch capably enough to provide hope that Brian Wilson actually will receive save opportunities. Several players believe that building the foundation of a renewed camaraderie in Bonds' absence could lead to improved performance. This process must start once the full squad reports on Feb. 18.