In the highly depressive and overwhelmingly unimpressive youth movement that is the post-Barry era (wait—we paid how much for Barry Zito?), I mean post-Bonds era, the San Francisco Giants outfield is still crowded.
Just how crowded is it? Let's explore the cast of characters.
I applaud the management for making a "big splash" by adding Aaron Rowand to bring toughness and an anti-diva attitude to centerfield—can we add more padding to the wall out there?
Obviously, Rowand is a starter, but was not the big splash for which I was hoping nor will he be splashing into McCovey Cove.
Randy Winn is one of my favorite current players because of his steady contribution, and he can play all three outfield positions. Versatility also allows Manager Bruce Bochy to place Winn all around the batting order—this also speaks to our severe lack of offense. Average power, decent speed, solid gap-finding abilities, and superb knowledge and intangibles make Winn a decent big leaguer but a must start nearly every game in this lineup.
Dave Roberts is a proven winner and a guy every contender wants atop their batting order to get on base for the big boppers to follow.
Problem one—Bengie Molina is not a big bopper. Problem two—the Giants aren't contenders.
Roberts is the target of much criticism due to drop off in '07 from a career year in '06. To his credit, Roberts' '07 numbers are not far from his career averages. Roberts' emotion and leadership is admirable, but needs to return to the .298 batting average in '06 instead of .260 in '07.
Rowand (30), Winn (34), and Roberts (36) are no spring chickens, leaving promises of youth and hope for the future to...???
The second wave of outfielders includes Fred Lewis, Rajai Davis, and Nate Schierholtz.
Fred Lewis has been waiting in the wings with so much potential. Bursting onto the scene in September '06, Lewis has shown nothing but significant improvement, but lacks major league playing time (only 168 at-bats in 71 games). His speed and athleticism have impressed many, but being 27 years old means his best years are now. I want to see more of him in order to see if the performance where he hit for the cycle is a testament to his speed and athleticism or a product of Coors Field.
Rajai Davis was obtained in an '07 midseason trade from the Pirates in exchange for Matt Morris. He immediately made an impact by swiping bases easily (17 in just 51 games). His fast start with a new team lasted just two weeks, but I credit Davis for opening Bochy's eyes to the small ball offensive strategy. Davis has been named the fastest base runner in the league by Baseball America twice in his career, but like Lewis, is 27 with similar major league experience (204 at-bats in 94 games).
Nate Schierholtz has the least major league experience (112 at-bats in 39 games) and the youngest of the group at 24 years of age. The theme here is we don't know if any of these three can produce at the highest level. Nate has shown the most power but has yet to translate that to any big league homeruns. He may be the loser by default because he is the only one who can return to AAA without having to clear waivers. He has made embarrassing missteps in the outfield as well.
It's hard to imagine a lineup (or roster for that matter) featuring Lewis, Davis, and Roberts, so that bodes well for Schierholtz. Giants management has acknowledged the need for a stronger hitter most likely in the form of a corner infielder and at this point a trade is imminent.
If I were GM Brian Sabean, I would be sure and keep Davis. Sadly, Winn, and Roberts have the most trade value. I would much rather trade outfielders than Cain or Lincecum—duh!
Barring a trade, injury, or serious breakout, Schierholtz seems to be the odd man out.