San Francisco Giants: How Freddy Sanchez's Return Will Affect the Lineup
According to Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area, the Giants have laid out an 18-game schedule for Sanchez's rehab assignment, which will include a short stint in Single-A San Jose and then a stop in Triple-A Fresno before rejoining his teammates in Phoenix.
Sanchez, who has a history of being prone to injuries, missed the rest of the 2011 season after dislocating his shoulder while diving for a ground ball up the middle in June.
However, the key phrase to pay attention to after hearing this bit of good news is "barring no setbacks." Sanchez tried to avoid surgery last season in hopes of a potential return to the lineup, but the rehab just didn't go the way that he and the Giants had hoped and was forced to go under the knife.
Sanchez then struggled to complete throws from second base on double plays in spring training, which eventually put him on the DL and prevented him from making the Opening Day roster.
However, if Sanchez is able to rejoin the team 100 percent healthy and ready to contribute, his presence in the lineup could be just what the doctor ordered.
When you look at what Sanchez brings to the table, he's a plus defender who will put the ball in play and hit for a high average. He's also an excellent situational hitter, which makes him the ideal No. 2 hitter in any lineup.
Melky Cabrera, the current No. 2 hitter in the Giants lineup, has done a superb job hitting in front of Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, and quite honestly is one of the main contributors to the offense's early success this season.
However, one glaring hole in the already swiss cheese lineup is the lack of depth after the first four hitters of the lineup. And just because Angel Pagan has been hitting the ball well lately, I will include him in the same category as Cabrera, Sandoval and Posey.
As of April 23, no one batting outside of the top four in the lineup has a wRC of at least six. Sandoval and Cabrera have 11, Posey has nine and Pagan has seven.
Essentially, the only way the Giants can score runs is if the top of the lineup is somehow involved. Nate Schierholtz has been swinging a hot bat lately, but he's an extremely streaky hitter and his current batting average of .372 will not last for the entirety of the season.
But this can be fixed: move Cabrera to the No. 5 hole when Sanchez returns.
This will do a couple of things that will greatly benefit the Giants' lineup.
First of all, it will give Cabrera some more RBI situations rather than just being the guy to set the table for the thump of the order. Cabrera should be considered to be part of the thump, and Sanchez possesses everything you'd want in a No. 2 hitter.
Second of all, it will provide Posey with some protection, rather than having Aubrey Huff or Brandon Belt hit behind him. Again, Schierholtz has done a fantastic job at hitting behind Posey during the New York Mets series, but Cabrera is much more intimidating to see standing in the on-deck circle when Posey's in the batters box.
Here's what the lineup should look like when Sanchez returns to the Orange and Black:
Where should Freddy Sanchez bat in the lineup?
1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Freddy Sanchez, 2nd
3. Pablo Sandoval, 3rd
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Melky Cabrera, LF
6. Nate Schierholtz, RF
7. Brandon Belt, 1st
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
From the looks of it, that lineup looks like it can score at least three to four runs a game on a consistent basis. And with that pitching rotation and bullpen, that's all the Giants will need to score in order to win a lot of ballgames this season.
The key will be if Sanchez is able to stay healthy, however. It's no guarantee that he'll be able to stay on the field once he returns. But if he does, and the rest of the lineup continues to produce anything like it has during the first 16 games of the season, the Giants should be favored to take the West this season.
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