Despite having three of its four signings this offseason be over 30 years old, the San Francisco Giants still insist there is a youth movement taking place at AT&T Park.
2008 let us get a first glimpse at some quality homegrown talents in quite some time. And the players that made their debuts last season are just the tip of the iceberg of what kind of talent the Giants have in their system.
The Giants Roundtable, all three community leaders and newcomer Rory Davis, gathered to debate which youngster will make the biggest impact in 2009.
I think that the consensus is that Pablo Sandoval will make the biggest impact.
In the games he played last year, he tore up Major League pitching, and the question is if he can continue that over the course of the season. If Sandoval can keep hitting like he has his whole professional career, he will be an instrumental part of this year’s Giants team.
We’ve seen it go both ways, with Jonathan Sanchez taking a step back going a full 162 games, and with Tim Lincecum bound forward and win a Cy Young in his first full season.
If the Giants don’t sign someone like Joe Crede, then they will need Sandoval to produce out of that corner infield spot in order to strengthen the force behind their youth movement.
I’d also like to highlight the impact on depth that Travis Ishikawa will have, and how Alex Hinshaw and Sergio Romo will develop with the presence of Affeldt and Howry in the bullpen.
I think it has to be Pablo Sandoval. His ability to play three key positions (first and third base as well as catcher) is almost as valuable as the pop in his bat.
The Giants desperately need a legitimate corner infielder, and given the chance, which he will be, I think Sandoval can provide some much-needed stability.
I project he'll get the nod at the hot corner to begin the season. Keep in mind the Giants haven't had a legitimate power threat at a corner infield position since realistically, Matthew Derrick Williams some 12 years ago!
Sandoval tore up the Venezuelan League this winter, which was great to see. If Bengie Molina needs a day off, he is a great backup option behind the dish.
His keen eye at the plate and his defensive ability at three positions will make Sandoval a major key to the Giants' success in 2009.
I see three options here plus a dark horse: Fast Freddie Lewis, Pablo Sandoval, and Jonathan Sanchez (I know, he's kind of cheating, but he's in the same boat as Freddie). But I'm going with the dark horse.
Fab Five Freddie's too easy.
First, a man with so many cool nicknames is too obvious a pick. Second, he's 28 and played in 133 games last year—that's kind of a stretch for youth in terms of years or experience. Third, Lewis tallied the following totals: 81 runs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 9 home runs, a .359 on-base percentage, and a .286 average in 468 at-bats.
That's already some substantial impact so his margin for improvement just isn't that big.
Sanchez is also too easy.
He's younger than Freddie (26), but has a full season starting under his belt as well as 90 other innings in the pros. Since experience counts for more than age, I say he's an even bigger stretch than Fast Freddie. Furthermore, he needs to get a handle on consistency and that's too unpredictable for my prognosticatory tastes.
Little Money is a closer call.
He's the biggest baby of the group—by age (22) or experience. With only 145 Major League at-bats, Sandoval's resume is the thinnest and yet it still works against him. The buzz over his volcanic start—10 doubles, three home runs, a .357 OBP, and a .345 average—has me a little worried.
Worried enough that the hype (not to mention new position/positional uncertainty) will wear on him and possibly slow him down a bit.
So I'm going with the dark horse: Emmanuel Burriss.
He just turned 24 and has only 240 at-bats in the Show. Obviously, his numbers weren't quite as gaudy as Little Moneys, but check 'em: 37 runs, 13 steals, a .357 OBP, and a .283 average.
That's not too shabby considering how quietly he put them up and how little you hear his name.
That won't hurt him. Nor will the move from shortstop to second base (which, even if unfamiliar, should be easier than short). Nor will his reputation as a diligent worker.
I like the kid and I say we see big things from him. Of course, I'm always seeing big things in athletic middle infielders in San Francisco Giant uniforms.
Tim Lincecum would make me look like a complete moron considering he is one of the best pitchers in the game who just happens to be 24 years old.
You can’t go wrong with Pablo Sandoval, but everybody else has said him so picking him would be rather redundant. But don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see him rake for 162 games despite the fact that he looks like a guy who came straight from a slow-pitch softball game in the Avenues.
However, with that being said, I’m going to go with a double dip: Fred Lewis and Emmanuel Burriss.
They are easily two of the fastest players on the team, and before Edgar Renteria was signed, I had visions of the two of them running wild in the No. 2 and 3 holes in the lineup.
Now with both of them projected to be hitting towards the bottom of the order, they will still be counted on to create runs, but with possibly a little less pressure on them to do a lot as if they were hitting higher in the lineup.
With the spacious alleys of AT&T Park, Lewis and Burriss should just take aim at them and let their gift of speed do the work.
The Giants, for once, have speed to burn. There is no reason why Bruce Bochy shouldn’t turn his kids loose.
Considering they hit the fewest home runs in the Major Leagues since the Florida Marlins in 1993, Bochy and the Giants are going to have to get creative. And allowing burners like Lewis and Burriss to get rolling on the bases is a clear and obvious way to get some runs on the board without relying on the long ball.