San Francisco Giants: Can They Continue to Win with Brandon Hicks Starting?

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San Francisco Giants: Can They Continue to Win with Brandon Hicks Starting?
Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

What does Brandon Hicks have in common with Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Dunn and Torii Hunter?

All of these players have eight home runs this season. Hicks has found his way into the regular starting lineup, and he has often rewarded Bruce Bochy's faith. He has eight home runs, and he's done a nice job in critical situations.

Who remembers Hicks' walk-off home run against the Cleveland Indians? What about his game-tying and go-ahead home runs in separate wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers? He has played well in important moments, and that's why he's still starting.

But should he still be starting?

Hicks has hit home runs (more than last year's home run king Chris Davis, in fact), and he has knocked in runs. His total of 20 runs batted in isn't going to blow anyone away, but for someone who wasn't expected to make any major league roster, it's solid.

However, his other numbers aren't as intriguing. He is hitting .178, and his OPS is an underwhelming .668.

His fielding isn't doing him any favors either. He has five errors this season in just 44 games at second base.

He provides power off the bench, but he isn't a competent starter. After all, he has the second-worst batting average in the NL.  

So why is he starting?

Marco Scutaro hasn't played this season, and he might not return. Giants fans are all too familiar with Freddy Sanchez, who went from potentially returning at the end of the 2011 season to missing all of 2012 with suspicious back issues.

Will Marco Scutaro return this year?

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According to CSN Bay Area, the Giants didn't have a target date for Scutaro's return as of May 18. The fact that no new recovery news has come out isn't good. He could end up missing a few more months, and if he does, it could lead to the Giants' demise.

The Giants can't survive with him at second base. That's why they need to pursue an alternative.

For the time being, they could give a bit more playing time to Joaquin Arias. Arias was solid in 2012 and 2013, hitting .270 and .271. He doesn't hit for much power, but he could be a nice option.

He has struggled mightily this year, though. He was hitting .138 before Sunday's game against the Cardinals, in which he had three hits. However, he now appears ready to heat up, and if he does, the Giants would be insane not to give him playing time.

However, his .626 OPS in 2013 suggests that he might not be a long-term alternative. In that case, the Giants would benefit from a trade.

Brandon Phillips, Jose Altuve, Danny Espinosa, Daniel Murphy and Ed Lucas could be trade targets for the Giants.

Altuve is a stellar all-around player, and Phillips' reputation means he would be expensive, but the Giants could likely swing a fairly cheap deal for Murphy, Lucas or Espinosa.

Murphy is hitting .291, and Lucas is hitting .319. Both the New York Mets and Miami Marlins would benefit from a trade for a young prospect, which the Giants could swing. Their farm system is below average, but it has talent.

For instance, the team is stacked with pitching prospects. Edwin Escobar, Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Ty Blach could be dangled as trade bait. With these young hurlers in the farm, a deal to bring in a second baseman is, to say the least, doable.

If they don't make the deal, it could cost them. The Giants won't keep scoring with the 24th-best on-base percentage and the 21st-best batting average in the league.

They need to complement the thumpers, such as Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse, with other solid starters. Hicks isn't a solid starter.

To compensate for the likely regression the Giants will experience in some areas, upgrading at second base is necessary for the team to continue its stellar production and eventually make the playoffs.

Angel Pagan, Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson and Jean Machi are all unlikely to continue performing at this rate. Machi won't sustain his absurd 0.33 ERA, and the 38-year old Hudson is doubtful to keep his 1.75 ERA.

How should the Giants handle the conundrum at second base?

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If these players struggle, the Giants will need someone else to emerge to help them stay on the winning track. If Hicks' career batting average of .163 is any indication, he's not going to be that guy.

His story has been great, and his production has certainly exceeded the Giants' expectations. However, he is starting to taper off, and it appears to be more than a cold streak. After all, the 28-year-old had never played more than 22 games in a major league season before this.

At the very least, the Giants should give Arias some time at second base to see if he can be an upgrade. But if the Giants don't make a move (assuming Scutaro doesn't return), they would be foolish. 

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