Enough already with whining that the Giants are opening the 2010 season with kid position players.
Well, at least, separate the actual kid prospects from the the fan favorites we suspect have had time to and failed to prove they belong in the big leagues.
First, let's frame the discussion. The average age of big leaguers in 2009 ranged from 26.2 to 28.9 years. The Giants' roster averaged 26.3 years of age and, well, fans recall what the youthful club did with the bat, right?
John Bowker and Kevin Frandsen aren't big-league talents. Fred Lewis is a one-dimensional guy who's too young to be a full-time pinch-hitter. But he's also clearly too old to blossom into a star who can, oh, judge a fly ball.
Bowker's 27 years old and has 393 big league at-bats. He's fanned roughly 25 percent of the time, thus making his 12 career home runs virtually worthless. Do you really need his OPS or OBP to see that huge hole in his swing?
It's unlikely that 22-year-old prospect Thomas Neal's ready to take the right field job Nate Schierholtz has been handed. And, Bowker's not going to do it. Want to push Schierholtz and have a plan in case he can't hit .284, as he has for his 472 big league ABs, sign 37-year-old Jermaine Dye. The guy's proven himself and, at this point, he's only negotiating with the Tampa Bay Rays.
(Most fans have waited a lifetime for a the Giants to win a World Series, so throwing money at Dye is appealing. Catcher Bengie Molina signed for one year at $6 million, so Dye could probably be had for $4.5 to $5 million...maybe less. Those of us who pay for tickets, memorabilia, parking, and cable TV packages shouldn't be bean counters for the Giants).
Fans, naturally, grow to love players who climb through the farm system without ever quite proving they belong with the big club. Frandsen's a Bay Area guy, from San Jose, and he gets his uniform dirty. So, fans overlook that he can't do anything except play second base. He's not a utility guy because he can't play on the left side of the infield. (Pull out the Sabermetics formula placing a value on range. I'll remember the errors Frandsen made at short and third).
Frandsen's 28 years old and he's hit a cool .240 in 408 big league plate appearances. He's proven to be almost completely punch-less in what amounts to nearly a full season of big-league ABs. Youthful shortstops Brendon Crawford (23) and Nick Noonan (20) are legitimate prospects. And the Giants have already seen the best Frandsen can offer.
Lewis is pushing 30 years old. His success as a pinch-hitter in 2009 was completely offset by some of the most hideous defensive misplays in the history of left fielders everywhere. He's had 931 ABs with 81 RBIs, about 40 per every 500 ABs, right? He has sprinter speed but just 34 steals in 931 big league games. Were Manny Mota or Mark Sweeney full-time pinch-hitters at 30? Want a kid prospect? Beg for Roger Kieschnick.
I do love Andres Torres, just like everybody else who watched the little speedster fill holes in the outfield. Realistically, a 32-year-old journeyman with a .232 career batting average isn't going to hit .270 like Torres did in '09. And no matter how much ill will Aaron Rowand and his contract have engendered in San Francisco, Torres isn't going to all of a sudden produce what Rowand produced last year. Torres is good for 16 homers and 64 RBIs, like Rowand. (Doesn't mean you have to love Rowand either).
Eugenio Velez will be 28 in May and his play down the stretch last year earned him a utility role this season. He's a defensive liability at second base, clearly. He can play the outfield and, really, makes Torres easily expendable. Velez has more power and more speed. But, 28 makes him an older big leaguer. He's earned the platoon action he'll see in left field, second base, and wherever else he's needed.
Velez, however, is neither a kid nor a prospect.
Schierholtz deserves a chance to win the right field job. He's had 472 big league at-bats and he's hit well enough, just hasn't been much of a run-producer. People who love to talk inside baseball and insist there's incredible value in Schierholtz's ability to play the right field wall at AT&T forget that Reggie Sanders, Jose Cruz, Jr., Randy Winn and others handled it. It's foolish to think a guy like Dye, who'll bring 25 homers, would struggle out there.