Hit or Miss: Examining the San Francisco Giants' Non-Roster Hitters
A couple days ago, I took a look at the Giants' non-roster pitchers that they invited to Spring Training, mainly because I believe that the lack of pitching depth is one of the biggest Achilles' heels of this team.
But as I stressed in the last post, there is always a possibility of someone making such a name for himself this spring that he works his way onto the Opening Day roster and contributes. Again, see Juan Uribe and Andres Torres.
With most of the Giants' offensive core returning, the Giants are once again going to take a look at depth and give their top prospects a crack at big-league pitching. Mark DeRosa is coming back from injury, they picked up Miguel Tejada to replace Juan Uribe, and Pablo Sandoval looks to rebound after last year's downturn.
Their biggest need is at middle infield, so I'd assume Brandon Crawford will be subject to an extended tire-kicking evaluation by GM Brian Sabean.
WIthout further ado...
C Tommy Joseph
Buster Posey is the Giants catcher and should be for a long time. I'm thinking forever. That being said, as the Giants' sixth-ranked prospect according to Baseball America, Tommy Joseph is no slouch.
The 19-year-old catcher is a huge power hitter, as exemplified by his penchant for spraying the upper deck at Tropicana Field with homers during a high school home run derby. Last year at Single-A, Joseph hit 16 homers, but only had a .236 average while striking out 116 times.
The adjustment to professional pitching out of high school is always a little difficult, so the stats are not alarming. It will be interesting to see where Joseph fits in with Posey behind the plate and Brandon Belt chomping at the bit at first base. He might become a valuable trade chip down the line.
C Hector Sanchez
Sanchez, 21, also spent time at Augusta last year, but there is a lot less information about him. He walks a lot, which is something Joseph doesn't do. Sanchez is a lifetime .300 hitter, albeit at summer league and rookie ball, and he hits a lot of doubles.
C Chris Stewart
Stewart, 28, was drafted by the White Sox way back in 2001, and his way to the Giants includes stops in Texas, New York and San Diego. Last year for the Padres' Triple-A affiliate, Stewart hit .248/.337/.395, with seven HR and 39 RBI in 85 games.
If Brandon Belt makes the Opening Day roster, what position will he play?
It seems he has a knack for getting in the way of the ball, amassing 18 HBPs over the past two years. Again, not much info on him out there, but he, along with Sanchez and Williams, could be a viable option at backup catcher if something were to happen to Eli Whiteside.
C Jackson Williams
Williams, 24, was drafted in the first round by the Giants in 2007 and has moved his way up the ranks to Triple-A Fresno. Given what I can gather, I'm assuming it's for his work with the glove, because his highest batting average is a paltry .231, and his career .213 mark isn't good either.
He has thrown out a solid amount of runners (40 percent for his career) and has a .987 fielding percentage. My thoughts on Williams: In Spring Training, there are a lot of pitchers that need bullpens caught, and Bill Hayes takes vacations.
1B Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt is pretty much the most exciting Giants prospect since...well...Buster Posey. Or Madison Bumgarner. Basically, if you're bored with last year's Rookie of the Year, Belt has all the tools to capture your attention in 2011.
With all the hype surrounding him and the praise coming from every direction (coaches, Sabean, former players, his mom, my mom, the list goes on), it's safe to say that he has a legitimate chance at winning the award again.
If we thought Buster Posey was good, apparently Belt is just as good, if not better. His line from last year (his first year in professional ball), which he split between high-A San Jose, Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Fresno: .352/.455/.620, 23 HRs, 112 RBI. And just for good measure, 10 triples and 22 steals.
There's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. If you haven't heard about him, I really, really feel sorry for you.
SS Brandon Crawford
The other Brandon, 23, isn't exactly an unknown either. Brandon Crawford was drafted by the Giants in 2008, and is the top middle infield prospect behind Manny Burriss in the Giants system.
He was the ninth-rated prospect in the San Francisco system in 2010, according to Baseball America. His offensive stats last year definitely regressed, posting a line of .236/.330/.339, but his defense is still good, and with the losses of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, is probably the second-best internal option to back up the middle of the diamond. He's young, but he has the tools.
2B/SS Charles Culberson
Culberson was one of the Giants' first-round picks in 2007, and last year was his best season, statistically, in pro baseball. He hit .290 and had a .340 OBP, even slugging 16 homers out of the second-base position. Again, the Giants are looking for depth up the middle, and he has the opportunity to provide that.
1B Brad Eldred
Eldred, 30, played 11 games for Colorado last year, but hit an impressive 30 HR and drove in 84 runs for their Triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs last year. Eldred also surfaced in the majors in 2005 and 2007 for the Pirates, hitting only .199 but bashing 14 HRs in 236 at bats.
He's primarily a first baseman, and at his age will have to perform pretty well to have a shot at beating out any of the kids for the Opening Day roster spot.
2B Nick Noonan
Noonan, the 11th-rated prospect last year according to Baseball America, was drafted in 2007 as well. He has always been young for his leagues, which has contributed to solid, but rather pedestrian, batting numbers (career .268 hitter).
His fielding has greatly improved over the couple years he's been in the league, and last year was considered the "second-baseman of the future" for the Giants by BA. Most likely he will start the year at Double-A Richmond, where he began and ended last year's campaign.
OF Gary Brown
Gary Brown was the Giants' first-round pick in the 2010 draft. He is fast.
OK, but really, Brown only got into 12 games last season, but if you check out the video, he is FAST. That's pretty much all I know about him. He can hit, too. Good plate coverage, hits gap to gap and is probably going to be the center-fielder for the Giants in the future.
OF Terry Evans
Evans, 28, appeared in one game for the Angels last year, had one at-bat and struck out. Aside from that, his career lines in the minors look a lot better. A line of .283/.323/.455 and 15 HRs/72 RBI constituted a pretty average year for Evans. He did blast 26 dingers in 2009 and hit 33 back in 2006. Evans is a pretty solid corner outfielder and might be able to latch on somewhere in the Giants system if he has a good spring.
OF Juan Perez
Perez was drafted by the Giants in the 2008 draft and played for high-A San Jose last year, posting a line of .298/.337/.472. Not much power, but a lot of speed (10 triples). It's raw speed, though, as he was caught stealing (15) just about as often as he got the steal (17). Perez played mostly center field for the Giants in 2010 and didn't crack the top 30 in terms of prospects last year.
With the Giants offense pretty much intact—replacing Renteria/Uribe with Tejada and adding in Mark DeRosa—the only one with a real shot at making the club is Brandon Belt. If there's space for him, he'll make it, but as the roster stands now, there isn't even room for him, and he's the consensus top prospect for the Giants in 2011.
I'd keep an eye on where they end up, and in some cases, they might end up as trade chips for the stretch run.
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