When the 2011 MLB Season began, Barry Zito planned to make his comeback, and Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez were potential, if not obvious All-Stars.
Fast-forward to July 1st, where Zito has missed his first starts in his career. Last week he started his first major league game in months. Posey and Sanchez’ injuries don’t need to be discussed, and multiple other players have been out with injuries at one time or another.
This is the season that has given several players the opportunity to prove themselves. Some have broken out as stars, and others have simply done their job.
Either way, these are five players you probably didn’t expect to see in the headlines this year.
Buster Posey was the Giants backstop. That was it. No questions, the 2010 Rookie of the Year wasn’t going anywhere.
Until his injury took him out for the season.
In no way can the Giants replace Posey. Eli Whiteside has proven why he is a backup catcher. He’s had way too many passed balls and his offense can be depressing.
Chris Stewart came up with huge shoes to fill. He’s done a satisfactory job, catching his first career shutout on Saturday. His arm has thrown out several base runners so far.
While he's not the Giants answer for the rest of the season, Stewart is doing what he can to fill the role until San Francisco trades, signs, or brings up a new catcher.
We know Nate Schierholtz’s defense is amazing. The guy’s made impossible catches look easy. However, what Schierholtz had in defense, he'd been lacking in offense.
This year, he’s had more than a couple clutch hits, and has fans yelling “Nate the Great” whenever he gets in the box.
In May he knocked in game-tying runs late in the game a couple of times. He hit a liner out to left field against Colorado and a two-run homer against the A’s.
One of the most notable games was June 1st against the Cardinals. Nate the Great hit a two-out, game tying single to center that sent the game to extras. He followed with an RBI single in the 11th to put the Giants ahead as they eventually came out with a 7-5 win.
Miguel Tejada has left much to be desired at shortstop.
When Pablo Sandoval and Mike Fontenot were both injured, Tejada moved to third and the Giants brought up the 23-year-old Brandon Crawford from San Jose.
Crawford joined the team with a hit in his third major league at-bat—a grand slam.
While his hitting has cooled off recently, Crawford is solid at shortstop and has provided the defense the Giants had been hoping for. He’s young, athletic, and could soon become an important leader in San Francisco.
Emmanuel—or Manny? I think it’s currently Emmanuel—Burriss tends to be a bench player who is a great choice for a pinch runner.
Since Freddy Sanchez dislocated his shoulder, Burriss has gotten more chances to prove his talent at second, and he’s been doing so admirably.
As he gains more confidence, he shows that he deserves to be out in the field. In yesterday’s game against the Cubs, Burris made two diving stops, rolled over, and threw to first from his backside. A couple games ago, he got his first extra-base hit.
Burriss has shown that, with more opportunities out in the field, he could become a huge asset to both the Giants offense and defense for several years.
Ryan Vogelsong has been the biggest surprise so far this year. When Barry Zito went down with his injury, the Giants hoped the 33-year-old could come in as a good replacement.
What they got was a great replacement: a potential All-Star with a 6-1 record and a 2.09 ERA this year. His story of being drafted, traded, sent to Japan and back to San Francisco is the kind of tale that we Giants fans love. While Barry Zito is healthy and working on his comeback, it’s clear that Vogelsong isn’t going anywhere.
He’s yet another great arm that San Francisco can boast about on their pitching staff.