There are a lot of names being thrown out right now as to who the Giants need to acquire before the 2012 season starts, and many of those names happen to play the coveted SS position. Instead of scouring the free agent and trade markets for someone to fill this role, could it be possible the position that plagued them greatly in 2011 could be filled with an in-house candidate in 2012? Absolutely, lets find out why.
Anyone who watched a lot of Giants baseball in 2011 saw two things occur at the Shortstop position. 1) Miguel Tejada was abominable, and Orlando Cabrera was no better. 2) Brandon Crawford is just slick out there. He can move in either direction very quickly, has a strong throwing arm, and gets incredible first steps that allow him to make even the most difficult plays look routine.
The other two options on the market that the Giants are most commonly tied to (Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes) are certainly solid MLB shortstops. But Reyes has never won a Gold Glove. Rollins won three straight from 2008-10 but is aging and his range will begin to suffer from that shortly.
There is no reason to believe that a young Crawford could not match the defense put out by either of these established All-Star players.
27, 27, 22, 24, 23, 25, 29—Those are the ages of some of the Giants most important players (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Pablo Sandoval, Brian Wilson).
At this point the Giants have managed to build a fantastic core of young players that could be cornerstones of this franchise for the foreseeable future. In my opinion, adding a player like Rollins could potentially damage this chemistry and the overall growth of the team. We saw what happened with the Miguel Tejada/Cabrera experiment, as well as the Aaron Rowand debacle. We do not want that to happen again.
With a thin market at SS this offseason, Reyes and Rollins (both with injury and age concerns) are likely to be vastly overpaid. The Giants somehow won a World Series in 2010 with a couple of bad signings, I'd rather not make this a habit.
We know Brandon Crawford is a quality defensive shortstop, but most people who watched his at bats saw two things: a big grand slam off of Shawn Marcum and a guy who hovered around .200 most of the season.
Taking a slightly closer look at his stats, his OBP of .288 looks pathetic, but when you take into account his paltry .204 BA, a .084 differential is more than respectable. Crawford also showed ability to make consistent contact as he only struck out once for every 6.3 ABs, nothing to write home about, but very solid for a rookie. These two stats show that Crawford at least has an understanding of how to handle Major League pitching and produce.
In case you haven't heard, Crawford also performed well in the Arizona Fall League season, which just ended. After a miniature slump to close out the season, Crawford still managed to hit .276 with a couple of HRs.
This slide is pretty simple.
Jose Reyes—$11 MM
Jimmy Rollins—$8.5 MM
Even Clint Barmes, whom the Giants had reportedly been looking into, is close to signing a deal worth 11MM over 2 years with Pittsburgh. While he is extremely versatile, he will not put up numbers to warrant that kind of increased salary for the Giants. Brandon Crawford does struggle against LHP, but a $5MM platoon player does not interest me.
The Giants have two franchise pitchers to lock up and are still in the market for another outfielder. The funds that would be used on a new SS would be much more cost effective in signing another quality OF or contributing to the Keep Timmy and Cain fund.
If you are anything like me, you walked away from the TV last season when there were runners on base and the lineup rolled down to the 7,8,9 spots. There was no way the Giants were scoring in that situation.
In 2012, the Eli Whiteside/Chris Stewart black hole will be gone as Buster Posey will be back in the lineup and the 8 spot is open. If there is one spot where Crawford can easily succeed, it is here. His propensity to get on base will be great in this spot where the pitchers will have the opportunity to bunt him over. Crawford also possesses the gap to gap power to drive in runs that Whiteside/Stewart did not have.
in 2012, I look for Crawford to hit .245 while hitting 9 HR and driving in 43 or so. All while playing stellar defense...for the league minimum salary.