Unless you are an intense
San Francisco baseball fan, or a just a crazy baseball super-fan, then you will
not recognize even half of the players above.
So here is who they are with the positions that they are capable of
playing adequately in the major leagues in parentheses: (starting with the
upper left, and going clockwise):
Burriss (SS, 2B)
(3B, 1B, C)
So what’s the point of
this long list? The main point is to show the many choices facing the Giants in selecting a starting second baseman, third baseman, and shortstop in
2009. Another important issue is who
deserves the title of “[insert infield position] of the future.” So, let’s just go through all of the young
players in the Giants organization who can play the infield. With all but one of the players capable of
playing multiple positions, it could get a bit confusing…
Brian Bocock Age: 24 Positions: SS, 2B
The only reason I talk
about Bocock is because he was the Opening Day shortstop for this team. And the only reason he got to hold that
honor is 1) Omar Vizquel got injured and 2) the Giants had nobody else. If everything went according to plan, Bocock
probably would have spent all of last year at San Jose (A+) or Connecticut
(AA). Unfortunately Bocock was rushed
(a lot) to the bigs and, as you might have guessed, he struggled mightily.
After Vizquel came back, he was sent
down. And then, typical of struggling
player, Bocock got injured and missed much of the year. Bocock only projects to be a utility
infielder and pinch runner. Although
his 2008 can’t be taken seriously because he was rushed so much, Bocock
doesn’t deserve to be considered as the shortstop or second baseman of the
future for the Giants.
Manny Burriss Age: 24 Positions:
I try not to be biased on
this blog, but Manny is one of my favorite players. He’s extremely friendly to fans and is the first D.C. public high
school product to be drafted and make it to the majors in 38 years. All bias aside though, Burriss is the
Giants shortstop of the future.
being promoted through the minor leagues at an astonishing rate, he somehow hit
well in the majors this year. How fast
was Burriss rushed? He had a .237 OBP
and .417 OPS in Class A Advanced last year (139 AB), and yet the Giants decided
he should skip Double-A. Then,
they called him to the majors after he only played 14 games in Triple-A
with a .281 OBP. Does the fact he
struggled in the minors make it a more likely scenario that he will have a
sophomore slump? Yeah, probably. But what else can you do? 240 at-bats are enough to show whether or
not a player is ready for The Show.
Even if Burriss struggles, he has the talent to be considered the
shortstop in San Francisco for a long time.
Kevin Frandsen Age: 26 Positions: 3B, 2B
Kevin Frandsen (the guy
who hit the BP ball that smacked
Barry Bonds in the head) just needs to stay healthy. He’s crushed AAA pitching, but never can play consistently in the
majors. If you pick up all of his big
league games combined, his numbers are not that impressive. But, considering how he handled the minors,
Frandsen should be given the opportunity to start every day at third base in
2009. It would be hypocritical for the
Giants to mistreat Frandsen, a true “gamer”, when playing hard everyday for 162
games is part of the Giants marketing theme. In fact, the Giants front office has
released a whole series of commercials asking players what defines a
gamer. He also had a .392 OBP in the
Arizona Fall League for what’s it worth.
(FYI, he was the oldest player there)
Connor Gillaspie Age: 21 Positions: 3B
Like Bocock, the only
reason Gillaspie is being mentioned in this list is because the Giants rushed
him and he was playing way out of his league (although, to his credit, he had
.429 OBP in 8 games.) Simply put,
Gillaspie doesn’t stand a chance to be the Giants’ third baseman next year. However, with a good year in San Jose (A+)
or Connecticut (AA), he is likely to, at some point, move Frandsen into a
super-utility role and earn the honor of the title “third baseman of the
future.” It will be interesting to see
what Gillaspie does next year on the farm, but he will have to prove he is more
valuable than Kevin Frandsen or Ryan Rohlinger. Expectations will be high, as he was drafted 37th
overall this year.
Ryan Rohlinger Age: 25 Positions: 3B, 2B
Rohlinger could be ready
for the big leagues right now, but the problem is that: 1) he hasn’t proven
himself at AAA, and 2) he’s hardly played second base in his career. With Burriss starting at short, and Frandsen
at third, Rohlinger will have to adjust to second base if he wants to start
next year for San Francisco. But since
the Giants have other second base options that have already proven themselves
at Triple-A, I’d let Rohlinger start the season in Fresno to learn second base
and of course see how well he will hit.
Rohlinger may end up being a utility player next year, but then again,
so could the other second base options like Frandsen, Velez, or Ochoa. Let’s just say Rohlinger lights it up in
Triple-A Fresno to start the year but Frandsen is doing well in the majors as
well. In that case Frandsen could move
over to second base (and kick out Velez or Ochoa), and Rohlinger would be able
to play his natural position at third.
As a general matter, Rohlinger’s future depends a lot on what the
players ahead of him do, since he isn’t quite as advanced as the rest (besides
Eugenio Velez Age: 26 Positions: LF, 2B
Velez is an interesting
player. This year in Fresno, he was one
of the best leadoff men in the Pacific Coast League (.881 OPS, 42 games). But when Velez played for the Giants, he
flat out stunk, even with a good September (.367 OBP). Playing in San Fran, Velez will always have
someone right behind to take over if he slumps. He is at the age (26) where he needs to put together a good full
season in the majors or forever be considered a career utility man and pinch
runner. Personally, my prediction for
Velez would be just that, a utility guy (he plays infield and outfield), and a
super-fast guy off the bench. Bruce
Bochy should give Velez the starting job at second base next year, but I truly
doubt Velez will be good enough to stop Ivan Ochoa or Ryan Rohlinger from
getting some time at 2B.
give S.F. his 50 stolen bases and four home runs a season, but the question is
whether he’s a .310 or .350 on-base guy.
I’d guess somewhere in the middle, but I’m not sure that is good enough.
Ivan Ochoa Age: 26 Positions: SS, 2B
Ivan Ochoa’s season was
very simple. He crushed in Triple-A,
and got crushed in the majors.
Is it worth giving him another shot?
Of course! He’s only 26 years
old and it was his rookie season after all.
But, I wouldn’t expect him to put up anything close to his numbers in
Fresno. I don’t think playing in the
hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League was the entire reason Ochoa’s power
suddenly flew up, but it’s worth noting that Ochoa’s slugging percentage never
was above .339 before hitting in the PCL.
He most likely projects to be a back up in the major leagues, but he’s
shown he can slug. He plays both middle
infield positions, but has spent more time at short on the farm. A key indicator of Ochoa’s future/career
will be where the Giants send him out of Spring Training next year. Here are his options:
Option 1 (Likely): Giants
utility infielder – The worst-case scenario for his career. This means Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean see
Ochoa’s future as nothing more than as a utility player.
Option 2 (Possible):
Fresno’s starting shortstop – The Giants think highly enough of Ochoa to let
him get regular at-bats and only call him up if he can get significant playing
Option 3 (Unlikely):
Giants’ starting second baseman – The Giants really think highly of
Ochoa and are confident he is better than Ryan Rohlinger or Eugenio Velez. Based on Ochoa’s performance in every level
besides Triple-A, his chances look slim.
Pablo Sandoval Age: 22 Positions: 1B, 3B, C
Sandoval is basically
guaranteed a spot with the Giants next year after crushing in his 35-game stint
there and continuing his hot hitting in the Venezuelan Winter League where he
had a 1.119 OPS in 48 games. The
question is where he will play next season.
In order of games played, he is a first baseman, catcher, and third
baseman. In a perfect world I guess
Sandoval would be a first-baseman, but with the Giants, his best fit is behind
the plate. Benjie Molina is in the last
year of his contract and needs to be traded right now. After trading Molina (which is probably
easier said than done), Sandoval could slide in to be the everyday backstop and
attempt to replicate his breakout ’08 season.
My Picks for 2009
If I was Bruce Bochy,
these would be my picks for who would start at each infield position heading
into next season, and the people that would slide in if the starters are
injured or slump badly:
2B: Eugenio Velez (Kevin
SS: Manny Burriss (Ivan
3B: Kevin Frandsen (Ryan
I know I didn’t discuss
Travis Ishikawa or John Bowker in this post, but Bowker should start next year
in AAA, and should only be called up to the majors if he can get regular
at-bats. His 2007 season in Double-A cannot
be overlooked; he has some nice upside.
The Giants have a lot of
variables in the infield at this point, but a lot of uncertainty. I think Matt Downs
will provide stability at second base by 2010 or ’11.
And on a final note, I
have a very bold prediction: The San
Jose Giants will win the MILBY award (Minor League Baseball of the Year) for
“Team of the Year”. That award goes to
the most dominant team in all of the minors.
How could I pick one team out of all of the affiliated teams in
professional baseball? Well, it’s
The players on schedule
to play for San Jose next year have played on the “Team of the Year” the past
two seasons. In 2007, the Class A-Short
Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes won Team of the Year. Then, most the same players went to play in Augusta, GA for the
Green Jackets. Guess what? That team was the 2008 Team of the
Year. See my logic? I guess there is this one wave of players
drafted by S.F. in 2007 that just knows how to win. It can’t hurt that ’08 Augusta manager Andy
Skeels is moving up to San Jose with his players. Players like Angel
Loree, and Wendell
Fairley may all start next year playing in High A. Just imagine how great that team would be if
the Giants didn’t decide to allow Tim
Alderson to skip Class A (by the way, smart move Fred
If it isn’t obvious
already, I wrote most of this entry before stupid Brian Sabean signed Edgar Renteria. But I’m stubborn and couldn’t let all this
writing go to waste.
I’m not about to claim I feel as bad as this guy, but I was
pretty ticked when I heard the Renteria news.