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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Part 2 of 4: Grading the Kids

How have the team's younger positional players fared so far this sesaon?

Pablo Sandoval: B
Analysis: It’s hard to give Pablo a grade much higher than this because he played in only 50 games during the first half.  Had he not broken his wrist, I think we’d have been looking at a .315 hitter with 15 home runs and 55 rbi’s, and the starting spot on the NL All-Star team.  As it was, however, he ended the break on a tear, compiling a 21-game hitting streak and a .303/.341/.503 line.  His rbi double off Brandon League in the All-Star game was an incredible moment for Panda and his many fans.  Once again, he has established himself as the heart of the Giants’ offense.
Prediction: I don’t know if I’ve seen Sandoval with a sweeter swing than the one he has right now.  If the last month was any indication, he could be poised for a monumental second half.  Let’s go with the optimistic view on this one, say .321, 23 hr, 82 rbi, and a game-winning home run that clinches the division title in September.    
Buster Posey: C+
Analysis: The future of our franchise began this season slowly, and really didn’t begin to catch fire until a few weeks before his season-ending injury.  Of his 46 hits, only 9 were for extra bases, as it took the super sophomore a little more time to get into a rhythm in what was supposed to be his first full season as a major leaguer.  That aside, Posey is one of our best position player prospects to come around in two decades, and he’s as valuable as they come. 
Prediction:  We all know he won’t return any time this year, but we hope for a speedy, setback-free recovery for the reigning Rookie of the Year Posey.  I look for him to reestablish himself behind the dish and in the middle of the lineup very quickly upon his return next season.  Hopefully his presence will keep this team together as they make another run for the postseason this fall.
Brandon Crawford: C
Analysis: For a kid who’d barely played above High-A and never above AA in his professional career, I think Crawford has already exceeded realistic expectations during his month and a half long big league call-up.  Yes, a line of .208/.288/.296 is quite an eyesore, but I’ve been impressed with Crawford’s approach from the beginning.  My goodness, did he ever put some lengthy at bats together in the recent four-game series with San Diego.  His walk/strikeout ratio of 14/19 really stands out to me.  19 strikeouts in 125 at bats, that tells me that he is putting a lot of balls in play.  Sooner or later, those balls are going to start dropping in for hits.  Oh, and did I mention he’s a wizard in the field with a rocket launcher attached to his shoulder? 
Prediction: I’ll be the first to admit that I just made Crawford sound like an uber-prospect with that analysis, but the fact is, I like the kid.  I think he’s going to stick around.  Despite a less than impressive batting line in his minor league career, the kid seems to have the tools to hit major league pitching.  While he may not have a big breakout this season, I think he’ll only continue to improve at this level.  I’ll say that improvement starts in the second half, and the Professor finishes 2011 with a .239, 6 hr, 38 rbi line at the plate, while sustaining excellent play in the field.
Brandon Belt: D+
Analysis: So much hype surrounded this kid coming into his first big league Spring Training.  He didn’t disappoint in Arizona and had himself a starting job for Opening Day.  After a monster three run home run off Chad Billingsley in the season’s second game, the magic kind of wore off for young Belt, who struggled to find consistency before being sent back to AAA. He was called up again in late May and suffered a fractured wrist in just his seventh at bat back, and he’s been out ever since.          
Prediction: One positive for Belt is his .328 OBP, an impressive number for a guy who’s batting just .211 in the big leagues.  However, he’s continued to hit well at Fresno, and is currently on a rehab assignment.  As I mentioned in the last post, I believe Belt will eventually split time with Aubrey Huff at first before the season is over.  He won’t have a huge second half, but depending on how much time he gets in the big leagues, let’s hope he can raise that batting average to .250 and hit 4 or 5 home runs by season’s end. 
Manny Burriss: D+
Analysis: The infielder formerly known as Emmanuel Burriss has gotten plenty of chances to earn the second base job since Freddy Sanchez’ shoulder injury, but hasn’t played consistently enough to keep it.  He was absolutely crushing AAA pitching early in the season, and has had a few bright moments at the plate during his time in San Francisco (including a walkoff rbi single against the A’s that scored Darren Ford), but overall his bat and speed just haven’t been worthy of a full-time gig.  He’s hitting just .217 in 43 games, and has exactly one extra-base hit on the season.  He’s stolen only 5 bases as well. 
Prediction:  If his bat comes around, then I’d say his versatility in the infield will keep him in San Francisco.  If not, the return of Mike Fontenot kind of makes Burriss expendable at the current time.  I would certainly be in favor of swapping his roster spot for Belt’s when Belt is ready to return. 

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