Three Giant' Questions This Spring
1.) IS BRANDON BELT READY: The young first basemen was the toast of the organization in 2010 and probably would have gotten a lot more headline and even maybe a September showing had the Giants not been on their way to the playoffs. Now they must figure out what to do with the 22 year-old who's done all he can do in the Minors, but the Giants don't quite have a spot on their roster for him to get a whole lot of at-bats. If he makes the Big League roster out of Spring, it won't be as a bench guy. Young players of his caliber need to be playing everyday, so that will either be in Fresno or San Francisco. That moves the focus to Aubrey Huff, Mark DeRosa and Pat Burrell, the three guys who are big league vets who Belt has in-front of him on the depth chart right now. Still, Huff is just 2 years removed from a .240, 15 hr season in which he finished it riding the pine, and we all know what Burrell's story was before the Giants came calling. That said, the Giants don't win the World Series without Burrell and Huff and they did win it without Belt. If Burrell tanks in spring, and Freddy Sanchez or Mark DeRosa aren't 100% healed, he could make this team out of spring, but my guess is that he follows the Buster Posey route and comes up in June. But the answer is yes, I do think Belt is ready.
2.) WHICH SANDOVAL WILL SHOW UP?: At the end of 2008 and throughout 2009, Pablo Sandoval hit nearly .350 with power and run production and was counted on heavily to be the main source of runs for the 2010 lineup. Not sure if it was the expectation or the weight issue, but he struggled mightily in 2010, and got even worse as the season wore on. That prompted a revamped offseason training program, one that allowed him to lose over 20 pounds and he's shown up in camp this year as slim and fit as the Giants have seen him since they signed him as an 18 year-old. I don't know that the .330/25/90 version of Panda that we saw in 2009 is the guy your going to get every year, but I'm certainly expecting an improvement on last years .269/13/68 line. We haven't done the GBB's 2011 hitting projections yet, but I expect Sandoval to be closer to '09 than the '10 version. Maybe something like .295/20/80 and I think the Giants would take that from their 24 year-old 3rd basemen as long has he stays in shape and holds down the hot corner. I think Miguel Tejada will be a nice influence on him.
3.) WHERE'S EVERYONE GOING TO PLAY?: Bruce Bochy is going to have some decisions to make, as he's got a roster full of position players who are used to being everyday players. They have Mark DeRosa coming back, and he's going to demand some work, then there's Aaron Rowand, who even though he lost his job to Andres Torres in '10, Bochy still says is firmly in the outfield mix. Then if Brandon Belt tears up the Cactus League, that's another bat that Boch will need to find daily at-bats for. That's the big reason why I see Belt ending up in Fresno until something gives. Now, we have a month of spring games to play before rosters need to be set anyway, so these things may just work themselves out. At least that's what the Giants are hoping, otherwise there could be a deal in the works which may not be such a horrible idea, thing is, nobody wants the guys who the Giants want to deal (Rowand/Zito).
-Now, there are many more little questions that need to be answered this spring like who fills out the bullpen and bench, but I think those spots are already set, unless somebody gets hurt. Eli Whiteside will back-up Posey, and Fontenot/DeRosa/Rowand/Schierholtz will likely make up the rest of the bunch. The one guy I could see losing his spot is Nate Schierholtz if they can find someone with some more speed who can play all outfield positions.
Check Back on March 25th for the Answers to these 5 Spring questions!