Monday, March 29, 2010

Too Many Choices

Everyone knows the Giants are loaded with pitching. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, Brian Wilson. All great arms, and the reason the Giants have postseason hopes despite an offense that was, well, rather anemic last year.

But everyone in Giants-land also knows the team needs more offense, and offseason acquisitions Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa (plus the re-signed Bengie Molina) are expected to help push more runs across the plate.

But even with these names in the mix, this does not appear to be one of those teams where manager Bruce Bochy can make 162 copies of his lineup card and just fill in the pitcher's name. He'll be juggling like mad, all year long.

Part of the "problem" is the batch of younger players who won't go away. As I write, there are four guys I'd really like to see in an Opening Day lineup. Conventional wisdom suggests at best, two of them will make it. Here's my Fab Four, and my case for each:

  • Eugenio Velez Unconvential, even aggravating at times. But you can't deny his speed and ability to disrupt a game. He's made remarkable strides over the last year. Since Freddy Sanchez won't be ready for Opening Day, pencil Velez in at second base.

  • Nate Schierholtz I'm no shrink, but it looks like a matter of confidence with this guy. Give him the right field job and commit to staying with him through a few slumps. He has the tools.

  • John Bowker I spent a few days in Scottsdale this spring, and everything Bowker hit was loud. He arrived in San Francisco with a bang two years ago, then won the PCL batting title last year. He's ready. Put him in left field, now.

  • Buster Posey This kid's a ballplayer, and more minor-league games won't improve him enough to justify keeping him out of a big-league lineup. Start him at first base, put him behind the plate to spell an aging Molina, flip him with Pablo Sandoval (Posey at third, Panda at first) once in awhile. In Arizona, I watched Posey play first base like he'd been there all his life. I'll bet he could take an outfield shift from time to time.

"But wait," you're saying. "What about DeRosa, Huff, Freddy Sanchez, and all the money the Giants are paying them?" Well, folks, those guys are getting paid anyway. The goal here is to win. Sanchez remains physically incapable of playing, Randy Winn's departure opens up right field, there's no real incumbent at first base, and the Giants haven't had an everyday left fielder since You-Know-Who.

I actually think this is all good news for Giants fans. Capable veterans like Huff, DeRosa and Sanchez are pretty darned good insurance. I say: let the kids play, and give them some room. This team has the pitching to contend in the NL West, so there's little downside to rolling the dice with those young players. Come on, Giants: the future is now!

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