Monday, January 26, 2009

SF Roundtable 2

Question One:

Which youngster will have the biggest impact this upcoming season? This can be anybody who came up in the last year or so. Fred Lewis is eligible considering he barely played until last season.

Hmmm. I see three options here plus a dark horse: Fast Freddie, Pablo Sandoval, and Jonathan Sanchez (I know, he's kind of cheating, but he's in the same boat as Freddie). But I'm going with the dark horse.

Fab Five Freddie's too easy.

First, a man with so man cool nicknames is too obvious a pick. Second, he's 28 and played in 133 games last year—that's kind of a stretch for youth in terms of years or experience. Third, Lewis tallied the following totals: 81 runs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 9 homeruns, a .359 on-base percentage, and a .286 average in 468 at-bats.

That's already some substantial impact so his margin for improvement just isn't that big.

Sanchez is also too easy.

He's younger than Freddie (26), but has a full season starting under his belt as well as 90 other innings in the pros. Since experience counts for more than age, I say he's an even bigger stretch than Fast Freddie. Furthermore, he needs to get a handle on consistency and that's too unpredictable for my prognosticatory tastes.

Little Money is a closer call.

He's the biggest baby of the group—by age (22) or experience. With only 145 Major League ABs, Sandoval's resume is the thinnest and yet it still works against him. The buzz over his volcanic start—10 doubles, three HRs, a .357 OBP, and a .345 average—has me a little worried.

Worried enough that the hype (not to mention new position/positional uncertainty) will wear on him and possibly slow him down a bit.

So I'm going with the dark horse: Emmanuel Burriss.

He just turned 24 and has only 240 ABs in the Show. Obviously, his numbers weren't quite as gaudy as Little Moneys, but check 'em: 37 runs, 13 steals, a .357 OBP, and a .283 average. That's not too shabby considering how quietly he put them up and how little you hear his name.

That won't hurt him. Nor will the move from shortstop to second base (which, even if unfamiliar, should be easier than short). Nor will his reputation as a diligent worker.

I like the kid and I say we see big things from him. Of course, I'm always seeing big things in athletic middle infielders in San Francisco Giant uniforms.

Question Two:

If you didn't know, Brian Sabean is again in a contract year. The question here: Do you think the Giants should retain Sabean after 2009? Do you think he is doing a good job of building around kids while trying to win at the same time? Feel free to go explain yourself in any way you want.

That's a tough call.

I actually like Brian Sabean and give him more leash than most. Even his most infamous trade—Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser for AJ Pierzynski plus cash (with cash being the far more productive baseball player for SF in 2004)—I think gets too much grief. Contrarily, he's made some fantastic trades and perhaps deserves more credit for really springing the Giants on the National League (due to Matt Williams for Jeff Kent and parts).

Sabean also brought in guys like Rob Nen, Jason Schmidt, Kenny Lofton, Andres Galarraga, and Ellis Burks. Those guys made some significant contributions and really didn't cost the Orange and Black much.

Furthermore, he made good faith and logical moves that failed to bear fruit—grabbing youngster Damien Moss from the pitching-savvy Atlanta Braves and an effective Sidney Ponson from the Baltimore Orioles, who subsequently went tits up (semi-literally) despite moving to the less offensively-rugged NL West.

I can't hold those against him, especially since they (again) didn't cost SF much.

Unfortunately, that's the good and a lot of it's stale.

The bad is much fresher, but it's not as extreme.

Sabean's free agent signings have been poor, he's been overly-enamored of older players, he's been stubbornly reluctant to invest in youngsters via the draft, and the boys have been struggling in a weak division for several years now.

Ultimately though, I shake down on the side of consistency in an inconsistent business being an advantage. It would be one thing if Sabean were a total abomination and/or he was showing no signs of righting the ship. But neither of those is the case.

Brian Sabean's most recent offseason (the one we're still technically in) has given me hope that he's back on track. He's brought in some older veterans, like usual, but they weren't the priciest ones on the market. In fact, both Edgar Renteria and Randy Johnson have considerable potential to be steals while not subjecting SF to much risk.

Additionally, Sabean has shown that most of his focus remains on building around the young core without mortgaging future transactional flexibility.

I say keep him around for another several years as long as this year continues to move in the direction the offseason has been heading: forward.

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