Omar Vizquel might come back soon. He might not. When he does, it's uncertain if he'll still have the the defensive mobility that gives him any value as a shortstop. For the moment, Brian Bocock is still the starting shortstop. And with each passing day, that decision is seeming more and more insane. Insane. Absolutely crazy. Pretend that before the season started, you didn't know Brian Bocock existed. Maybe you didn't. But read this description, and try to imagine how a player like this could start:
Player X is a ninth-round pick, who had pronounced offensive struggles in A-ball in 2007. If his A-ball numbers were brought straight to the majors without any adjustment, he would still be one of the worst hitters in the majors.
What could allow a player like this to start? The only possible answer: magic defense. Not good defense, not great defense, but magic defense. He'd have to have the range of Ozzie Smith, the arm strength of Shawon Dunston, the accuracy of Omar Vizquel, and a robotic exoskeleton that shoots missiles from his nipples like that of Iron Man*. I might be understating the case. Few hitters in recent history have been as unprepared to face big league pitchers as Bocock. He wasn’t overmatched in AAA. He wasn’t overmatched in AA. He was overmatched in A-ball a little more than a year after he was swinging an aluminum bat in the Atlantic Sun Conference. If you don’t combine that pedigree with magic defense, you can’t make a reasonable argument to rush a player to the big leagues.
Bocock is a fantastic defender. The apocryphal quote – that if the Giants can teach him to be a .260 hitter, he’ll make a lot of money – is absolutely true. He has superlative footwork, great range, and a strong, accurate arm. This brief glimpse of his defense has made me excited about his prospects as a defense-first major league shortstop. But he isn’t magic. He still makes mistakes, and while his hands are steady, they aren’t perfect.
Now that we know that he isn’t magic, let’s reexamine the argument for aggressively promoting Bocock:
* His defense will take pressure off our young strikeout pitchers.
* We, like, totally didn’t have anyone else.
The counterarguments are numerous. He’s hitting like Kirk Rueter with a better eye. That can’t be good for his confidence. Kirk Rueter was a career .153/.187/.167 hitter. Bocock is at .167/.286/.188. Maybe that’s just the small sample size, but I haven’t seen any evidence that would make me think that Bocock is a better hitter than what he’s shown.
If he can learn to hit – if he can rise up from the bottom like some sort of Honus Alger – the Giants would still be in a quandary because of how he was rushed. He might enter his arbitration years early. He might be out of options when he’s right on the cusp of a breakthrough, when a AAA season would do him wonders..
I can’t understand this. In a history of curious moves by Brian Sabean, this is the topper. You have a 40-year-old shortstop and no shortstops of note in the upper minors. How do you enter spring without any sort of backup plan? The current arrangement isn’t good for Bocock, and it isn’t good for the organization. It is also COMPLETELY INSANE. Maybe Vizquel will come back and stay healthy for five months and this wont be an issue for much longer. Yeah, that’s a good plan.
* Just because that feature wasn’t explicitly detailed doesn’t mean that Tony Stark couldn’t find a way to invent it.