SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pablo Sandoval is huge on YouTube.
If you enter his name and "campeon derby jonrrones" into the search field, you'll find jaw-dropping highlights of his moon shots to defeat Miguel Cabrera in the home run derby during the Venezuelan winter league. To see another of Sandoval's exploits, search for his name and "collision." You'll find video of Sandoval getting steamrollered in a dramatic play at the plate last season for Class A San Jose.
"Yeah, I watched it, but don't tell him," Giants teammate Kevin Frandsen said. "He's always trying to get people to watch it. He'll reenact the whole thing if you let him."
Sandoval hopes to reenact those loud swings and deep drives often over a 162-game season. (He doesn't have to worry about reliving that vicious collision, though. The former catcher is penciled in as the Giants' everyday third baseman — a scenario that became even more likely Friday with reports that free agent Joe Crede was close to signing with the Minnesota Twins.)
For the Giants to make a run, they'll need Sandoval to keep collecting hits — on the Internet and otherwise. It's a lot of pressure to put on a round-faced 22-year-old who began last season as a mildly regarded prospect in Class A.
"Any other player, yeah. But Sandoval, I don't think so," catcher Bengie Molina said. "He'll just be himself out there. He'll have fun. This guy changed our season when he came up to the bigleagues last year in August. He'll make us a way better team, I just know it."
But a run-producing force? It would be a rare feat if Sandoval can pull it off. Albert Pujols might be the only player in recent years to go from Class A anonymity to major league anchor in just one year.
Giants General Manager Brian Sabean said it wouldn't be fair to pin the club's fortunes on Sandoval. But he acknowledged the switch-hitting sensation will be relied upon to boost a lineup that lacked consistent threats last season.
"The solace is that everywhere he's gone, he's been a big part of the team's offense and knocked in runs, including the big leagues for a short period," Sabean said. "The pressure's now on to do it from Day One and contribute. But he seems unfazed. He's a unique kid, which helps."
Sabean acknowledged that last year at this time, the front office internally classified Sandoval as "a middle-of-the-pack player." Now he's a middle-of-the-order player. Manager Bruce Bochy plans for Sandoval to bat cleanup when Molina needs a day off. On most days, Sandoval will hit fifth.
"Yeah, it's a big spot, but I don't see any pressure with Pablo," Bochy said. "He can handle it. He's confident, he plays with love and passion for the game every day, and then there's his talent. He hits the ball everywhere."
Sandoval's ability to barrel up any pitch and cover an area as wide as a bedsheet has earned him comparisons to Angels slugger Vladimir Guerrero. Molina, who played with Guerrero in Anaheim, sees a similarity in their mentalities, too.
"We'd be facing Al Leiter and Vladdy would be running around the clubhouse before the game," Molina said. "He'd say, 'That little lefty, he's got nothing. I'm gonna get this guy. He's in my book.' Then I looked up the numbers and he was terrible against Leiter; he had a .120-something average. But it didn't matter. That was Vladdy."
Molina likened that to the way Sandoval bounced around the dugout before facing San Diego Padres aces Jake Peavy and Chris Young on consecutive days. Then he stepped in the box and wore out both pitchers. "That's the confidence we need as a team," Molina said.
Sandoval said: "I'll just go have fun. If the pitcher's got good stuff, hey, I've got some stuff, too."
The proof is right there on Sandoval's laptop, for anyone who wants to see.
I love this kid. Kung-Fu Panda to the rescue?