Oof. This is the part of the job that I don't like. See, I like Matt Downs. I like the idea, the concept, of Matt Downs. He has a little pop. He makes contact. He plays six positions, and he can run a little bit. It isn't going to take much to make him a back-of-the-bench guy on a good team.
Maybe he'll be a starter one day. Maybe that day is right now. Maybe his Fresno numbers weren't indicative of his true performance level, and maybe he'll settle in at second for the next few years. Weirder things have happened to just about every team in the league. Mark DeRosa was a 26-year-old infielder hitting .291/.351/.425 in AAA in 2002, but he peaked in the majors after he turned 30. I'm not writing anyone off who has shown even a modicum of hitting ability at any level.But when the Giants say they're going to give Matt Downs the bulk of the at-bats at second, does anyone have any confidence that they're looking for the right things? My hypothesis: Downs's performance in about 100 at-bats will dictate everything. Not his raw minor league numbers, not his adjusted minor league numbers, and not a detailed scouting report or a hit chart. If Downs gets eighteen solid singles, two doubles, and ten broken-bat infield hits, the decision-makers will say he's "seeing the ball well right now" and "they're going to ride the hot hand."
I'm not nuts about starting Kevin Frandsen. If anything, I'm worried that he has the ability to sustain an empty .285/.335/.350, and that will keep him employed for years to come. ZiPS says Downs's averages will be around .271/.318/.404; ZiPS says Frandsen's only good for .261/.320/.357. So don't take this as a "Frandsen deserves to start"-post. I do think Frandsen deserves more of a chance than Downs, even if only because Frandsen's been waiting for a chance for several years. But if your argument is that Downs is more likely to be a productive major league hitter than Frandsen, I'll accept that.
I have no confidence that the Giants will evaluate this well, though. Manny Burriss's hot August last year and his hot March this year meant more than the aggregate total of every other at-bat he had ever taken in his professional career. That was a little bit of a miscalculation.
Am I making too much out of Matt Downs getting a few at-bats? Probably. Almost certainly, even. But I don't know what will be more frustrating: Downs going 10-for-100, and the Giants ignoring him for the next four years, or Downs going 29-for-100, and the Giants deciding that they don't need to upgrade the infield at the trading deadline. The overarching point of this post in a one-sentence blurb: I don't think the next 100 at-bats should be the final word on Matt Downs's ability to play baseball, but I root for an organization that will read waaaaaay too much into those 100 at-bats.
Next time, I'll just cut out the thesis sentence and make it a FanShot. Your thoughts, if you would.