Nate Schierholtz, Starter?

There was a time when Nate Schierholtz was a prospect. In 2007, he hit .333/.365/.560 as a 23-year-old in AAA. Horrific walk rate, sure, but it was a high average with some good punch. With Randy Winn enjoying a fine season, though, Schierholtz didn’t get a lot of time. Dave Roberts had a miserable year, but what were the Giants supposed to do, put Winn in center, where he had only played 5600 innings in his career? Seemed like a risk, so Schierholtz was buried.

In 2008, the Giants started the Aaron Rowand Epoch, which will outlast us all. That shifted Winn to right, and because Schierholtz can’t play left or center for some reason -- 1712 innings in the majors, all in right field -- Nate didn’t get more than a September call-up. He got more at-bats in 2009 as an injury replacement, and he was presumed to be the starter heading into 2010.

Then John Bowker had three hot weeks in March. That meant Schierholtz was on the bench until Bowker had a bad week in April. Who could have seen it coming? So then Schierholtz was starter until he had a bad two weeks in May, at which point Pat Burrell came over, and the Giants won the World Series. Every organization has one of these stories every season, I’m sure.

Point is, I’ve operated as if this is a world in which Nate Schierholtz is a known quantity. Wind him up, and he’ll roll balls over to second base and throw dudes out from the outfield. This will go on for the next ten years or so. But this is also a world in which Andres Torres and Ryan Vogelong are doing things as 30-year-olds that no one expected. It’s not silly to dream about a sudden developmental leap when it comes to a Giants player, and Nate Schierholtz actually has a little bit of a minor-league pedigree. Maybe, just maybe ...

Not saying it’s going to happen -- just saying that a) it’s likelier than Torres ever was, and b) it would be super, super cool if Schierholtz turned into a productive starter. And is there a historical comparison, a guy who kind of shuffled around between AAA and the majors until breaking out in his mid-to-late 20s?

 

Dammit. Wait, don’t leave! What Rowand represented before the 60/$120B deal was a player who had:

  • plus defense
  • poor plate discipline that was partially negated by...
  • average power
  • above-average speed
  • a couple of sweet fluke seasons

It will be a while before you can call Schierholtz’s power even average, so there’s a ways to go there, but he could make up for that with a higher batting average. Where Rowand was hitting 15 homers and hitting .260 with a .320 on-base percentage, maybe Schierholtz could hit 10 homers with a .290 average and a .330 on-base percentage. Maybe Schierholtz can turn into the guy the Giants thought Rowand would be.

/weakly grounds out to second

Yeah, this is a lot of pie in the sky talk right now. Schierholtz is a good fourth outfielder right now, and it’s likely that’s all he’ll ever be. But while I’m not ready to say he should start over Pat Burrell just yet, I’m liking it more and more when he does. Ross/Torres/Schierholtz is a totally rad outfield alignment defensively. Totally rad. And it’s easier to take if Schierholtz is hitting just a little bit.

And now, your moment of zen:

 

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