The implications of this article from SFGiants.com were probably harmless, but I can't get them out of my head ...
In Sanchez's absence, Emmanuel Burriss has made a strong push for consideration. He's played more innings than any other Giant at second, while also getting in games at short, third, and in left.
Emmanuel Burriss was hilariously rushed to the majors after 62 at-bats above A-ball. Brandon Belt needs to have his legal team file briefs with the district court if he wants to get to the majors, but middle infielders usually don't need to bother with that "triple-A" stuff, I suppose. But that's not the point. The point is that after Burriss was rushed to the majors in 2008, he posted a .357 on-base percentage. That was the third-best mark on the team that year. He was 23. There was a chance that he'd have a future.
Since then, he's been oft-injured, and he's put up a .227/.278/.247 line in over 300 major-league at-bats. It would be hyperbole to suggest that those numbers are close to what Matt Cain has put up over his career, but they're as close to Cain as they are to Edgar Renteria's last season with the Giants. That's not especially promising. Or unnauseating. If you don't think that's a word, well, it is now: .227/.278/.247. Seven doubles in over 300 at-bats.
But we're here again. Burriss is raking in the spring, and he's out of options. By chance, the Giants will probably have an opening at second, with Freddy Sanchez possibly starting the season on the disabled list. When he goes on the disabled list, everyone else on the DL will shout his name, like Norm from Cheers. There's a pretty good chance that Burriss will start the season on the roster.
Burriss has hit this spring, putting up a fine line of .441/.486/.647. But, again, it's spring. Jason Ellison had a great spring once. Lance Niekro dominated the Cactus League on a couple of different occasions. Even against major-league competition, it's possible to have fluky runs of great success or great shame. Against players who aren't even on a 40-man roster, it's even more possible for sample-size shenanigans to show up.
You know that. The Giants know that. I'd hope. But there's still a chance that Burriss's hot spring counts for something to someone, and that someone has some sort of input over who makes the roster and who starts. Here's a reminder of what Burriss can do well, based on his minor-league numbers and such:
- Make contact
- Work the count
- Run the bases
- Field second base
Sounds like a nice player, especially when you consider that he can fill in at shortstop on occasion. But here's the important bullet point left out up there: He has no power. That isn't to say that he has the kind of power you'd expect from a utility infielder, but that he has as little power as almost any hitter in professional baseball. In 2,178 professional plate appearances, he has five home runs. Four of those were in the minors.
You might think that's a silly quibble for a utility infielder, but there's a difference between zero power and little power. And it's a big difference. Players without any power get pitched to. Their ability to draw walks doesn't help them as much in the majors as it does in the minors.
Burriss had a .386 on-base percentage in AAA last year. If he could do that in the majors, he'd be a multi-millionaire. But as he faces better pitching, he's forced to swing the bat more. And if the ball never reaches the warning track, he'll be forced to swing the bat some more. It's a vicious cycle. So either Burriss develops power -- and we're talking Mike Fontenot power here, not Ryan Howard power -- or he won't be able to rely on his discipline to help his offensive value. And without OBP, Burriss will never be a good option to start in the majors.
And that's what we're talking about, here: starting. Because the last time Sanchez played more than 120 games was 2008, when he was 30. He's 34 now, and he's coming off a shoulder injury that's left him unable to play defense almost a year later. There will be a lot of starts to pick up at second base this year. And if Brandon Crawford has an unlucky, .150-hitting start to the season, there might be some pressure to rest him at short.
It's not like Ryan Theriot and Fontenot are good enough to make a grand proclamation that Burriss will never be better than either of them. Baseball players develop in funny ways. But knowing what we know now, it sure looks like Burriss is the third-best utility infielder on the Giants' 40-man roster, and that it's not that close. And I hope, hope, hope that no one is thinking he's the best option to start in case of a likely injury. No one can really puts that much into spring at-bats, right? Right?