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Pablo Sandoval and Inflation

A little less than a year ago, I attempted to grade the Giants’ organizational depth. Other than the standard, unfair dismissal of Randy Winn, it doesn’t look too ridiculous in retrospect. With the draft and minor league happenings of 2008, though, it’s worth an update. Well, maybe "worth" is a relative term. How about, "it’s not completely ridiculous to revisit the subject when the season is winding down and I’m out of ideas"? Good. Glad we can agree on something.

Catcher

Majors: B+ (Molina, Sandoval)

High minors: C- (Witter, Holm, Notgardo)

Low minors: A- (Posey, Posey, Posey)

Molina and Sandoval are a pretty good combo, and though Sandoval is still a bit of a catching project, he’s better than I thought he was going to be. The high minors have the standard backup fare, but Witter could end up being one o’ them .220/.340/.420 backup catchers, which would be a pretty sweet thing to have.

If there were anyone halfway interesting other than Posey above rookie ball, the low minors would get a solid "A." It's worth noting, though, that the Hector Sanchez bandwagon gives out complimentary bags of honey-roasted peanuts.

First Base

Majors: B (Ishikawa, Sandoval)

High minors: C (Bowker, McClain, Harper)

Low minors: B (Villalona, Neal)

Sandoval makes a huge difference at three positions, though this is probably the most important one for next season. Between him and Ishikawa, the Giants will enter 2009 with reasonable options for first – something that was unthinkable during last year’s ranking. Bowker’s more of an outfielder, but he’ll still be one of the first options for the Giants if there are injuries or poor production at first next year. I’m giving him benefit of the doubt because I still love his swing, so the high minors is saved from a failing grade. Actually, considering that there were two .900-OPS hitters other than Ishikawa, that "C" might be too conservative, age be damned.

The low minors are almost exclusively Villalona territory, but Thomas Neal is also an interesting guy to follow.

Second Base

Majors: C? (Velez, Frandsen)

High minors: C? (Denker, maybe Velez, Rosario)

Low minors: B (Noonan)

There’s really no way to separate the majors from the high minors here, so I’ll just give a big, nebulous "C" to Kevin Frandsen, Eugenio Velez, and Travis Denker. One of them will be worth the grade in the majors, but I’m just not sure which one. Velez has looked better in the second half of the season, and I’m still a believer that Frandsen can be a Mark (Grudzielanek/Loretta/DeRosa) type of second baseman.

Olmo Rosario is older, and he supposedly has a cleat for a glove, but a middle infielder who can slug above .450 in Connecticut is a middle infielder worth watching. Nick Noonan is the only player of note in the low minors, depending on your affinity for Matt Downs, but Noonan’s a pretty good prospect.

Shortstop

Majors: C- (Burriss, Ochoa)

High minors: F (Bocock?)

Low minors: B- (Crawford, Adrianza)

Maybe the "C-" is a little harsh, but I’m just not sure about Emmanuel Burriss in the short-term. In the long-term, I can see him evolving into this kind of hitter. Like Vizquel, though, I don’t think it will happen until his mid-20s.

The high minors are a wasteland, but the low minors have a couple of interesting players in Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adrianza. I don’t know much about Brooks Lindsley, but he held his own at Salem-Keizer as a 21-year-old, so he shouldn’t be left out of the discussion.

Third base

Majors: C- (Only if Sandoval can stick, though)

High minors: D (Rohlinger, and Rohlinger alone)

Low minors: B (Gillaspie, though there’s always a chance Villalona could return)

Sandoval changes the grades for three positions, but he’ll only be able to help one or two, so I’ll knock the majors grade down quite a bit. He looked fine there, but I doubt the Giants will just leave the spot open for him in the offseason.

Rohlinger had a decent year in AA, but that’s the extent of the good news in the high minors. Gillaspie’s first major league hit showed off a beautiful swing, and he might not qualify at the low minors category for very long.

Tomorrow: Outfield and pitchers.