What were you doing in 1990? I was wearing tight jeans and begging Hammer to please not hurt them. Maybe you were hanging out in a laundromat, pumping quarters into a PlayChoice 10 to get your first taste of Super Mario Bros. 3. Some of you Kyrgyzstan buffs were debating the relative merits of Askar Akayev. And a Giants-drafted position player made the All-Star team for the Giants, a feat that hasn't been repeated since.
So nuts to you, pal, for pooh-poohing our excitement about Pablo Sandoval. The last time a player as young as Sandoval got 150 or more plate appearances in a Giants uniform? Matt Williams, the aforementioned All-Star. The last time a player as young as Sandoval was in the Opening Day lineup? Uh, Royce Clayton, but before that it was Will Freaking Clark. Sandoval came up last year as a 21-year-old, and hit .345/.357/.490. He is a big, puffy crouton in our wilted salad of a lineup. Do not disparage the man. Do not disparage his defensive abilities, either; I have no problem with Bochy starting him at short to prove a point.
The top three projection systems -- PECOTA, ZiPS, and CHONE -- all seem to think that Sandoval will hit no better than a glorified Bengie Molina this year. Bah. Flimshaw. What kind of rubbish is this? Does anyone actually think that's all Sandoval will do?
Uh, kind of. As excited as I am about Sandoval, I'm not entirely convinced he'll hit .345 over a full season if he's only walking in 3% of his plate appearances. Call it a hunch. It's hard not to be amazed at Sandoval's combination of hard contact and wild swings, but his ceiling is somewhat limited as long as he's undisciplined. His value will be almost completely tied into his batting average, which is always subject to wild slumps, peaks, and valleys. The good news is that once Sandoval started hitting the snot out of the ball last year, pitchers started to give him less to hit, and Sandoval took more walks. His walk rate for San Jose doubled from 2007 to 2008. That isn't to suggest that he's Eddie Stanky now, but hopefully it hints at a player who isn't going to swing at everything.
Last year at this time, Sandoval wasn't on Baseball America's top-30 prospect list. While that seems ridiculous now, it's worth noting that the controversy didn't exactly tear this site apart at the seams. It's pretty amazing that Sandoval climbed so far, so fast, at such a young age, and never stopped raking. But let's hold off on anointing him the savior of a moribund offense. There will be time enough for that next season.
Pablo Sandoval AB: 520
Dammit. I said to hold off on that kind of prediction. LET'S NOT GET TOO EXCITED ABOUT PABLO SANDOVAL.
Defense at third: Acceptable, but it's not where he'll start in 2010.
Well, I don't really like that one either. He'll either blow that prediction out of the water, come close to it, or fall well short. You read it here first. Your Pablostications, if you would.