It is with aggressive consistency that I bring a sunny disposition to all topics pertaining to Pablo Sandoval and the San Francisco Giants.
And yet, about twice a day for the last few weeks, I’ve been doing some non-baseball task, only to have this quote from Dan Szymborski pop into my mind, wholly uninvited yet entirely anticipated:
“I am still confused as to the baseball purpose of Pablo Sandoval remaining on the roster.”
That quote comes courtesy of the Fangraphs projections for the team, which paint some players with rosier outlooks than you might think. Sandoval is not one of those players.
ZiPS, Steamer, and any other projection you are fond of paint the same picture of Pablo Sandoval, 2019 MLB player: Below average as a hitter, below average as a baserunner, below average as a defensive player, below replacement level as a baseball entity.
Sentimentality aside, it’s hard to argue with that.
Had Bobby Evans remained with the organization, Sandoval making the 25-man roster would’ve been a no-doubt proposition. With Farhan Zaidi at the helm, and the sweet stench of sentimentality swept out of the office, Sandoval finds himself needing to actually make a case to play. And he hasn’t done that in . . . well . . . five years.
Then again, Sandoval has some of the elements that Zaidi overtly covets. He’s a switch-hitter who played three infield positions last year, pitched a perfect inning, and caught a bullpen. He allows you to carry two catchers when you really want to carry three. He lets you call up an extra arm for the bullpen when you send an infielder to the DL.
He’s just not, at present, particularly good versatility. And with training camp teeming with versatile skillsets - from homegrown options like Austin Slater, to surprising candidates from last year like Alen Hanson, to free agent signings like Yangervis Solarte - it’s going to be hard for Sandoval to break in.
But it’s unlikely any other team would want to scoop up his contract, so even if Sandoval swings (at a pitch in the dirt) and misses on joining the 25-man roster, he’ll likely take his talents to AAA, and join the team when someone invariably gets injured/traded/snakebit/bad/arrested.
Maybe he shouldn’t, but it would seem that Sandoval will still get some opportunities this year. Not as many as last year - when he impressed in some moments but still finished with on OPS+ of just 99 - but some.
And for a team that’s distinctly been lacking in joy - an odd juxtaposition while they run around on the warm grass playing a kid’s game - the occasional Sandoval presence probably isn’t as bad as the stats would imply. He’s the one Giant who seems to just be a Little Leaguer who actually made it.
Still, I’m going to exhibit some optimism, because that’s who I am. It’s Bruce Bochy’s final year, and it’d be incomplete without a few Panda moments that make you smile.
If I had to rank the likelihood of each player on the 40-man roster getting traded this season, Sandoval would rank dead last.
Here’s a template for your projections: