Taking a look back at 2010 and trying to project what will happen in 2011 is what we do at Fanball. To that end, Ted Carlson has been sending out assignments for the staff to rank our top options at each position for the 2011 season. Today, I’ll defend my rankings for the Top-10 Third Basemen for 2011 an explain my thoughts on Pablo Sandoval.
For the other reviews in this series, click on the following links.
Top-20 SPs: Latos and Jimenez?
The internet is full of rumors about the fate of Pablo Sandoval in 2011. There is the report about him eating Cheetos and Mountain Dew for breakfast. There is also this photo of him indulging in a rather large dessert. All of this brings up the point that this dude, at just 24 years old, needs a drastic change of focus before he eats himself out of the league. Listed at 246 lbs, there are many reports that he is at least 20 lbs north of that total — and remember, he stands 5’11 and is just 24 years old. We can all see where this is heading, and GM Brian Sabean wasn’t afriad to lend the words to what everyone was thinking. “Worst case, if he doesn’t pull off what he needs to do in the offseason, he could end up in the minor leagues to start the year to get his act ready,” Sabean said.
So, why in the world would I have Pablo ranked 9th amonst third basemen heading into 2011? There are many reasons.
(1) People seem to have totally forgotten that Pablo hit .330 with 25 homers, 90 RBI and a .943 OPS just a year ago (it was 2009 folks). Since 2000, there have been only 22 players in all of baseball with a season in which they matched all four of those totals. Unless you think he is the next Norm Cash, you have to be impressed by those numbers.
(2) In 346 games, that’s just about two seasons worth, he has hit 41 homers with 177 RBI, 164 runs an a .305 average. Do you know how many third basemen hit .305 with 20 homers, 85 RBI and 80 runs scored in 2010? Try two – Adrian Beltre (.321-28-102-84) and Ryan Zimmerman (.307-25-85-85). That’s it.
I’ll freely admit that Pablo was a mess in 2010, and instead of going through the numbers that prove what everyone already knows, I’ll do something I rarely do, and that is to offer a personal scouting report on the player.
Sandoval’s approach has always been in question. He may possess an uncommon ability to put the barrel on the ball, a skill akin to what Vladimir Guerrero can do, but that approach leads to all kind of trouble when the hits aren’t falling. Instead of being patient, waiting for his pitch and talking a walk if it’s appropriate, free swingers like Sandoval start to swing at “pitcher’s pitches,” those that are two, three, four inches out of the zone – because after all he can put the bat on those pitches. Pitchers aren’t stupid, and when word gets out that a batter will chase pitches, why on earth would they throw strikes? Clearly, Sandoval needs to work on his mental approach as he is in desperate need of some patience.
As concering as his free swinging approach was, I’m almost as concerned with his hitting mechanics. For virtually the entire season, Sandoval was leaking out over his front foot. What that means is that when he took his stride he was unable to keep his weight back. As a result, his weight would move forward over his front foot leaving him with zero power because at that point all he had left to hit with was his hands (think what it’s like when a guy is expecting a fastball and gets a changeup. You know, when it appears that he is really off balance and all he does is flip his bat at the ball in a desperate attempt to make contact). I’m sure the coaches mentioned this to Sandoval repeatedly, I’m certainly not the only person who noticed it, but it is a situation that simply must be rectified for him to be able to once again drive the ball into the gaps and over the fence.
Pablo is too talented to disappear unless he eats his way out of the league. I for one believe that he has gotten the message loud and clear (he’ll skip winter ball and train in San Diego this offseason). I won’t be reaching on Sandoval at the draft table, but I’d be more than happy to take him in the middle rounds if he were to fall – you just can’t teach the talents that he does possess.
By Ray Flowers