Can Pablo Sandoval Do It Again?
Sandoval is the roly-poly 22-year-old ambidextrous catcher/first baseman/third baseman who managed to hit a cool .345 in the season's final six weeks after he was called up last year.
And he managed to do it while swinging at everything. He swung at 64.6 percent of the pitches he saw, the highest rate of anyone in the majors with at least 100 plate appearances. He swung at 53.8 percent of pitches that were outside the strike zone, also tops in the majors.
Now he's going to be the Giants' everyday third baseman, and you wonder: Can he still be successful that way?
Around the Giants, the word is that Sandoval is the rare player ("One in a thousand," according to hitting coach Carney Lansford) who can get away with swinging so much because he has the eye-hand coordination to get his bat on the ball and the strength to drive it even if it misses the barrel.
Sandoval's teammates call him "Zorro" because of the precision with which he wields his bat. On Monday, they were in collective awe as he swung at a pitch in the dirt ... and got a hit.
The Giants, though, are biased. Obviously they want to believe that he can still be a great hitter, because they're going to be just as offensively impotent as last year's team if he can't.
To find out what's real, FanHouse asked a scout who watched Sandoval last year and this spring.
"I think that he'll be good enough to make contact," the scout said. "I don't think he'll be as fortunate to get as many hits as he got last year on a lot of pitches he did. In an age of video and so many things to break down guys' strengths and weaknesses, it'll be interesting to see how the rest of the league now approaches him. Do I think he'll become a good hitter in the future? Yes. But there will be an adjustment period this year.
"By people knowing he's very aggressive and he'll swing at almost anything, they are going to pitch him even more off the plate. Some balls you are going to put in play, but you are going to put in play right at somebody."
The scout added that he thinks Sandoval can eventually hit for power, but not until he learns to be disciplined (well, more disciplined) and stop swinging at anything white. Home runs generally come on pitches that hang over the plate, and no one is going to be hanging anything over the plate to Sandoval if they don't need to sniff the strike zone to get him to swing.