Inbox: Who's next in youth movement?
Giants fans ask about future stars, current hopefuls
I am very excited about the young players coming up in the farm system. Homegrown talent seems to have eluded us, apart from Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Which of the top prospects (Madison Bumgarner, Angel Villalona, Buster Posey and Tim Alderson) do you think will make the biggest impact this season? And which of these talented youngsters will make the most impact in 2010 and beyond, barring any injuries, of course?
-- Peter C., Sonoma, Calif.
Ideally, none of the top prospects will have an impact upon the Giants this season. Management would prefer to see them steep in the Minor Leagues for another year or two, at least -- and probably longer in Villalona's case, since he's only 18. But I can envision Bumgarner receiving some late-season starts if he continues to progress rapidly. As for 2010 and beyond, it's hard to argue with the influence that a productive everyday player can have, so Posey's my choice, especially since as a catcher he'd play a key role even if he's not hitting. As for homegrown talent eluding the Giants, don't forget about Brian Wilson, and give Fred Lewis, Kevin Frandsen, Emmanuel Burriss, Nate Schierholtz, Pablo Sandoval, John Bowker and Travis Ishikawa more of a chance before writing them off.Now that Mannywood is sleeping with the enemy -- thank God for small favors by the way -- are we still going to go after a legitimate power hitter early in the season or wait until the Trade Deadline?
-- Sgt. Luis M., Dublin, Calif.
The Giants probably will make their move, if they feel they need to, between June and the July 31 Trade Deadline. This is what managing general partner Bill Neukom and general manager Brian Sabean have repeated, and I believe that they'll stick to this plan unless they find good reason to adjust.Are the Giants really going to give Sandoval a whole season at third base or first base, or will they give up on him if he gets off to a slow start?
-- Mark B., San Francisco
The Giants would be foolish to give up on a 22-year-old switch-hitter who plays three positions. But if Sandoval struggles, they might be quicker to make that aforementioned trade, if they're in contention for the division title.
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As much as I think Ishikawa has the potential to do great things, the reports I have been reading say it would be amazing if he hits 15 home runs and bats .250. What are your thoughts about approaching someone like Ivan Rodriguez to move to first base for a one-year contract? Yes, he's getting old. Yes, he doesn't have the same average he used to, but he still hits. The National League is an "easier" league, compared to the American League. He may still be able to hit .300-plus while Ishikawa begins to flourish. It's not one of my better thoughts, but I am curious to know what you think.
-- Nathan I., Chicago
I think you can come up with better ideas, as you said. In 115 games with the Tigers and Yankees last year, Rodriguez hit seven home runs, his lowest total since he broke into the Majors in 1991 and hit three in 88 games. His experience at first base is limited to seven games in 2006 with Detroit. The combination of switching leagues, changing positions and declining skills makes Rodriguez an unattractive option.I worry that Schierholtz is going to be one of those athletes continually plagued by nagging injuries. Now that Dave Roberts has departed, who will spell Lewis, Aaron Rowand or Randy Winn? Does releasing Roberts increase the likelihood of adding a big outfield bat instead of a corner slugger?
-- David S., Worthington, Ohio
Give Schierholtz a full Major League season before passing judgment on him. Don't write him off as the fourth outfielder yet. Roberts' exit has no impact on whether the Giants will pursue an offensively proven outfielder, should the need for one arise. Roberts would have occupied a reserve role had he remained with the Giants and wouldn't have blocked a key acquisition.Now that the Giants are no longer in the hunt for Manny Ramirez, which I don't think they ever were, I've noticed that an abundance of productive outfielders signed for less money with other teams than Ramirez received. One free-agent outfielder who remains available is Jim Edmonds. Do you think that the Giants should pursue him?
-- Charles R., San Francisco
No, though Edmonds deserves credit for his resurgence with the Cubs (.256, 19 homers, 49 RBIs in 85 games after hitting .178 in 26 games with San Diego). My mind on Edmonds was made up during a Giants-Padres game last year when Lincecum struck out the first two hitters. Edmonds saw that and tried to bunt the first pitch. He knew he was overmatched. That's no shame against Lincecum, but I'd prefer a more aggressive approach from one of my starting outfielders.Any idea how the Giants will honor Jeff Kent this year, besides putting him on the Wall of Fame? Retire his number maybe?
-- Jon M., Middletown, N.J.
The Wall of Fame is a good bet for Kent, but retiring his number won't happen this year. The Giants reserve that honor for Hall of Fame enshrinees. Even if Kent eventually were to reach the Hall, it's doubtful that the Giants would immortalize his No. 21, since he spent only six years with them.When the Nationals signed Adam Dunn, my son recognized a great opportunity for the Giants: acquiring Nick Johnson from the Nats for the final year of his relatively inexpensive ($5.5 million) contract. Any consideration being given to a deal? When healthy, Johnson's an OBP beast and an outstanding defender.
-- Bill and Daniel B., Washington, D.C.
Good idea, but Sabean would have to drop his insistence on not acquiring a player who's in the final year of his contract. And if Sabean relaxed that requirement, the Giants might be able to obtain an even better player than Johnson.I like Sandoval as much as the next guy, but I have a feeling that this year, he will not be the hitter people think he is. I also think Frandsen, Burris and Ishikawa will struggle. What will the Giants do if that happens?
-- Maury M., Mill Valley, Calif.
Finish last. Or disband.How come everyone seems to be conceding first base to Ishikawa? Last year, Bowker hit 10 homers in less than 350 at-bats. On this team, that practically makes him Willie McCovey! I know he slowed down in the second half, but I still say first base is Bowker's position to lose coming into this year.
-- Pete K., Woodland, Calif.
Ishikawa's defense gives him an edge. But remember, it's a long season. Wait and see what happens. Bowker's receiving some Cactus League playing time in the outfield while Schierholtz's back heals. If Bowker proves he can hit consistently, the Giants will find a place for him somewhere.Why are the Giants doing anything but paying Lincecum handsomely? We have control of him for five more seasons, but every Giants fan wants him to be in San Francisco much longer than that. Isn't treating him well now, and giving him the amount of money he deserves, a good investment to ensure that he's happy here and will stay a Giant even after he's eligible for free agency? If management lowballs him now, and he leaves later ...
-- Brendan B., Berkeley, Calif.
Don't look for demons that don't exist, Brendan. Lincecum doesn't seem the least bit unhappy with his $650,000 contract. If he continues to dominate the National League, I firmly believe that the Giants will take care of him financially. They realize what an asset he is, literally and figuratively.If we are five games out of first place and the trading deadline is approaching, who would possibly be the players that we would give up? Would we get rid of the older ones, such as Winn and Bengie Molina, or would we trade the youthful ones, like Frandsen, Burriss and Eugenio Velez?
-- Danny B., Pound Ridge, N.Y.
If the Giants are five games out of first place in late July, they won't trade anybody, unless it means obtaining a more talented player in exchange. Such a small deficit wouldn't prompt a dismantling of the roster.I know there is a competition for first base this year and a lot of people are complaining about the Giants' lack of power, but could you please explain to me what massive deficiency Scott McClain must have? How can you set records for Minor League home runs and never get a sniff at the bigs? I've seen him in Fresno and he seems to have a pretty complete game. I've even seen the big guy steal bases from time to time.
-- Jason I., Fresno, Calif.
Consider these factors: (1) I'm assuming that many organizations have labeled McClain as a "4-A" player -- too good for Triple-A, but not quite good enough for the Majors. Note how I attributed that sentiment to faceless others. When I called McClain a 4-A player a year or two ago, a friend of his sent me an angry e-mail. I don't fear the fans' wrath, but I don't need to incur it unnecessarily. (2) McClain has been stuck behind big-name first basemen almost everywhere he has gone: Rafael Palmeiro in Baltimore, John Olerud with the Mets, Fred McGriff in Tampa, Todd Helton in Colorado and Derrek Lee in Chicago. He happened to join the Giants just as they decided to emphasize youth, and he'll turn 37 this May. (3) He has averaged 106 strikeouts per year in his last nine Triple-A seasons, which might scare some talent evaluators.Are the Giants grooming Steve Decker to become a future manager for San Francisco? He has been promoted to a higher league the past couple of years.
-- Cal S., Hilo, Hawaii
Decker certainly seems to be the Bumgarner of the Giants' Minor League staff. As you mentioned, he has soared from rookie-level Salem-Keizer in 2007 to high Class A San Jose last year and now on to Double-A Connecticut for this season. I'd guess that he'll join San Francisco's coaching staff within two or three years, which would put him in position to become a managerial candidate.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.