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Thinking About Pablo Sandoval

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Pablo Sandoval was signed by the Giants out of Venezuela in 2002. He spent 2003 in the Dominican Summer League, then moved to the Arizona Rookie League in 2004 and hit .266/.287/.373 in 46 games. Not great offensive production. Indeed, at this point Sandoval's defense was the thing that drew good reviews. I put him in the 2005 book and gave him a Grade C, noting the strong defensive reports but wondering about the bat.

Sandoval hit .330/.383/.425 for Salem-Keizer in the Northwest League in 2005. The Giants moved him to third base, where he showed a strong arm but needed a lot of polish charging balls and such. Scouts were impressed with the bat, and I liked his low strikeout rate (33 Ks in 294 at-bats), liking the bat enough that I gave him an aggressive B- in the 2006 book.

2006 was an odd year. He hit jjust .265/.309/.322 for Augusta in the Sally League, with significant slippage in his plate discipline and no power. He played first base and third base, but without showing enough offense for either position. I left him out of the 2007 book, but would rate him a Grade C prospect, looking like he might get lost in the shuffle, though he was still just 19.

He recovered some stock value in 2007, hitting .287/.312/.476 for San Jose in the Cal League and moving back to catcher. Arm strength remained an asset, but problems with footwork and polish were present, granted moving positions didn't help him gain consistency. His walk rate was quite low, just 16 walks in 401 at-bats, but the strikeouts weren't out of bounds at 52 and the better power production was notable. I gave him a Grade C in the book this year, writing that the bat was intriguing but that I wasn't sure where he would fit defensively.

Sandoval has been terrific this year: .359/.412/.597 in the California League, .337/.364/.549 in the Eastern League, .349/.366/.500 for the Giants. Given his age, I think this improvement is mostly for real, although I don't think the .349 average will be sustainable over a full season. But I think he can hit .280-.300, with at least moderate power. Defensively, he's spent time at first base, catcher, and third base for the Giants. The sample sizes are too small at each position for the defensive numbers to mean much, so I'm still unsure where he fits best in the long run. Obviously having a catcher who can hit like that is harder to find than a first baseman.

Question for you Giants fans or anyone who has seen Sandoval a lot: would it be better if he settled on one position, or is he best-used the way they are using him now? And if he did settle on one position, which should it be?