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How Pablo Sandoval Was Seen as a Prospect

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It was pointed out yesterday that Mike Napoli and Pablo Sandoval should have been included in the list of top position players in 2011 by WAR.

They didn't show up on the Fangraphs list I was using because I hadn't set the "plate appearance" screen to zero. Anyway, Napoli had a WAR of 5.6 last year and Sandoval at 5.5, so let's take a look at how they rated as prospects. I did Napoli in a separate post earlier this afternoon. Here's Sandoval.

Pablo Sandoval: The Venezuelan Sandoval made his North American debut for the San Francisco Giants in the Arizona Rookie League in 2004, hitting .266/.287/.373 in 46 games, with poor plate discipline, although he was just 17. He wasn't on my radar at that point. That changed after he hit .330/.383/.425 for Salem-Keizer in 2005. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2006 book, noting his ability to hit for average. I pointed out the lack of walks, but also noted the low strikeout rate, a good marker.

Sandoval struggled in 2006, hitting .265/.309/.322 in 117 games for Augusta in the Sally League. The extreme lack of power and some negative scouting reports I had on him knocked him back to a Grade C, and I ended up cutting him from the book to save space. He rebounded with a .287/.312/.476 mark for San Jose in 2007, which got him back in the book.

There were significant questions about his defense at the time. . .was he a catcher? A first baseman? A third baseman? I rated him a Grade C but in retrospect that decision was wrong and I think he deserved at least a C+ and probably a B- given his hitting at San Jose, even with the defensive issues.

Sandoval had a breakout in 2008, hitting .350/.394/.578 between San Jose (68 games) and Double-A Connecticut (44 games), then making his major league debut and hitting .345/.357/.490 for the Giants. He exceeded rookie qualifications with 145 at-bats, so he wasn't in the '09 book. He would have at least been a Grade B+ at that point.

Looking over this, in retrospect Sandoval's Grade C rating entering 2008 was too low, even with the information available at the time. I didn't give enough credence to his age, as well as some statistical markers of a plausible breakout. Even with positional concerns, he should have at least been a C+.