Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Case for Hector Sanchez

The good news is that Buster Posey is healthy. Yesterday, we all saw a preview of how Posey will not be caught up in dangerous plays at the plate. Today, he went 2 for 3 with a double with a pair of RBIs. But we all know that he won't be playing, at the very most, more than 120 games behind the plate. One hundred games, give or take a few, might be more realistic, given that nobody quite knows how his ankle will react to a relatively full-time schedule.

This scenario opens up around 60 games for the backup(s). If Hector Sanchez is to open the season in Fresno, I think (for whatever that is worth) that Chris Stewart is a better choice than Eli Whiteside. However, like anybody else who's been paying attention to the fake games, I now doubt the premise that Sanchez should start the season in AAA. 

That doubt began when it became more than likely that Freddy Sanchez will start the season on the DL. Now, it's not exactly clear why decisions about Freddy have anything to do with Hector, but during the off-season the management promised that the offense couldn't get any worse than 2011, since Posey and F. Sanchez would be back in 2012. With Freddy's return in doubt, the Giants might not be able to afford to field a backup catcher who, like Whiteside or Stewart, hits in the low .200s. Sixty games could mean 180-200 at bats, which would be a lot of outs with not much power in return (not to mention the whole battle of first base taking at bats from an important prospect).

Which is why Hector Sanchez is starting to seem like a good alternative for backup catcher. He's not going to post video game numbers (his .452 AVG and .935 SLG) during the regular season, but I'd like to think that he won't slump into the low 200s. Last season, he hovered around .260 AVG and .320-.330 OBP in AAA and the majors. 

What seems to be keeping him away from the 25 man roster is that magical thing called experience behind the plate. I don't believe in magical intangibles. It's more likely that the Giants aren't ready to part with their current catching depth. Cut both Stewart and Whiteside and something goes wrong, those two are probably playing somewhere else by then. 

Which is why an injured Freddy might have something to do with Hector: with an extra spot on the roster--there's even enough room that the Giants are shopping either Mike Fontenot or Ryan Theriot--maybe the Giants will start the season with three catchers. Even Bruce Bochy's warming to the idea:
“You’d have to say he’s in the mix, particularly with how he’s playing,” Bochy said. “Of course, you come up with the idea of, `Is he better off playing every day or playing a couple times a week and coming off the bench?’ These are the things we’ll discuss this week.” [...]
“He’s a nice player. He had a nice winter ball,” Bochy said. “He’s got the ability from both sides, a good eye, uses the whole field. He really doesn’t have a hole, and he’s a smart hitter. He knows what he wants to do up there. He’s got a great gift there.”
When Bochy started describing Gregor Blanco in these kind of terms, it became clear that he's making the team. Is Hector Sanchez next? And will he have the opportunity to make his case to stay before Freddy returns? 

No comments: