Will Left Field Be A Problem For the Giants In 2013?

The San Francisco Giants will enter the 2013 season as champions of baseball.  After decimating the Detroit Tigers in only four games in the World Series, the boys in orange and black are poised to dominate yet again.

Bringing back key players such as Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, the Giants have all but kept the champion team together.  Also re-signing with the club is lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who was Matt Cain-like in all ten of his stellar post-season appearances; He had an ERA of 0.00, and allowed only five hits, three walks and struck-out a whopping ten batters in 10.1 innings of clean work.

The club has also signed a variety of free agents ranging from infielders to short relief, most recently a pair of right handed pitchers in Scott Proctor and Mason Tobin.  Formerly of the Cincinnati Reds, shortstop Wilson Valdez has also inked a minor league deal with the club.  Most notably, though, is the signing of 31 year old Japanese second baseman Kensuke Tanaka, who comes over from the Nippon Ham Fighters (the same team as Rangers phenom Yu Darvish played for during his career in Japan) on a minor league deal, which includes an invite to spring training.

Additions have been made, and subtractions stomached.  But with the club left generally in tact, what’s left to improve?

Well, improvements can always be made, but the most glaring hole right now is in left field:

With only a month and a half to go in the regular season, everyday left fielder Melky Cabrera betrayed his team and its fans by testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, leaving an immense void in the outfield.  Cabrera now gone, speedy Gregor Blanco slid over to left field and assumed the everyday role, which was a sound move defensively speaking. But his bat was left as something to be seen, despite short bursts of stringing together hits from game to game.  All in all, because of his defense and the rest of the team’s offensive resilience, Blanco did just enough to fill in for the seemingly irreplaceable Melky Cabrera.

Enough, that is, to help the Giants reach their second World Championship in three years.

Re-joining the squad is World Champion and former teammate Andres Torres, a fan and clubhouse favorite.  He was traded away to the New York Mets prior to last season, along with reliever Ramon Ramirez, for Giants’ current center fielder, Angel Pagan. This was one of the best moves the team has made in the past five years.

We can all but assume that come opening day, left field will be platooned by Torres and Blanco.  Torres should get a fair shot at the position, as he signed a solid one-year, two million dollar contract with the club.

The contract is great for the guy; he’s an extremely hard worker, an intense athlete and gave male Giants fans a reason to have such a thing as a “man crush” back in 2010.  But this situation doesn’t exactly entice; a left field made up of Blanco and Torres is great for speed, but their cumulative bats will need to be at least major league average for left fielders.

For Torres to get more playing time, he will actually need to beat out Blanco and other invitees during spring training, because if trends mean anything, Blanco looks to be on the rise while Torres is on the slight decline.

But why did San Francisco choose to bring back Torres?

Depth?  Desperation?

After all, he wasn’t the only former World Champion Giant looking for a home.  Cody Ross was also a free agent before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

And surely, with his numbers, the team should have signed Ross, right?  Absolutely:

  • Though his average isn’t much better than that of Torres’, his power numbers are vastly different, as well as his ability to get on base.  It’s not league-leading, but it’s higher than major league average, and much higher than Torres’ OBP.

Not that talks were even in place, but unfortunately, Ross’s demands in terms of years was something the Giants were just not willing to commit to.  Not with the big contract money now going towards Pagan and Scutaro, anyway.  So, Ross signed a hefty three-year, $26 million dollar contract (2016 club option included) with the division rival Diamondbacks.

But hey, playing it safe might actually be worth it.  No one knows what Ross or Torres will do in 2013, and the Diamondbacks seem to be hoarding outfielders.  However, they’re a few silver linings to the situation:

  • Though Ross is three years younger than Torres, both outfielders are in their 30’s (Ross just turning 32 and Torres approaching 35 this month).
  • It seems as though Arizona is expecting Ross to potentially replace fellow outfielder Justin Upton, so that would be a downgrade should the Diamondbacks make a move with their star player.
  • They both represent speed, but Torres is a threat on the base paths, and still has an edge over Ross.
  • Both could end up being flops for their respective teams, but should Torres not deliver the goods, the price would be far less to pay than if Ross were to struggle.

Francisco Peguero will also be in the mix come spring training, so also watch out for this young powerful hitter.

And, possibly the most intriguing angle to the situation, is Gary Brown; the highly touted 23- year-old minor league outfielder, who’s spent his last two seasons accumulating 330 hits between High A San Jose and AA Richmond.  Last season his power numbers suffered slightly, but the hits kept on coming.  He would have to make the switch from center (the position he’s spent the most time at) to left, but at this point, it shouldn’t be that big of a transition.

For two years, there has been talk of bringing the young stud up to the majors to give the team that extra jolt off the bench.  And even though he’s still very young, I say give the kid a chance.

Come the July trade deadline, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Gary Brown on the roster in some capacity. If nothing else, he could be a bench player.

However, the season hasn’t started, and it could prove to be a problem, but if the only question mark the team has right now is in left field, and the club has already added more pieces to the puzzle that is the baseball diamond, you must admit the Giants are looking pretty good entering the 2013 season.

Now if only the club could convince Brian Wilson not to wander off into Mets’ land…

But that’s just my take on things.  Blanco and Torres will most likely man left field during most of the season, and personally, I would love to see Yungo have another career year with this special team.

 

Tags: Andres Torres Angel Pagan Cody Ross Gary Brown Gregor Blanco San Francisco Giants