Pablo Sandoval Catching Again: So Crazy It Just Might Work? Or Just Crazy?

The ascent of Pablo Sandoval in 2008 was one of the most surprising player development stories of the past few years. The chronology of that season:

  • Sandoval, a 21-year-old catcher coming off a .287/.312/.476 season in high-A, did not make Baseball America's list of the Giants' top 30 prospects before the season;
  • He demolished A-ball, and was promoted to AA;
  • He demolished AA, skipped AAA, and went straight to the majors;
  • He demolished the majors.

It was completely random and unexpected for Giants fans, who hadn't watched the team develop a homegrown position player of note in decades. A homegrown Giants hitter hadn't made the All-Star team since Matt Williams in the early '90s. Their greatest development success in the '90s was Bill Mueller; before Sandoval's arrival, it was Fred Lewis in the '00s.

And they still haven't had that All-Star, by the way. So if you're filling out an All-Star ballot, and you're checking off Brian McCann's name because he's "good," "deserving," and "in one piece," please reconsider.

When Sandoval came to the majors, though, he was a catcher. The Giants had a catcher, Bengie Molina, who was someone the Giants were really, really attached to. After all, he did play a small part in the Giants winning the World Series*. So Sandoval wasn't going to catch at the major-league level.

The obvious answer was to put him at first, but the Giants also wanted to see what they had in Travis Ishikawa. The real gaping hole was at third base, where guys like Jose Castillo, Rich Aurilia, and Scott McClain were getting at-bats.

So in a move that was either profoundly progressive or unbelievably crazy, the Giants put Pablo Sandoval at third. His professional experience at the position was 70 games when he was 18 in short-season A-ball. Sandoval was a fluffy, rotund sort of fellow. He didn't seem like the type who was nimble enough to prance around the hot corner.

But it worked. If you want to believe the metrics at FanGraphs, the experiment really worked. The Giants had turned a positional logjam into a player-development success story.

The Giants are in a different spot now. The entire infield from Opening Day is on the disabled list. Well, except for Miguel Tejada. That guy's like a Twinkie -- he'll outlast us all. But with so many injuries, they need offense. And according to Bruce Bochy ...

"I think he'd be fine behind the plate, too," Bochy said. "And don't think we haven't discussed that."

It's a crazy thought. But so was moving him to third. The only way to settle this is by tallying up the risks and rewards:


ARGUMENT AGAINST ARGUMENT FOR
Wear and tear could affect hitting  By putting Sandoval at catcher, that ensures that Miguel Tejada can stay in the lineup
Increased injury risk You know, Miguel Tejada?
Good chance he can't field the position after a three-year layoff
The offensive difference between Eli Whiteside and Miguel Tejada is so great that it's worth the defensive/health gambles

And there are the reasons why the move shouldn't happen. There's no reason for it. It's not like the Giants have a Mike Moustakas or Brett Lawrie waiting for a spot. This move would put a former catcher behind the plate for the first time since 2009 (three games) to keep Miguel Tejada in the lineup? That's not a reward worth the risk.

So can Pablo make the move? Maybe. After the way he converted to third on the fly, I wouldn't bet against him. Should Pablo make the move? Fantasy owners are frantically nodding their heads, but really, there's no reason to take the risk, especially considering that the Giants are in this mess because an inexperienced catcher got his feet caught under him in a collision.

There are reasons to think out side of the box, but sometimes the box makes it really convenient to carry things from one place to another. The box gets a bad rap. Let's respect the box this time.

* By playing for the other team

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