10.24.2005

Marcus Sanders' rising star

There is an article in SI's fantasy baseball section on rising stars to watch for in next year's draft and Marcus Sanders (Augusta-A ball) was one of the players selected. He was chosen for 2B by the author, Mike Bornhorst, which is the position Baseball America currently foresees for Sanders, assuming he recovers from his shoulder injury - he played SS this year to see if he had the arm for it but he didn't have it and there is no guarantee that his arm strength will necessarily allow him to play 2B, his eventual position might be CF.

It doesn't really say much of anything about Sanders other than "Wow, 57 stolen bases and .407 OBP!" plus mention his inclusion in the Futures Game. But it is a sign that Sanders' talents have been noticed beyond the Low A-ball observers and he has some "It" factor going for him now, based on his superlative offensive skillls that he has exhibited so far (his injury has hampered any assessment of his defensive skills, from what I've seen). The author thinks that Sanders will start 2006 in Class AA.

That would make some sense as the San Jose prospects are expected to "graduate" together and move up to AA together to maintain their chemistry/camraderie and reach the majors together in the 2008-2009 timeframe, mainly the top prospects, EME, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Bowker, Timpner, Wald, Buscher, Jennings, the bullpen, etc. And Frandsen, the 2B of that group, had already moved up to AAA already and played well there, so 2B is probably open for Sanders to step into that spot. The Giants have been relatively conservative in advancing position players in the minors - before Frandsen's jumps this season, the last I can remember is Will Clark and Robbie Thompson's jump to the majors from A and AA ball, respectively, and Matt Williams jump from A to AAA, 1987. Then again, the Giants really hasn't had a good position prospect since Matt Williams. Whereas they have not been shy about moving pitchers up fast, Foppert, Munter, Cain, Correia, Seung Song, Brian Wilson, and that's just over the past few years and I'm probably still missing some from this list.

The Key to Baseball: Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

As I've written before, I like the Giants focus on pitching in drafts and prospect development. As much as I love home-run hitting players, I've learned that it is pitching that really determines how deep you go in the playoffs, particularly your top of the line guys. In addition, pitchers are the most tradeable commondity among players and they can fill a number of different positions (place in starting rotation, place in bullpen) whereas postion players cannot play more than two excellently, if even one. That makes it much easier to trade with other teams.

For example, compare if the Giants were to trade Cain vs. the Phillies trying to trade Ryan Howard. Arugably, Howard could be the more desirable commodity with his hitting for both power and average - what team couldn't use that? However, how many teams are looking for a young Firstbaseman? Many have an incumbent Firstbaseman who is under contract for a number of years (including the Phillies). Many AL clubs already have DH's signed to multi-year contracts. That reduces the number of teams who could use a player like Howard.

But who couldn't use a pitcher like Cain? Teams could slot him anywhere from 3 to 5 in the pitching rotation plus probably could use him anywhere in the bullpen, if they felt like wasting his talents there. There is an old saying: "Teams are always looking for pitching." That works to the advantage of a team that focuses on pitching like the Giants have in past drafts.

This works especially well when trading pitching prospects. Again, you can slot that pitcher into a team's farm system, whereever he belongs, and not miss a beat. Get a position player, then you need to figure out where to place him as he could take the place of a player with potential, just not as developed yet, with perhaps bigger potential, who could have his confidence shot if he is kept at a lower level because of this new player. True a pitcher could be displaced as well, but there are generally a number of positions the player can fill, depending on need and, as the adage goes, you always need pitching.

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