Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Third Base Options for the Giants

The rumor de jour is Aubrey Huff may be needing a new glove, as the Giants are looking to find a way to fix what has deteriorated quickly into an awful left side of the infield. As crazy as this sounds, it probably isn't that bad of an idea.

With Pablo Sandoval still three weeks or more away from coming back, the options of Mark DeRosa and Miguel Tejada are not getting it done. The latest talk is that Aubrey Huff can slide over to the other side of the diamond and plug the hole there. The other rumblings is that Conor Gillaspie, who is currently with AAA Fresno, may get the call to join the big league team.

The Huff-to-third move was a little interesting to me the first time I heard it, but then I looked a little deeper and thought that it might work out. My first thought is about how his defensive play would hold up at third (in case you were wondering, he throws right handed so this isn't that crazy) and I think you could expect it to be somewhere in between his defense in the outfield and first base.

He hasn't played there since 2008, but he has shown that he can handle the position at a slightly below average level in his time spent there. In 2,901 innings, he has a UZR/150 of -5.3, which is much better than his number in right field, where he has -17 UZR/150 in 2,238 innings and just slightly worse than his career at first base, where he has a -2.2 UZR/150 in 3,654 innings.

If he isn't going to be completely embarrassing, why the delay in moving him there?

I would imagine that it's due to the lack of good options for first base in his absence. The Giants only have one backup infielder in Mike Fontenot, so that would mean putting DeRosa at first or trying to get one of the outfielders up to speed at first base in a hurry. This is where I get skeptical that this is a serious option, unless the move is coupled with Brandon Belt making his return.

Belt has shown that he can hit AAA pitching and has nothing left to prove in Fresno. He is hitting .387/.529/.600 right now and you have to believe that the level of pitching is not going to help in his development any further.

To me, the Huff-to-third move only makes sense if it also brings up Brandon Belt. Now, lets look at the other option, Conor Gillaspie. I don't extensively follow the minors, but luckily, contributor Kevin O'Brian, who runs Optioned to Fresno, does.

Here is what he has to say about him:
This year, Gillaspie earned a promotion to Fresno and he is producing good numbers going into today's game. He is continuing to improve his power (he has a .422 slugging and a .780 OPS), and his defensive abilities are still developing (career high 2.74 RF/G this year in the PCL). Also, his OBP and BB/K ratio have gotten back to his San Jose levels (.358 OBP; 0.78 BB/K ratio), so it seems like he's finally getting everything all together offensively now at Triple-A. The scouting reports have also been good on Gillaspie, as reports say he's been hitting a lot of line drives with the Grizzlies, which is a good sign.
The problem with Gillaspie may just be the fact that he plays at a position where more power is expected. Third basemen are expected to be major run producers and right now, Gillaspie hasn't necessarily showcased the power in the minors that makes scouts or analysts think he'd be worthy of being an everyday Major League third baseman. I would counter with the fact that his plate approach, good contact ability and ability to get on base make him a viable option to any MLB club, and he could be an everyday third baseman (or at worst, a utility infielder) on the right team. We have seen players like Daric Barton and Bill Mueller become very solid Big League contributors despite lacking power at positions where power is traditionally expected (i.e., third base and first base).
His MLE right now breaks out to be .250/.317/.357, which is better than anything Tejada or DeRosa have put up this year, so it really couldn't hurt to bring him up. However, this does mean losing Darren Ford and his pinch running, but he was overhyped anyway.

UPDATE: Andrew Baggerly is reporting that Gillaspie is out with an ankle injury and is not coming up.

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