Yes, I know I had a blog entitled “what’s on second” just last year. But seriously, I thought this title still made sense.
Marco Scutaro has yet to take a pitch this Spring Training. While it’s maybe not time to panic (just yet), it might be getting close to freak-out time.
In 2013, Scutaro played in 127 games, missing several games due to back issues and a mallet finger. Last year, I attributed much of his struggles to the short offseason (hello, 2012 World Series!) and the World Baseball Classic last February and March. Coming into this Spring, I thought that he might be healthy and ready to play every day.
And yet, here we are. Still struggling with back issues. With a full and restful offseason, the fact that the 38-year-old is still having problems physically worries me now and will continue to worry me throughout the season. Especially considering he’s in only the second year of a three-year contract. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Scutaro will play around 100 games this season. Maybe 110. That still leaves 52-62 games where the Giants will need a second baseman.
So, who will that second baseman be?
Last Spring, I was so excited by Nick Noonan. He was my pick to make the 2013 Opening Day roster as the back-up infielder. His range at third, second, and short really impressed me in Scottsdale last year, and I really look forward to seeing him in a few days.
Though he’s struggling so far this Spring, batting just .091 with no HRs and no RBIs in just four games for the Giants, I still think that Noonan is a contender. He hit just .219 last season in San Francisco, but again, Noonan was versatile, committing just one error while playing second, third, and short. He also hit .255 in Fresno while playing more consistently. I’m not saying that Nick Noonan is the future of second base for the Giants, but I’m not ready to rule him out. He brings a lot of range and impressive defense to the San Francisco infield.
But perhaps the player that I’m most excited to see this weekend is Ehire Adrianza (and that is saying something because I’m looking forward to seeing so many players). So far this Spring, the 24-year-old is hitting .250 in four games. He’s already got one homerun and four RBIs. Last season, he did get 18 at-bats in San Francisco, and he managed to hit .222 with a HR and three RBIs.
He spent most of his time last season in AA Richmond, but did play in 45 games in AAA Fresno. During that span of two teams, he hit .266 with 35 RBIs and 17 stolen bases. Most impressive, however, has been his defense. He’s been a fantastic shortstop, owning a career .959 fielding percentage in the minors. He was slated to start at second for the Giants in Saturdays game that was eventually rained out. So while we haven’t gotten to see him play second yet this Spring, it seems that the time for that is coming.
As Giants beat writer Chris Haft has reported, Adrianza has only started in one game at second base in his entire minor league career. But with Brandon Crawford a solid shortstop in San Francisco, Adrianza needs to adapt to second base if he hopes to make this big-league club. Manager Bruce Bochy seems to be on the same page, wanting to see what Adrianza can do at the other middle-infield position.
During Giants media day at the end of January, both Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean openly stated that they were excited to see what Adrianza does this Spring. With Bochy inserting Adrianza into the line-up at second this past weekend, we see that the skipper hasn’t lost his enthusiasm towards the young infielder.
This isn’t to bash Scutaro or say that he isn’t a decent or hard-working infielder. He was an integral part of that 2012 World Series run (heck, his ‘Scutaro-ing” in the rain is one of my favorite sports moments ever). But he’s older, and defensively, much slower. His 13 errors on the season in 2013 were third-most on the Giants.
If Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval have the kinds of years that we hope (and expect) them to have, the middle infielders don’t need to hit .300. I’d settle for .250-.260 and amazing defense. In Crawford at short, you get that. But this is where Noonan and Adrianza have the advantage over Scutaro. It’ll be interesting to see them live and in-person.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned, but I’m pretty stoked to head down to Spring Training in two days. I’ll be writing from there, so keep checking back in for (hopefully) some awesome interviews!