Yes, there is still a handful of games to be played before the 2008 regular season officially comes to an end, but the San Francisco Giants have used this year to access some of their younger talent, which has allowed them to begin to shape their 2009 squad before we enter the winter. Pablo Sandoval and Travis Ishikawa are two guys who have proved over the last 6 weeks that they will need regular playing time next season, the only question is how to work them into the lineup. I wouldn't look for the Giants to trade Bengie Molina this off-season, so a full on platoon of Sandoval and Ishikawa could be what's in store in 2009. First base has been a revolving door for the team since J.T. Snow left and the two rookies could finally solidify that spot. With the Giants' track record, or lack there of, it's tough to get too excited over their young talent, but these guys look the part. So far, in 215 at-bats between them, Ishikawa and Sandoval are hitting a combined .320 with 6 home runs and 36 RBI. Again, not the biggest sample, but they have been doing it against some of the best pitching in baseball during the pennant race, so you have to take that into consideration as well. At this point I would feel completely confident with that platoon starting off in 2009.
With a crowded outfield, a few solid catchers and a few options at first, the only spots that are yet to be determined heading into the winter are second base, third base, and shortstop. Emmanuel Burriss looked to have been gaining the Giants trust as an everyday shortstop, but he hurt himself a couple weeks back, and that may have thrown a wrench into the plans of handing him that job. He should still be very much in the mix to start their next year, but it isn't as much of a sure thing now than it was when he was healthy and playing well. Second and third base are much more of a mystery. Kevin Frandsen, Travis Denker, Eugenio Velez, and Ryan Rohlinger should all be in the mix for the two spots if nobody is added from outside the organization, but I would have a hard time handing any one of these guys a full time job until they earned it and so far none of them have looked like MLB caliber starters. Frandsen didn't play this year so it remains to be seen what kind of player he'll return as after destroying his ankle in the spring. The other guys just haven't been that good and don't have very high ceilings.
With the holes in the infield, I can't help but think that Brian Sabean will dip into the free agent market, even as thin as it is. If that's the case, one guy to steer clear from is Rafael Furcal. Sabean seems to like to make a splash if he can and he may think Furcal would make sense for this team but I could see something like that ending up like the Edgardo Alfonzo fiasco. Please, no more players in their thirties with injury history, Sabes. The same can be said for third base. I would hate to see them throw big money into Joe Crede or Hank Blalock. Yes, they are all-star players when healthy, but they aren't healthy enough to warrant that. The Giants appear to have options at second and short, but third base is still their one gaping hole and we will have to wait until the winter to find out who fills it.
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