How To Replace Belt
I’m getting really tired of these broken fingers and hands.
The Giants have the best record in the National League. But 2013 was starting off alright, until a key injury. 2011 looked good at first until a key injury. And Brandon Belt just got majorly hurt.
It’s too early to start debating how long he’ll be out, but he’ll be out. Everyone else is talking about the options to replace Belt, but let’s go a little deeper. There are so many ways the Giants could play this that it’s worth a moment to look at all the options.
Start with this: if Travis Ishikawa were healthy, this would be a short discussion. Ishikawa would get the first shot, though he wasn’t playing well to start with down in Fresno. If he didn’t hit well, then we’d have this discussion closer to Memorial Day.
Also, there’s not a lot of roster issues. Obviously, players on the 40-man roster are easy to bring up, but the Giants could move Marco Scutaro to the 60-Day DL to make room for a player that’s not on it.
Okay, so let’s dig in:
The Morse-To-First options: Tyler Colvin or Gary Brown.
Putting Michael Morse at first base makes a lot of sense. Morse has quite a bit of experience at first base. He’s not going to be a defensive whiz there, but he’s not one in left field either. Morse at first would also probably help him stay in games longer, because you’re less likely to have defensive replacements there.
But then, who plays left field?
Gary Brown (AAA stats): .273/.333/.392, 2 HR,14 BB, 27 SO, 5 steals in 9 attempts.
Brown is finally starting to find his hitting stroke at AAA. He hit .231 last season in Fresno, but now has a respectable .273 average. Brown still needs to maximize his tools in terms of taking walks and being a more efficient base stealer. Brown would benefit from batting everyday, but it’s not like Gregor Blanco (batting .105) or Juan Perez (batting .059) are putting up an argument to start. Brown couldn’t do much worse.
Defensively, Brown over Morse would be about as good as it gets. The only possible downside is that Brown hasn’t played much left field. He has played 9 games in left field over four seasons, but a player of his defensive caliber could do well.
Chances: Decent. The Giants may eventually need to see what they have in Brown. They probably aren’t ready yet, but this would be a creative move. But could it set Brown back in his slow development?
Tyler Colvin (AAA stats): .269/.318/.412, 2 HR, 9 BB, 24 SO, 1 steal in 1 attempt.
Colvin was one of the offseason reclamation projects, and while his two home runs in 33 at-bats during Spring Training were eye-catching, Colvin hasn’t found a way to make consistent contact yet. His numbers in Fresno are about what one would normally expect, though his walks are down. The former first round pick has been a borderline major leaguer for a while, and that’s pretty much where he is now. Could the Giants really stand seeing two of these guys (alongside Brandon Hicks) at the back of the order?
At least defensively, Colvin would be solid. He’d be better than Morse out in left field, but he would be lesser than Blanco, Perez or Brown. He might also be brought up to be the bench player while giving good soldiers like Blanco or Perez chances to start.
Chances: Decent. Really, this move makes more sense by getting Morse out of left field, and being perhaps the best choice to play first base. Colvin won’t be a difference maker, but he’d fill the spot.
Adam Duvall (AAA stats): .258/.324/.523, 10 HR, 12 BB, 29 SO, 2 steals in 2 attempts.
Duvall is one of the more intriguing prospects in the system. He’s never made great contact, but clearly has good power. He had 30 home runs in San Jose a couple of years ago, and is on a similar pace this season. Duvall is a high power sort of prospect, with a low average. He’s kind of like Morse or Adam Dunn that way.
Defensively, though, he’s not a strong player. He’s struggled at third base, working hard to improve there. He’s played more first base this season, netting 15 games there out of 37. His stats in the small sample size aren’t terrible, but he’s likely to be a huge drop off from Belt defensively.
There’s a lot of upside to Duvall, but a lot of downside, too. Duvall could be a big strikeout guy as well.
Chances: Good. Duvall would be the most straightforward promotion the Giants could make, and the chances go up because he was one of the names mentioned early on by Giants management.
The Catcher Shuffle Andrew Susac or Guillermo Quiroz
There’s a lot of moving parts to this one. This comes off of the initial setup of either Buster Posey or Hector Sanchez moving to first.
Out of anyone defensively, Posey would be the most ideal player at first base, and he’s going to play regularly somewhere. But moving him away from catcher would cause a defensive hole at catcher. Sanchez, meanwhile, is a catcher. He’s never played first base in the majors, and has only played 46 games there in the minors (and only 1 since 2008). Sanchez did get a game at first base in spring training, and Bochy said he looked comfortable there. We’ll see.
However that works out, then there comes the replacement at catcher. So…
Andrew Susac (AAA Stats): .310/.412/.483, 2 HR, 8 BB, 12 SO
Susac is the best hitter in Fresno right now. He missed a couple of weeks with a concussion, but has come right back and started hitting right away as he came back. He’s batting well above his career average, and is showing excellent plate discipline as well. Susac has decent power, but would likely hit at a decent clip in the majors.
He’s a bit of a defensive work in progress, although he’s improved significantly. Susac has a very good arm, and is catching 63% of would-be base stealers. Both Posey and Sanchez are catching about 28% of baserunners.
The thing about Susac is that he’s a serious prospect. If he’s going to come up, he should play every day. That would mean Sanchez would remain a backup, and while he’s hit only .240 this season, Sanchez has certainly earned some respect with clutching hitting and RBI. Bringing up Susac to play everyday might be a little rough on Sanchez.
Guillermo Quiroz (AAA Stats): .277/.324/.323, 0 HR, 4 BB, 16 SO
Well, Quiroz is a former major league Giant. He hit .186 in 43 games last season. Meanwhile, he’s hitting decently in Fresno. He’s not showing the power he has in the past at those levels. Defensively, he’s okay. He won’t excite anyone, but he won’t be starting every day. You know what you’re getting with Quiroz. He’s a backup.
Chances of Susac: Small. Susac needs to play everyday, and he probably won’t get that chance in the majors.
Chances of Quiroz: Strong. Quiroz would be a backup, but it would let the Giants put their best current hitters in the lineup.
The Ultimate Gamble
Angel Villalona (AA Stats): .257/.325/.413, 3 HR, 9 BB, 33 SO
Villalona would be the ultimate gamble. Pretty soon, the Giants will need to know what they have with him. He made it to AA in the middle of last season, batting a disappointing .235 in 52 games, with just 8 home runs. He’s back there, and showing improvement. The 23-year old has prodigious power, but a lot of other questions.
Other than already being on the 40-man roster, the other convenient part of taking a chance on Villalona is that he is a first baseman, so he could fit right into the hole left on the team. Villalona’s been solid defensively since he’s concentrated on the position since 2008 (minus murder times).
Of any player on this list, Villalona is the most pressing for the Giants to figure out. The Giants could essentially lose him for nothing next season. There will be no better chance for the Giants to give Villalona a shot to prove himself.
Chances: Tiny…but it’d be gutsy to try.