How Should We Value Pablo Sandoval?

Heading into 2010 Pablo Sandoval was a consensus top seven third baseman.  That may not mean much, but given the lack of depth at the position, he was the swing point between getting a good option and getting a big risk.

While some of the risks have paid off (i.e. Adrian Beltre), Sandoval’s 2010 has been nothing short of disastrous.  Looking at his line thus far can make you cringe if you are an owner who selected him:

417 At Bats
.264 Batting Average (110 Hits)
6 Home Runs
44 RBI
45 Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.322 On Base Percentage
.379 Slugging Percentage
.293 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Entering the year questions about his power would have been justified, but questions about his average would’ve bordered on the absurd.

Granted, his .330 last season was buoyed by a .350 BABIP, but Sandoval had always proven capable with the bat.  Should there have been a warning signal?  Yes, including his minor league career BABIP of .334.

Still, even if you saw a potential regression, you likely would’ve viewed him as a .300-.310 hitter.  He has never struck out much, even this season with a strikeout rate of 14.4%, which helps him generate a good average.  The fact is, no one would’ve expected this type of drop-off.

Yes, he was a career .303 minor league hitter, but he also spent significant time behind the plate (as shown in the picture above).  Getting out from there was supposed to help keep him fresh and in shape…

That easily could be the crux of the problem here.  There were concerns even prior to the season about his weight.  The San Francisco Chronicle posted an article on March 15 by Scott Ostler entitled “To be great, Pablo Sandoval should drop weight”.

In the article, Ostler said:

“But Sandoval is rolling the dice if he expects to keep playing his high-octane, high-energy brand of baseball into his late 20s and well beyond while at 260 pounds and rising, as weight tends to do with age.

Sandoval’s standard should be way higher than Vaughn, Galarraga and Cecil Fielder. They were excellent players, but mostly one-dimensional bombers who fielded adequately at first base. None are in the Hall of Fame, as both Sandoval and Prince Fielder someday could be.

If Sandoval at the end of his career is classed with Vaughn, Galarraga and Cecil Fielder, his potential will have been wasted.”

To be talking about Sandoval as a potential Hall of Famer is a bit crazy, especially at that point in his career, but the basis of his comments do have some merit.  Sandoval’s weight is a huge issue and could be one of the factors in his struggles at the plat this season.

The long ball is a different story.  Sandoval does not have exceptional power.  He hit just 35 HR in 1,758 AB in the minor leagues.  While he had 20 in 2008 between Single and Double-A (and another three in the Major Leagues), his 25 last season stuck out like a sore thumb, especially coming against significantly tougher competition then he had previously faced.

Maybe he will be able to become a steady 25 HR hitter, but it was a lot to ask of him to not only maintain that mark, but expand on it.  His history just didn’t support it, despite a realistic 14.0% HR/FB rate.  That’s not to say that we would have expected this big of a falloff, but a drop in power should not be a huge surprise.

Remember, you also have to factor in that he can’t run well, which will limit his ability to score runs.  Nothing is going to change that, if he loses weight or not.

Can he rebound and get back to what many thought he would be?  Absolutely, but his struggles have certainly brought expectations back to reality.  Sandoval never should have been viewed as much more then a .310 hitter with 25 HR and 85 RBI.

That’s probably potential, give or take, so don’t expect him to be anything more then that.  He’s a solid player, especially at a shallow position, but he’s not among the elite.

What are your thoughts on Sandoval?  Am I being overly negative on him?  Do you still believe he can develop into an elite 3B?

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6 comments

  1. carlito says:

    cut him… thats how to handle him

  2. M J says:

    If you look at his splits this season, he started out in April where he finished off in 2009. So I have no idea what happened to him when May came around. Is he still elite, no. But the fact he isn’t k’ing like crazy makes me think he’ll have an easier time getting back to elite status then most people think.

  3. Rotoprofessor says:

    M J, I agree with you on the average, but not as much on the power. It’s easy for me to see him hitting .310, but with closer to 15 HR. Tough to call that elite.

  4. EW says:

    He’s about as good as Alberto Callaspo. There will be ups and there will be downs.

    Pitchers have been pitching him high this seasons exposing the hole in his swing. He’s also been either lazy or too excited at the plate. Stats only tell you so much, you have to watch him hit to know that several of his hits last year were bloops and ducksnorts and this year, they’ve been outs.

    As for power, I would imagine that he’s able to hit 25 dingers. The problem is he doesn’t square up enough and doesn’t get good wood because he goes out of the strike zone so much. He shouldn’t have any problems with doubles though and he is a pretty good doubles machine.

    Also, he isn’t as slow as everyone makes him out to be. He has deceptive speed for a big man… for at least 90ft.

  5. Will Overton says:

    Nice post Frank. That really is interesting and makes you wonder what really is going on. I think an offseason will do him a lot of good.

    I’m looking for the Panda to bounce back next year. I just don’t think what we’ve seen this year will be the norm.

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