The San Francisco Giants got a large chunk of their offense in 2013 from their group of infielders, but at the same time, the group which included Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, and Pablo Sandoval had major issues with consistency. As the Giants look to upgrade their lineup for next season, the infield seems to be the area that is most likely to be overhauled.
It’s very possible that the Giants will find a new first baseman in 2014, with Belt moving to left field. The left field position was severely lacking this season, and with a shortage of good outfielders on the market, it makes more sense to shift Belt into that position and find a more offensively able player at first.
At second base, Scutaro will seems to be guaranteed at least a share of the starting position next year, considering that he made the All-Star team, led the club with a .297 batting average and is scheduled to make $6.67 million next season. But since Scutaro tailed off as the season went on and struggled with finger and back injuries throughout the year, it might be wise for the Giants to find some insurance at the position. Joaquin Arias and Tony Abreu both experienced success in limited time at the position in 2013, but it probably would make more sense for the team to find a player with more substantial starting experience.
Though Crawford slumped near the end of 2013, he probably is the most reliable guy among the Giants’ infielders, considering that despite him being held back by injuries, he played in 149 games this year. He’s an elite defender, and when he has it going he’s a very solid hitter as well. There’s no need for the Giants to bring in someone else to supplant Crawford, although prospect Ehire Adrianza, who debuted in September, could potentially make the club as Crawford’s backup or occasional platoon partner.
Sandoval is probably the biggest question mark for the 2014 Giants. He was affected by injuries for much of 2013, and continued to struggle with his weight. He was solid, finishing with a .278 average and 14 homers, but he didn’t display the dominance at the plate that he had shown in previous years. The common belief is that with a contract year looming, Sandoval will fully dedicate himself to getting in shape and be in line for a great year in 2014, but ultimately it’s anyone’s guess how he’ll do next year.
Our initial projection of the Giants’ 2014 infield corps includes Scutaro, Crawford, Sandoval, Abreu, and Arias, with two new additions: Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu and current Los Angeles Dodger Skip Schumaker. This list doesn’t include Belt, who will be moved to left field if Abreu is signed.
Rumors have been flying around that the Giants are one of the frontrunners to sign Abreu, who recently defected from Cuba and has been training in the Dominican Republic. The 6-foot-2, 258-pound right-handed hitter has put up great numbers through his entire career, especially when he hit 33 homers in just 66 games in 2010-2011. At just 26 years old, he has the potential to make a Yasiel Puig-like impact for whatever team he signs with.
Schumaker is a free agent after this year, and though he may be scared to cross the dreaded Giants-Dodgers line, he would have a better opportunity in San Francisco, and that transition has become more common in recent years with Juan Uribe and Brian Wilson‘s decisions to go to LA. As a left-handed hitter, Schumaker would have the ability to platoon with Scutaro in San Francisco, and he could also back up Belt and center fielder Angel Pagan. This would be superior to his role with the Dodgers, where he’ll have to rely on another injury to Matt Kemp to garner significant playing time.
Tony Abreu and Arias would provide additional insurance as utility infielders, while Belt and Buster Posey would probably be in line for some starts at first base. Among the players being left off this list, Adrianza is probably the most significant. The former top prospect has some serious defensive potential, but ultimately he is not a good enough hitter to earn a spot. He’s out of options, so it will be interesting to see if he clears through waivers and stays in the Giants’ organization.