The San Francisco Giants rank as one of the most explosive run-producing teams at the start of the 2014 MLB season, but have yet to find a suitable replacement for starting second baseman Marco Scutaro, who remains on the DL with a lower back problem.
Non-roster invitee Brandon Hicks was monstrously impressive in Spring Training, registering a whopping 1.152 OPS with 16 hits, including three home runs and 11 RBIs in 46 official at-bats, ultimately earning a roster spot.
The Giants’ second basemen have struggled mightily to fill in for one of the most efficient contact hitters in baseball in early action. The defensively-capable tandem of Ehire Adrianza and Joaquin Arias has been alarmingly unproductive at the plate through the first nine games of the season. The Giants’ second basemen rank as one of the least efficient offensive units in baseball, compiling a pitiful .375 OPS, which ranks on level with the team’s pitching staff.
While manager Bruce Bochy remains committed to handing a relatively even number of at-bats to his bench players, Hicks deserves a legitimate chance to prove himself at second base. The Giants currently rank as the third-highest scoring team in the big leagues with 50 runs scored, averaging 5.5 runs per game. That level of success won’t be sustainable if the Giants don’t yield sufficient production from second base, especially if Scutaro remains on the shelf for the foreseeable future.
Hicks isn’t a fool-proof solution at second base, but he’s the Giants’ best option offensively at that position. The 28-year-old journeyman has recorded three extra-base hits — two doubles and a home run — in 14 at-bats so far this season. Bochy needs to proactively insert Hicks into the everyday lineup to increase the Giants’ run-scoring potential. It’s especially paramount for San Francisco to continue putting big run totals up on the scoreboard, considering the relative inconsistency of their starting rotation, which has been very shaky outside of Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner in early action.
The Giants aren’t clear-cut contenders for a World Series title in 2014, but they have the talent needed to make a push to win the NL West and ideally make a deep playoff push. San Francisco won’t be able to accomplish that feat without sufficient production at second base. It’s unknown if and when Scutaro will recover from his severe nagging injury.
Although he’s extremely susceptible to striking out, Hicks has the ability to drive the ball, a crucial skill that the Giants need at the bottom of their batting order to lengthen the lineup. Over time, Hicks will likely become the Giants’ everyday second baseman, specifically because Adrianza and Arias are not legitimate offensive threats.