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Shortstop 2009

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Omar Vizquel is moping about, his return from knee surgery delayed indefinitely. He told the Merc he wouldn’t be as agile when he returned. Could this in fact be the end of his career, the final injury that never quite heals and prompts the proud Vizquel, who’s got a full life of music and art and general supercoolness going for him off the diamond, to walk away?

If so, what are the Giants options at shortstop? In the previous thread Cyrus asked for more Bocock the rest of the year, but be careful what you ask for. Young Brian is starting to look lost, nearly leading the league in strikeouts as pitchers go right after him.

His D is excellent, but unless he turns a corner offensively, he’ll be lucky to hit .150 / .250 / .200. (He’s currently at .174 / .296 / .196, for an OPS of .492. Worst OPS by a qualifying batter this decade? Minnesota’s Nick Punto, with .562 last year.)

Bocock will draw the occasional walk from a pitcher with control problems, and he’ll squeeze the occasional single through the infield, but he’ll be as close to an automatic out as you get in the bigs. Prove me wrong, Brian, please.

Making matters worse, there is no one to back him up. Bochy pinch-hit for him in the 9th inning yesterday, but I have no idea who would have played short if the game advanced into extra innings. Aurilia or Castillo could play an inning or two, I guess. The Giants don’t trust Velez at third base; they certainly won’t play him at short.

Then there’s 2009. Even if Vizquel returns fairly soon, he probably won’t play enough to vest his ‘09 option. The chance of him returning next year is practically nil. Should the Giants keep it in the organization? Bocock? Burriss? Ochoa? Or is it time to start thinking about free agents or trades? 

The main question to consider: can Bocock’s offense improve enough to justify playing him every day? On a team with many other offensive options, the Giants might be able to afford his weak bat. Might. When he’s in, he and the pitcher make for six or seven nearly automatic outs per game. The Giants can ill-afford automatic outs.

I cautiously say keep him in ‘09, but only upon three conditions:

1) Add a couple real bats next year (hopefully from within the organization);

2) Find a utility infielder who can back up Bocock at short and provide a decent bat, so the Giants can pinch-hit for him without too much worry;

3) Show obvious improvement this year. He doesn’t need to be a league-average SS with the bat by September, but a descent into all-time horribleness does nothing for him or the team. I recommend that he learn how to bunt any pitch, on any count, to either side of the diamond. That will at least cut down on strikeouts, move runners over, draw in the corner infielders and help a few of his liners and ground balls sneak through.

What say you? Bocock, Burriss, Ochoa? Are there any free agents you’re keen to sign this coming winter? Should the Giants trade for talent at SS when they so many other holes to fill? Discuss.


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