Top 50 Prospects: #25 - Pablo Sandoval

As the Top 50 Prospects rolls into the upper half of the list, we reach the 19 year old switch hitting third baseman who helped push Salem-Keizer to the top of the Northwest League hitting list.

Date of Birth: 08/11/1986 Position: 3B Height: 5'11" Weight: 180 Bats: S Throws: R
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002
2005 Stats
Salem-Keizer - Short A .330 .383 .425 .808 294 46 97 15 2 3 50 21 33 2 3

As good as the pitching was in Salem-Keizer, it was the offense that was league leading, coming with the highest batting average and 2nd most runs scored. In fact, the Volcanoes had the 4 players with the highest batting average in the league, and the 3rd place guy was 18 year old Pablo Sandoval.

Sandoval, a switch-hitter, spent 2005 at a new position, third base. He had been a catcher in the Arizona league previously and done fairly well there, but most observers agree that he was better at third. The Giants are shallow at both positions, so Sandoval doesn’t have much competition ahead of him at the hot corner.

One thing that was never in dispute is Sandoval’s hitting. He’s a good pure hitter with excellent mechanics from both sides of the plate, and improved even further on his hitting from his American debut in the Arizona league last year, where he hit .266.

Sandoval does still have quite a bit to learn about the game, though he has plenty of time to learn since he just turned 19 in August. Though Sandoval has good strike zone recognition, he’s a free swinger and would be better served to draw more walks. He improved on that significantly during the season, as he didn’t draw a single walk the first couple of weeks of the season, but finished with a .053 Isolated OBP. He also has a lot to work on defensively at third, though that’s not a surprise considering that it was his first year. The most important things for him to work on will be his range and reactions, though continued work on his footwork will help.

Perhaps the biggest worry about him is keeping him in shape. At 5’11, 210 pounds, he’s bigger than many third basemen. There’s also concerns about his stamina, which was one of the factors to him being moved from catcher. Although Sandoval continued to hit throughout the year, his power subsided over the course of the season, collecting only 5 extra base hits (all doubles) over his final 5 weeks and 125 at bats. Considering that he was playing only short season ball and hadn’t been suffering through the rigors of a season since April, that drop-off is only so much more notable.

However, the Giants haven’t had a good young hitter under 20 for a while in their system, so having a kid like Sandoval showing signs of becoming a good hitter so young is exciting for the Giants system. If he can develop his strength and stamina as he gets older, he could quickly become the best corner infielder prospect the Giants have had since their current third baseman, Pedro Feliz, was pounding home run records in Fresno.

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