Pablo Sandoval Player Projection No. 114

Key Stats: The Panda had a lot to prove after a disastrous 2010 campaign and he started the ‘11 season like he was out to prove people wrong. Busting out of the gate with a .313 AVG and a .913 OPS for April, things derailed a bit when he broke his hand and missed the entire month of May and some June. He showed there was nothing to worry about after he healed up providing us with a .325 AVG 15 HR and a .963 OPS after the All Star break.  Sandoval put up his best power production numbers of his young career and continued to get on base at a great clip despite not walking a ton.

Skeptics Say: He’s big boned…not really. He may be, I don’t know, but he is definitely husky. We worry about players as big as he is, cause it can tough to carry that much weight over the course of a season. After a great rookie season in ’09, he gained more weight and had a horrible ’10. He worked hard in the off season, came into camp lighter back around his ’09 weight. We know he had a broken hand, but he also had some shoulder problems as the season went on too… perhaps coincidentally, we need to note he gained weight as the season went on.

Most larger players we see are pitchers or first basemen, but Sandoval plays third. Despite his build, he is quick. As Wendy Thum wrote for fangraphs, he may be the best fielding 3B in baseball. While we don’t care about his defense for purpose of the fake game, this goes to show what kind of a talent he is and how athletic he truly is. He is skipping out the Venezuelan winterball this year to focus on his training regime in Arizona. If he can come in lighter yet again, and this time keep the weight off, Sandoval may be in for his best season yet.

Peer Comparison: 3B has some big names floating around in it, Alex Rodriguez, Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, people still have soft spots for David Wright. Pablo Sandoval isn’t one of the more romantic names on the list, but he had an amazing 2011 when you put his numbers side by side with his peers. Of qualified third baseman, Sandoval was ranked:

3rd in AVG (.315)
5th in HR (23)
4th in ISO (.237)
7th in BABIP (.320)
1st in wOBA (.379)
3rd in WAR (5.5)

Sandoval was the only third baseman to rate in the top 7 in all of those categories.

Team Outlook: Sabean mused at the winter meetings that we might see Sandoval catch some games this year, and in my mind, that can’t happen soon enough. In fantasy baseball there is nothing that makes us happier than pseudo catchers. As for the rest of the team, this is still a club that will struggle some on offense and have to rely on it’s strong pitching staff to win their games.

What They’re Saying:  CBS Sportsline: #9 Third Base; Tristan Cockcraft or ESPN.com: #10 Third Base & #90 in the Top 250; RotoChamp: #38 in the Top 300

Projection: Despite the weight gain over the seaon,  Sandoval has shown a tremendous work ethic and might be coming into the spring in the best shape of his life which should go a long way to keeping him healthy for a full season. I expect the power to continue to grow, as he maintains a high average. Sandoval could finish top 5 at his position.

.320 AVG, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 70 Runs, 2 Steals, .360 OBP, .890 OPS in 600 ABs.