As one of the heftier players in baseball, 245-pound Pablo Sandoval is definitely a player to keep an eye on at all times. His aggressive approach at the plate and nickname - "Kung Fu Panda" - have already made the 1B/3B a fan favorite. Sandoval had a handful too many at-bats in 2008 for the San Francisco Giants or he would have run away with NL Rookie of the Year honors last season. Sandoval hit .330, slugged .556 and had an OPS of .943 in 2009 to finish 7th in the NL MVP vote in his first full season in the majors.
Sandoval kept San Franciscans happy by raking .361 at AT&T Park, a notorious pitcher's park, in 2009.
PANDA'S NATURAL HABITAT
Pablo Sandoval in 2009 season
That's a pretty significant difference in Sandoval's home/road splits in BA and OPS, but the number that really stood out to me was the difference in HR. That's right, a whopping one more homer in San Francisco than on the road for Sandoval. When we consider the home park that he plays in, things get really interesting. Since notoriously pitcher-friendly AT&T Park opened in 2000, the only Giant with a 25-HR season besides Sandoval to hit more of his HR at home than on the road was Barry Bonds, who happened to do it 5 times..
Most hits within first 2 pitches seen, 2009 season
Another reason for you to keep a close watch out for the Panda is that he has something in common with Jay-Z. Sure, it might seem like an odd pairing, considering that when Big Pimpin’ came out in 2000, Sandoval hadn't even signed with the Giants as an undrafted free agent yet. But in that song, Jay-Z says that he “got no patience and I hate waitin’” – a sentiment that Sandoval would definitely share. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, 92 of Sandoval’s 189 hits last season came within the 1st two pitches that he saw of an at-bat. Those 92 hits were the 4th most of their kind in baseball.
Of the 41 players to qualify for the batting title with an OBP of at least .375 last season, only Ichiro Suzuki and Magglio Ordonez had fewer free passes than the 23-year old Sandoval. If he shows a little more patience this season, he could improve on his already stellar numbers from 2009 and reach his first All-Star game in 2010. Now that's a player who's One2Watch4.