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SF Giants: Deadline looms for decisions on Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval

SF Giants' Hunter Pence swings at a pitch. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SF Giants' Hunter Pence swings at a pitch. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The SF Giants have decisions to make on Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval as the roster drops from 30 to 28 players

The 30-man roster has afforded the San Francisco Giants some flexibility in roster construction, but as roster shrinks to 28 players, they made have to make a call on both Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval.

The 2020 season has not gotten off on the right foot for either Pence and Sandoval and given the shortened season, the Giants’ patience may be thin.

Both veterans were brought back to help the Giants bolster their lineup by taking advantage of the matchups.

Sandoval saw time with the Giants at first base and third base (and pitcher) in 2019. In 296 plate appearances, the switch-hitter boasted a stout .268/.313/.507 line with 14 home runs and 41 RBI.

On top of this, the 33-year posted a .796 OPS with 11 home runs and 32 RBI against right-handed pitching.

On the other hand, Pence spent last season as the Texas Rangers designated hitter while earning an American League All-Star nod as he produced a .297/.358/.552 line (125 OPS+) with 18 home runs and 59 RBI across 316 plate appearances.

Against left-handed hurlers, the right-handed bat generated a .327/.378/.636 line with 8 home runs and 22 RBI across 119 plate appearances.

When the Giants decided to bring back both veterans, it was easy to see the strategy involved. Sandoval would be deployed against right-handed pitching to giving Evan Longoria a day off, whereas Pence would face off against southpaws to help manage Alex Dickerson’s workload.

This strategy was to put both players in the best possible situation to succeed, and it certainly made sense on paper.

However, the 2020 season has been a different story entirely for the long-time Giants veterans.

Hunter Pence has struggled in return to SF Giants

Pence has one only one hit in 28 plate appearances. In a season of 60 games, judgments on player performances may be made rashly due to the nature of a shortened season.

That said, the 37-year-old has a 38.9 percent hard-hit rate, so it is not as if he is swinging a wet noodle at the plate. He has made hard contact, but right into the defense.

The concerning underlying number is that Pence’s swing has resulted in a groundout in 50 percent of his batted ball events thus far. It is a tiny sample, but one to monitor.

Pablo Sandoval off to slow start in return to SF Giants

Similar to Pence, Sandoval is off to a slow start. The switch-hitter has just five hits in 30 at-bats and none of these hits have gone for extra bases.

The situation with Sandoval becomes increasingly concerning given the fact that he has not appeared at third base this season. The Giants infield defense has been atrocious, and the front office does not seem interested in giving the long-time third baseman a shot to show what he still has at the hot corner.

If Sandoval’s usage continues, he will only see playing time at designated hitter or first base. Though, now that Brandon Belt has returned from the injured list, Sandoval may not see much time at first base at all since his strength is hitting from the left side, which is the same as Belt.

SF Giants have to make roster decision Thursday

On Thursday, San Francisco will need to trim its major league roster by two players. They have the roster flexibility to option a player like Steven Duggar and Andrew Suarez.

Given how Pence and Sandoval have struggled, there is a very real possibility that they do not finish the season with the Giants. I do not believe either player’s roster spot is in jeopardy at the moment, but if their struggles continue for much longer, it may be a difficult conversation that the Giants will need to broach.

Normally, veterans like Pence and Sandoval usually have six weeks of spring training to ramp up baseball activities. However, this year, they only had about two weeks in Spring Training 2.0. So, it is not surprising that either one is slow out of the gates.

Both players were brought back to give the Giants a platoon advantage. So far, the Giants have not realized that advantaged from either player. If this trend continues, they may quickly and unexpectedly find themselves on the roster bubble.

Update: Roster moves announced:

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