- Full name Pablo Emilio Sandoval
- Born 08/11/1986 in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela
- Profile Ht.: 5'10" / Wt.: 268 / Bats: S / Throws: R
- School Academia Centro De Estudio Carabobo
- Debut 08/14/2008
Organization Prospect Rankings
Ranked No. 27 on this list a year ago, Sandoval moved up 12 spots despite giving up playing a premium position. That's how much the Giants like his switch-hitting bat. Moving to third base helped bring out his bat even more, but to be an everyday third baseman he'll have to hit more homers. His current approach is to use the entire field, and he'll have to learn to pull the ball to bring more of his batting-practice power into games. His swing is consistent and fluid from both sides of the plate, keeping his bat in the hitting zone longer than the average hitter's. While he's a low-ball hitter, a trait more commonly associated with lefthanded hitters, he showed more pop from the right side. His plate coverage and handeye coordination should cut down on his strikeouts, though he also doesn't walk much. Defensively, he got off to a solid start at third base, and he has the tools to stick there. His hands and arm are solid-average for the hot corner, though his range is somewhat limited. He's athletic despite a pudgy 5-foot-11 frame that never will look good in a uniform. If he stays in shape and grows into third base with experience, Sandoval could develop into an average defender with a line-drive bat capable of hitting .300.
Signed in a rare Giants venture into Venezuela, Sandoval is a catch-and-throw specialist who shows the ability to receive and block well. He impressed Arizona League managers last summer with how well he handled the oldest pitching staff in the league. San Francisco believes he can play an important role in the future if he can keep his pudgy body in check. He's believed to weigh as much as 40 pounds more than his listed weight of 180, which hinders his bat speed and offensive potential. Sandoval has athletic ability and hand-eye coordination, but his size isn't translating to power, and he has to become more patient as well. A switch-hitter, he also can throw with either arm. His (right) arm isn't overly strong, but it's accurate and he threw out 30 percent of basestealers last year. If Sandoval comes to spring training in shape, he could share the catching duties in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
No player in the Cal League this year raised his profile more than Sandoval. He dominated in a return to the league, then was selected for the Futures Game before earning a promotion to Double-A and eventually San Francisco. Sandoval is equally adept from either side of the plate, and he can pull the ball to hit for power or take pitches the other way. He shows a willingness to take what pitchers give him, and though he swings hard he shows good plate discipline. He looks considerably less comfortable on defense. Though he has arm strength and threw out 46 percent of basestealers with San Jose, his hands and lack of agility work against him at catcher. San Francisco also played him at both infield corners, but his squat body and limited athleticism don't profile well there either.
The Giants have liked Sandoval's swing for years, but until 2008, he never had gotten past Class A. After tearing up the California League for three months, he arrived in the EL in late June and left for the majors in mid-August. With a strong, compact frame and a powerful, short stroke from both sides of the plate, he produced at all three stops. "He can really, really hit," an AL scout said. "I saw him again at the Futures Game, and he fit right in with the better hitters there." He has a strong arm, but the scouts contacted for this list who had seen Sandoval catch didn't believe he could play there regularly in the major leagues. Two managers said Sandoval had problems just physically squatting behind the plate, while two AL scouts both used the same cliché: "He can't catch a cold." Interestingly, Sandoval is an ambidextrous thrower with nearly as much arm strength throwing lefthanded as he has righthanded. He would profile better defensively at first base if he moved there and focused on throwing with his left hand. He has seen time at both corner infield positions.
Sandoval spent his first two seasons as a catcher before moving to third base in 2005, with positive results. His soft hands and strong arm allow him to make plays, though he'll need to improve his routes and range to become an above-average defender. Losing 15-20 pounds would help, though he's surprisingly athletic and runs well for his 5-foot-11, 210-pound build. As a hitter, the results were even more glowing. Though Sandoval is a free swinger, he doesn't miss much because of his quick hands, excellent two-strike approach and a swing and front-side drive that keep his bat in the hitting zone for a long time. Sandoval ranked second in the league in hits and RBIs, placing third in batting. He'll need to learn to take borderline pitches in hitter's counts, and understanding his hot and cold zones should allow him to turn more of his doubles into home runs. "He has life in his body, power from both sides of the plate, a good idea about the strike zone and makes adjustments quick," Vancouver manager Juan Navarrete said. "We threw him some offspeed, but you can't get him out on the same stuff two or three at-bats in a row."
Though he didn't turn 18 until August, Sandoval worked well with the league's oldest pitching staff. He showcased solid receiving skills, blocked balls well and had an accurate if not overly strong arm. Sandoval can throw with both hands, and Hunter, his manager, says he actually may have more arm strength as a lefty. Sandoval plays the game with youthful enthusiasm and should become a fan favorite as he moves up the Giants chain. But at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds, he'll have to watch his weight every step of the way, though he runs well for his size. A switch-hitter, he swings the bat better from the left side. He makes solid contact but needs to become more selective at the plate.