May 3, 2012
The Situation: Another year, another hamate injury to Pablo Sandoval. With the Panda sidelined indefinitely (he missed six weeks last year with a similar injury), the San Francisco Giants called upon the 24-year-old Gillaspie to fill in, as he was off to one of the hottest starts in the Pacific Coast League, batting .362 AVG/.417 OBP/.521 SLG at Triple-A Fresno, including a 20-for-39 mark in his last nine games.
Background: Gillaspie is already the surprising answer to a trivia question, as due to a stipulation of his signing as the 37th overall pick in the 2008 draft, he received a September call-up that year, thus becoming the first player from that class to reach the big leagues. Since then, he's taken a standard one-level-at-a-time path through the Giants' system, putting up good numbers at every level, but never showing much signs of power or a breakout with a career minor league batting line of .293/.364/.420 in 429 games.
What He Can Do: Gillaspie's most valuable skill is simply his ability to put a bat on a baseball. He has a good feel for the strike zone, outstanding hands, good bat speed, and just a knack for solid contact against both left-handed and right-handed pitching. It's an outstanding trait, but also his only positive one. He has become an average third baseman over time, but he does not have the kind of power normally associated with the position and he does not run well.
Immediate Big League Future: With injuries come opportunities, and this is a golden one for Gillaspie, who likely will be the primary third baseman until Sandoval is healthy. He should hit for average right away, but his power is solely in the doubles category and he's not going to steal any bases.
Long-Term Outlook: Gillaspie has some chance to be a second-division starter in the big leagues, but his role will be fill-in or corner bench bat as long as Sandoval is around, and healthy.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .