MLB — 23 April 2012

In 2011, Pablo Sandoval got a tiny taste of what’s in store for his future in the major leagues. The “Panda” was selected to his first all-star team and he finished the year hitting .315 with 23 homeruns despite missing more than a month of action.

This success came after a 2010 year where he was practically benched during the San Francisco Giants magical postseason run, due to late season struggles. The Giants went on to win the World Series, but as soon as the chaos dampened, Giant’s general manager, Brian Sabean, demanded one thing out of his budding third basemen- to lose weight. If Sandoval didn’t arrive at camp looking slimmer he would be at risk of losing his starting job at third base and the minor leagues was even a possible destination. Fortunately this was never a concern.

It was no surprise to see Sandoval arrive at camp looking skinnier than ever. Pablo spent several hours in the torching Arizona heat, running up steep mountains while performing several other treacherous workouts that would prepare him for a breakout 2011 season. And a breakout season it was for Sandoval, a season that ultimately put him on the map.

Sandoval isn’t just some bulky hitter who occasionally peppers McCovey Cove with splash hits; he is a 4-tool player. He can hit for power while maintaining a .300 batting average, and has a great glove at the hot corner. Let’s not forget that he has a cannon of a right arm. It comes as no shock that many fans thought Sandoval should have won the gold glove award for National League third basemen, but Daniel Descalso of the St.Louis Cardinals took home the hardware instead. Oh, and did I mention that Sandoval can put on the catcher’s gear if the Giants really needed him to?

Yes, Sandoval does have some flaws. Since day one he has been labeled as a free swinger. It doesn’t matter where the pitch might be; he’s going to take a hack at the ball. It’s just the way he goes about his business and to his credit this approach has worked out for him so far. Unfortunately pitchers will eventually catch on and Sandoval will have to adjust for his success to continue. He’s shown flashes of patience at the dish in the early stages of 2012, but he will have to show us that he can keep this up for the entire season for his free swinger label to be taken off.

The MVP award isn’t out of the question for the Panda. With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder out of the National League, only Matt Kemp stands in his way. Kemp is off to a historically great start, while Sandoval has recorded a hit in each of his first 14 games. These two could possibly be battling for this award for years to come, and the Giants third basemen has the talent to take home this coveted award in the near future.

“It’s 95-98 percent mental”, Sandoval says. Sandoval has the right mentality. It’s just a matter of people finding out who he is.

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Jake Dal Porto

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