Pill, Kieschnick and August Roster Thoughts

It’s amazing what a couple of hot hitters from AAA can do for a floundering offense. Brett Pill and Roger Kieschnick were called up from Fresno during Monday’s off-day, and both have made immediate contributions since being infused into the Giants’ struggling lineup. Pill has started the last two nights, collecting three hits in each game. Last night, his 3-5 performance included a home run and 4 RBI (a career high). Kieschnick made his debut against Kyle Kendrick last night, hitting 7th (behind Pill) and promptly dropped an RBI single into right-center in his first big league at-bat. In his next plate appearance, Kieschnick singled again, driving in another run with an opposite-field hit. He finished his first career game with a 2-5, 2 RBI, 2 K effort. Hitting back to back in the lineup, as they did in Fresno, Pill and Kieschnick carried the Giants offense in their much-needed 9-2 rout last night.

This seems like a pretty good time to take a closer look at these guys. We all know about Pill by now. Minor league veteran who crushes PCL pitching but can’t duplicate his success at the Major League level. If you’ve seen Pill hit, it’s pretty obvious that he suffers from what I like to call the Pedro Cerrano Syndrome: He can hit the best fastball a mile, but can’t make contact with most average breaking balls. Pill is an interesting case. He’s spent his entire career with the Giants, working his way up level by level after being drafted in 2006. He’s now in his 4th year at Fresno, where he’s posted solid numbers every season. Actually, Pill’s most impressive season to me was his year in AA (2009), when he hit .298 with 19 HR as a 24 year-old. He also drove in 109 RBI that year. You just don’t see many players, regardless of age, put up those kinds of numbers in Richmond. The Giants must have believed very early on with Pill that he wasn’t going to be an everyday player at the big league level, or he surely would have made his debut before September 2011 as a 26 year-old. If you don’t remember, he hit a home run in San Diego in his first game (maybe even his first at-bat? That part I don’t remember).

What makes Pill even more interesting is the bevy of heated argument that seems to transpire just by mentioning his name. You almost can’t have a conversation about him without involving Brandon Belt… and Belt himself sparks some of the greatest Giants’-related arguments on the World Wide Web. That is a bag of worms that I don’t want to open at this moment, but here’s my outlook on the situation: In my opinion, Pill is not likely to stick in the starting role for long, but the Giants are struggling mightily, and Belt hasn’t exactly been contributing at the plate lately. Pill should be a big leaguer, even if it’s only in a bench role. He’s got tons of power and can hold his own at first. If the kid is hot, keep him in the lineup!

Kieschnick had a great debut last night, and he’s a guy a lot of prospect watchers have been excited to see for a while. He’s another one who’s got a ton of power, he just needs to refine his approach at the plate if he wants to tap into that power at the Major League level. I’ve got pretty tempered expectations for him at this point, and I would love it if he exceeds them. I’ll tell you what though, he made a very nice adjustment on the 2-2 changeup from Kendrick in his first AB. After getting ahead 2-0, Kieschnick whiffed big time on 2 straight off-speeds. Kendrick threw him one too many, and Roger had his first big league knock. That’s what you like to see. He did strike out a couple times later in the game, but if you know anything about his game, that shouldn’t be surprising. He’s always struck out a lot!

You’d have to think Kieschnick and Francoeur will share LF for a while, Roger getting the righties and Frenchy the lefties. Both players are experiments at this point, and if either ends up getting dropped from the squad (Kieschnick back to Fresno or Francoeur DFA), Francisco Peguero should be the next one up for a shot. If Sabean has it in him, I’d also think the time has come to DFA Torres. With so many OF’s on the squad right now, losing one wouldn’t be all that significant. It might actually allow for some flexibility with the roster. Maybe Juan Perez gets another look, maybe Noonan. Either way, the time has definitely come to see what we’ve got with some of these guys. That’s why Pill and Kieschnick are up, and there are others who should get the same opportunity.

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