Month: October 2011

What Will Klay Thompson’s Role Be Next Season?

When the Golden State Warriors picked Klay Thompson with the number 11 pick in this year’s draft, there was a swirling sense of mixed emotion. Actually, mixed emotions is an understatement. This draft pick sent varying amounts of panic throughout Warriors fans. Klay Thompson is not really known for his defensive prowess, so this was slightly concerning. Especially since Mark Jackson, the new head coach, has preached defense as the new identity of the Warriors, so this pick was not exactly a ringing endorsement. Some fans felt confusion and discomfort with the pick. Some felt utter joy, for various reasons. Some believed that Klay Thompson was an extremely valuable asset, and the Warriors were lucky to draft him. Others felt joy simply because this might have signaled the departure of Monta Ellis. No matter what the overall consensus was on this pick, we all knew this draft would be weak, so we had to go in with relatively low expectations. With that in mind, Klay Thompson seems to be an acceptable draft pick for the Warriors.

The real question though is, what will Klay Thompson’s role be this upcoming season (if there ever is one)? Some analysts believe that he is ready to be a starter. This seems pretty drastic, so instead, let’s assume he’ll be a role/bench player. It makes more sense to examine how effective he can be, not just in the league, but specifically for the Warriors. Let’s start with the positive side. Klay Thompson has a strong all-around game. He has a high basketball IQ, he moves without the ball gracefully, and can score in large numbers. His game has been compared to Brandon Roy, which is a fantastic model to follow. Like Brandon Roy, they both have solid, reliable jump shots, they have good size for shooting guards (Thompson is 6’7″ and Roy is 6’6″), they are strong ball handlers, and they can both easily score 40 points on any given night. Last season with Washington State University, Thompson averaged 21.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, .9 blocks, and 1.6 steals while shooting 43.6% from the field, 39.8% from 3 point range, and 83.8% from the free throw line. These all appear to be strong numbers, but what’s a little concerning is that for a shooting guard, he collectively only shot 42.3% from the field in 3 seasons in the NCAA. Just for comparison, Brandon Roy played 4 seasons at the University of Washington, and over those 4 seasons he shot 51.2% from the field. Brandon Roy was ultimately drafted higher, but Thompson’s field goal percentage is still of some concern if his game is so similar to Roy’s.

Brandon Roy

This leads into the more negative aspects of Thompson’s game. Thompson has been criticized for his lack of athleticism especially in transition. When driving to the basket in a half-court offense, Thompson can be athletic only against a certain type of defender. However, during fast breaks, his slow food speed is exposed. He can’t always react fast enough to quick defenders in a half-court or full-court set, and this can inhibit his ability to drive to the basket. He also has never shown a strong commitment to defense. Thompson’s coach Ken Bone at WSU discussed Klay’s defense and said, “I do hope he continues to work on his defense. He has shown, at times with us, where he could really guard. He has great basketball instincts, he competes well, he has about a six-foot-nine wingspan – but he didn’t always play great defense.” Klay Thompson is a hard worker, and if given the right motivation (from his former or current coach), he could become a much better defender. If Coach Mark Jackson actually follows through on his claim to distribute playing time based on who plays defense, than Klay Thompson will have no choice but to improve his overall defense. We’ll have to wait and see if Thompson is able to respond to this challenge.

In a perfect world, let’s assume that Klay Thompson will improve his defense enough that Mark Jackson is comfortable playing him consistently. Will Thompson step up and become a solid rotation player or even fill the 6th man role for the team? I believe that Klay Thompson can become the Warriors’ 6th man. He might not win Rookie of the Year or anything, but he could truly become a consistent, effective contributor on this team that so badly needs a stronger bench presence. Jerry West clearly believes that Thompson is going to be an impactful player, otherwise he wouldn’t have had the strongest voice in the draft process for the Warriors. The whole coaching staff and management chose to believe in Jerry West and essentially let him decide who they would draft. Since management has strongly implied that Monta won’t be traded, it seems that Klay Thomspson should aim towards the 6th man role. He can fill in the back-up minutes for both Monta and Dorell Wright, so he’ll have many opportunities to become the “leader” of the bench. He has the perfect style of play to become that spark off that bench. He can score in bunches and if he becomes a better defender, it will be very difficult for Mark Jackson to not have him as the 6th man. Klay Thompson will need consistent minutes (about 25 minutes a game) to develop into the all-round star player that so many analysts saw during this draft process. If Klay Thompson is able to improve his defense, improve his transition game, and improve his leadership skills, he will become an effective and efficient player for the Warriors this upcoming season.

Watch these highlights of Klay Thompson:

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Brandon Belt: Summer School and Winter Ball

Brandon Belt’s latest blog post is one of his best. He shows this side of pure honesty that was always there throughout the season, but this post exemplifies it. Belt describes all the adjustments he had to make this year; in his confidence and mechanics. Belt is talented, but still a very young player. He realizes how complex baseball really is, and now he knows exactly what he has to work on. He has “graduated” from the summer school phase of the year, which included both his time with the Fresno Grizzlies and the Giants. Soon, he will move onto winter ball where he will be able to learn even more about the game, specifically hitting, which he claims was so inconsistent last year that “I’ve made adjustment after adjustment after adjustment so that it all kind of clustered together into one big complicated muddle.” Belt’s visit to the Dominican for winter ball is his first trip outside the country, so he must be very anxious. Being the classy player he is, Belt thanked the fans, not because he had to, but because he really meant it. With all the transitions that Belt had to make this season, he truly understands how important the fans’ support was to him.

Read his post in The Veteran and the Rook Blog here.

The Carlos Beltran Saga

The Carlos Beltran signing was quite controversial amongst Giants fans. Some Giants fans believed that giving up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler was too much for the aging Carlos Beltran. Other Giants fans believed that he was too good of a player to pass on and believed that we needed to acquire him in order to block the Phillies or Braves from getting him. This discussion is in the past though. Some fans continue to harp on the fact that the sole reason why he was brought here was to help this team win, and consequently the Giants didn’t make the playoffs. This is not only amateur, it’s just not true. Now that the season is over, we have actual, physical data to examine what his impact was and that will partially determine if he’s worth bringing back.

Fans need to accept the fact that when he was ABLE to contribute and fully HEALTHY, he contributed immensely to the team and did as much as HE possibly could to get the Giants to the playoffs. I’ve bolded select words to prove a couple crucial points that Giants fans must understand. Let’s examine the first bolded word. It generally takes one or two weeks for a player to truly settle into a new team. It takes time to adjust to a new team dynamic, a new setting/fan base, a new ballpark, and new teammates. In Beltran’s first 45 at-bats with the Giants, he had 11 hits, which equates to a .244 average (which is still better than 12 of the Giants’ regular players’ averages throughout the season). The Giants went 3-8 in that 11-game stretch, but this was not the defining stretch though that ended all playoff hopes.

A couple weeks after being signed, Beltran strained his right hand and wrist, so he was placed on the DL. Giants management probably could have avoided putting Beltran on the DL, but since he is a switch hitter, the Giants decided to not take any additional risk and wanted to ensure that he would be able to swing properly from both sides when healthy. Therefore, during a key stretch for the Giants in August, Beltran wasn’t physically ABLE to contribute. Getting injured is not a player’s fault. He cannot be blamed for the team going 5-8 while he was injured and losing several series against non-playoff teams, including Pittsburgh, Florida, and Houston. The period that Beltran was injured proved to be one stretch that severely dampened the Giants playoff hopes. If Beltran had been fully HEALTHY during that stretch, maybe the Giants would have made the playoffs.

The last bolded word is: HE. HE did as much as he possibly could do to get the Giants to the playoffs. In order to get to the playoffs, teams must have quality pitching, strong hitting up and down the lineup, and team chemistry. Obviously, the Giants have fantastic pitching and great team chemistry (and no, Beltran did not disrupt the chemistry of the team because he was already friends with a number of the current Giants players and is naturally a friendly, classy veteran). The hitting is, of course, the Giants main problem, but we all knew that. Beltran’s main job when he came here was to provide that middle-of-the-order spark the Giants were missing, which he did once he settled in. After his initial adjustment period and his injury, Beltran hit 43-122 for a .352 average, 7 home runs, and 16 RBI’s. He finished the year with a .300 average, 22 home runs, 84 RBI’s, .385 OBP, .525 SLG, and .910 OPS. These are all fantastic numbers. During the most important stretch of the season for any baseball team, the end of August through mid-September, he was not only able to produce, but he did produce. He provided that surge of energy that the Giants were asking for and desperately needed from him. However, teams can’t make the playoffs with just one man producing. With streaky hitting from Keppinger, Sandoval, Huff, and Ross, Beltran became their sole consistent contributor and that is just simply not enough to make the playoffs. Beltran did everything that was asked of him, and he did everything that a #3 hitter should do during playoff contention.

All of this information proves that Beltran was a solid contributor to the Giants this season and that he was worth signing. The question is though, will Beltran re-sign with the Giants this upcoming season? It really depends on how arbitration plays out, and how much money management decides to allocate towards the pitching staff. Sabean has already said that they will approach the free agency period by first addressing their pitching staff, because they are the cornerstone of this franchise and should be the top priority. After that, Sabean claims they will determine how much left of the payroll they have to address free agency, and specifically Carlos Beltran. The Giants would love to re-sign Beltran, but does Beltran want to be in San Francisco after missing the playoffs? He has publicly stated that he is definitely going to consider the Giants as a possible destination. He would love to come back, but he says that the Giants must address the hitting problems. A healthy Buster Posey, Freddy Sanchez, and Pablo Sandoval isn’t enough for Beltran, which is totally fair. Based on the number of injuries this season, Beltran suggests the team needs more offensive security than just those three. He says the Giants need to bring in a reliable leadoff hitter. Andres Torres was an amazing sparkplug in 2010, and was a huge reason why the Giants won the World Series. However, he proved to be a complete non-factor this year. Beltran suggested his former Mets teammate, Jose Reyes, as a possible addition.

Jose Reyes

So who can the Giants acquire to fill the void at leadoff hitter? Here are a few players who the Giants could target who will be free agents this offseason. One option is Jose Reyes. With a high amount of money to be owed to Reyes in the coming years, it’s unlikely the Giants will have enough money to acquire him, but let’s examine anyway. Jose Reyes is 28 years old, so he’s currently in his prime and this season, it for sure showed. Reyes is an All-Star shortstop, which is certainly a void in the Giants lineup with Tejada doing absolutely nothing productive and Brandon Crawford proving to still be in “development mode.” Reyes plays solid defense and has outstanding numbers on offense: .337 average (highest batting average in the NL this season), 7 home runs, 44 RBI’s, .384 OBP, and 39 stolen bases. However, Reyes earned $11,000,000 this past season, which the Giants surely cannot afford unless they are able to dump some of their larger contracts, such as Huff or Zito. If the Giants can pull off signing Reyes and Beltran, that would be the best offseason of the entire Sabean era.

Coco Crisp

Another option for the Giants is Coco Crisp, the centerfielder and leadoff hitter for the Oakland A’s. With Torres’ inability to hit this past season and Cody Ross unlikely to be re-signed, Crisp would certainly be helpful in the defensive category because of his ability to play centerfield. (Sidenote: Coco Crisp has, by far, the best name in all of sports, so it’d be fun to see his name on the Giants roster.) Crisp had a .264 average, 8 home runs, 54 RBI’s, .314 OBP, and 49 stolen bases. For a leadoff hitter, these numbers aren’t All-Star numbers like Reyes’, but they are still quality numbers. He’s 31 years old, but he is still producing good numbers and still has excellent speed. He earned $5,750,000 in 2011, and probably wouldn’t cost too much for the Giants.

Jimmy Rollins

Another option for the Giants is Jimmy Rollins. Now, I’m never a fan of signing players from rival teams (in this case, the Phillies), but Rollins is another solid option for leadoff hitter who can also play exceptional defense at the shortstop position. Rollins had a .268 average, 16 home runs, 63 RBI’s, .338 OBP, and 30 stolen bases. Obviously, Rollins is more of a power hitter than the previous two players, but what really sets him apart from the other two players is that he has won a World Series and has been starting for a strong, contending team for his whole career. Rollins is 32 years old and is a very intelligent player, but the Giants don’t have great luck with aging shortstops. Rollins also earned $8,500,000 this season, which the Giants, most likely, will not be able to afford.

Personally, I believe that best option of these three players is Coco Crisp. He has the most stolen bases of the three, and decent numbers for his batting average and his OBP (all numbers that are very important for a leadoff hitter). He is the least expensive and could prove to be the best option the Giants have for a centerfielder. If the Giants sign him though, will that be enough to lure Beltran back? Not sure. It depends on if the Giants are able to bring in any other strong hitters for the 6, 7, 8 positions in the lineup. If the Giants could sign Coco Crisp and maybe one or two other inexpensive role players, ideally a starting shortstop, I believe the Giants could bring Beltran back. Beltran would most likely have to sign a 2 or maybe 3 year deal (not a long-term contract) and earn less, but if he knows the Giants are committed to winning and hitting consistently, he just might be able to deal with that. Carlos Beltran has proven he can play with the Giants. He can play left or right field, he’s a versatile switch-hitter, and he can hit consistently, even in AT&T Park. If the Giants approach the offseason tactfully, address the areas of need, and handle the payroll effeciently, Carlos Beltran will re-sign with the Giants.