- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval is listed on his player card at 240 pounds, and perhaps that’s accurate, but I’m taking the over. Kung Fu Panda, as he is affectionately known, has battled weight issues in the past, and it’s likely affected performance, but there’s no question the guy can hit when he wants to. We saw it last October when he smacked three home runs in Game 1 of the World Series -- two of them off Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander -- and again Wednesday when he took three different San Diego Padres right-handed relief pitchers deep for another mammoth performance.
In between those three-homer games, Sandoval has been a modest disappointment, but that shouldn’t come as much surprise. Sandoval has done this to the Giants and fantasy owners before, you know. He was an eighth-round choice in ESPN average live drafts this season, sure to be somewhat overrated from his 2012 playoff success, and entered Wednesday outside the top 15 third basemen on the season Player Rater, worse than Matt Dominguez and Kelly Johnson, among others. Sandoval has hit for batting average and power in the past -- occasionally simultaneously -- and he’s certainly capable of being worth that top-100 pick in 2014 as he enters a contract year. It appears he simply needs to control his weight.
On Wednesday, Sandoval, who had hit a mere two home runs since the start of June, put on his show in one of the more extreme pitcher’s parks in the sport (Petco Park), a reminder that with him it’s rarely about external challenges, but personal ones. He’s battled injuries this season to his back and feet, and certainly his weight could have played a role there, too. This will end up a relatively lost season for the Giants and their third baseman, but you know what each is capable of in the future. Despite his disappointing performance overall, Sandoval will be right back in my top-10 third base rankings in 2014 because he’s capable of doing so much more. Let’s hope he doesn’t make us wait until next September to show us.
Box score bits (NL): St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig left Wednesday’s game prematurely with a left foot sprain and is regarded as day-to-day (aren’t we all?). That allowed Matt Adams to enter the game and become the first fellow ever to blast two home runs in the 14th inning or later of a game. And he didn’t start! Pay attention to Craig updates, but add Adams in deep formats just in case. Chicago Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija keeps missing bats for the strikeouts, but he also allows way too many runs. He’s like the Ryan Dempster of the NL this season. The Miami Marlins lit up the former Notre Dame wide receiver for six runs in six innings Wednesday, spurred by a grand slam from light-hitting shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria. Samardzija’s ERA since the start of July is 5.70. The Marlins are giving Chris Coghlan, the 2009 NL Rookie of the Year, a chance to play regularly at third base and lead off. He was hitless Wednesday and made an error, and let’s just say durability is not a strength. New York Mets first baseman/outfielder Lucas Duda homered Wednesday, his 12th of the season. Duda should handle first base against right-handed pitching with Ike Davis out for the season, and he’s made strides this season in plate discipline. That’s cheap power sitting on your waiver wire. Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Jason Grilli was activated off the disabled list Wednesday and tossed a scoreless inning, though he’s not expected to resume closing duties over Mark Melancon for a few outings.
Box score bits (AL): On Wednesday night, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista remained owned in 100 percent of ESPN standard leagues, but now that it has been announced his hip injury will end his season, move on unless it’s a keeper format. Bautista finishes with 28 home runs, one more than in 2012, but in those two seasons he averaged only 105 games and hit .251. Not exactly first-round material anymore. Minnesota Twins outfielder Alex Presley, acquired over the weekend in the Justin Morneau trade, homered Wednesday and continues to lead off. Presley, 28, doesn’t possess big power or speed, but he contributes in those categories. Oakland Athletics lefty Brett Anderson, a top-30 starting pitcher in 2013 drafts but now hurling in long relief after an injury-plagued (shocker!) season, earned his second save in a week. He didn’t pitch well in either case, but they were long appearances in blowout wins. Don’t expect it to continue. How about A’s center fielder Coco Crisp? He now has 18 home runs after Wednesday’s blast, but four in five days! Crisp’s 11 home runs last year were his most since 2006. Chicago White Sox right-hander Erik Johnson tossed six innings in his big league debut at Yankee Stadium Wednesday, allowing five runs (three earned). Johnson posted terrific numbers in the minors this season, and should get a few more outings to prove he’s worth a deep-league investment in 2014. … The Boston Red Sox exploded for eight home runs Wednesday, with designated hitter David Ortiz swatting two and knocking in four runs. Ortiz is now on pace for another 30-100 season, despite missing the first three weeks of the season with a heel injury. This is a top-100 player for 2014 drafts, despite his age and lack of first base position eligibility.