Leadoff: Angel Pagan/Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres:
Qualities: Fastest guy on the team, OBP, a little power
All three outfielders possess the ability to get on base, and all three players have a surprising amount of power. Pagan is the best of the three, but all three guys have the speed to steal 25-plus bases a year.
Potential Future Replacement: Gary Brown? It's supposed to be him, but his struggles suggest he may never develop as more than just a 4th or 5th outfielder. Pagan and Blanco are signed long enough where we could just as easily see a surprise candidate emerge from the farm or free agency in a few years.
2-hole: Marco Scutaro
Qualities: High contact hitter, gap hitter, good opposite field approach, OBP, good bunter
Until we see Scutaro decline, he will be hitting here and no where else. He is ideal for this slot, where the primary job is to get the leadoff hitter into scoring position. On a hit and run, you can put the runner in motion and know Scutaro will either put the ball in play or foul it off. If it's truly an awful pitch, say a breaking ball in the dirt, then the runner will likely make it to the bag safely anyway. Scutaro's ability to punch the ball into the gap or down the line makes it easier to score the leadoff hitter from second. If contact isn't an option, his strong OBP ensures he will keep the line moving. Scutaro makes contact too often to be asked to bunt, but he has the ability to do that if asked.
Potential Future Replacement: All things considered, Joe Panik, if he continues to develop, should be hitting here down the road, given his skill-set, plate discipline, and approach.
No. 3: Buster Posey
Qualities: Best hitter on the team. high average, OBP, and good power.
Growing up, Will Clark was my favorite baseball player. He always batted third. Posey, like Clark, is the best hitter on the team. He can take a walk, hit for average, and hit for power. Sandoval has occupied this spot for awhile, but he doesn't have the OBP to make him an ideal fit here. You bat Posey third so he gets a chance for more at-bats in a game, and you ensure he hits in the first inning. With the quality of the players hitting ahead of him, it's likely that he will often hit with a runner on base, perhaps even in scoring position, rather than potentially leading off the second inning where his lack of speed on the base paths actually works against you. Most of us never felt comfortable watching Posey hit cleanup, always feeling he was a better fit in the 3rd spot, but after two World Series championships, who were we to complain?
Potential Future Replacement: It will be Posey until all my hair is gray, and I am more than comfortable with that. Let's see who we draft in 3 or 4 years.
Cleanup: Hunter Pence/Pablo Sandoval
Qualities: Most power on the team, high RBI man, decent average and OBP
It's hard to tell which player is stronger, since both Pence and Sandoval can hit colossal, tape-measure home runs. I like Pence here myself, if only because he has the speed to leg out a high chopper or dribbler to short, and that can keep the line moving. His raw power is ridiculous, perhaps even more so than his hitting mechanics, and his ability to literally hit an opposite-field line drive over the wall like he did at Chase Field last night is truly amazing. He lead the team in RBIs last year, and he plays nearly every day, making him a more reliable and ideal fit for cleanup in this order. The cleanup hitter's job is to do exactly that - "clean up." That means clearing the bases, so it's typical for these guys to have the most home runs on the team, even if their average sits around .250 or .260. Pence usually has a better OBP than Sandoval, which makes him a better candidate for cleanup as well. The cleanup hitter is usually "protected" in the sense that he rarely hits with two outs and no runners on base the first time through the lineup, and he should possess the ability to score. Pence's speed mean he could find himself at 2nd or 3rd base more often than not.
Potential Future Replacement: It really depends on whether the Giants sign Pence to a long-term deal after this year, and given the numbers he is on pace for, that may not be a bad idea given his lack of injury history and productivity. However, Mac Williamson, Adam Duvall, and Angel Villanova both possess the power to hit here down the road as well. We will have to see how they develop.
Batting 5th: Pablo Sandoval/Hunter Pence
Qualities: Good power, high slugging percentage, good average, RBI man, fly ball hitter
Again, Sandoval and Pence are somewhat interchangeable here, but Sandoval's propensity to get hurt makes it easier to fill this spot in the lineup more often than the cleanup spot. Sandoval typically brings a higher average here than Pence, which means he's more likely to punch that double in the gap or line a single up the middle to score that runner waiting on second or third with 2 outs. He doesn't have the speed to leg out mistakes, so the line can often stop here, but if it does, chances are the Giants have already put 1 or 2 runs on the board. Sandoval's ability to hit the ball deep ensures more chances for sacrifice flies if Pence is on third, and at the very least, moving him over to third if he lead off the inning with a double.
Potential Future Replacement: Roger Kieschnick. Kieschnick possesses the tools to be an ideal 5th hitter in the lineup if he continues to develop. he should get an extended look during the September call-ups, if not earlier.
Hitting 6th: Brandon Belt
Qualities: Some power, decent OBP and average, fly ball hitter
If Brandon Belt can ever figure things out, he's perfect for the 6th slot, which is why Bruce Bochy continues to play him there. Belt possesses better than average OBP when his head's on straight, and he's got enough power to justify this place in the order. He can put the ball in the air and drive in runs. He has the potential to hit 5th in this lineup as well if Pence leaves via free agency and Sandoval moves up to cleanup.
Potential Future Replacement: Francisco Peguero, Adam Duvall. Peguero doesn't currently have the plate discipline to hit any higher than 6th in the lineup, but if he can ever improve his ability, he has the tools to hit much higher. Duvall is hitting for power and average as a third baseman in Double-A Richmond right now.
Batting 7th: Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres/Juan Perez
Qualities: Decent batting average and OBP, strong defensive skill, a little power
Usually guys hitting here are worthy enough hitters that they're expected to produce when given the chance. Blanco and Torres possess the speed to make things interesting here, potentially getting into scoring position for the 8th hitter. Ideally, you want a hitter who can drive in a run here. Blanco's average with runners-in-scoring position this year has a lot to do with why Bochy has put him here when he's not hitting leadoff for Pagan.
Potential Future Replacement: Andrew Susac, Francisco Peguero, Ricky Oropesa. Oropesa has the power to hit even higher, but he strikes out far too often. If Peguero gets forced into an everyday role due to injury or a trade to a team with no better options, and he doesn't improve his discipline at the plate, then he'll be hitting in the 7 spot for awhile. There aren't a lot of guys in the system right now who are ready to produce at the big league level. In fact, most of the Giants' top prospects are pitchers, following the formula that helped them win two titles. However, the Giants drafted a couple of high school infielders and some college outfielders, so they're definitely trying to add more value to the position player side of their farm system.
Batting 8th: Brandon Crawford
Qualities: Typically weakest hitter on the team, defense-first player, decent OBP.
Ideally, you want your 8th hitter to be able to get on base, especially with two outs. This ensures that the pitcher will hit and not lead off the next inning, despite the likelihood of making the third out. Currently, Brandon Crawford is occupying the 8th hole because he was the Giants weakest hitter to open the season. However, if he continues to hit close to .290 with a good OBP, then a move up to the 7th or even 6th spot in the lineup is not inconceivable.
Potential Future Replacement: Nick Noonan, Ehire Adrianza, Hector Sanchez. The Giants have a lot of position players in the minors that aren't hitting particularly well. This new draft class should hopefully replenish the ranks and give the Giants more options in the future to go along with players they find via trade or free agency.