Trapped in the minors

At 27, the Giants’ Brock Bond can’t really be called a “prospect.” Between his minor league numbers and his spring training performance, he’s emerged as a viable option for the San Francisco bench—or, for that matter, any other team looking for a low-risk, high-reward infielder. The thing is, Bond may actually be better than a backup—and he’s certainly not a “Quadruple-A” player. Here are a few things worth knowing about Bond.

Bond has a .410 career on-base percentage in the minors

That’s right, .410. I don’t know if it’s the highest OBP of any active minor leaguer who has yet to play in the majors, but … well, it probably is. His batting average is .313, and he’s averaged 72 walks per 600 plate appearances. He was even better last year, with a .332 average and a .422 OBP.

But that’s pretty much Bond’s offensive game. He has no power (just four career home runs), and he doesn’t steal bases. But for a second baseman (who can also play third base and left field, and even shortstop in a pinch), that kind of production is terrific. The projection systems are somewhat divided about how Bond’s bat will translate to the majors:

Oliver: .260/.335/.350
PECOTA: .249/.337/.308
Steamer: .291/.363/.375

PECOTA’s projection looks the worst, but its 70th-percentile projection for Bond is a .268/.361/.332 line, which would be enough to justify a spot in the starting lineup. If he hits Steamer’s projection, he’s a borderline All-Star. Even if you take a pessimistic view, though, Bond gets on base enough to be a very nice bench player.

What’s more intriguing is the distinct possibility that Bond emerges as a Marco Scutaro/Jeff Keppinger/Jamey Carroll type. Scutaro didn’t get a real shot in the majors until he was 28, and Carroll had to wait until age 29. Keppinger didn’t stick until he was 27, the same age as Bond is now. Bond’s skill set is similar to all three.

Bond may have been drafted by accident

Bond starred at the University of Missouri, and going into the 2007 draft he was talked about as maybe a 10th-to-12th-round pick, so it’s not like he was a complete nobody. But he lasted until the 24th round, when the Giants finally took him. In the very next round, they drafted Casey Bond, which, at the very least, is kind of interesting—two guys named Bond, drafted back-to-back.

The Giants admit that they meant to draft Casey in the 24th, rather than Brock, but they claim that they were going to pick both players regardless. Maybe that’s true, but then again, it’s very possible that the Giants never intended to select Brock. It worked out, though. Casey quit baseball long ago to become an actor, and he actually had a role in the Moneyball movie. Brock and Casey became friends, and they still keep in touch.

Bond missed almost all of 2011 with a concussion

Heading into the 2011 season, things were looking up for Bond. He’d spent most of 2010 at Triple-A, where he’d posted a .397 OBP. He was only 25 in 2011, old for a prospect, but young enough to avoid being labeled a career minor leaguer. But in May, 2011, he was hit in the head by a pitch, and the resulting concussion ended his season.

It was disappointing, but Bond took the setback in stride. It was essentially the first summer of his life that he didn’t play baseball, and he tried to take advantage of it, going to Cardinals games in his home town of St. Louis and hanging out with his family. Bond is one of those players who is still a fan, so as much as missing a season hurt (both physically and otherwise), he made the most of his time off the field.

But, naturally, he wondered whether he actually could come back from the concussion. They say it can take years to recover fully , and for some players it’s a career-killer. But Bond was better than ever in 2012, with the aforementioned .332 average and .422 OBP. The only after-effect, it seems, is that Bond now wears a protective shell in his cap. Otherwise, he’s no worse for wear.

Bond was phenomenal in spring training

Spring training stats don’t matter, I know. But Bond got a non-roster invite to major league camp this spring, and he made the most of the opportunity, hitting .435/.480/.870 in 13 games. His teammates gave him the Harry S. Jordan Award, an annual prize given to the Giant who was most impressive in his first big league spring training.

Unfortunately, a week before he won that award, Bond injured his oblique, which will put him out of action until mid-May, yet another setback for a guy who’s already overcome his share. He’s currently rehabbing in Arizona.

That said, Bond’s minor league track record is damn near impeccable. Absent that concussion in 2011, he’d probably be on a 25-man roster already. But he’s bounced back with no ill effects, and all his numbers suggest he’s at least worthy of a roster spot—and maybe even a starting role—once his oblique is healed. But as with so many other good players trapped in the minor leagues, Bond needs an opportunity. Whether the Giants are the team to give him one remains to be seen.

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Comments

  1. nvsfg said...

    As a long time time Giants fan and the organization in general, I have am often confused by Bond’s inability to catch on with a major league team. The stats as you described are beyond reproach. The oddest part is that when left open to the Rule 5 draft, not one team picked him up.

    Having seen him play numerous times over the last four years, the man can hit (albeit with no power), can get on base in his sleep, and plays adequate defense. He is the text book bench player. On top of it all in my interactions with him, he has always been personable and friendly to the fans.

    Maybe this will be the year the Brock Bond finally get’s his chance.

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