With the Giants’ pursuit of Bryce Harper now over, thanks to his signing a historic 13-year/$330 million contract with the Phillies, Giants GM Farhan Zaidi must decide what to do with the team’s current outfield situation.
As it stands, the G Men may perhaps only have one somewhat set-in-stone opening-day outfielder in center fielder Steven Duggar. Outside of Duggar, the outfield options can be arranged into three tiers: the front-runners, Chris Shaw, and the long-shots.
The Front Runners
2018 Stats: 41 G, .255 BA, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 20 R, .693 OPS
Duggar received a substantial audition for the starting center field job during the 2018 season. He possesses the necessary tools to succeed as a solid defender in center field. His speed and ability to put the ball in-play should promote Duggar’s ability to be installed at the top of the lineup. In fact, he likely would have cemented his starting role, last season, were it not for a shoulder injury that sidelined the young outfielder for the final month of the season.
2018 Stats: 28 G, .213 BA, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 14 R, .678 OPS
The Giants have given Williamson quite a few opportunities to solidify himself at the big league level over the past couple of seasons. He’s showed promise at times, though, he has shown a lack of ability to make adjustments at the plate. Yet, he finally seemed to have figured it out last season, showcasing his incredible raw power early in the year. That, however, came to a screeching halt when Williamson tripped over one of AT&T Park’s bullpen mounds in foul territory, suffering a concussion. He returned later in 2018, but was clearly out of rhythm. One can’t help but think that this might be Mac’s last chance with the Giants.
2018 Stats: 74 G, .251 BA, 1 HR, 23 RBI, 21 R, .640 OPS
Austin Slater shot up the prospect ranks a couple of seasons ago, when he suddenly began hitting the ball out of the park for San Francisco’s AA Richmond Flying Squirrels. He was promoted to AAA during that same year, and he continued to showcase his new-found power. The next season, he found himself being called up to the big team. He has the ability to play multiple positions (both outfield and infield). The problem Slater faces is proving that he can hit consistently at the big league level.
The “Chris Shaw” Category
2018 Stats: 101 G, .259 BA, 24 HR, 65 RBI, 55 R, .813 OPS (with AAA Sacramento)
Shaw is in his own category simply because there aren’t any other prospects in the Giants’ system who are ready to challenge for a big league roster spot. The former first-round pick has hit with impressive power at every level in the minors and was widely considered to boast the best raw power in the Giants’ system before the arrival of Joey Bart (no. 2 overall pick in 2018). Shaw is probably the least athletic of the four (including Duggar, Williamson, and Slater), which will likely relegate him to left field. His opportunity to shine will definitely come at the plate, where he will have to prove he can hit for a respectable average and put up impressive power numbers.
Zaidi has taken care to bring in quite a few outside options to hopefully challenge the Giants’ stable of front-running youngsters. Veterans Cameron Maybin and Gerardo Parra were both signed to minor league deals with spring training invites. Both players are serviceable, while neither should be considered as long-term options in any way. However, they could provide solid depth and a veteran presence which has served the Giants well in the past. Along with the two vets, Zaidi also brought in Drew Ferguson, courtesy of the Rule 5 Draft, from the Houston Astros. It remains to be seen if anyone from this group can crack the 25-man roster before Opening Day, but they’ll have their opportunity to prove themselves in Cactus League play.
Of course, with the season only about a month away, Spring Training may reveal that the Giants do not have enough in the way of actual big league talent in the outfield. Should this be the case, Zaidi could still turn to free agency for an answer. At this point, veteran outfielders Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, and a handful of others still remain unsigned.