Sizing up the outfield

As spring training winds down, the Giants are still trying to piece together a roster. Namely, what to do with the outfield and rounding out depth. It’s hard to imagine an infield unit with more experience than what the Giants should roll out on most days in 2019; the Longoria-Crawford-Panik-Belt-Posey squad have amassed 5,276 career games in the major leagues. That’s as steady as a group of big leaguers that you’ll ever find.

The outfielder, however, is something else entirely. At the time of this post, with real games nearly a week out, the Giants’ outfield configuration has yet to take shape. Center field duties will be manned by Steven Duggar and right field will be Gerardo Parra’s job, but with the recent release of Cameron Maybin and the acquisition of players like Connor Joe and Matt Joyce, it’s clear that the team is still trying to get a feel for what it has and what it needs on the outfield font as the season approaches.

The release of Cameron, in particular, is interesting because he was essentially what the Giants have needed all spring: a right-handed backup that was capable of spelling Duggar in CF. However, the DUI combined with his lack of a productive spring made him an easy cut. Most believe that the Giants will take a 13-man pitching staff into the season, which means that we are probably looking at a four man outfield to start the year.

It’s possible that the Giants will try something wacky like playing Connor Joe or Yangervis Solarte in a corner OF spot to start the season — positional flexibility seems to be a Zaidi hallmark — and using Parra as an occasional CF, but even that seems like a stretch. Solarte has only played 40 career innings in LF and that was all back in 2014 with the Padres. He’s clearly not a CF and Parra, while playing a little over 1,400 innings in CF, hasn’t really done so since 2012-2013 when he was 25 and 26; at 32, he’s probably not a realistic option there in 2019.

I think realistically we have two groups — players on the roster currently and those that aren’t — to fill out the outfield.

Players on the roster (chance of making the team):

  1. Mac Williamson (60 percent) – He’s on the roster and he should be in LF on opening day but I’ve got this eerie feeling that he might be a late spring causality. He’s a right-handed hitter with power. He’s a corner outfielder that’s more suited to LF. I feel like his chances should be higher, but who really knows at this point.
  2. Matt Joyce (25 percent) – I think Joyce’s chances would be higher if the Giants couldn’t send him to the minors to start the season. As a minor league addition, the team can do just exactly that. However, if the Giants can find him a suitable platoon-mate, he’d be a pretty good corner OF option — he’s a career 121 wRC+ hitter against right-handers. He wasn’t good in 2018 (89 wRC+) but he’s only a couple of years removed from being pretty good (116 wRC+ in ’17). Defensively, he looks average-ish to a tick below.

Players not on the roster (chance of making the team):

  1. Brandon Guyer (75 percent) – Guyer, 33, who was recently cut by the White Sox would appear to be an ideal outfielder. He’s a right-handed batter that has hit LHP well in his career (130 wRC+), has played some CF (356 career innings), has been average to above in the corners, and is essentially free. A Guyer/Joyce platoon should be productive, if not very exciting.
  2. Rajai Davis (15 percent) – Davis, 38, hasn’t been much of hitter since 2015. He still possesses some amazing foot-speed (ranked 33rd in baseball in 2018) and probably enough defense to fake it in CF for short periods.
  3. Carlos Gomez (20 percent) – Gomez, 33, like Davis, is another Mets castoff. He was nearly a league average player in 2017 for Texas but, like most of the guys on this list, fell on hard times in 2018. I’ll give him the nudge over Davis because of age and recent success.

If there’s one thing that this exercise proves to me is that the team does seem dangerously thin on depth at CF and SS. If there’s one thing that could really throw a wrench into the 2019 season it would be injures to either CF or SS.

The more you look at the available players out there, the more I really like Guyer. He certainly fits the bill of a right-handed batter that can be effectively platooned and play all over the outfield. He’s going to be stretched in CF, but the Giants appear ready to roll with Duggar for most of the time and, as long as an injury doesn’t occur, he shouldn’t see much time there.

Final guess for a four man outfield: Williamson-Duggar-Parra-Guyer.

UPDATE: And just like that, after this post, the Giants made a move to acquire another OF.

Reed, 26, was in camp with the Twins after an outstanding AAA performance in the Atlanta system last year. A career .269/.382/.395 hitter in the minors, Reed took it up a notch last season, slashing a ridiculous .363/.459/.539 in 229 plate appearances for AAA-Gwinnett.  Scouts were never too bullish on the longtime Brewer – his highest ever rank in the Milwaukee system per Baseball America was 14th, following the 2014 season – but the recent performance has been too enticing to ignore.

MLB Trade Rumors

Reed checks all the boxes for a guy that could break with the team. He’s a right-handed batter, should be able to play all three OF positions, and is coming off a positive AAA campaign.