Analyzing San Francisco Giants Hitters For 2020
The San Francisco Giants ended up in the bottom five in a number of team offensive statistics this past season, which was a large reason the club fell short of the postseason. However, there was a period when the Giants were in the thick of it and created all sorts of chaos at the trading deadline. San Francisco went 19-6 in July when the offense produced a 107 wRC+. In other months, the Giants couldn’t produce enough offensively to help out the rotation and bullpen to consistently win games.
As we go into 2020, we look into the surprise contributions from Mike Yastrzemski and what to expect from a combination of unproven late bloomers and declining, formerly dependable veterans.
(Last Updated: November 17)
- ADDITIONS: None
- SUBTRACTIONS: Kevin Pillar (OF), Scooter Gennett (2B), Pablo Sandoval (3B/1B), Stephen Vogt (C)
Buster Posey (C | Batting 2nd)
2019: 43 R, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 0 SB, .257/.320/.368 | C #25 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 277.9 (C #17) [per NFBC]
Buster Posey has been the nucleus of the San Francisco Giants for all 11 seasons he’s played in. Posey’s been at the forefront of all three championship teams during that span by being a leader behind the plate with a career .302/.370/.456 line. Those seasons seem to have taken a toll, though, as Posey posted a .688 OPS in an injury-marred 2019. The production was a reflection of declining line-drive and fly-ball rates with an increase in ground balls, nullifying the marginal gains in hard-hit percentage. Additionally, Posey’s strikeout rate rose to 16% from near 11% in prior seasons, while his walk rate dipped from around 10% to roughly 8% in 2019. That sort of plate discipline made Posey a points-league darling, especially when adding in the other factors of his career line and position.
Despite the shallow nature of the catching position, you shouldn’t bank on Posey. He’s in the twilight of his career and would at best be a fringe catching option in 15-team leagues.
Weaknesses: HR, SB
If Posey stays healthy, he’ll get plenty of playing time and more than likely stay near the top of the lineup despite hitting near the bottom toward the end of last season. The key to Posey this season is his plate discipline—his chase rate was higher than any of these past five seasons. A rebound in that department could open up a rebound season—nearing a 1:1 BB:K ratio while approaching a .300 average.
A continued decline in batted-ball profile, where I would think the floor would be .240/.300/.350.
2020 Projection: 55 R, 11 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB, .274/.347/.409.
Brandon Belt (1B | Batting 3rd)
2019: 76 R, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 4 SB, .234/.339/.403 | 1B #42 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 434.9 (1B #44)
Brandon Belt is a fly-ball hitter in a park that will never give him any rewards. His All-Star campaign in 2016 resulted in a line of .275/.394/.474, backed by a .385 xwOBA. This past season Belt maintained a similar batted-ball profile—hitting a high number of fly balls—but his average exit velocity dropped from an already low 87.2 mph in 2016 to 86.4 in 2019. The most unfortunate part for Belt is that his production against left-handers, a .664 OPS, resulted in his being platooned late in the season.
Given how deep first base is, you likely won’t be rushing to draft Belt, not even for a corner infield slot. Given how often he walks, any sort of rebound in the average department could make him a solid option in OBP and points leagues.
Weaknesses: AVG, HR, RBI
Figuring out his woes against southpaws would help him stay in the lineup every day, and with his walk skills, Belt will likely be able to stay near the top of the lineup and be in position for a higher run total. Expect a ceiling of .260/.370/.440.
He can’t figure out his poor numbers against lefties and becomes a pure platoon option.
2020 Projection: 68 R, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 4 SB, .253/.357/.439.
Mauricio Dubon (2B | Batting 8th)
2019: 12 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, .274/.306/.434 | 2B #91 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 344.9 (2B #33)
Mauricio Dubon was traded for a second time in his young professional career this past summer for Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black. In the first trade, he was packaged with Travis Shaw for Tyler Thornburg following the 2016 season. Dubon’s regularly posted high averages—near or above .300—complemented with high steal totals throughout the minors. He missed most of 2018 due to a torn ACL, and this past season Dubon only stole 13 bags over 153 games in the minor and major leagues combined—a far cry from the 30+ he would get every season from 2015 to 2017.
Even though Dubon is now 25 years old with little major league experience, GM Farhan Zaidi looks upon Dubon as San Francisco’s version of Chris Taylor. With Pillar now out of the equation, Dubon could see time in the outfield as well as work at second base and shortstop – hence, more at-bats and added positional flexibility for fantasy.
Strengths: AVG, SB
Weaknesses: HR, OBP
Dubon becomes a staple in the leadoff spot while hitting .300, getting 30 steals, and possibly 10-15 home runs.
Dubon becomes a platoon option at second base given his struggles against right-handed pitching (.707 OPS).
2020 Projection: 58 R, 14 HR, 62 RBI, 14 SB, .266/.305/.402.
Evan Longoria (3B | Batting 4th)
2019: 59 R, 20 HR, 69 RBI, 3 SB, .254/.325/.437 | 3B #36 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 438.1 (3B #39)
The move to the Bay for Evan Longoria hasn’t been a pleasant one, posting a 94 wRC+ over the past couple of seasons. The positive is that Longoria rebounded this past season, posting an xwOBA of .352—his highest since his 2016 season in which he hit 36 home runs—and an 89.7 mph average exit velocity, a 1.2-mph gain from 2018.
Despite finally reaching a respectable standard in 2019, Longoria still gets a majority of his at-bats at Oracle Park and therefore won’t be a strong option at the hot corner in 2020.
Weaknesses: OBP, RBI
Longoria is healthy enough to play at least 140 games, which allows him to get a steady number of at-bats in the cleanup spot. If there is positive regression toward the .352 xwOBA—a .322 wOBA in 2019—there might be more extra-base hits in store, possibly 25-30 home runs.
There is further regression as Longoria progresses along the age curve, maybe something along the lines of .240/.300/.410.
2020 Projection: 64 R, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 3 SB, .252/.310/.439.
Brandon Crawford (SS | Batting 7th)
2019: 58 R, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB, .228/.304/.350 | SS #50 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 577.0 (SS #47)
We’re in the golden age of shortstops. Francisco Lindor, Javier Baéz, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts—just to name a few—can all play the position well and lead their respective teams offensively. This sort of production was an anomaly for many years, as shortstops were first and foremost a defensive asset—Brandon Crawford is of that mold. Crawford’s had only three seasons in which his wRC+ was above 100, from 2014 to 2016, and his 2019 campaign resulted in a 74 wRC+ and .281 wOBA, which was in the bottom 5 percent of the league, per Baseball Savant. Crawford’s production will likely accumulate because of volume from playing every day, but he’s best left undrafted.
Weaknesses: AVG, R, HR, RBI, OBP
Crawford’s career years were reflective of a league-average hitter, so the best-case scenario would be at that level (e.g. .256/.321/.462 with a 113 wRC+ in 2015).
If somehow his production drops lower than this past season, Crawford will likely cede at-bats to Dubon and Solano.
2020 Projection: 59 R, 15 HR, 64 RBI, 4 SB, .247/.317/.393.
Mike Yastrzemski (RF | Batting 1st)
2019: 64 R, 21 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB, .272/.334/.518 | OF #72 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 331.9 (OF #90)
“Yaz” mania was back in 2019, over 30 years after Mike Yastrzemski‘s grandfather, Carl, last patrolled the Green Monster. Yastrzemski was a welcomed surprise this season, supposedly an afterthought entering the year after he was traded in a minor leaguer-only deal between the Orioles and Giants at the end of spring training. He ended up being the Giants’ everyday right fielder by the end of the season, tied with Kevin Pillar for the team lead in home runs—even though Yastrzemski made his debut more than two months after the season commenced. For a left-handed-hitting rookie, Yaz had a .943 OPS against left-handed pitching—a phenomenal feat. However, there will be a lot of growing pains, and one flaw Yaz has is his performance against four-seamers (.320 xwOBA). Given the current state of the game, Yastrzemski could be bombarded with four-seamers until he proves himself against the pitch. If San Francisco signs a free-agent outfielder, Yaz will need to figure out his issues against heaters to continue playing every day.
Strengths: PA/AB, SLG
Weaknesses: R, RBI
Yastrzemski continues his ascension as he gets a full season’s worth of at-bats. He was on pace for 32 home runs and 82 RBI had he played 162 games in 2019.
Yaz enters a “sophomore slump” and loses his stronghold on right field, becoming a bench bat.
2020 Projection: 57 R, 16 HR, 60 RBI, 6 SB, .242/.315/.413.
Steven Duggar (CF | Batting 9th)
2019: 26 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB, .234/.278/.341 | OF #181 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 742.50 (OF #203)
Steven Duggar will now have a path to consistent at-bats in center field – well, sort of. Duggar showed above-average skills defensively as reflected by his 67th percentile ranking in Outs Above Average. However, those defensive skills likely won’t mask his anemic offensive production enough to get him everyday at-bats, probably relegating Duggar to a platoon option at best. Duggar only had an average exit velocity of 84.7 MPH and hit 51.1% of his batted balls along the ground, speaking to a limited offensive ceiling and a fairly low floor given his platoon situation. He’s best left undrafted.
Wins the job outright in Spring Training and gets most of the at-bats in center field – mimicking most of Kevin Pillar’s 2019 line.
Continues to struggle with the bat and becomes a defensive specialist late in games.
2020 Projection: 44 R, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 9 SB, .242/.308/.362.
Jaylin Davis (CF | Batting 6th)
2019: 26 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 1 SB, .234/.278/.341 | OF #246 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: 730.50 (OF #187)
Jaylin Davis adopted a leg kick during the 2018 Arizona Fall League, and the production since has been phenomenal. His entire 2019 season – across AA, AAA, and the Majors – resulted in 94 R, 35 HR, 95 RBI, 10 SB, with a .306/.397/.590 slash. For such prolific results, one would assume that Davis would be a lock for a starting spot in the Giants’ outfield. Unfortunately, most of Davis’ dominance came at the minor league level, as Davis only had one home run and a .493 OPS across 17 games. The good news for Davis is that it was only 17 games – too small a sample for us to draw too many conclusions. The bad news is that Davis’ swing lacks lift which means that he will continue to hit a high number of groundballs. If Davis isn’t able to keep the ball off the ground, it could spell a slow start and thus lose playing time. Davis seems like an intriguing talent so keep an eye on him, but he’s probably best left undrafted.
Like the other candidates in the outfield for San Francisco, a strong spring could give Davis a job outright in one of the corner outfield spots. With more at-bats, Davis could show what he did with a revamped approach at the plate in the minors this past year and become a solid fantasy asset.
Struggles offensively and spends time in AAA.
2020 Projection: 32 R, 10 HR, 35 RBI, 4 SB, .241/.305/.412.
Austin Slater (LF | Batting 5th)
2019: 20 R, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB, .238/.333/.417 | OF #182 (per ESPN Player Rater)
2020 ADP: N/A
Austin Slater has routinely mashed in the minor leagues, only to produce subpar results when reaching the majors. The most worrisome note is that for a second straight season, Slater produced a 30% strikeout rate at the big league level. However, Slater is intriguing because he seems more than a platoon option, unlike his counterpart, Alex Dickerson, who was great against right-handed pitching (.855 OPS) and dreadful against lefties (.561 OPS).
Slater has some nice tools in his profile, particularly his 49.1% hard-hit rate. Furthermore, Slater’s 96.7 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives was the 22nd-highest in the league among hitters with at least 50 batted-ball events. What holds Slater back is his incredibly low 3.2-degree average launch angle and resulting 54.1% ground-ball rate.
Slater reduced his chase rate to 22.9% this past season, so his 11.5% walk rate seems sustainable. Additionally, in 127 games across Triple-A and the majors in 2018, Slater stole 15 bases. Ideally, 10-15 steals return in sufficient at-bats. This leaves a solid foundation for fantasy relevance if Slater is able to hit more fly balls. Watch for Slater’s spring training performance—if he’s able to win the left-field job, he could be a sleeper in many formats given his toolset.
Weaknesses: PA/AB, K%
If Slater starts to unlock some of his power by hitting fewer ground balls, he could become a nice power bat for many fantasy owners next season. Given Slater will play most of his games at Oracle Park, the dream season would entail a 30-homer campaign.
If he does not change his batted-ball profile, Slater will continue to find himself in a platoon role.
2020 Projection: 21 R, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 3 SB, .250/.333/.391.
Playing Time Battles
Second Base: Dubon and Solano will likely battle for second base rights in spring training. Dubon has age, and therefore potential, on his side. Solano was a pleasant surprise for the Giants with a 116 wRC+ on the season, while being vitally important to the team’s success in June and July with a 141 wRC+ over that span. If there is a platoon between Dubon and Solano at second base, this would render both players irrelevant regarding fantasy. However, it’s difficult to expect Solano to be the same force given his lack of track record and the fact that he’s entering the wrong side of 30 – I’d give the edge to Dubon.
Outfield: Since the Giants did not tender Pillar a contract, there are now three unknowns in the outfield. Now, given that Zaidi has mentioned that Dubon could play some outfield, this is an even more complicated situation. Assuming Yastrzemski sealed a starting spot with his play last season, the remaining two spots will likely be fought out in the spring. The most fantasy enticing outfield would be Yaz, Slater, and Davis, as those three seemingly won’t have drastic platoon splits which would spell frequent at-bats.
San Francisco moved from the worst offensive team in 2018 to third-worst in 2019—though that’s because the Royals and Tigers plunged under 80 wRC+ while the Giants held at 83 wRC+ for a second consecutive year. To solve the offensive ineptitude of the past couple of seasons, the Giants will likely be among the suitors for a free-agent outfielder—Marcell Ozuna or Nicholas Castellanos, to name a few. If one of the two is signed, that could cause a log jam in the outfield, as Yastrzemski, Slater, Dickerson, Davis, and Duggar would be vying for two spots. Though given San Francisco is now amidst an arduous rebuild, it seems that they’ll stick with the players they currently have.
The Giants do have the talent to be closer to average this season but that depends on who wins the playing time battles in the spring. A potential lineup with Dubon running wild on the basepaths combined with Slater and Davis hitting for power would be intriguing. Maybe their production can spark Posey, Belt, and Longoria to better statistical lines and elevate their fantasy relevance in 2020.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)