The San Francisco Giants have a log-jam in the outfield.
Using Wins Above Replacement, the San Francisco Giants had the worst outfield in baseball in 2017. That was a point of emphasis for the front office this offseason. Denard Span was traded, Andrew McCutchen was acquired, Austin Jackson signed and Hunter Pence was moved from right field to left. Yet nearly two months into the season, due to injuries and subpar play, the Giants have yet to solidify consistency at those positions.
Jackson was brought in to mainly play centerfield, although Giants brass said right away he wasn’t meant to be the full-time starter. Instead, it was expected Jackson would split time with re-signed Gregor Blanco, platooning the two against right-handed and left-handed starting pitchers.
However, it seems that it’s been Gorkys Hernandez who has emerged as the Giants best option in center field on the roster. Hernandez has posted a .287 batting average and shown an ability to hit for power. He’s also the youngest of the three and has forced his way to be penciled into the lineup more often. That is at least until the Giants feel that top centerfield prospect Steven Duggar is ready to come up from AAA and take the mantle.
A number of veteran outfielders need to step up for the San Francisco Giants.
The Giants acquired McCutchen in an offseason trade with the Pirates. A former centerfielder in Pittsburgh, McCutchen came to San Francisco to play right or “centerfield light” at AT&T Park. Despite a few uncharacteristic dropped fly balls (including the one in Houston), the Giant should feel fine about McCutchen’s progress on defense.
His batting statistics have left a little to be desired but McCutchen has also been one of the unluckiest hitters in baseball. He is hitting the ball hard in nearly 50 percent of his plate appearances. Expect to see his numbers catch up to his career .289 average.
Hoping for a resurgence to his career by changing positions, Hunter Pence may be running out of opportunities as a Giant. Out since April with a sprained thumb, Pence was hitting just .172 in 58 at-bats this season. However, with a healthy thumb and working with Mac Williamson’s swing coach, Pence is hitting a respectable .319 in 17 games at AAA Sacramento. Considering his $18.5 million salary, the Giants have no choice but to give the veteran another shot.
Speaking of another shot, Williamson played so well in spring training and early on in the minors that he forced himself a call-up when Pence hit the disabled list. In just five games in the big leagues this year, Williamson already pounded three homers, to go along with his .316 average.
Unfortunately, Williamson also had to go on the DL with a concussion. He has since been back to AAA and continues to mash. In 15 games with the River Cats, Williamson is batting .444 with eight home runs. Williamson could be back in the Giants lineup as soon as Friday in Chicago.
Assuming Williamson and Pence both return to majors sometime soon, the Giants will have to make a decision concerning the roster. It seems as if Blanco may be the odd man out but it’s not that simple. The Giants must be assured that Williamson and Pence are both indeed healthy and can stay that way. Also, both players need to show they can be able to return to form at the big league level. Another caveat in Blanco’s favor is that he is the only left-handed outfield bat on the roster.
A tough decision for Bruce Bochy and company certainly looms concerning the outfield. The Giants may stall as long as possible before making the move to bring Pence back. Blanco may be staring down a DFA but if he clears waivers, he may be willing to take a temporary minor league assignment. The band-aid solution would expect to see someone hit the DL to open a roster spot to buy some more time before anything drastic happens.