Well, it’s March. Opening Day of 2018 is less than a month away.
I guess it’s time MoreSplashHits wake from its blogging hibernation.
The 2017 season was possibly the most difficult for Giants fans in three decades, maybe longer when considering that most started 2017 with hopes of competing for a postseason berth. That was not the case in 1985.
Everything went haywire in 2017. EVERYTHING.
But as they say, hope springs eternal. So this spring, here is to hope that 2018 will find the Giants once again contending.
In order for that to happen, the Giants will need something they didn’t get in 2017, a surprising contribution from someone within their own organization.
That remains the case in spite of the addition of veterans Andrew McCutcheon (in a trade with the Pirates), Evan Longoria (in a trade with the Rays), Tony Watson (signed as free agent from Dodgers), Austin Jackson (signed as free agent from Indians).
And the prime candidate to make that internal contribution is center fielder Steven Duggar.
When the Giants added Jackson, it first appeared as if the Giants had their starting outfielder – Hunter Pence in left, McCutcheon in right and Jackson in center.
But then Giants manager Bruce Bochy said he planned to use Jackson in a versatile outfield role – starting some in center while provide respite for Pence in left and McCutcheon in right.
Jackson coming off a 2017 season that saw hit a career-high 318. But that was in a platoon role with the Indians. Jackson raked left-handed pitching, not so much against righties.
So it would appear the Giants will be looking for a left-handed batting centerfielder to split time with Jackson.
That leaves two leading candidates in camp this spring – Duggar and veteran Gregor Blanco, who re-signed with the Giants (although to a minor-league candidate) after spending 2017 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
So who is Steven Duggar, and what are his chances of making the Giants’ opening day roster?
Duggar is a 24-year-old rookie who was a sixth-round selection in the 2015 draft out of Clemson. Here’s what scouts were saying about him in a pre-draft report.
“Though Duggar had arguably the best all-around tools in the Cape Cod League last summer, he never really has lived up to them in three years at Clemson. A team that believes he can fulfill his untapped potential at the plate could draft him as high as the second round. Duggar has advanced speed and strength for power and drives the ball in batting practice, but does not do it during games. There’s a lot going on in his left-handed swing, and he’s susceptible to breaking balls. While he does have a knack for drawing walks, he also gets too passive at the plate and strikes out too often. A well above average runner, Duggar has the speed to steal bases and cover ground in the outfield. He’s played mostly right field for the Tigers and his strong arm is an asset there, although he’ll probably move to center field as a pro. How much his bat develops will determine whether is future is as an everyday player or an extra outfielder.”
Duggar hit .293 with a .390 on-base percentage in 58 games in short-season A ball in 2015. He hit .302/.388 in 130 games split between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond in 2016. Elbow and hip injuries limited him to 44 games in 2017 split mostly between San Jose and Triple-A Sacramento.
In 900 minor-league at-bats, he’s hit .292/.384, but he has 223 strikeouts in 232 games, a high rate for a hitter who does not hit for great power.
But it was his performance in the Arizona Fall League that made the Giants rethink their approach to center field in 2018. Duggar received a non-roster invite this spring
And, so far, Duggar has made the most of his spring invite, hitting 3 home runs and batting .350/.409 in 20 spring at-bats.
If we’ve learned anything about spring stats over the years, it’s that we should pay too much attention to them.
Don’t believe us? We offer you two words then — Chris … Marrero. As you may recall, Marrero had the hot spring last year, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster as a right-hand power bat off the ranch.
But Marrero spent more time striking out than anything else, batting .132 in 38 at-bats before being cast off.
So spring stats aren’t worth getting excited about, especially spring stats so early in the spring.
The smart money is the Giants turning to Blanco as a safe move. For what it’s worth, Blanco is hitting .538/.611 in 13 spring at-bats this spring.
It’s safer to turn to Blanco, send Duggar to Sacramento and require the rookie to do something to require the Giants to change their minds.
But it all makes for something to watch over these final three weeks of March.