We are regularly asked questions about the state of the Giants’ outfield, so I decided to assess the 10 (soon to be 11) players they’ve used out there so far. I also took a look at their options in the upper minors.
Outfielders The Giants Have Used In Their First 40 Games
- Gerardo Parra (40.7% of defensive innings) – Parra signed a minor league deal in February and broke camp with the big league club, but was designated for assignment on May 3rd, signed with the Nationals, and has started their last three games. The Giants pulled the plug on the 32-year-old veteran after 97 plate appearances.
- Yangervis Solarte (12.0%) – Much like Parra, Solarte was a veteran signed to a minor league deal in February who made the big league team but is now out of the organization. Solarte received 78 plate appearances. It should be noted that he’s much more of an infielder by trade.
- Tyler Austin (10.7%) – A 13th round draft pick of the Yankees in 2010 after serving as a catcher in high school, Austin began seeing significant outfield time in the minors in 2012. According to Baseball America after that season, Austin combined “physical maturity with athleticism” and ascended to Double-A as well as a 60 grade in their prospect rankings. He was considered one of the 80 best prospects in the game at the time. Perhaps with a contribution from a wrist injury, Austin’s status as a prospect took a tumble after he played regularly at Double-A in 2013. BA still considered Austin “a potential everyday outfielder” after another injury-affected season at that level in 2014. He started 2015 at Triple-A but was demoted back to Double-A in August, finally getting designated for assignment by the Yankees to make room on the 40-man roster for September call-ups. Austin passed through waivers at that time.
- Austin battled his way back to Triple-A in the summer of 2016 and raked in 57 games, finally getting a shot with the big league club alongside Aaron Judge. A broken foot sidelined Austin in February 2017, and once he was healthy in June, he soon replaced Chris Carter as part of the Yankees’ first base mix. Soon after, Austin returned to the DL with a hamstring injury. He spent the rest of 2017 bouncing up and down from Triple-A, but managed to break camp with the big league club in 2018 due to a Greg Bird injury. At the ’18 trade deadline, the Yankees dealt Austin to the Twins as part of the return for Lance Lynn. Austin was in the Twins’ DH/first base mix for the rest of that season, but found himself competing for a backup role this season after Minnesota added C.J. Cron and Marwin Gonzalez. Though he broke camp with the Twins, Austin was quickly designated for assignment in April this year when they needed bullpen help. The Giants picked him up via trade, and despite a minor elbow injury Austin has hit well in his 47 plate appearances for San Francisco. Austin has split his time between left field and first base, the latter of which is typically manned by Brandon Belt. The 27-year-old Austin has struck out a ton but has also showed good power in his scattered 456 big league plate appearances. He’s out of minor league options and the 17-23 Giants represent a great opportunity for Austin, particularly if Belt is traded this summer. That said, Austin has started only three of the Giants’ last ten games.
- Mac Williamson (9.8%) – Williamson was drafted by the Giants out of Wake Forest in the third round in 2012, a known overdraft at the time according to Baseball America. BA graded Williamson as a 50 prospect, noting huge raw power, questionable contact skills, “surprising athleticism,” and an impressive work ethic. After a strong 2013 season at High-A, Williamson was upgraded to a 55 grade prospect by BA, but he went down for Tommy John surgery in April 2014. The injury did little to dim Williamson’s star, and he moved through Double and Triple-A quickly in 2015, earning a September call-up to the Giants. In need of regular at-bats, Williamson started the 2016 season back at Triple-A. At the time, BA’s outlook was that “his power and on-base give him a chance to be a useful big leaguer, though his swing is not conducive for a player who plays sporadically.” Williamson was up and down for much of 2016, hitting the DL in August with a shoulder injury and then in September with a quad injury. His competition for regular playing time in 2017 was interrupted with another quad injury, and he again bounced up and down from Triple-A to the Giants that year. Williamson revamped his swing before the 2018 campaign, finding his way back to the Majors before the end of April. He endured a concussion in late April that effectively ruined his season. There was a point in March this year when Williamson was the leader for the Giants’ starting left field job, but he was designated for assignment weeks later, which says a lot about the team’s outfield situation. He cleared waivers, raked at Triple-A for a month, and was re-added to the Giants’ 40-man last week. Williamson, now 28, has never had an extended period as a starting player for the Giants. Like Austin, he’s out of minor league options and must make the most of a great opportunity. He’s said to be getting an “extended look as the starting left fielder,” which in light of Williamson’s recent DFA suggests either that the Giants are very fickle about what constitutes a starter, or they’re just desperate.
- Connor Joe (9.3%) – Joe was drafted 39th overall out of the University of San Diego by the Pirates in 2014. He was traded to the Braves for Sean Rodriguez in August 2017, and then to the Dodgers for international pool money the following month. The Reds snagged Joe in the 2018 Rule 5 draft with an eye on his work at the catcher position, but dealt him to the Giants in March this year. The Giants gave Joe eight games (including the Opening Day left field nod) before designating him for assignment, and he has now been returned to the Dodgers organization.
- Mike Gerber (8.2%) – Gerber was drafted by the Tigers in the 15th round out of Creighton in 2014. Baseball America considered Gerber a “possible late round bargain” after his pro debut. Though Gerber was old for Low-A in 2015, he hit well and saw his status upgraded to a 50 prospect by BA. At the time, BA suggested that at least some scouts saw him as a possible big league regular in right field. Gerber made it to Double-A the following year, and the Tigers saw fit to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Gerber spent 2018 moving up and down between Triple-A and the Majors, struggling in his brief big league sample. The Giants claimed him off waivers in December, but designated him for assignment in January upon signing Drew Pomeranz. Gerber cleared waivers at the time, began his year with a strong run at Triple-A, and was re-added to the Giants’ 40-man roster on May 3rd. The 26-year-old was optioned back to Triple-A last week. The Giants’ actions suggest they see Gerber as a depth piece.
- Brandon Belt (7.6%) – The veteran Belt has generally played first base, but has dabbled in left field over the years. Belt, 31, is owed the remainder of his $16MM salary this year plus $32MM from 2020-21. Though he has a limited no-trade clause, Belt’s contract and recent injury history are the bigger impediments to a deal.
- Michael Reed (1.7%) – Reed was a fifth-round draft pick by the Brewers in 2011. Before the 2017 season, Baseball America wrote, “Reed’s ceiling appears to be extra outfielder with on-base ability and speed, though as a right-handed hitter, he will need to shine in those areas to elevate himself above lefthanded candidates for the bench.” Reed was removed from the Brewers’ 40-man roster that summer and spent time with the Braves in 2018 before being claimed off waivers by the Twins. The Giants picked him up in a March trade and though he made the Opening Day roster when Williamson was designated for assignment (and started that first game in right field), Reed himself was designated on April 2nd when the club acquired Kevin Pillar. He remained in the organization on a minor league deal.
- Breakouts are always possible, but it’s difficult to see anyone who has played left field for the Giants this year as a likely long-term piece.
- Kevin Pillar (82.9%) – The Giants acquired Pillar in a trade with the Blue Jays on April 2nd. The veteran Pillar is generally known for his glovework, though it seems to have slipped this year in a small sample. Pillar has always been a below-average hitter. He’s earning $5.8MM this season and though he’s controllable for 2020, my guess is that he’ll be playing elsewhere.
- Steven Duggar (17.1%) – Duggar was drafted by the Giants out of Clemson in the sixth round in 2015. After his pro debut, Baseball America rated Duggar as a 45 prospect with plus speed and a plus arm who had nonetheless disappointed scouts in games to that point. His star brightened to a 50 grade after a 2016 season that saw Duggar reach Double-A, with BA writing, “Duggar is a premium athlete who is proving he can hit.” He missed a large chunk of the 2017 season due to hip and elbow injuries, but played in the Arizona Fall League and nearly broke camp with the Giants in 2018. He got the call in July after the Giants traded Austin Jackson but suffered a shoulder injury in late August. The injury required season-ending surgery, but Duggar made it back to begin the year as the Giants’ Opening Day center fielder. So far though Duggar has spent much more time in right field, which makes sense given the Pillar acquisition. Barring a breakout, Duggar’s bat would really only seem to play in center field. The acquisition of Pillar, who is not a long-term piece for the Giants, seemingly denies a chance to see whether Duggar can settle in as the team’s everday center fielder.
- Steven Duggar (73.3%) – Duggar has shown well defensively in his 261-inning right field sample this year, but again, the bat profiles in center.
- Gerardo Parra (19.9%)
- Michael Reed (3.7%)
- Mac Williamson (2.5%)
- Brandon Belt (0.6%)
The Giants’ Most Recent Outfield Acquisition
- On Saturday, the Giants claimed Aaron Altherr off waivers from the Phillies. Now 28, Altherr was drafted by the Phillies out of high school in the ninth round a decade ago. The Fresh Prince of Altherr has shown flashes of brilliance in his 332 game Phillies career, particularly in a 2017 season in which he posted a 121 wRC+ in 107 games. Altherr was considered a high risk, high reward player when he was drafted. Like many of the Giants’ outfielders, Altherr is out of minor league options and has a lengthy injury history but could become interesting if he takes advantage of his shot at regular playing time. The Giants had mostly settled into a Williamson-Pillar-Duggar alignment from left to right, and it remains to be seen how Altherr fits in.
Down On the Farm
- The Giants have one premium outfield prospect in Heliot Ramos. However, he’s only at High A plus he’s currently on the IL for an LCL sprain. According to MLB Pipeline, Ramos’ ETA is 2021. Prospects Alexander Canario, Jairo Pomares, and Sandro Fabian are also not close to the Majors.
- At Triple-A, the Giants have the aforementioned Gerber still on the 40-man roster, while Reed would need to be re-added (the Giants’ 40-man roster is currently full).
- Also on the 40-man is Austin Slater, the Giants’ eighth round draft pick from 2014. Slater has a good amount of big league experience and he’s playing well at Sacramento. This year he’s played first base more than anything at Triple-A, and otherwise he’s mostly just a left field option. He was generally a regular in the Giants’ outfield in the summer of 2017 until sustaining a hip injury and a sports hernia. Slater was up and down in 2018 and figures to face a similar fate this year. He’s played five different positions at Triple-A in the early going, but mostly first base. Slater projected as a second-division regular as of about a year ago, according to Baseball America.
- The Giants’ Triple-A roster also includes outfielders career minor leaguers Anthony Garcia, Henry Ramos, and Mike Yastrzemski. While any of them could conceivably help the big league club in a pinch, they’re all at least 27 years old and aren’t considered prospects.
- The Giants’ Double-A roster includes Chris Shaw, who is on the 40-man roster after a cup of coffee last September. Shaw, the Giants’ first-round pick in 2015, was said by BA to have “top-of-the-scale raw power” after being drafted. He’s a below-average defender at left field and first base, according to BA, so his bat will have to carry him. Shaw was surprisingly demoted to Double-A to start the season, but the 25-year-old still has a chance to help the Giants this year and even carve out a future as a regular.
- The Giants also have Heath Quinn, Jacob Heyward, and Johneshwy Fargas at Double-A. Quinn rated as a 45 prospect prior to the season, though he’s struggled in his first 107 plate appearances in trying to make the jump to Double-A. Jacob Heyward, Jason’s younger brother, rates as just a 40 prospect at MLB Pipeline but is performing well in the early going for the Flying Squirrels.
- The Giants will draft tenth overall this June, and FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel reported, “The rumor is that this is another pick that will go college, and likely a college hitter, with new Giants GM Farhan Zaidi having prized versatility and defensive value when building the Dodgers.” So that pick could certainly be used on an outfielder.
It’s early, but Zaidi hasn’t acquitted himself well with regard to his outfield. After Bryce Harper went to the Phillies, the Giants had something of a blank canvas in the outfield that would ideally allow them to find a diamond in the rough or at least give semi-interesting prospects regular playing time. Instead both Opening Day corner outfielders are gone, the dalliance with Parra was brief, Williamson went from DFA to starter, Pillar was acquired to push Duggar to right, and now Altherr is in the mix. There’s actually some real talent in the Giants’ outfield mix, but so far the team hasn’t inspired confidence in how they’re doling out playing time.