The San Francisco Giants had a Center Field issues in 2017. But their long-term answer there doesn’t lie in the free agent market. It lies with Steven Duggar.
The San Francisco Giants need a new center fielder. That much is clear. There are plenty of great option available this winter too. Perfect, right? The Giants need to make a move there, but it needs to be a short-term move. Their long-term solution is already in-house, and that is Steven Duggar.
Duggar started off the 2016 campaign in San Jose. He hit the ball extremely well, and with much more power than anticipated. In 311 plate appearances, he posted a .284/.386/.462 slash-line with 9 homers. That earned him a very quick call-up to Richmond.
After a quick adjustment period in moving up to Richmond, he excelled. In roughly 40 less plate appearances, he collected more hits, and more doubles than his time in San Jose, leading to a .321/.392/.432 line.
Unfortunately, injury knocked him out of most of his 2017 season. He did have some good spurts in San Jose, and ended his season in Sacramento, which was his logical endpoint for 2017 anyways. But as it goes with most outfielders headed to San Francisco, the question beyond their bat is always “can they play defense here?”
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Duggar has mainly been a right fielder for most of his career. He played right field at Clemson University, and his initial period within the Giants organization The Giants then moved him to centerfield when he got promoted to Richmond in 2016. Let’s put it this way, in his 741 innings at centerfield in the minors, he has 6 outfield assists, and 2 errors. That’s really good.
If he plays in the outfield, his arm flashes at maybe even plus-plus. In center field, it’s still a plus arm. His speed is also a plus-plus tool, combined with a plus tool in his actual fielding ability, he’s cut and dry to be a centerfielder.
In his first extended look against top quality prospects from around baseball in 2017, Duggar has excelled in the Arizona Fall League. In 76 plate appearances he’s posted a .263/.367/.421/.788 slash-line. Throw in his three blasts, and nine stolen bases, Duggar looks quite good. His contact rate has gone down a bit from what we were seeing in 2016, but his ability to get on base and hit for power is still intact.
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The best thing in all of this? His base-running has come back. He was successful 50 times in 65 chances at Clemson, but after 2016 was just 19/38 when it came to stealing bags. Nine stolen bases in 10 attempts is a good sign for the Giants. If he can put it together come spring, he’s looking at making getting a call-up in June or July, maybe even make the roster out of camp.
The Giants need to make room for a guy like this. That’s why long term contract guys like Gomez and Cain don’t exactly make sense for them. There are already reports that Duggar’s performance is having the Giants front office question their strategy surrounding the center-field position.
If I’m the Giants, I love a short term option like Rajai Davis, and maybe even Austin Jackson. Heck, even Jarrod Dyson is an option for a year in center. You can pay them their market value for a two year contract at the most.
Duggar is certainly playing his way to the big leagues sometime soon. It’s a matter of when though, and that’s the hard part for this front office, because it seems like sooner rather than later. Big money, long contract players don’t make sense for a center-field spot, mainly because of what the Giants have in their farm.
If Duggar is truly the guy for the future, they’ll play it safe. Besides. Let’s give them 2-3 years for Duggar to establish himself as “The Guy” in center. If he’s not, in 2020 the following center field options are available: Marcell Ozuna, Billy Hamilton, Anthony Gose, and Juan Lagares. In 2021? Mike Trout, Kevin Pillar, Jake Marisnick, Jackie Bradley, Joc Pederson, Michael Taylor, and Randal Grichuk will all be available, all unrestricted free agents. That’s big.
The Giants should play it safe, and not commit to a big year deal for any centerfielder. If they can hold off a bit, they’ll either end up with a gem, or a chance to get an elite centerfielder down the road. But for now, Duggar is the man for the future and the Giants absolutely must plan for that within the next three years.
You can checkout some of his minor league highlights in the video above. Video provided by Sean Biaszlek.