There were a ton of flaws with the San Francisco Giants last season, which included poor health, down offensive seasons from previously key contributors, and an inability to stay off dirt bikes.
However, one of the more notable deficiencies with last season’s roster was the terrible defensive play of the aging outfield.
The three outfielders who played the most last season for the Giants were Hunter Pence (1047.1 innings), Denard Span (1039.1 innings) and Gorkys Hernandez (743.2 innings). Their combined dWAR was nearly a ghastly-4.0 (all dWAR stats courtesy of BBRef).
With offseason additions Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson in tow, Hunter Pence is the only holdover who should be getting a starter’s workload as he moves from left field to right field. Meanwhile, Hernandez seems poised to be one of the primary backups.
So how do those veterans compare to Denard Span and Hernandez?
Jackson, while not being a gold glover out there at this point in his career, is nearly 2 dWAR better than Denard Span was last season. Granted, he played in a timeshare last season, but that may well be the case again with someone like Steven Duggar, a prospect known at least in part for his glove.
Mccutchen had a dWAR of -1.1, which is not ideal, but he played the majority of his innings last season in center field, so he could have some defensive potential in a shift to right field at AT&T.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure how Pence will hold up shifting across the outfield. While the wall and throws to the infield are much easier to manage, there is just so much ground out there for a soon-to-be 35 year old to cover.
Despite each of them being on the wrong side of 30, one has to imagine that they will be better this season – if only because of addition by subtraction.
While McCutchen and Pence may not be Gold Glove candidates to write home about, the greatest improvement should come in center field.
Any combination of Jackson, Hernandez, or Duggar stands to be an upgrade over Span, who had a ghastly -27 DRS.
In 2018, the improvement in center could even lead to the corner outfielders having an easier job, particularly if the center fielders have enough range to take the load off their aging teammates.
With the infield defense likely being solidly above-average once again, the onus is on the outfielders to ensure their pitchers can allow some fly balls in AT&T’s cavernous outfield.