San Francisco Giants outfielder Austin Slater has been on the organizational radar for some time.
He came up, and immediately impressed last season. He is back with the San Francisco Giants this season, and has picked up where he left off.
Slater began the season in Triple-A for some reason. Clearly, it was not due to skill or performance. As the season begins, teams like to maintain organizational inventory. The San Francisco Giants are no different.
As a result, Slater remained in Triple-A while players such as Gregor Blanco and Derek Holland had to be added to the roster. It was a numbers game, really. And, that is not to say neither Holland nor Blanco were not deserving — they were.
Anyways, Slater is up again. His at-bats have been few and far between at times, but rarely does his approach look rusty.
So far this season, he is batting .319 in only 57 plate appearances. So, it is a very small sample. If we could nitpick this, it would be that he has 26 percent strikeout rate — that is high.
However, when Slater comes to the plate, it seems like something good always happens. When he gets on base, he makes smart base running decisions. So, why has he not received more playing time?
It seems that the San Francisco Giants view Slater as more of a role player. He does not have the power profile that is sought after from a corner outfield position.
For Slater to get more playing time, he has to earn it. He has to hit, and hit a lot. He does not have home run power. However, his line-drive stroke will result in some extra-base hits.
In addition to this, Slater looks like he has improved his pitch recognition and patience at the plate. In his very small sample of at-bats, Slater has worked 10 walks. That is good for a 16 percenet walk rate. That is an extraordinarily high rate, and one that will likely regress.
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However, if Slater can continue hitting, and getting on-base at a decent clip, he will push for more playing time. And, if he can put a little pressure on the defense with his speed, then that can only help.
Slater is not only showing an improved bat, but he is improving his versatility as well. He is capable of playing all three outfield positions. His outfielder range, instincts, and arm look like pluses this season. Additionally, he continues to put in work at second base as well as first base.
In fact, Slater even made his first Major League start at first base last night. He made most of the plays that came his way. Brandon Belt‘s glove is a huge asset, so Slater is going to have big shoes to fill if he gets more playing time at first.
It seems Slater’s play is getting noticed by Bruce Bochy as well:
Slater is making a push for more playing time. He is doing a lot of good things with the bat. And, he just needs to keep showing what he can do without the power profile.