San Francisco Giants: Early red flags from Steven Duggar
By Jeff Young
San Francisco Giants outfielder Steven Duggar offers plenty of potential. However, two weeks into his sophomore season, he’s also raising some red flags.
It is important to first point out that Steven Duggar has been one of the few consistent contributors in the San Francisco Giants lineup.
However, a deeper dive into his numbers tells a different story.
First, the positives. Duggar is healthy and providing stout defense in the outfield. He has recorded seven defensive runs saved while splitting his time between center field and right field.
In addition to this, he handled the Kevin Pillar acquisition like a veteran. Pillar felt more comfortable in center field, so Duggar was receptive to the idea of playing right field, despite having very little experience at the position. As a result, Duggar and Pillar cover a lot of ground playing in the outfield together.
Despite those positives, there are some concerning trends as well.
While we’re still dealing with a small sample size, stats like strikeout and walk rates tend to be fairly telling even in the early going.
On the year, Duggar is hitting .224/.250/.328 in 72 plate appearances.
In the context of a Giants lineup that is hitting .196 with a .572 OPS on the year, he’s made a positive contribution. That speaks more to the team’s overall lack of offense than anything else, though.
The concern here is that Duggar has posted a 2.8 percent walk rate and 31.9 percent strikeout rate. That extremely low walk rate is just as concerning as the fact that he’s struck out roughly one-third of the time.
It’s especially troubling considering Duggar posted a 12.3 percent walk rate during his time in the minors, which is excellent. The 25-year-old was regarded as one of the few prospects in the Giants system capable of coaxing a walk prior to his promotion last year.
As a team, the Giants have drawn an MLB-low 38 walks for a 6.1 percent walk rate, which has contributed to an MLB-worst .259 on-base percentage.
Even with the bar set so low, Duggar has still been one of the worst on the team at drawing a walk. The minor league track record is at least enough to suggest this could be part of the learning curve. However, at present, his on-base skills have vanished.
Then there’s that strikeout rate.
Duggar has always had some swing-and-miss to his game, whiffing around 23 percent of the time during his minor league career, which toes the line between tolerable and concerning. His 23 strikeouts in 72 plate appearances and 31.9 percent strikeout rate this season have clearly crossed that line.
Again, this could all be part of the learning curve.
Duggar has a chance to be one of the best outfielders the Giants have drafted and developed in decades. That’s not hyperbole. He’s a talented player, and the concerning trends he has demonstrated so far may just be the next step in his development.
He’s certainly not the first player and he will not be the last to experience major regression in walk and strikeout rates upon reaching the majors.
The question now is whether he can make the necessary adjustments.