San Francisco Giants: Should Tyler Austin be playing more?
By Dallin Duffy
Tyler Austin has been one of the San Francisco Giants most productive hitters when given the chance.
The San Francisco Giants took their time filling out the roster this season, making a couple of trades after the regular season was already underway.
Before they were even 10 games into the season, outfielder Kevin Pillar was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays and first baseman Tyler Austin was picked up from the Minnesota Twins after he was designated for assignment.
Pillar has become an everyday starter in the outfield, while Austin has played primarily against left-handed pitching, platooning with Brandon Belt at first base and also seeing some time in left field.
It makes sense on paper. Austin is your prototypical slugger who evens out his power with a high strikeout rate and struggles against like-handed pitching.
However, when he has been in the lineup, the 27-year-old has been a bright spot for a Giants offense that has struggled to produce all season.
Austin has slugged five home runs in 66 plate appearances since joining the Giants, starting 12 games along the way. If he had enough at-bats to qualify, he would be leading the Giants in on-base percentage (.348) while trailing only Pablo Sandoval in slugging percentage (.569) and OPS (.917).
He’s truly one of the lone threats in the San Francisco Giants offense right now.
Despite this, manager Bruce Bochy has not budged in his handling of Austin.
To be fair, his numbers are a bit inflated from almost exclusively facing southpaws. When he has been exposed to right-handed pitching, he’s hitting just .120 with 13 strikeouts in 25 plate appearances.
Of course, the counterpoint is that he needs more reps if he is ever going to improve against righties.
His numbers against right-handed pitching last season (.226 average, nine home runs) were slightly better, and his hard-hit rate is 41.7 percent against right-handed pitching so far this season, which is the highest of his career.
He’s never going to get out of this hole without being handed a ladder, and giving him more reps in left field should be strongly considered.
If the San Francisco Giants had a more stable left field situation, it would be a different story. Instead, the position has been a revolving door, with the team legitimately struggling to find someone who even belongs at the MLB level to play there.
In what is shaping up to be a lost season, it makes too much sense to give Tyler Austin a shot at everyday playing time to see what he can do.