Evaluating the San Francisco Giants roster and upcoming free agency
It didn’t seem like there would be many new infielders in the picture for the Giants in 2019 with Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Pablo Sandoval all penciled into spots on the roster at the start of the season.
Lo and behold, Sandoval and Longoria have spent a significant amount of time on the injured list, Belt and Crawford have seen a modest reduction in playing time, and Panik is no longer on the roster after being designated for assignment.
While that might sound like things have gone off the rails, the reinforcements have done extremely well when given the opportunity. Utility man Donovan Solano best exemplifies this.
Through 61 games, Solano is hitting .331 with a 119 OPS+ and solid defense. That’s superior production for a bench player, and he’s controllable through 2022. If he can continue on this pace through the rest of the season, he will likely lock up at least a bench spot, with an outside shot at a short-side platoon role at second base. He’s hitting .360/.406/.494 against left-handed pitching on the year.
Scooter Gennett seemed to be the frontrunner for regular at-bats moving forward, but Solano outperformed him, and Gennett was released on Tuesday. With Longoria, Crawford, and Belt almost certainly starting at their usual positions in 2020, second base is the only spot in the infield with an opening.
An underwhelming group of keystone free agents includes Ben Zobrist, Brian Dozier, Jason Kipnis, Starlin Castro, Jonathan Schoop, Brock Holt, and Howie Kendrick.
It’s a hodgepodge of veterans who seem poised to be average contributors, but not difference makers.
Meanwhile, the Giants just promoted a player in Mauricio Dubon who will also be in the second base conversation and has the potential to make a lasting impact on the club.
Acquired at the trade deadline from the Milwaukee Brewers, Dubon has done nothing but rake in his time at Triple-A Sacramento with a .323/.391/.485 line over 112 plate appearances. He will be given every opportunity to claim a roster spot in 2020.
Abiatal Avelino deserves a mention here too. He has put up some impressive numbers in the minor leagues for a glove-first middle infielder, hitting .285/.316/.455 at Triple-A.
He hasn’t received much of a shot in the majors, but the former New York Yankees farm hand could become a part of the bench mix next year if he improves his plate discipline with an 81-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year. He has even played some outfield this year, showcasing his versatility.
The catcher position also warrants a mention here. Buster Posey is under contract through 2021, so he’ll be the starter again. Veteran Stephen Vogt is a free agent, so if the team doesn’t trust Aramis Garcia to handle the backup duties, they could look to add another veteran backstop.