The San Francisco Giants claimed Joey Rickard off of waivers in 2019. Does he have a role with the team in 2020?
Outfielder Joey Rickard was claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Orioles on June 21, 2019, as the San Francisco Giants looked to add some extra outfield depth in the form of a right-handed hitter with a solid track record against left-handed pitching.
After claiming him, Rickard was sent to Triple-A Sacramento where he had a chance to see everyday playing time. He spent 46 games in the minors, hitting .372/.431/.587 over 195 plate appearances.
That production looks great, but given the inflationary offensive environment that was the Pacific Coast League in 2019, it was not as attention-grabbing as it would have been in years past.
Nevertheless, Rickard was called up in August, and he did well in a small sample size.
Across 54 plate appearances, he posted a .280/.333/.380 line while spending time at both corner outfield positions. Rickard also has considerable experience in center field with 4 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 305.2 career innings at the position, which adds to his appeal.
On the surface, Rickard’s career numbers do not jump off of the page. Over 978 plate appearances at the MLB level, he’s hit .247/.301/.373 for an 82 OPS+.
The 28-year-old doesn’t offer much in the way of power, but he did post a healthy 9.5 percent walk rate in 2019, so he doesn’t possess some on-base skills. The bad news was that he also struck out in 26.5 percent of his plate appearances, which is pretty high given the aforementioned lack of power.
However, his platoon splits may appeal to the San Francisco Giants.
In 2019, the Giants hit .245 (24th in MLB) with a .692 OPS (28th in MLB) against left-handed pitching. To say that there is room for improvement in that area might be the understatement of the century.
Meanwhile, Rickard has enjoyed some solid success against lefties in his career, albeit while struggling against right-handed pitching:
- vs. LHP: 402 PA, .278/.337/.425, 8.4 BB%
- vs. RHP: 576 PA, .226/.276/.336, 5.0 BB%
Those splits could allow him to carve out a niche role as a platoon complement to Alex Dickerson in 2020. Dickerson struggled to the tune of a .561 OPS against southpaws in the very small sample of 22 plate appearances in 2019.
That assumes Dickerson will be one of the team’s primary outfielders in 2020, which is not a given since he has not proven to be durable enough to withstand the grind of an entire season. However, the point still stands that Rickard could fit into some type of platoon role if the Giants decided to add another left-handed hitting outfield this offseason.
The situation becomes a bit more complicated when salary is factored into the equation.
While $1.1 million is not a prohibitive figure by any means and the San Francisco Giants will have plenty of payroll flexibility this offseason, the front office may feel it can get better value out of that roster spot, which seems entirely possible as well.
In addition to everything mentioned above, Rickard also has one option year remaining, so he would provide the Giants with the roster flexibility that Farhan Zaidi often covets.
Will that be enough to secure him a spot in the team’s 2020 plans?
The deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players a contract is December 2, so we’ll have our answer then on whether Joey Rickard will be suiting up for the San Francisco Giants next season.