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Mike Yastrzemski was the Giants best rookie outfielder since who?

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Rookie Mike Yastrzemski was one of the biggest surprises of the 2019 season for the San Francisco Giants. In fact, it’s been decades since the team had a more impactful rookie outfielder.

Little was made of it at the time when the San Francisco Giants acquired Mike Yastrzemski last offseason in a swap of minor leaguers with the Baltimore Orioles.

In fact, if not for his famous last name, it might not even have registered on the radar of all but the most passionate of fans.

However, a hot start at Triple-A Sacramento earned him his first MLB call-up on May 25, and he took full advantage of the opportunity.

When the dust settled on the 2019 season, Yastrzemski was one of the most productive hitters in the San Francisco Giants lineup, posting a .272/.334/.518 line for a 123 OPS+ with 22 doubles and 21 home runs on his way to a 2.8 WAR season.

That WAR total trailed only Jeff Samardzija (2.9) among all Giants players, despite the fact that Yastrzemski played in just 107 games.

When was the last time the San Francisco Giants had a rookie outfielder who produced at that high of a level?

That’s the question we set out to answer.

Since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958, the list of rookie outfielders to produce at least 2.5 WAR is a pretty short one:

  • Jimmy Ray Hart, 1954 (5.3)
  • Bobby Bonds, 1968 (2.8)
  • Gary Matthews, 1973 (3.4)
  • Jack Clark, 1977 (2.5)
  • Dan Gladden, 1984 (3.2)
  • Mike Yastrzemski, 2019 (2.8)

End of list.

During the 1990s, Marvin Benard (2.0 WAR in 1996) and Armando Rios (1.6 WAR in 1999) were the best of the bunch among first-year outfielders.

In the 2000s, Fred Lewis (0.8 WAR in 2007) and Nate Schierholtz (0.7 WAR in 2008) were the cream of the crop, so to speak.

So unless you have a soft spot for any of those players, it’s safe to say that Yastrzemski is the best rookie outfielder the team has trotted out since Dan Gladden in 1984.

Gladden, 26, hit a blistering .351/.410/.447 with 23 extra-base hits and 31 steals in 86 games while manning center field for a 96-loss Giants team that year.

That was good enough to finish fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting, behind the impressive trio of Dwight Gooden (NYM), Juan Samuel (PHI) and Orel Hershiser (LAD).

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Long story short, if you found yourself watching Mike Yastrzemski this season and wondering when the last time the San Francisco Giants had such a productive rookie outfielder was, there’s a good chance you were not alone.

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