After three injury-marred seasons, San Francisco Giants outfielder Steven Duggar enters spring training facing an uphill battle to win a roster spot.
Steven Duggar, Jaylin Davis, Austin Slater, Joey Rickard, Chris Shaw, and Darin Ruf will join Yastrzemski and Dickerson in the competition for outfield spots. Of course, a mystery candidate could also enter the sweepstakes before spring training begins.
In regards to Duggar, he will have to earn his way onto the Opening Day roster.
His major league career has not taken off like the fan base expected when he debuted with the team in 2018. With that being said, injuries have slowed his development.
Across 433 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter has posted a .241/.286/.358 line (74 OPS+) with 32 extra based hits, including six home runs.
The low power numbers are not surprising because that is not necessarily part of his skill set. However, given his speed, he should be able to hit with more extra-base power, and that has not happened yet.
Duggar’s peripheral stats yield some red flags as well. The 26-year-old has generated a six percent walk rate against a 28.1 percent strikeout rate during his time in the majors.
Each of these marks are concerning, especially since Duggar had produced a 12.7 percent walk rate and a more palatable 23.1 percent strikeout rate as a minor leaguer.
The plate discipline that Duggar had demonstrated in the minor league ranks has not translated to his major league performance yet. That is compounded by the fact that he is striking out at a high frequency without bringing much power to the table.
With all this said, Duggar has not produced in the batter’s box yet. Injuries have been a factor, but his major league performance consists of over 400 plate appearances, so he is no longer swimming in small sample waters.
Despite his performance at the plate, Duggar has been as advertised with the glove:
He passes the eye test and the defensive metrics agree. In his brief career, the Clemson University product has been worth 10 DRS and 3.2 UZR while playing primarily center field, along with some work in right field as well.
Despite those solid marks, Yastrzemski is the leading candidate to be the Opening Day center fielder, a job he earned with his stellar 2019 season. Behind him, Davis could also see time in center field, as well as Rickard if he makes the club.
If Duggar joins Yastrzemski and Dickerson as the primary outfielders, that would create a balance problem since all three bat from the left side.
In roster construction, having balance to combat against extreme platoon splits is crucial. Pairing Duggar with Yastrzemski and Dickerson could expose them to a tough left-handed pitcher like Los Angeles Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw.
Giants team president Farhan Zaidi knows this, and he has spent the past month adding several right-handed hitters to the competition, including Jamie Westbrook, Rickard, and Ruf.
Slater and Davis have the inside track to make the team as right-handed-hitting outfielders due to the fact that they are currently on the 40-man roster. Westbrook, Rickard, and Ruf were brought in on minor league pacts with camp invites.
However, neither Davis nor Slater have the track record or the consistency at the major league level. The opportunity will present itself for both to stake their claim in 2020, but the Giants do not have much depth in case both options struggle.
What does all this mean? It becomes a numbers game, and while the Giants seem comfortable with Yastrzemski and Dickerson, they are not sure about who will join those two on the Opening Day roster.
However, given that they are left-handed bats, the Giants will want to retain multiple right-handed hitting outfielders on their 26-man roster. That could mean that Duggar will start the season at Triple-A Sacramento.
The Giants do not have a lot of depth in the outfield, but it is going to be tough for a glove-first player like Duggar to make the roster as currently constructed.
Given his struggles at the plate and in staying on the field, it could very well be in his best interest to start the season in Triple-A to get extra repetitions.
His 2020 role will likely be to start the season in Triple-A Sacramento. How he responds to that assignment will determine if he sees significant playing time at Oracle Park this season.
With Duggar, the glove has never been in question, but he will need to prove that his bat is enough for him to stick on the major league roster.