Which Giants outfielders will make the Opening Day roster?

By Dzintars Grinfelds
Giants outfielders Mike Yastrzemski, Kevin Pillar and Austin Slater. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Giants outfielders Mike Yastrzemski, Kevin Pillar and Austin Slater. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco Giants, Mike Yastrzemski
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Mike Yastrzemski #5 of the San Francisco Giants hits a single that scored a run in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 26, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The front-runners

There is very little doubt that Mike Yastrzemski will be on the Opening Day roster after a 2019 rookie campaign where he hit .264/.329/.489 and mashed 21 home runs with 55 RBI. His 2.8 WAR and .852 OPS led all Giants hitters.

Besides showing the franchise brass that he deserves a spot on the 2020 roster, his ability to play center field may be what prompted the front office to not seek a bone fide starting center fielder to replace Pillar this offseason.

That means the starting job in center is Yastrzemski’s to lose this spring.

But who will join the sophomore sensation at the corner spots?

If the 2020 ZiPS predictions are any indication of who is on an upward trend in their careers, Austin Slater and Chris Shaw must be included on the roster.

According to Dan Szymborski’s annual ZiPS figures, Slater is projected to have the eighth-highest WAR on the team and second-highest among all outfielders behind Yastrzemski.

He’s projected to hit .251/.338/.396 with 11 home runs, 52 RBI and seven stolen bases, which speaks to his well-rounded skill set.

He could be a solid option as a starter, a reliable pinch hitter, or late-inning replacement in the field or on the base paths.

If Shaw’s spring comes anything near his ZiPS projections, the Giants will have no choice but to pen him in as a starting left fielder. The annual algorithm listed Shaw as San Francisco’s home run leader in 2020 with 20 dingers, to go along with 66 RBI and a .239/.293/.425 line.

Using the two of them would also benefit the Giants as the right-handed-hitting Slater and left-handed-hitting Shaw would bring balance to the lineup.

Shaw is also capable of playing first base. Given the Giants’ desire over the last few seasons to trade Brandon Belt and the $32 million remaining on his contract, having Shaw on hand means the Giants could accept a deal at any time and have Shaw step in as the replacement at first base.

Shaw is not the only candidate to backup first base either. Recently signed Darin Ruf will try to make a return to the MLB after playing in the Korean Baseball Organization for the past three seasons where he hit .313/.404/.564 with 86 home runs and 350 RBI across 1,756 total plate appearances. He finished with an impressive .968 OPS last season.

Like Shaw, the 33-year-old Ruf has experience playing both first base and in the outfield. He may not be the long-term solution for the Giants given his age, but he could be playing to earn a spot as the team’s slugging pinch hitter and backup option at first and in the outfield for a season or two.

There is also 2019 midseason acquisition and fan-favorite Alex Dickerson. In limited playing time after being acquired by the Giants June 10 last summer, he managed to produce a .290/.351/.529 line with six home runs and 26 RBI in just 171 plate appearances. Knowing he is a terror against right-handed pitching, it is hard to keep him off the roster.

Adding Dickerson as a starter against right-handed pitching also give the Giants three left-handed hitters with power across each outfield position in those games.

So in this scenario, the team’s Opening Day outfield would consist of Yastrzemski in center, Shaw in left, and Slater in right. Ruf and Dickerson would then come off the bench as power hitting platoon options.