What will it take for young slugger Chris Shaw to make the San Francisco Giants Opening Day roster?
The young slugger just turned 26 years old in October and he is coming off three seasons at the Triple-A level in which he has averaged 21 home runs and 62 RBI to go with a batting line of .280/.328/.538.
The Giants sent him down to Double-A at the start of last season in hopes he could improve his approach at the plate and he responded with a .294/.360/.559 line and a respectable 7.9 percent walk rate in 120 games between Double-A and Triple-A.
Even the ZiPS projections are high on Shaw.
The annual algorithm predicted Shaw would be the team’s home run leader in 2020 with 20 dingers, to go along with 66 RBI and a more modest .239/.293/.425 batting line.
But what is the likelihood of Shaw actually making the Opening Day roster?
With so many question marks heading into spring training, including a number of non-roster invitees who will also vying for roster spots, Shaw has multiple hurdles to overcome.
The fact that Shaw can play first base and the outfield works in his favor, as he would give the Giants additional flexibility off the bench.
However, with Brandon Belt penciled in as the everyday first baseman and Buster Posey likely to see time there as well, Shaw would only serve as a backup at the position.
There is room in the outfield, though.
As a left-handed hitting slugger, Shaw is a commodity for any MLB team and he would potentially give the Giants an all lefty hitting outfield against right-handed pitchers alongside Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson.
Shaw could also serve as a platoon option with other potential Opening Day roster competitors in right-handed hitters Austin Slater, Jaylin Davis, and Darin Ruf.
Barring an offensive outburst during the spring, Davis would likely benefit from more time at Triple-A to prove he can reproduce something close to last year’s 35 home runs before he gets another look in the majors.
So Shaw’s future could come down to what happens with Slater and Ruf.
While they fit as platoon partners in theory, Slater and Ruf may also be the biggest barriers since they are all power hitters who play the outfield and first base. Additionally, Slater (544 PA) and Ruf (833 PA) have more MLB experience than Shaw (72 PA).
There is also always the possibility of Brandon Belt being traded at some point. If that happens, Shaw immediately becomes a platoon candidate with Posey at first base.
Shaw can make the Opening Day roster as an outfielder because of his position flexibility, his production, and his fit with other options on the roster.
But to be a factor in 2020, Shaw will need to prove his inexperience is not a hinderance and produce as he has in the minors. Otherwise, his best bet is to hope the Giants find a willing trade partner for Belt to free up playing time at first base.