Mike Yastrzemski was a huge pleasant surprise for the San Francisco Giants in 2019. Can he follow his rookie success with another good season?
His impressive rookie season seemingly came out of nowhere after he was acquired in an under-the-radar trade with the Baltimore Orioles during the offseason.
Now he faces legitimate expectations entering his sophomore season. Can he meet or even exceed them?
After getting called up in late May, Yaz quickly became one of the team’s most important contributors over the course of a summer hot streak that had some speculating about a possible wild-card berth. While the team came up short, they would not have even been in the conversation had it not been for the breakout rookie.
In 371 plate appearances, he hit .272/.334/.518 with 21 home runs and 55 RBI. It was a truly refreshing sight for Giants fans.
He now heads into 2020 as the only outfielder written into the Opening Day lineup in permanent marker. And with the departure of Kevin Pillar, the Giants are going to leaning even more heavily on Yaz to be a consistent offensive producer.
Toward the end of the 2019 season, Yaz began hitting leadoff quite a bit. It will be interesting to see if new manager Gabe Kapler views him as a table-setter or if he prefers him in the middle of the order where he can drive in runs.
The big question is whether he is headed for any sort of sophomore regression. Opposing pitchers and scouts have had a full offseason to study him and find holes in his swing. Now he will need to make the necessary adjustments to progress.
The fact that he was a 28-year-old rookie could actually work in his favor in that sense. He spent a lot of time toiling away in the minors, so he is going to have that chip on his shoulder understanding that nothing is guaranteed.
In the end, I expect 2020 to be a pretty similar year for Yaz.
Perhaps he will experience some slight regression, but he has the tools to hit somewhere in the .260-.280 range with some solid power production to boot.
Yaz could be a piece of the next Giants team to contend for a title, and a solid 2020 would go a long way toward proving that.