SF Giants: Hanser Alberto, the middle infielder that got away
By Jeff Young
The SF Giants middle infield situation might look a little better today had they not gotten rid of second baseman Hanser Alberto.
For a brief period in time, the Giants had the 27-year-old on their 40-man roster as part of an aggressive roster churn strategy early in Farhan Zaidi’s tenure.
Zaid has made plenty of good moves in his time, but this may be one that comes back to haunt the Giants.
San Francisco originally claimed Alberto off of waivers from the Baltimore Orioles at the end of February in 2019. He appeared in several Cactus League games with the Orange and Black where he recorded two hits in six at-bats.
However, his stay with the Giants was brief as he was placed back on waivers shortly thereafter.
The Orioles, who had previously put the right-handed bat on waivers, reclaimed Alberto and have not looked back ever since.
The Orioles and Giants had an interesting series of unrelated transactions in March of 2019. Of course, the first move was the one just mentioned. Three weeks later, the Giants would acquire outfielder Mike Yastrzemski in exchange for minor league pitcher Tyler Herb in a transaction that barely registered with the fanbase at the time.
We all know how this moved turned out. Yastrzemski posted a .272/.334/518 line (122 OPS+) with 21 home runs and 55 RBI across 411 plate appearances in his rookie campaign in 2019.
In only 15 2020 games, the left-handed bat has emerged into an All-Star-caliber player as he has a 1.081 OPS with three home runs in 81 plate appearances. The Giants swindled the Orioles in this move.
However, the Orioles did some swindling from the Giants as well. Before 2019, Alberto posted a .192/.210/.231 line in three seasons with the Texas Rangers. Following the 2018 season, he started to rack up the frequent flyer miles as he spun around the waiver wire with the New York Yankees, Giants, and Orioles.
Former SF Giants infielder Hanser Alberto saw his career take off in 2019
Alberto has found a home since being reclaimed by the Orioles. Similar to Yastrzsemki, the middle infielder saw his career take off in 2019.
He posted a .305/.329/.422 line (98 OPS+) across 550 plate appearances while being worth 2.9 WAR. This included 62 runs scored and a sterling 9.1 percent strikeout rate. His value is very average-dependent, which is a red flag, but he is the type of hitter who would do well in a move-the-line offensive strategy.
In a way, the versatile middle infielder is similar, both offensively and defensively, to current Giants infielder Donovan Solano.
Alberto has not taken his foot off of the gas since the 2020 season began. The season is still young, but he has a .339 batting average with six doubles and two home runs in 56 at-bats. His is showing off way more gap-to-gap power than he had last season:
Like Solano, Albero has the type of contact-heavy approach that seems to have benefited from a change in his average launch angle. Since joining the Orioles, he has recorded a line drive in over 20 percent of his batted ball events, so he is generating the right type of contact with the bat.
Perhaps, if the Giants had held on to Alberto, we may have never seen the emergence of Solano. Though, if the Giants had Solano along with Alberto on their major league roster currently, they might feel a little better about the team’s middle infield depth.
When you churn the roster over as quickly as Zaidi did early in his tenure, you will see what-if moments like this one. I think the important thing is that it looks like Zaidi has an eye for talent, and the Giants will continue to benefit from that eye for years to come.