SF Giants: Giving the Players their Final Letter Grades

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Manager Gabe Kapler #19 signals the bullpen to make a pitching change against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Manager Gabe Kapler #19 signals the bullpen to make a pitching change against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /
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SF Giants
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Mike Yastrzemski #5 of the San Francisco Giants is presented with the 2020 Willie Mac Award by teammate Brandon Crawford #35 before the game against the San Diego Padres at Oracle Park on September 26, 2020, in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Outfield

Left Fielder Alex Dickerson: A-

Alex Dickerson gave the Giants a much-needed middle-of-the-order bat. In 170 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter posted a .298/.371/.576 line (157 OPS+) with 10 home runs and 27 RBI while being worth 0.7 WAR. On top of this, he posted a solid 9.4 percent walk rate against a 17.6 percent strikeout rate.

The 30-year-old has battled the injury bug throughout his career, and I really did like how Gabe Kapler managed his workload. Dickerson can function as a high-performing platoon hitter against right-handed pitchers, and that is how the SF Giants deployed him.

Of his 170 plate appearances, Dickerson only faced off against a southpaw 11 times. This allowed the Giants to manage his workload while putting him in a position to succeed.

In the field, Dickerson spent the bulk of his time in left field. The defensive metrics were not a fan of his work as he was worth -7 DRS and -5.6 UZR. I like these metrics, and I know front offices put a lot of weight into these numbers. That said, while no one would confuse Dickerson with a Gold Glove outfielder, I did not see him cost the Giants the game with his glove. His routes, range, and arm all seemed competent to the eye, but the metrics would disagree.

Left Fielder Darin Ruf: B+

Darin Ruf served as the right-handed platoon mate to the timeshare in left field with Dickerson. Similar to Dickerson, Ruf brought a potent bat to the table. In 100 plate appearances, the 34-year-old slashed a .276/.370/.517 line (143 OPS+) with five home runs and 18 RBI.

I should mention that being a quality right-handed platoon hitter is not an easy task because there are more right-handed pitchers than left-handed hurlers. This means that at-bats can be sporadic. To his credit, Ruf was always ready when his name was called.

Surprisingly, Ruf posted a .905 OPS against left-handed hurlers but generated a similarly strong .877 OPS against righties as well. Despite being in a timeshare, he did not demonstrate extreme platoon splits that normally come from this type of setup.

Like Dickerson, the defense metrics were not a fan of Ruf’s glove with -2 DRS and -1.0 UZR. He did have a few gaffes in the outfield, but he was serviceable.

That said, he vastly outperformed expectations this year. After spending the previous three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, there were no assurances that he would make the team. He did and gave the SF Giants a solid bat to use against southpaws. His story is a tremendous one.

Center Fielder Mauricio Dubon: B

When this season began, I had no idea what to expect from Mauricio Dubon in the outfield. He only had 44 professional innings of work in center field before this season, but you would have never guessed that by watching him roam Oracle Park.

According to Fangraphs, Dubon was worth 1 DRS and -1.7 UZR in center field this season. He will not win a Gold Glove with those marks, but he definitely held down the fort in the outfield. Oracle Park’s outfield is one of the most expansive in baseball, but he proved to have the range and athleticism to patrol it like a veteran.

In the batter’s box, Dubon got off to a slow start. In July and August, he produced a .558 and .667 OPS, respectively.

However, he was given a three-day break in August to recharge, and he returned with a much better approach. On the year, he posted a .274/.337/.389 (101 OPS+) line with four home runs and 19 RBI.

He finished the year with an 8.5 percent walk rate, and I think this was quietly one of the more impressive qualities of his season. When the year began, he was extremely aggressive, but as he grew more patient, the results began to come to fruition.

I am not sure if he will hit more than 10-15 home runs in any season, but he can offer good value if the plate discipline continues to develop.

On a final note, the 26-year-old has some baserunning gaffes that were difficult to explain. The hope is these were one-offs and he can grow from them.

Right Fielder Mike Yastrzemski: A

This is the easiest grade to hand out as Mike Yastrzemski was the MVP of the team as well as the 2020 Willie Mac Award recipient. It was really a no-brainer.

After coming out of nowhere in 2019 with 21 home runs and an .852 OPS as a 28-year-old rookie, Yastrzemski quickly quelled any questions about his rookie campaign being a fluke.

In 225 plate appearances, he generated a .297/.400/.568 line (165 OPS+) with ten home runs, 35 RBI, and 39 runs scored. Even more impressive than this was that he blasted eight home runs and drove in 22 in two-strike counts. The ability to hit while behind in the count is not something you see from a second-year player.

In the field, the 30-year-old began the season as the center fielder but shifted to right field as Dubon became more comfortable in his new position. Yastrzemski was an above-average fielder with 2 DRS and 2.3 UZR.

He was undoubtedly the most impactful player on this SF Giants roster. Like Belt, Yastrzemski should receive some MVP votes this year.

Right Fielder Austin Slater: A-

Austin Slater spent the latter half of the season as the team’s DH, but he did play nearly half of his games in the outfield when he was healthy, so I am lumping him into the outfield category.

Originally, I struggled with what grade to give Slater. I do not have a reason for not giving him an A, but in my mind, he was not on the same level as Yastrzemski or Brandon Belt. That said, the Stanford University product strung together a nice season when he was healthy.

Health seems to be the question going forward as Slater has missed time in recent seasons due to hip, elbow, and groin injuries.

I see these as acute injuries, rather than some of the chronic back issues Alex Dickerson has battled. However, he may be the type of player that needs to have his workload managed going forward.

On the year, he posted a .282/.408/.506 line (152 OPS+) with five home runs, seven RBI, and 18 runs scored. He was also 8-9 in stolen base attempts. The 27-year-old posted a stout 1.127 OPS against southpaws and held his own with a .735 OPS against right-handed hurlers.

On top of this, Slater seemed to have made strides in getting more lift on the ball this year:

On a final note, I really liked watching him bat leadoff and think that is a perfect role for him going forward. Slater continues to show good plate discipline and strike zone awareness as evidenced by his 15.4 percent walk rate in 2020. If healthy, he looks like someone who can become a good contributor next season.