Minor-League Free Agents That Could Help The SF Giants In 2021:
Outfielders: Mikie Mahtook, Michael Hermosillo
If Mikie Mahtook were a left-handed hitter, it would be the easiest fit in the book. Capable of playing all three outfield positions well defensively, the former top prospect is well equipped to be a solid fourth outfielder. His .758 OPS when he’s had the platoon advantage is obviously competent but doesn’t do the Giants much good in center field with Mauricio Dubón struggling against right-handed pitchers. Mahtook would still be a great depth piece, but it’s hard to see him joining the Giants with other organizations positioned to offer him a better chance at big-league at-bats.
Michael Hermosillo is also righthanded, so the fit’s not quite ideal. However, he’s a plus runner with excellent defensive abilities at all three outfield spots. He managed a solid .802 OPS at Triple-A in 2019 and made a few appearances for the Angels this season at the big-league level. He consistently ranked among the Angels top 30 prospects over the past few years and is still just 25-years old. Given his athletic tools, the Giants might want to gamble on their coaching staff to see if they can help his bat take another step.
Top Target/Best Fit: Rafael Ortega
It’s impossible to predict any player to break out late in their professional careers like Mike Yastrzemski or Donovan Solano. Yet, as I write that, it’s so tempting to look at Rafael Ortega and see a lot of similarities between his career arc and two of the Giants best players.
Signed out of Venezuela, Ortega worked his way through the minors as a soft-hitting slap hitter with good speed and strong outfield defense. Entering 2019, he’d never hit 10 home runs in a season combined between the major and minor-league levels. Then, all of a sudden, he hit 34 doubles, 21 home runs, and posted a .285/.373/.524 triple-slash line with Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate.
Needless to say, it seems pretty clear that Ortega took a huge step forward at the plate. While he struggled in about a month of playing time with Atlanta, he performed better than his production suggested, according to expected batting average and expected slugging. His well below-average .250 BABIP seemed like another possible bad break that hampered his MLB production.
Ortega was considered a good prospect because of his above-average work on the basepaths and at every spot in the outfield. He has a strong arm that could handle right field at Oracle Park, while also having the range to play in center as well.
Following his swing change, Ortega’s strikeouts spiked noticeably but were at such a low level that they remained perfectly reasonable at the MLB level (22.9%). Furthermore, he maintained his strong plate discipline, posting a solid 8.3% walk rate. As a lefthanded batter, Ortega could make the perfect platoon option for manager Gabe Kapler as well.
Even if the power gains do not continue, that’s still the makings of a fourth outfielder. But, it’s easy to look at that 2019 performance and think a new late bloomer could be available for virtually nothing.
The SF Giants roster is far deeper than it has been in some time. With fewer roster spots up for competition, it may be harder for minor-league free agents to receive an opportunity. That won’t stop the team from scouring the market looking for the next diamond in the rough. Perhaps one of these 15 free-agents could be the next big contributor that nobody saw coming.