Spring training is often a time for camp battles, but that will not be the case for the SF Giants from the position players as nearly every role has been defined.
With that being said, the Cactus League can be a place where players experiment with new positions but Austin Slater will not be toying with a new position for the SF Giants.
On Thursday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler confirmed that the right-handed bat will strictly stick in the outfield in 2021. This is not necessarily a major revelation, but the front office has previously contemplated the idea of using Slater in a super-utility role.
SF Giants Austin Slater’s role in the field defined
The Giants originally drafted Slater in the eighth round of the 2014 draft out of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Since then, the 28-year-old has seen time at every position with the exception of catcher and pitcher.
As a minor leaguer, Slater had gotten a lot of work at second base in the infield, whereas his time had been split pretty evenly between all three outfield positions. San Francisco was hoping he could carve out a similar role to Chris Taylor (current) and Enrique Hernandez (formerly) of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Slater could still become that type of player.
Both Taylor and Hernandez had moved around seamlessly between positions and that type of versatility gives a manager plenty of options. However, the Giants want the Stanford University product to focus exclusively on the outfield this season.
Slater has the speed, athleticism, and arm to handle either corner outfield spot, but he will be tested out in center field as well this spring. He has plenty of minor league experience in center but he has surprisingly seen only 3.1 innings of work with San Francisco since his debut in 2017.
On the heels of a strong 2020 campaign in which the righty slashed .288/.408/.506 (152 OPS+) with five home runs and seven RBI, Slater enters camp with a sense of comfort as his roster spot for Opening Day is nearly certain. The only question that remains is how well he can handle center field because that will be another stripe on his belt if he can stick. At least we now know that he will not be seeing the infield dirt anytime soon.