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SF Giants: Five bold predictions for the 2021 season

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Giants 6-0. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Evan Longoria #10 of the San Francisco Giants bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Giants 6-0. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)
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SF Giants, Mauricio Dubon
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 23: Mauricio Dubón #1 of the SF Giants hits a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on September 23, 2020. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

SF Giants: 5 bold predictions for the 2021 season
4. Mauricio Dubón records more walks more than strikeouts

This prediction may be the least likely of the batch. As pitchers have gotten better and better throughout MLB, the prospect of a hitter walking more than they strikeout has become nearly impossible. The few who do have long track-records of working counts and drawing walks at elite rates. Mauricio Dubón does not.

Dubón has always been a contact-oriented hitter. In more than 2,600 minor-league plate appearances, he struck out just 12.8% of the time. He has not replicated quite that elite ball-to-bat ability in the majors, but Dubón has still managed an above-average 19.5% strikeout rate in 287 big-league plate appearances.

Yet, Dubón has always had an aggressive approach at the plate. Willing to swing early in counts, Dubón has struggled to draw walks. While most of the Giants’ acquisitions under the current president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, have produced 10%-15% walk-rates over their careers, Dubón walked just 165 times during his time in the minors (6.3% rate). Those struggles carried over in his first 111 MLB plate appearances when Dubón drew just five free passes.

Last season, as pitchers gained more extensive scouting reports on Dubón’s free-swinging tendencies, the Honduran center fielder struggled mightily. In his first 17 games of the year, Dubón had struck out more than a quarter of the time, walked just once, and had a .200/.213/.289 triple-slash. However, he and the coaching staff worked on changing his approach. Over the rest of the season, Dubón not only posted a .811 OPS but also walked in 10.8% of his plate appearances, a rate he had never approached before.

This spring, manager Gabe Kapler and his coaching staff pointed out that Dubón had improved his approach more than anyone else on the roster. His spring training performance backed that up. In 49 preseason plate appearances, Dubón earned as many walks (10) as strikeouts (10). It’s a bold prediction to expect him to replicate such success over a full big-league season, but his eye has consistently improved since the Giants acquired him in 2019. It could pay massive dividends in 2021.

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