Going into the 2021 season, the SF Giants seemed heavily reliant on 26-year-old Mauricio Dubón in center field. The soft-hitting Honduran seemed like the only competent defender in center. However, corner outfielder Austin Slater showed strong defensive acumen this spring. After a slot offensive start, Slater has picked up his production quite a bit. Has he played himself into an everyday role in center?
Slater has started in center field quite a bit so far this season, but the question remains whether he is a sustainable option down the line. Dubón’s cold start at the plate has essentially relegated him to a utility role. However, manager Gabe Kapler has still brought Dubón into the game in late innings to play center field while shifting Slater to left.
Is Austin Slater the SF Giants everyday centerfielder?
Dubón has more range and speed than Slater does in the outfield, so having a player covering more ground really helps when trying to cover the gaps in the outfield. But let’s not forget that Slater has been no slouch in center field, though. He has made some Superman-like web gems like this one in Miami.
It is also worth noting that Slater has the strongest arm of any outfielder on the Giants. Dubón was developed as a shortstop and had a solid arm on the infield dirt, but it has not translated to the outfield to the same degree. Even if his arm is a bit more accurate, Slater has the firepower to gun a runner down, pushing their luck on the basepaths.
Ultimately though, the question of whether Slater will be the everyday center fielder for the rest of the year (and beyond) will come down to what he does with the bat. He is hitting .236/.323/.418 with 2 home runs, 6 RBI, and 2 stolen bases. Sadly, that is some of the best offensive production on the team right now.
Even if Dubón is a superior option to Slater defensively, offensive consistency will determine whether they continue to share time or if one emerges as the permanent starter. After hitting .282/.408/.506 last season, Slater has shown his offensive potential is undeniably greater. Now that he has shown an impressive comfort in center, it’s hard to imagine him seeing more and more time up the middle. Given Dubón’s background and ability to play second base and shortstop on top of the outfield, it’s easy to see him finding a home as a versatile utilityman.
We all know that things can change over the course of a 162 game season. Still, given Mauricio Dubón’s defensive versatility and Austin Slater’s offensive potential, it’s hard to see Slater not seeing more and more playing time in center field. While everyone thought Dubón would be the centerfielder of the future, it seems another surprising option has emerged to potentially lock down the role.