When the 2021 season began, Steven Duggar was on the roster bubble for the SF Giants. Five months later, he has strengthened his hold on a roster spot but now the question shifts to how he could fit onto the playoff roster.
SF Giants: How Steven Duggar fits into playoff picture
He fits quite easily actually. The 27-year-old has been on fire since returning from Triple-A, recording seven hits in 19 at-bats including four extra-base hits. In total, it has been a very strong 2021 campaign for the left-handed bat as he has slashed .275/.342/.466 with seven home runs, 33 RBI, and 39 runs while being worth 2.4 WAR in 260 plate appearances.
Midway through the season, Duggar hit a rough patch and was optioned back to Triple-A. Given his strong play since being recalled, the narrative is now shifting to the playoffs. The Giants hold a 2.5-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and they will return to the playoffs after a five-year absence. Whether it is a play-in game or not still needs to be resolved.
Duggar will likely be a key part of the playoff run. The coaching staff favors position players that give them leverage depending on who the pitcher is. For example, they target players who give them an advantage such as a left-handed bat with a platoon advantage against right-handed pitching.
Duggar (.835 OPS against RHP) is on par with fellow left-handed hitters like LaMonte Wade Jr. (911 OPS against RHP) and Mike Yastrzemski (.841 OPS against RHP) in terms of leverage from the left side. However, Alex Dickerson (719 OPS against RHP) does not.
This is an important detail as there are three outfield positions. And, the best outfield lineup against right-handed pitching includes Wade, Yastrzemski, and Duggar. There is a case to be made for Darin Ruf who has posted a strong .872 OPS against righties, but the Giants use platoon matchups whenever possible, meaning that Ruf might sit against right-handed pitching.
Speaking of the outfield, there is no one better with the glove in center field on the Giants than Duggar. The defensive metrics agree as he has recorded 6 DRS and 3 OAA in center field, which indicates that he is an above-average defender by a considerable margin. On top of this, Baseball Savant indicates that his sprint speed and outfield jumps are at elite levels.
The postseason is a time when teams often win on the slimmest of margins. Putting the best defensive alignment out onto the field helps to maintain those margins by minimizing the likelihood of a crucial error.
With three weeks to go, the Giants playoff roster is not finalized yet. That said, Duggar’s strong performance mixed with his speed and reliable glove make him a highly likely candidate to help the team forge a deep playoff run. Neither of those statements seemed likely just five months ago but a lot has changed since then. October baseball is returning to San Francisco.