The SF Giants are entering the 2023 season with LaMonte Wade Jr. penciled in at first base. He is coming off of a down year at the plate in 2022, so what are the Giants' plans if he is unable to recapture his 2021 form?
Do the SF Giants have a backup plan at first base if LaMonte Wade Jr. struggles?
Wade Jr. began 2022 on the injured list as he battled a knee injury and that ailment likely lingered for much of the season. After posting an .808 OPS with 18 home runs in 2021, the 29-year-old followed that up with a .207/.305/.665 line ( 88 OPS+) with eight home runs in 251 plate appearances last year.
The Giants are chalking that up as an outlier season and Wade Jr. is expected to see a lot of playing time as the strong side of the platoon at first base. When the Giants face right-handed pitching, Wade Jr. will likely be in the lineup, but Wilmer Flores or J.D. Davis could fill in whether they are facing off against left-handed pitching.
For the most part, Wade Jr. has been a solid hitter against righties, posting an .800 OPS across four seasons. He will need to maintain that type of production given that first base is often associated with a bat-first player.
The left-handed bat has proven in the past that he can be that type of player, but what if he struggles to start the year? Wade Jr. has no minor league options remaining, so he cannot be sent to the minors. The Giants need offense at first base and there may not be a lot of patience if Wade Jr. is unable to produce with the bat.
He is a popular player and it would be a tough situation. That said, the Giants do have a solid replacement in J.D. Davis. Davis is entering the season with a bit of an unknown role. He will be in the lineup against lefties, but what position he will play is anyone's guess.
He could fill in at first base, third base, and designated hitter. He will get at-bats, but the tricky part is finding a way to keep him in the lineup. The bat is not the question, but with Wade Jr., Flores, and Joc Pederson, the Giants have a lot of options at first base or DH, but not a ton of at-bats.
However, Davis has proven to be a much better hitter than just a platoon player. Throughout his career, the 29-year-old has tallied a .788 against righties and a .792 OPS against lefties. It is tough to be much more balanced than that.
And, this is where it is tough to predict Davis' role. He should be in the lineup everyday but that may not be the case when the year begins. That could change if Wade Jr. struggles to open the year. First base is likely Davis' best position going forward, but the Giants tend to leverage positional experience if a player has it. So, he might not be stuck at one position.
San Francisco is hoping that Wade Jr. can rediscover the form that made him such a threat at the plate in 2021. However, if that does not come to fruition, they do have a nice backup plan in Davis, who will hit his way into the lineup one way or the other. Hopefully, it does not come at the expense of Wade Jr.'s role, but it is tough to sit a quality bat like Davis on the bench.