Outfielder Austin Slater has been a consistent contributor for the SF Giants in 2022, especially against left-handed pitching. As several Giants outfielders have struggled recently, is it time to give Slater a few extra at-bats?
Does SF Giants outfielder Austin Slater deserve more playing time?
It is hard to ignore the struggles of both Mike Yastrzemski and LaMonte Wade Jr. Yastrzemski has been stuck in a brutal slump recently. On the year, the left-handed bat is slashing .235/.332/.408 (107 OPS+) with eight home runs, 34 RBI, and 39 runs in 304 plate appearances.
On the surface, these are solid numbers but they have taken a dramatic dip over the last six weeks. Since June 1, Yastrzemski has posted a .597 OPS in 150 plate appearances. Wade Jr. does not have a solid overall line to hang his hat on as he has registered a .180/.292/.295 (66 OPS+) line with two home runs, nine RBI, and six runs in 72 plate appearances.
In fairness, the 28-year-old outfielder has battled lingering knee inflammation, which could be impacting his performance. That said, Slater might be a better option until Wade Jr can get his bat going.
The six-year veteran and one of the longer-tenured Giants has been excellent at the plate in 2022. In 165 plate appearances, Slater has tallied a .281/.388/.446 (134 OPS+) line with five home runs, 22 RBI, and 29 runs. This includes a solid 13.9 percent walk rate against a 29.1 percent strikeout rate.
The right-handed bat continues to be effective against lefties as he has posted an .886 OPS compared to a .757 OPS against righties. His production against right-handed pitching has been a pleasant surprise as that is an area he has struggled with for much of his career.
In a much large sample of six seasons, Slater has struggled to the tune of a .647 OPS with a 33.8 percent strikeout rate against righties. He has recorded a total of 66 plate appearances against same-sided pitchers this season.
Platoon splits in small samples like this can be misleading, especially when you factor in that he has benefitted from a .353 BABIP against right-handers this season. That is a bit higher than his .337 career mark in terms of BABIP against righties, so some regression might be in the cards.
Nonetheless, Slater is swinging a hot bat. Perhaps, it is time to ride the wave for as long as it goes. Yastrzemski and Wade Jr. have been struggling and a little extra time off might help to get them going.