How Blake Sabol can help Mitch Haniger and the SF Giants in 2023

Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants
Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

SF Giants outfielder/catcher Blake Sabol is one of the more interesting players on the roster. Despite being a Rule 5 pick, the left-handed bat is staking his case to stick and looking to fill multiple roles with the club. One role could help Mitch Haniger.

How Blake Sabol can help Mitch Haniger and the SF Giants in 2023

The Giants acquired Sabol in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitching prospect Jake Wong. He had been with the Reds as a Rule 5 pick for about 10 minutes before he was shipped to San Francisco.

They have been experimenting with Sabol behind the plate and that is likely to continue. Given that he had a total of 94 games of pro experience at the position before this season, it is fair to say some growing pains were to be expected.

In the early going, Sabol has graded out well in terms of pitch framing. However, that has come at the cost of several catcher's interference calls, so it is a tradeoff. His blocking and throwing need improvement as well. There have been some rough moments along the way.

As a Rule 5 pick, he needed to hit early and often, and he has done just that. The 25-year-old is slashing .280/.330/473 (118 OPS+) with five home runs, 13 RBI, and 11 runs in 100 plate appearances. This includes a five percent walk rate against a 38.0 strikeout rate.

The high strikeout rate is concerning. There is no doubt about it. When he does make contact, it is usually quality contact as demonstrated by his 91.3-MPH average exit velocity and 10.9 percent barrel rate. These are encouraging trends and they represent something you cannot really teach.

At this point, the Giants may not know where Sabol will land defensively in the long-term. They are extremely light on catching depth, so Sabol will continue to see playing time behind the dish.

On the other hand, he will continue to see playing time in the outfield as well. Sabol has spent time at both corner outfield spots, but left field is likely a better fit and it is another way for him to stay in the lineup.

The Giants already have a left fielder in Mitch Haniger. They signed him to a three-year, $43.5 million pact this past winter. One of the benefits of having Haniger is that he is not necessarily a platoon player (.785 OPS against RHP, .849 OPS against LHP).

He is expected to be in the lineup each day, but is that a smart move? Haniger has appeared in over 100 games just twice in his seven-year career. He missed most of last year, appearing in just 57 games due in large part to an ankle sprain.

The 32-year-old missed most of April with an oblique strain. The Giants did not sign him to be a part-time player, but Sabol could help in keeping Haniger on the field.

Haniger will be in the lineup against lefties. There is not doubt about that. Whether it is at catcher, left field, or DH, Sabol should be in the lineup against righties as he has an .885 OPS in those matchups this season.

The Giants are not going to go with a strict platoon between Haniger and Sabol. That would not make any sense. However, Sabol's emergence does give the Giants flexibility in terms of being strategic with Haniger's workload.

The Giants should be able to pick and choose when to give Haniger a day off, especially against a tough righty. They are not going to do it every game, but they can be selective in a way that, ideally, keeps the power-hitting outfielder fresh.

Now, it bears mentioning that Haniger has gotten off to a slow start, but he does have a pretty good track record of success. The hits will begin to fall.

And, when they do, he will start to make an impact in the lineup. Though, even when he hits a hot streak, the Giants have an option in Sabol, who can spell Haniger in left field a couple of times each week. That should keep Haniger remain productive this year.