How SF Giants’ Thairo Estrada stacks up among the game’s best second basemen

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

Thairo Estrada will be entering his fourth season with the SF Giants and his third as the starting second baseman.  Before his time donning the orange and black, Estrada was the 19th-best prospect in the New York Yankees’ farm system back in 2019. 

How SF Giants’ Thairo Estrada stacks up among the game’s best second basemen

Scouts felt that his contact skills and defensive versatility foreshadowed that he could become a decent utility player at the major league level, but not much else. Evidently, the Yankees ended up agreeing that he would never become an above-average regular, because they designated him for assignment back in 2021 and traded him to San Francisco for cash considerations

Estrada became one of the most prominent success stories of Zaidi’s churn-and-burn roster-building strategy, producing a 119 wRC+ in a small sample of 52 games in his first Giants season in 2021.

Fast forward to 2023, and the single biggest surprise of Estrada’s emergence has been his defensive growth.  FanGraphs gave him a stellar grade of +20 Outs Above Average (OAA) last season, which was tied for the best production of any defender in the league in that category.  Baseball Prospectus also thought highly of his contributions, awarding him +14 Fielding Runs Value, which was tied for fifth-best in baseball (Patrick Bailey ranked second with +18). Despite this, Estrada was not a finalist for the Gold Glove, which felt like a modest snub.

It looked as if Estrada was poised to take a massive step forward at the plate as well when he put up a torrid .346/.393/.529 line in April that was good for a 155 wRC+, or 55% better than the league-average hitter.

The problem was from May 1st through the end of the year, where he slumped to a mediocre .251/.294/.386 (86 wRC+) in a much larger sample of 418 plate appearances.  His season line of .271/.315/.416 was still worth 101 wRC+, but the floor he showcased is not someone you want hitting second between new acquisitions Jung Hoo Lee and Jorge Soler

Just going off the eye test and his career progression, it does seem like a fairly safe bet that he can repeat or even exceed that 101 wRC+ in 2024 along with his elite defense.  The Giants will need him to be that type of player while being a threat to steal on the bases. (As an aside, here’s a not-so-fun fact – his 23 stolen bases last season were 45% of the entire team’s swiped bags!)

ZiPS projections were a little more bearish on him, foreseeing a .262/.314/.398 line that would be about 4% below league-average, albeit with a useful 1.9 WAR that would rank fourth among Giants’ position players. 

That would still be a deep dive from the 3.9 WAR he put up this year, though. His 3.9 WAR was 8th-best among all second basemen, and there’s no reason to assume he will not be a perpetual member of top-10 lists going forward. Even if those lists fail to include him, he is undoubtedly one of the better second basemen in baseball. The 27-year-old infielder is just now entering his prime, and with somewhat improved lineup protection, he could be primed for the best season of his career to date.