SF Giants third baseman Evan Longoria was placed on the injured list on Wednesday with an oblique strain and the hope is that he can return soon. However, does his absence give the Giants an opportunity to begin looking at potential third base options for 2023?
Is now the time for the SF Giants to start preparing for a new third baseman in 2023?
Longoria is under contract through the end of this season, but he has a $13 million team option that includes a $5 million buyout. The Giants will likely not exercise that team option, thereby making him a free agent, and the veteran third baseman has pondered retirement at the end of the season.
To his credit, the longtime third baseman continues to be a productive hitter as he has posted a 108 OPS+ since the start of 2019. The defensive metrics are beginning to slide, posting -5 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and zero Outs Above Average (OAA) in 2022, but he remains the Giants' best defensive option at third base.
As his career has progressed, Longoria has struggled to remain on the field with this being his second stint on the injured list in 2022.
Villar was promoted to the major league roster on Monday and Giants fans have been eager to see the right-handed bat put on a Giants uniform since his breakout season last year.
Villar registered a .275/.374/.507 line (141 wRC+) with 20 home runs, 58 RBI, and 70 runs in 446 plate appearances in Double-A in 2021. The home run output was a Richmond Flying Squirrels franchise record that stood for less than one season as Sean Roby surpassed that mark a couple of days ago.
The corner infield prospect followed up his strong 2021 campaign with an even better showing in Triple-A this year. He posted a .284/.409/.633 line (151 wRC+) with 21 home runs, 62 RBI, and 53 runs in 281 plate appearances with the Sacramento River Cats.
This includes a 15.7 percent walk rate against a 27.0 percent strikeout rate. Villar's plate discipline has improved as he has moved up the minor league ladder and that's not a trend you typically see from a prospect. So far, the righty has tallied two hits in 12 at-bats with two walks against five strikeouts with the Giants.
Villar has spent the bulk of his time as a pro at third base but he has seen more time at second base lately. Second base might be a better fit for him in the long term, but it would be wise to see how he performs at third base in Longoria's absence.
Outside of Villar, Jason Vosler is the only other realistic option currently on the 40-man roster. Infield prospect Will Wilson could emerge as a potential option next year as well.
Vosler has looked a lot better at the plate in 2022 in a limited showing for the Giants. The left-handed bat has posted a .268/.344/.518 line (139 OPS+) with four home runs, eight RBI, and nine runs in 64 plate appearances.
The home run output is impressive and similar to what we saw from him last season. The 28-year-old infielder has recorded an extra-base hit in 46.4 percent of his hits as a major leaguer, which is a pretty good recipe for success.
However, the question remains can he sustain the type of production we have seen in 2022? The likely answer is no due in part to the fact that he has struggled to the tune of a .683 OPS in 180 plate appearances with the River Cats.
However, Vosler has tallied a .872 OPS in his brief major league career against right-handed pitching and that is likely a role that he will need to assume.
Similar to Villar, Vosler will need to show that he can handle the hot corner. He has struggled at third base in 2022, but it is in a very small sample. It would behoove the Giants to see how he can handle the position with a little more playing time.
Of course, the Giants need to recall him from Triple-A before any evaluation can take place. But, in Longoria's absence, they have a chance to see what they have internally as a way to plan for the eventual offseason.