The SF Giants welcomed new addition J.D. Davis to the organization on Wednesday, but there was another new face as well. Outfield prospect Bryce Johnson's contract was selected to help address a defense that has struggled badly in the outfield.
SF Giants bolster outfield defense by promoting speedy center fielder
Johnson may not be considered a top prospect in the Giants organization, but he impacts the game in a number of ways including with the glove, baserunning, and he is a switch hitter. Jason Vosler and Sam Long were optioned to Triple-A to create room on the active roster for both Davis and Johnson.
The Giants originally drafted Johnson in the sixth round of the 2017 draft out of Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. It has been a long trek for the 26-year-old prospect but it is better late than never.
In five minor league seasons, Johnson has slashed .273/.359/.374 with a 10.2 percent walk rate against a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. This includes 136 stolen bases in 173 attempts, which equates to a solid 78.6 percent success rate.
The outfield prospect has produced a .283/.352/.397 line (91 wRC+) with five home runs, 24 RBI, 32 runs, a 7.1 percent walk rate, and a 25.6 percent strikeout rate in 266 plate appearances in his second turn with the Sacramento River Cats. I would not be letting the cat out of the bag if I admitted that the Giants are not the fastest team in the league, so Johnson should provide much-needed speed.
Plus, he offers stellar defense and plenty of highlight-reel plays:
The Giants' defense in the outfield has struggled badly in 2022 and it feels like the issues have worsened in recent weeks. Giants outfielders have combined to be worth -29 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and -18 Outs Above Average (OAA). They are comfortably in last place by either metric.
Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater saw the bulk of the time in center field, but neither one is a true center fielder. It is not a knock on either player, but a realization that the Giants traded away their best defensive center fielders in Mauricio Dubón and Steven Duggar earlier in the season.
Were those the right moves to be made? They felt like it at the time of the trade, but both moves left the Giants exposed in center field. Johnson gives San Francisco excellent speed, good routes, and natural instincts in center field. The bat might leave a little bit to be desired, but that is generally an acceptable tradeoff when it comes to defense at a premium position.