It might be a tad aggressive to look at potential camp battles given that new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks have stalled in the past month. That said, there is one potential interesting
camp battle that stands out for the SF Giants.
SF Giants camp battle: Thairo Estrada vs. Mauricio Dubón
There might not be enough room on the 2022 roster for both Thairo Estrada and Mauricio Dubón. After all, neither player has an option remaining, meaning that either player would be exposed to waivers if they do not make the Opening Day roster (barring injuries).
It is clear that the front office likes Dubón's versatility, but is he an early favorite to win one of the last roster spots? That might seem like a rhetorical question at this point, especially after Estrada really opened some eyes down the stretch in 2021.
The Giants acquired Dubón in a trade deadline deal in 2019 that sent relievers Drew Pomeranz and Ray Black to the Milwaukee Brewers, whereas Estrada was acquired from the New York Yankees in exchange for cash in an unheralded move early in the 2021 season.
Since being acquired, the Giants have asked Dubón to perform in a super-utility role in the same way that the Los Angeles Dodgers use Chris Taylor. Dubón started seeing time in center field in 2020 after having minimal experience there as a pro and he adjusted nicely. He came up as a middle infielder, so adding center field to his résumé gave the Giants a lot of options.
That said, he has yet to find the consistency at the plate that would allow him to stick at the major league level. In parts of four seasons, the right-handed bat has slashed .260/.307/.395 (89 OPS+) with a 6.1 percent walk rate against a 20.4 percent strikeout rate. He does not hit for enough power or get on base at a rate that generates value.
That trend continued in 2021 where he posted a .655 OPS in 187 plate appearances. He made the Opening Day roster, but he was demoted due to his struggles at the plate.
On the other hand, Thairo Estrada may have quietly supplanted Dubón on the depth chart after a surprising 2021 campaign. Estrada was often considered one of the better prospects in the Yankees' farm system but he sustained an off-the-field injury that took multiple years to heal.
He is nearly four years removed from that injury and appears to be ready to make an impact. Similar to Dubón, Estrada came up as a middle infielder but he has been tested out as a corner outfielder as well. The sample is too small to draw a conclusion.
Defensively, Dubón has the edge given that he can play center field, but Estrada looked to have better instincts in the infield. In the batter's box, Estrada certainly has an edge with how he performed in 2021.
The 25-year-old infielder posted a .273/.333/.479 line (118 OPS+) with seven home runs, 22 RBI, and 19 runs scored in 132 plate appearances. This included a 17.4 percent strikeout rate against a 6.8 percent walk rate.
Neither hitter is particularly patient at the plate, but Estrada seemed to be a much better mistake-ball hitter:
In the video above, Estrada launched a pitch that caught too much of the middle of the plate. This was a consistent observation during his time with the Giants in 2021. He identified pitches that he could do damage against and he did not miss. That will be how he generates value with the bat going forward.
Dubón and Estrada are going to be vying for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Given that neither one has an option remaining and that they fill similar roles, there may not been enough room for both. Dubón will have an uphill battle to climb as he has struggled to find consistency at the plate and the pressure will be on once camp begins given how Estrada finished on a high note last year.