SF Giants lineup inches toward full strength with return of outfield bat

Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants
Cincinnati Reds v San Francisco Giants / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The SF Giants are nearing full strength as veteran outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was activated from the injured list on Wednesday. In a corresponding move, 21-year-old outfielder Luis Matos was optioned back to Triple-A, per the team's transaction log.

SF Giants lineup inches toward full strength with return of outfield bat

Yastrzemski has spent considerable time on the injured list in 2023 as he has battled a nagging hamstring strain. The latest bout occurred at the end of July, which has kept him on the injured list for most of August.

It has been a frustrating year for the five-year veteran as it seems that as soon as he is getting in a groove, the hamstring ailment flares up again. Yastrzemski was nearing a return earlier this month, but suffered a setback. The good news is that the setback was not significant and the Giants hope that he can remain on the field for the remainder of the year.

When he is healthy, the left-handed bat has been a productive contributor, slashing .231/.317/.435 (106 OPS+) with 11 home runs, 32 RBI, 43 runs in 289 plate appearances. This includes a 10.7 percent walk rate against a 25.6 percent strikeout rate.

Yastrzemski also impacts the game in the outfield as he has proven to be a solid defensive glove in both center field and right field. It is hard to ignore that the outfield defense took a noticeable step back in his absence. He returned to the lineup on Wednesday and recorded two hitless at-bats with two walks in a 4-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

On the other side of the transaction, Luis Matos returns to the Sacramento River Cats. The young outfielder has had some positive moments but he might benefit from more minor league seasoning, especially in terms of his outfield defense.

The right-handed bat has registered a .250/.311/.356 line (84 OPS+) with two home runs, 11 RBI, and 20 runs in 198 plate appearances this season. This includes a 7.1 percent walk rate against a 13.1 percent strikeout rate. His command of the strike zone looks advanced for a player his age.

While there is a learning curve that comes with having so many rookies on the roster, it would have been nice to see the Giants stick it out with Matos. That said, they do hold the third Wild Card spot with a 69-64 record, so it is a tough balancing act between developing a player and competing for a playoff spot.