The SF Giants welcomed back Brandon Crawford. The veteran shortstop was in Sunday's lineup, recording three hitless at-bats in a 2-1 loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks. To create room on the roster, Opening Day third baseman David Villar was optioned to Sacramento.
SF Giants welcome back Brandon Crawford, option Opening Day third baseman
Infield prospect Casey Schmitt started at shortstop in the games leading up to Crawford's return. If you are wondering how Crawford's return might affect Schmitt's playing time, we explored that here. In short, we do not think Crawford's return will impact Schmitt's playing time if the 24-year-old prospect performs.
Crawford is in the final year of a two-year, $32 million extension he signed back in 2021. At the time of that extension, the left-handed bat was in the midst of an MVP-caliber season as he posted an .895 OPS with 24 home runs while taking home his fourth Gold Glove award.
However, he has struggled mightily since then. The 13-year veteran has registered a .222/.299/.345 line (82 OPS+) with an 8.6 percent walk rate against a 22.3 percent strikeout rate in a large sample of 536 plate appearances. This includes a rough start to 2023 in which he has tallied a .596 OPS with four home runs in 78 plate appearances.
The usually sure-handed Crawford has not graded out well defensively as well. Regardless of the metric used, he is ranking as a below-averaged infielder.
Despite starting the year as the Opening Day third baseman, Villar's playing time had quickly disappeared by the second month of the season. It was a sign that the Giants were likely going to send him down once Crawford returned.
The right-handed bat struggled to the tune of a .558 OPS with four home runs, 11 RBI, and 10 runs in 100 plate appearances. This includes an 8.0 percent walk rate against a 33.0 percent strikeout rate.
His struggles paved the way for J.D. Davis to take over as the everyday third baseman. To his credit, Davis has impacted the game on both sides of the ball.
Getting optioned is not necessarily a bad thing for Villar. He will go down to Sacramento where he will get regular at-bats. That just was just not the case at all with him over the past couple of weeks, so this is a good chance for him to reflect on his struggles and work toward getting ready for the next opportunity.