The SF Giants will have an interesting roster surplus to navigate through in 2023. It is not an ideal situation, but both Wilmer Flores and J.D. Davis are slated to fill a similar role on the roster next year.
SF Giants will have to navigate through roster surplus in 2023
Both players were important bats for the Giants last year. Flores slashed .229/.316/.394 (100 OPS+) with 19 home runs, 71 RBI, and 72 runs in 602 plate appearances. This included a solid 9.8 percent walk rate against a 17.1 percent strikeout rate.
The 10-year veteran set a career-high with home runs (19) and was one of the leaders in most counting stat categories for the Giants. Flores post a .707 OPS OPS against left-handed pitchers compared to a .711 OPS against righties. He was a solid and consistent producer while being used in the lineup regardless of who was pitching.
I think that the Giants added some length to the lineup with Mitch Haniger and Michael Conforto while retaining Joc Pederson that Flores should be able to bat a little lower in the lineup. This is not a knock on Flores, but a recognition that the lineup should feature better depth next year, meaning that less pressure will be on Flores to produce.
On the other hand, J.D. Davis came over to the Giants along with three other players in a move that sent Darin Ruf to the New York Mets. The 29-year-old was fantastic following the trade as he registered a .263/.361/.496 line (140 OPS+) with eight home runs, 14 RBI, and 20 runs in 158 plate appearances for San Francisco. This included a 12.0 percent walk rate against a 35.4 percent strikeout rate.
Davis has typically been a solid offensive producer with a high strikeout rate, so strikeouts are going to be part of his game. He will need to offset some of that with good above-average numbers and that is what he has done throughout his six-year career.
Similar to Flores, Davis is relatively platoon-proof. He has tallied a .792 OPS against southpaws and a .788 OPS against righties throughout his career.
In a perfect world, the Giants would like to have both Flores and Davis in the lineup on a regular basis. How they do that will be difficult to navigate. Flores has experience at first base, second base, and third base. Davis has experience at first base, third base, and left field.
Davis has flashed a good arm at the hot corner, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of range and consistency. Flores has experience all around the diamond, but it has become clear that he is best suited as a first baseman.
If the Giants are facing righty, then Joc Pederson will appear at DH and LaMonte Wade Jr. could see time at first base. If Wade Jr. shifts to a corner outfield spot, one of Flores or Davis could hold down the fort at first base.
If the Giants are facing a lefty, then it is likely that Davis and Flores could switch off at first base and DH. That is an easy solution, but the problem is that the Giants only faced lefties about 33 percent of the time in 2022. That trend is not going to be much different in 2023. There are just more righty pitchers than lefties.
It feels like if they pigeon-hole either Flores or Davis in a role strictly against lefties, it really limits what they can offer in the lineup. The truth is, the Giants have two right-handed-hitting-only first basemen, which is typically one too many on most rosters.
Sure, the Giants can move either one around the diamond as a spot starter. However, the Giants had one of the worst defenses in baseball last year and have not done nearly enough to fix that problem. Overusing Flores at second base or Davis at third base is not going to inspire a lot of confidence for a team that struggled badly at both positions.
The Giants were worth -21 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and -10 DRS at second base and third base, respectively. That was the second-worst mark in baseball at second base compared to the fourth-worst rating at the hot corner.
Injuries happen, so these issues tend to work themselves out. However, this is a role surplus that San Francisco will need to navigate next year.