It has been an up-and-down season for Casey Schmitt but the 24-year-old third baseman is quietly making strides at the plate. The timing could not be better as the SF Giants need to transition from focusing on this season to preparing for 2024 and beyond.
SF Giants young third baseman playing his way onto 2024 roster
When the season began, the target was on Schmitt's back after a strong spring where he flashed a good glove at third base and a potent bat. Spring training stats can be misleading, but he clearly made an impression with the organization.
He got off to a nice start in Triple-A, slashing .313/.352/.410 (85 wRC+) with one home run, 22 RBI, and 19 runs in 145 plate appearances before receiving a promotion to the Giants. Schmitt was not performing exceptionally well in Sacramento, but he looked good enough at shortstop and picked up second base quickly as well. This is in addition to his work at third base.
The Giants tried to muster more production out of the shortstop position, which is still the case currently. The rookie infielder made an immediate impact as he produced a .799 OPS with two home runs and 16 RBI through his first 85 plate appearances.
That said, Schmitt showed a lack of plate discipline that opposing pitchers picked up on and quickly exploited. He slumped over the next few months before being optioned briefly to Sacramento. Prior to the demotion, Schmitt was relegated to a bench role.
The results were not great. For example, he recorded just three hits in 28 at-bats before returning to Triple-A. Nevertheless, the at-bat quality was seemingly improving as he was staying more within the strike zone. An improved process was not necessarily leading to better results.
The Giants recalled him in the middle of August. The overall numbers since his return (.580 OPS) do not inspire much confidence, but he has tallied seven hits, including four extra-base hits, in his last 21 at-bats.
Perhaps, the results are beginning to catch up to the at-bat quality, which has been steady improving. Schmitt has quality contact skills, so he can afford to see some extra pitches without having to expand the strike zone to put the ball in play.
The rookie infielder has a 38.9 percent O-Swing rate, which is well above the league-average rate of 31.8 percent. Though, he was chasing at over 50 percent of pitches outside of the zone earlier in the year, so this is a notable improvement with work still to be done.
Is he beginning to turn the corner? 21 at-bats is far too small of a sample to draw any conclusions, but the Giants are sinking out of the playoff picture. Schmitt is better suited at playing third base, but shortstop might be the most immediate opening.
The righty bat appears to be building some confidence at the plate and the Giants need to figure out if he can help them when next season begins. That evaluation process has already begun but these next few weeks are important for making a more informed decision.