The SF Giants should have a quality starting rotation and a bullpen, but the lineup might be a different story. After not landing an impact free agent on offense, the Giants will have to rely on a familiar face to lead the lineup.
Who is going to be the X-Factor for the SF Giants in 2022?
No one is more capable of that than Mike Yastrzemski. The 31-year-old outfielder had a mildly disappointing campaign in 2021, slashing .224/.311/.457 (106 OPS+) with 25 home runs, 75 runs, and 71 RBI in 532 plate appearances. This included a 9.6 percent walk rate against a 24.6 percent strikeout rate.
Context is funny. If any player had that type of season for the Giants in 2017 or 2018, Giants fans would have been ecstatic. However, expectations have changed on the heels of a 107-win season.
It is unrealistic to think that the Giants will reach that win total again, especially after several key departures including Buster Posey to retirement and Kevin Gausman, Kris Bryant, and Donovan Solano to free agency.
The starting rotation will likely remain one of the best in the National League even with the departure of Gausman after adding Carlos Rodón and Alex Cobb to go along with Logan Webb, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani.
The lineup still boasts some strong bats including Darin Ruf, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt. So, the offense should still be able to produce enough to win games behind good pitching and defense. That said, the Giants can really mitigate the impact of those losses with a resurgent season from Yastrzemski.
When the left-handed bat entered the 2021 season, he was coming off of a stellar 2020 season in which he registered a .297/.400/.568 line (164 OPS) with 10 home runs and 35 RBI in 225 plate appearances while earning serious MVP consideration. However, Yastrzemski was hit on the hand just before the 2021 season began and it is fair to wonder if the injury ever fully healed last season.
He still managed to set a career-high in home runs (25) in 2021, but he did not show the consistency at the plate that he had shown in 2020.
It has not been smooth-sailing for Yastrzemski this spring as he dealt with quad tightness halfway through the Cactus League. However, he did appear in the final couple of games and blasted his second home run of the spring.
In total, the former Vanderbilt University product slashed .267/.450/.800 with two home runs, four runs, and three RBI in 20 plate appearances in camp. This included five walks against four strikeouts. As always, caution is needed when looking at spring training stats.
In the few plate appearances that were available to view, Yastrzemski did look more selective compared to last year and made good swing decisions. A patient approach has typically been part of his skill set but that disappeared at times last season.
Nevertheless, it is a new season and Yastrzemski looks poised for another breakout campaign. After the Giants experienced several departures this offseason, they will need someone to step up and carry some of that displaced production. Yastrzemski has proven he can do it in the past and will need to be a catalyst again if the Giants are going to compete.