Why the SF Giants will be patient with a pair of struggling outfielders

The SF Giants offense has started the 2024 season slowly. Two of the players partially responsible for that slow start are Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater as they both have struggled out of the gate.
San Francisco Giants v Miami Marlins
San Francisco Giants v Miami Marlins / Rich Storry/GettyImages

There is no doubt that the SF Giants offense has got off to a slow start. As of April 21, they are currently 11th in batting average, 15th in on-base percentage, and 14th in slugging percentage. Far from an ideal start for what was supposed to be a much-improved offense. Two players that have contributed to the slow start are Mike Yastrzemski and Austin Slater. Despite these struggles, the Giants should rightfully remain patient with both.

Why the SF Giants will be patient with a pair of struggling outfielders

It has been a porous start for Slater. The longest-tenured Giants has a 30 wRC+ (100 is average) with an ugly slash line of .095/.269/.095 to begin 2024. Yastrzemski has had a similarly rough start. He has a 35 wRC+ with a slash line of .171/.261/.171. Though, his at-bats have looked better lately and the Giants hope that his homer on Sunday will help him get going.

Of course, the struggles of both Yastrzemski and Slater are magnified due to the lightning-fast start from Heliot Ramos. Ramos currently sports a 167 wRC+ and a .333/.432/.652 slash line across 81 plate appearances for AAA Sacramento. Meanwhile, Luis Matos represents an untapped upside that, in the mind of many, should be developing at the MLB level over hoping a struggling veteran turns it around. There are several problems with both thought processes.

One of the biggest fallacies in replacing Slater/Yastrzemski with Matos/Ramos is the assumption that Matos and Ramos are an upgrade over the veterans. Ramos' hot start in the minors is extremely encouraging and a fantastic sign for the young outfielder.

That said, across sporadic 82 plate appearances at the MLB level he has managed a 31 wRC+ and a .158/.220/.250 slash line. Assuming Ramos will come up and out-hit two veterans who have had success at the MLB level is a tad overzealous.

A similar issue arises with Matos in the fact that he is struggling in AAA. Across 70 plate appearances in the minors, Matos has a 74 wRC+ and a .226/.300/.403 slash line. Does any of this mean that Ramos and/or Matos won't be productive MLB players? No. Does it mean we should pump the brakes on letting go of two veteran hitters who have had past success? Absolutely.

Even if we disregard the fact that neither Ramos nor Matos has proven to be successful MLB players, yet, we also tend to forget just how good Yastrzemski and Slater have been. Slater has managed a wRC+ above 100 in every season since 2020, has positive outs above average in every season since 2021, and has a career 128 wRC+ against LHP. Not to mention he is well-regarded in the clubhouse, is the longest-tenured Giant, and is the MLBPA player representative for the Giants.

On the other hand, Yastrzemski has managed a 100+ wRC+ in every season of his career including a 112 wRC+ in 2023. Yaz has at least a 1.5 WAR in every MLB season, sits in the 73rd percentile or higher in outs above average in every season but one, and has a career 120 wRC+ against RHP. Factoring in the fact that Slater will face almost exclusively LHP while Yastrzemski faces RHP, based on their career numbers, the Giants will have a plus defender in RF who will be a minimum 20% better than league average with the bat.

Finally, the only way to get Matos and Ramos to the MLB level would be to demote Yaz and release/DFA Austin Slater. The Giants could technically send Yastrzemski to the minors without the risk of losing him as he has three options remaining and has not accrued five years of service time. However, Slater is out of options and has more than five years of service time, meaning that even if he did clear waivers after being DFA'd, he could choose to become a free agent anyway meaning the Giants would be guaranteed to lose him.

Ramos getting off to a hot start in the minors is a wonderful development and the upside that Matos brings is undeniable. However, using them to replace what should be an extremely productive RF platoon does not make much sense in the scope of the 2024 season. Even with the slow starts of Yastrzemski and Slater, they have performed well enough in the past. And, the front office agrees that it is way too early to make a decision on either player yet.