Steven Duggar

Giants hopeful Duggar can give them what a young Crawford once did


Giants hopeful Duggar can give them what a young Crawford once did

SCOTTSDALE — There are many ways to keep track of a prospect’s progress. When it comes to Steven Duggar, the pronunciation of his last name might be the best way. 

You could ask three different team officials about Duggar last season and get three different versions of his last name. But by the end of an offseason that included the addition of two veteran outfielders, there was consistency. It is pronounced "Doug-er," by the way. 

The outfielder is one of the names to know this spring, and he’ll get a shot to shine right away. Duggar will start between Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence for the Cactus League opener. Even with Austin Jackson in the fold, there’s a chance that Friday’s trio is the Opening Day lineup. 

“We’re staying open-minded,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “There are no minds made up here. Just go out there and play solid baseball.”

Bochy conveyed that message to Duggar during a meeting early in camp, but it’s another longtime Giant who might have the most meaningful advice. Years ago, shortstop Brandon Crawford was Duggar. 

The Giants called up Crawford at the age of 24 knowing his defense would be a game-changer in the middle of the field and the bat would catch up. Crawford’s glove helped the Giants win a title in his first full season and eventually he turned into a Silver Slugger Award winner, moving from the No. 8 spot to the heart of the lineup. 

Duggar, who turned 24 in November, is known for already having a strong eye and approach at the plate. Teammates have noticed his short, quick swing, which has him spraying line drives all over the Scottsdale Stadium gaps during batting practice. It is the glove, though, that will be key. It’s been years since the Giants have had an above-average defender in center, but Duggar’s speed and instincts give him a chance. 

The Giants will give him every opportunity this spring to show that he should be chasing fly balls down at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day. If it works out, what would Crawford tell Duggar? 

“Just try to help the team win by doing one thing every game,” he said. “Maybe you make a big play defensively or get a runner over or you get the big hit. There were a few games in 2011 when I was able to help the team out with the bat. I knew my defense was ahead of my offense, but I knew that at some point the bat would come along and I would be able to help out.”

The Crawford-Duggar comparisons have been made in the front office for a while. They are high draft picks (Crawford in the fourth round, Duggar the sixth) who came from big sports schools (UCLA and Clemson, respectively) and have steadily progressed despite not being named to top prospect lists. Duggar, on a recent episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, said Crawford was one of the players he watched most closely last season while sidelined by flexor and hamstring injuries.

This spring he has occasionally found himself in a hitting group with Crawford and Joe Panik, who also takes the line drive approach from the left side. Crawford said Duggar asks good questions — “he wants to learn, which is always a good thing” — and Panik said he reminds the veterans of Matt Duffy, who was always soaking up knowledge about the little parts of the game.

“He’s just a baseball player,” Panik said. “He’s one of those guys.”

The coaches just want to see that simplicity on the field. Don’t worry about the numbers, just show a good approach at the plate. Show your speed on the bases and in center field. 

“We’re looking for him to just play consistent baseball on both sides,” Bochy said. “He’s a gifted center fielder. Just throw out some quality at-bats, which he does. I don’t want him to put too much pressure on himself. I want him to be who he is.”

If he can do that, Duggar could validate the offseason decision to wait for Jackson after a winter spent scouring the market. The Giants talked to the Reds about Billy Hamilton and the Brewers about their young center fielders, and they negotiated with the likes of Jarrod Dyson and Carlos Gomez when the trade market dried up. But they liked Jackson because of his versatility, with the thought that he could back up all three spots if Duggar proves ready. 

The slash line in the minors — .292/.384/.427 — is promising, but for now the Giants are focused on Duggar's glove. The audition starts Friday, and Duggar sounds eager to show that he’s ready to help his pitching staff. 

“I just like to go get it, man,” he said. “It’s fun to go track down a ball, taking away hits from the other guys and helping our pitchers and playing fundamentally sound defense. That’s kind of how the Giants have done things, right?”

Three top prospects highlight Giants non-roster invitee list for spring training

Sacramento River Cats

Three top prospects highlight Giants non-roster invitee list for spring training

SAN FRANCISCO -- This year's list of non-roster invitees is highlighted by top prospects and players who already have seen plenty of time at AT&T Park. 

The Giants announced on Thursday that 16 players will be in camp as non-roster invitees, including center fielder Steven Duggar, who is vying for an Opening Day job, power-hitting outfielder Chris Shaw, and left-hander Andrew Suarez, who could win a job at the back end of the rotation. 

Six pitchers will be invited to camp, with right-handers Tyler Cyr, Jose Flores, Dereck Rodriguez, Jose Valdez and Madison Younginer joining Suarez. Two of the three catchers have already gotten plenty of experience behind Buster Posey. Hector Sanchez and Trevor Brown were invited and likely will make up the Triple-A catching tandem. Justin O'Conner is the third catcher joining camp. 

Orlando Calixte is among five infielders, along with Chase D'Arnaud, Alen Hanson, Kyle Jensen and Josh Rutledge. Duggar and Shaw are the only two non-roster outfielders, but they will be two of the most-watched players in camp.

Barring another trade, Duggar will head to Scottsdale with a legitimate chance of winning the starting job in center field. He also could end up platooning with Austin Jackson, who signed on Monday. The Giants anticipate Shaw spending most of the 2018 season in Triple-A, but the left-handed hitter could force the issue early in the season. He led the organization with 24 homers last year while playing in Double-A and Triple-A. 

The Giants have found plenty of success with veteran non-roster invitees over the years, but this spring's list is heavy on youth. Of the young players, Suarez should battle Duggar for the best shot at a significant role. Suarez and Tyler Beede will try and take rotation spots from Chris Stratton or Ty Blach when the Giants kick off Cactus League play in late February. 

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

McCutchen Mailbag: What does trade mean for Giants' young outfielders?

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants will introduce Evan Longoria on Friday at AT&T Park (we’ll be airing it and doing Facebook Live, so get ready) and at some point they figure to get Andrew McCutchen up on a podium with a brand new jersey. 

At that point, McCutchen can talk a bit more about his new team and his walk year. For now, let’s run through some questions about the trade and what might come next … 

How are you liking this move, Alex? I love it. — @DionTheDude

I was an advocate of taking a step back in 2018 and rebuilding a bit for the future, but the Giants were never going to do that. So, if you’re going to go for it, I think McCutchen is the perfect fit and a really savvy move. I also don’t think it cost the Giants very much. For my full thoughts, check out the Emergency Andrew McCutchen Podcast I did with Ahmed Fareed. 

Slater showed some promise with the glove last season. Do you see him as an option in center field? 566 career CF innings in the minors. — @BrooksKnudsen 

I do, and at the winter meetings, team officials talked about him playing all three outfield spots. At the time it seemed the emphasis would be right field, but with McCutchen now out there, I would guess Slater sees most of his time in left with starts in center, as well. A lot of people asked about Slater, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson etc. Simply put, the Giants are now in a position that normal teams hope to be in. They don’t have to rush some of these guys into a ton of starts in the outfield. The ones who have options can ride the Sacramento-San Francisco shuttle and provide more talent than in the past when a player gets hurt -- and on this old team, players will get hurt. Parker is out of options, but you’ll see some other familiar names fill out the outfield in Triple-A. If you missed it yesterday, here's the plan for Steven Duggar. 

Could the Giants go the Dee Gordon route and just sign Eduardo Nuñez to play center? - @raj_sidhu_123

I liked what the Mariners did with Dee Gordon, but Nuñez was pretty rough in left field last year. Having said that, I recently asked about him as a potential February addition, perhaps on a minor league deal if his market just turns out to be completely dry. I was told, “Nuñey is going to be just fine,” so I assume that he has some solid infield offers in hand. 

How about some pitching? - @pablodiablow 

My friend, we’re on the same page. The bullpen has been bad for two years and just lost a promising arm in Kyle Crick. Hopefully Derek Law fills that void, but he’s coming off a down year. I think they need another bullpen arm and another starter, because it would be rather shortsighted to build a lineup that you think can contend, and then turn the back end of the rotation over to a bunch of rookies. I expect a veteran or two to be in camp to compete for an Opening Day job. 

Does this mean Billy Hamilton is still possible? - @Gaberino4 

In conversations with sources, I haven’t heard Hamilton’s name in weeks. It was McCutchen, McCutchen, McCutchen at some point. I think that ship has likely sailed, as the Reds set a high asking price and didn’t waiver. Per Zach Buchanan, one of their beat writers, Hamilton is expected to start the season in Cincinnati. 

Was hanging onto Belt a priority? Seems like that would’ve been an ideal contract to get rid of given their cap issues. — @JoshSessler 

Yes, I’m told Belt was made just about untouchable at the start of the offseason, and frankly not many teams have asked about him given his potentially scary concussion issues. But to a larger point, holding Belt should’ve been a priority. He’s a good baseball player. End of story. Sorry, Belt Bashers. Even with McCutchen and Longoria, if I had to bet on who will lead the 2018 Giants in OPS, I would choose Belt. He should benefit quite a bit from hitting lower in the order. 

Do you have an estimate of how much money they still have for a center fielder? - @PeteDeBoerWar 

According to Cot’s, the best tracker out there, the Giants have about $4.4 million until they reach the tax. They were helped by the Pirates picking up $2.5 million of McCutchen’s $14.75 million deal. I think the actual number is $3-4 million under the tax, so that’s the budget for a defense-first center fielder, if that’s the way they go. 

You think they should go for Lorenzo Cain at a reasonable price now even if they lose the second-round pick? - @pejvahdat 

I do not. Cain is still going to be very expensive and he turns 32 in April, so forgive me for immediately thinking about the years I’ve spent covering an aging Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Cain is a much better defender than either of those two, but still, I think he comes with a lot of risk. Plus, the Giants just traded two of their top five prospects and they have a poor farm system. They need to nail those second- and fifth-round picks next year and add to what appeared to be a very good draft in 2017. At some point, a rebuild is coming. 

Where are all the people wanting Bobby Evans’ head now? — @kmav88

Oh, they’re still on Twitter. I still hear from them every day. Make no mistake about it, if this doesn’t work and the Giants fall well short of the postseason again, this will all come down on the front office. But for now, Evans has to be sleeping better. At the end of the day, he came away from the offseason with Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, and so far he’s kept ownership from paying the tax again and given them two new stars to sell. That’ll play.