Giants roster breakdown: Plenty of outfielders vying for playing time

Giants roster breakdown: Plenty of outfielders vying for playing time

The DH is here, possibly to stay, and no position group on the Giants roster will see more changes because of that rule than the outfielders. 

The two men who were supposed to split left field, Hunter Pence and Alex Dickerson, now could soak up many of the DH at-bats, which could have a cascading effect. Perhaps Darin Ruf now makes the roster as a DH/left fielder/first baseman. Perhaps this leads the Giants to finally sign Yasiel Puig, the best remaining free agent, and stick him in right field on a nightly basis. 

Farhan Zaidi, Scott Harris and Gabe Kapler have 16 more days to figure it out. We already took a look at what they might do with starting pitchers, relievers, catchers and infielders. Here's our final roster breakdown, a look at the outfield competition:

Mike Yastrzemski

Now entering his first full (if you count 60 games) season, Yaz is the closest thing Kapler has to an everyday outfielder. He's coming off a season in which he tied for the team lead with 21 homers and was 23 percent better than league average by OPS+. While 17 of those homers came against right-handed pitchers, Yastrzemski actually had a much higher OPS (.943) in limited time against lefties. If that holds true in Year 2, he could be in the lineup every game even as there are platoons elsewhere, and he could pick up two new responsibilities. 

Yastrzemski is as good a leadoff option as the Giants have right now, and he also might be their best option in center field. The Giants believe Yastrzemski can handle the position defensively, and he believes he can prove them right. That would go a long way towards bolstering the lineup every night.

Hunter Pence

One of the most popular players in franchise history is back, although Pence will no longer have a fan base to feed off. He was as interactive with fans, particularly in right field, as anybody, but now the Giants are counting on him to help them find energy in an empty park. A couple of players already have mentioned how important Pence and Pablo Sandoval might be in a season where they have to find new methods of celebrating.

That's a nice bonus to all of this, along with the fact that Pence can now DH quite often. But the Giants didn't bring him back for nostalgic reasons. His OPS against lefties last season was over 1.000, and he should be in the lineup every time they face a Kershaw or Bumgarner. 

Alex Dickerson

Will the Dick chant return in an empty ballpark? One can hope. 

Dickerson is quietly set up for a huge year, as his problem always has been staying healthy and the Giants were concerned about him wearing down over 162 games. Now they can simply start him against every right-hander, sometimes at DH, and have him on the bench as a dangerous late-innings option otherwise. 

Dickerson had a .386/.449/.773 slash line before he got hurt last year. That's unrealistic, but he has shown how hot he can get and his ability to carry the lineup. 

Jaylin Davis

The 26-year-old is in a fascinating spot. The Giants likely would have started Davis in Triple-A after the spring and let him try and get hot there before calling him up. Now, there's a strong argument to be made for just turning him loose in right field. The problem is it could be hard to give young players the kind of runway you would want given how compacted the schedule is, and the club's stated desire to compete for a playoff spot. 

Davis hit 35 homers in the minors last year and he's a favorite of the new staff and front office for his work ethic and daily push to alter his game. There's really no reason not to throw him in the lineup against Clayton Kershaw on Opening Day and see if he can grab a starting job over the first couple of weeks. The Giants also believe internally that Davis can handle center field in the big leagues, which would up his stock quite a bit. 

Steven Duggar

It wasn't long ago that Duggar, still just 26, was the center fielder of the future and potentially the organization's leadoff hitter. Back-to-back years ended by shoulder injuries have pushed Duggar to the side a bit, but he still is one of the organization's two best defensive center fielders -- along with Billy Hamilton -- and could be a valuable late-innings replacement given the defensive limitations of other outfielders on the roster. 

The problem for Duggar is that Hamilton is likely making the team and he fills that gap. Duggar hasn't hit at the big league level yet and doesn't seem likely to get much time early on. But the Giants will have injuries and guys who miss time because of the coronavirus, and Duggar is a nice depth piece over 60 games, likely starting the year with the player pool in Sacramento. If he can get hot, perhaps he can put himself back in the center field mix for 2021. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Austin Slater

As the clubhouse's player rep, Slater was the busiest Giant over the past three months. The 27-year-old became the go-to guy for players who had questions about the ongoing labor war, but now he's back in camp as a versatile outfielder -- with longer hair, it appears -- and someone who could play infield.

The Giants, particularly new infield coach Kai Correa, were working hard with Slater at second base in Scottsdale. He could be squeezed out of the initial roster because there are so many veterans now in the mix, but Slater is a nice piece to have in a scrambled season. He can start in left or right and handle center, second, first and third in a pinch.

He also has shown in the past that he doesn't need much time to get his bat going once he's called up. He had a .925 OPS in his first two months on the roster last year before tailing off in September. 

The Wild Cards

Mauricio Dubon is listed as an infielder on the roster, but the Giants believe he can be a good defensive center fielder and provide more overall value as a utility guy, so he's definitely right in the mix here. We didn't see that much of it before spring training got shut down, but given the glut of veteran infielders, Dubon's quickest path to an everyday role could be center field. 

Ruf had a huge spring and seems headed for an Opening Day job given his ability to crush lefties. Ruf plays first and certainly could DH often, but the Giants are going to spend part of the next two weeks getting him more comfortable in left field, too. 

The Rest of the 40-man

The Giants brought Joe McCarthy to camp and left Chris Shaw in Boston, with little explanation of why the latter was left out. It must be a frustrating time for Shaw, who potentially had a clearer path to time with the DH being added. 

McCarthy, picked up at the deadline from the Rays, struggled in Sacramento but has a .376 career OBP in the minors. Kapler started his press conference Monday by noting that McCarthy had a really impressive approach in live BP sessions. He'll be a depth piece in Sacramento. 

[RELATED: Three interesting observations about Giants' 60-game slate]

Non-Roster Invitees

Hamilton is one of the fastest players in MLB history, which makes him a perfect fit for the new extra-innings rule. The Giants restructured his contract last week to keep him around, and he seems a lock for the roster given his defense and speed. Hamilton hasn't had an OBP above .300 since 2016, but Kapler can hit him ninth when he starts. If he spends the whole year with the Giants, Hamilton is a sneaky bet to lead them in actual games played. He should at least be a pinch-runner on a nightly basis. 

Joey Rickard had a .333 OBP in 26 games for the Giants last year and showed an ability to have good at-bats against lefties and play a solid left field. He'll be in Sacramento, providing depth for the big league roster. 

The Prospects

Heliot Ramos, the organization's first-round pick in 2017, wasn't in camp this spring but was added to the player pool so he could continue to develop. Ramos already has impressed some coaches in workouts, and Kapler raved about how strong he is the other day. 

Ramos was supposed to spend this year in the minors, potentially working his way into a September call-up. Barring a roster disaster, it's hard to see him starting the clock in a 60-game season, but the front office will be closely watching every swing that's taken in Sacramento and Ramos has a chance to put himself right in the mix for a 2021 job. 

Hunter Bishop originally was on the list for the player pool but he's quarantining after testing positive for the coronavirus. Bishop is doing well as he waits this out in the Phoenix area, and the Giants seem inclined to bring him to Northern California once he's cleared. Kapler said he exchanged texts with Bishop over the weekend. Bishop, the 2019 first-round pick, was supposed to spend this season in San Jose. A good summer and fall could have him in line to start 2021 with Double-A Richmond. 

While the Giants have yet to confirm it, it seems likely that 20-year-old Alexander Canario will join their player pool soon, if he's not here already. Luis Matos, 18, also would be an intriguing candidate for one of the final spots. 

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

Why Farhan Zaidi is shrugging off Giants', Gabe Kapler's early hiccups

The Giants have dropped five of their last six games after losing the series opener to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. They've committed several more errors than games played, and are the only team in the league without a quality start to this point.

Often times, it hasn't been pretty. Though San Francisco had been a pleasant surprise record-wise prior to the current road trip, the reality of the situation is that the Giants don't have a roster that you would confuse with the typical contender.

Gabe Kapler has had some slip-ups, but as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi explained to 95.7 The Game's "Damon, Ratto and Kolsky" on Wednesday, he isn't concerned about his manager.

"He has a challenging job right now," Zaidi said, "because ... this is a lineup, a roster, a pitching staff that sort of needs to be managed pretty actively. We don't have five workhorses in the rotation who are going to throw seven innings where you just hand the ball to your setup man and your closer. He's obviously having to mix and match a lot on the pitching side, on the position player side we're trying to use the entire roster. We're platooning some, that means pinch-hitting some. 

"And when you're a manager and you have to make that many moves -- as many moves as our roster kind of behooves right now -- every time you make a move ... you're making a lot of 55/45, 60/40 bets that get scrutinized and if they don't work out, the onus kind of falls on you. ... But again, I look at some of our best wins this season and they've come from a lot of the decisions that he has made. So, we think this is the way to manage our roster that gives us the best chance to be competitive and win games, and I appreciate that he's willing to pull the trigger and be aggressive with a lot of these moves."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Kapler's self-admitted most embarrassing mistake to date occurred in last week's extra-innings loss to the San Diego Padres in which he forgot about the new rule requiring pitchers to face a batter following a mound visit. He owned up to it immediately following the loss and shouldered the blame, which Zaidi found to be plenty satisfactory.

"What happened with going out to try to get Tyler Rogers in that extra-innings game last week," Zaidi continued, "I think he owned up to it, it was just a mental screw-up. He has been around the game a long time, had a long career and he just owned it. It was a tough inning, there was a lot of things going on. I'm sure there was a lot of stuff going on in the dugout. I just wrote that off as kind of a mental screw-up, which he owned up to and we turn the page."

[RELATED: Stat, odd moment show how poorly Samardzija has started]

Given the state of the Giants' roster and the general unprecedented gameplay in this shortened season, it's easy to see why Zaidi is willing to cut Kapler some slack and give him the benefit of the doubt. 

Kapler hasn't exactly been dealt a winning hand, and it would be a significant surprise if he turned it into one right away.

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

Jeff Samardzija's rough start to season displayed by stat, odd moment

There's a stunning stat from Jeff Samardzija's first three starts that shows how much he's struggling right now, but perhaps in this case all you need is an exchange from the Giants' loss Friday night. 

When Samardzija grazed Dodgers utility man Kiké Hernandez to load the bases in the fifth inning, Hernandez insisted over and over again to the home plate umpire that he had not been hit by the pitch. It was a strange sight, and the Giants even challenged the call -- with no luck -- to try to send Hernandez back to the box, but it seems that it's not a good sign that he wanted to be there in the first place. 

The Dodgers were remarkably comfortable against Samardzija, who is coming off a solid year but has had a nightmare start to 2020. In a 7-2 win over the Giants, they were quiet the first time through the order, then busted out for three homers the second time through. 

Samardzija walked off the mound in the fifth with the bases loaded. For the third time in three starts, he was charged with five earned runs. 

"I think he had a little bit of a lack of fastball command," manager Gabe Kapler said. "This is a very difficult lineup to get through even if you're locating your pitches."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

The Dodgers proved that with the three homers, which brings us to the stunning stat. In three starts, totaling just 13 2/3 innings, Samardzija has allowed six homers but struck out just five batters. Right now, he doesn't have the stuff or command to put hitters away. 

"Too many times we're getting these 0-2, 1-2 counts and battling for too long," he said. "We need to make sure that when we're getting them in the hole, we're finishing them. You give these big league hitters too many opportunities, they're going to take advantage of it. We've got to get them up and set them down as fast as possible."

Samardzija actually looked marginally better in the first three innings, getting six pop-ups and shallow fly balls. But those turned to homers the second time through, dropping the Giants into too large a deficit. The loss was their fifth in six games and put them five games behind the Rockies and 4 1/2 behind the loaded Dodgers after a little over two weeks of action. 

It won't get any better without a sharp turn from the starting pitchers, and the Giants don't have an obvious solution right now if Samardzija keeps struggling. Drew Smyly will be reevaluated when the road trip ends next Wednesday. Swingman Tyler Anderson already is needed for Smyly's spot. 

[RELATED: Reyes Moronta joins alternate site]

The Giants will hope the stuff improves and the command returns for Samardzija, at least enough to make hitters look less comfortable than Hernandez did. 

"He didn't think it hit him," Samardzija said. "I told him it must have hit his jersey or something. They're all gamers over there, they all want to play. I respect those guys a lot. He's just being honest. It's a good quality."