Dalton Johnson

Brian Sabean: Giants 'willing to experiment' with Alen Hanson in left field

Brian Sabean: Giants 'willing to experiment' with Alen Hanson in left field

The Giants have been up and down this season battling a devastating injury bug. Going into Saturday's slate of games, they're 34-36, good for fourth in the NL West and 5.5 games back of the D'backs.

One part of their roster they still can't figure out, just like in years past ever since moving on from Barry Bonds, is left field. Brian Sabean, Giants Executive VP of Baseball Operations, called left field a "black hole" Friday on KNBR.

The latest piece to the never-ending puzzle in left field may be placing an infielder in left field not named Brandon Belt. 

"Absolutely not afraid in a big moment," Sabean said when asked about the emergence of Alen Hanson. "For us, it might be worth a swing in left field, which we're willing to experiment with." 

Hanson has been a big surprise this season after the Giants signed him in December to a minor-league deal. In 27 games, the switch-hitting 25-year-old is batting .320 with a career-high five home runs. With runners in scoring position, Hanson is batting .333 with two home runs and a 1.137 OPS. 

As the Giants lose third baseman Evan Longoria to a fractured left hand, the plan is to use Pablo Sandoval and Hanson at third base. But Hanson has the speed for outfield and has played 20 games in right field and 10 in left over his three-year career in the majors. This season with the Giants, he has played three innings in left field.

The Giants have struggled yet again in left field this season. Hunter Pence is batting below the Mendoza Line at .188 in 28 games and Mac Williamson hasn't recovered well at the plate since his concussion.

After dominating Triple-A, Williamson came up and exploded for three home runs in five games in April. Williamson collided with a wall on April 24 and hasn't been the same since. He is now batting .240 on the year with four home runs. In June, Williamson is batting .182. 

With no one team taking full control of the NL West, the Giants know they need to find any ways of getting their best bats in the lineup, even if that means giving Hanson a bigger glove. 

Down on the Farm: Checking in on former Giants top prospect Christian Arroyo

Down on the Farm: Checking in on former Giants top prospect Christian Arroyo

The Giants refused to rebuild this past offseason after finishing 2017 with the second-worst record in baseball. Brian Sabean, Bobby Evans and the rest of the front office stared at this team's window of opportunity and stayed in win-now mode, using the classic line of a "reload" over a rebuild. 

Shooting for the San Francisco stars, the team went all in on Giancarlo Stanton, before the now-Yankee turned them down, and traded off top prospects for former stars Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. Through the team's first 69 games, the two have looked exactly as described -- former stars. McCutchen has come on strong lately, hitting two two-run home runs in the last two games. He's batting .356 with four home runs over a 10-game stretch and is up to .267 with eight home runs on the year. The former MVP may be finding his stride as he figures out the NL West. 

Longoria on the other hand, hasn't found much success in his first season with San Francisco. At the time of fracturing his left hand Thursday in Miami, Longoria was slashing .246/.278/.434. The positive is Longoria's 10 home runs rank second on the Giants and he leads the team with 34 RBI, but he simply hasn't been consistent and isn't getting on base enough.

In 2017, Longoria finished with a career-low .313 on-base percentage and he's 35 points lower this year as he has 10 walks to 57 strikeouts. And the three-time Gold Glove third baseman has committed 11 errors in 66 games, three off his career-high for a season. 

The Giants had to part ways with former top prospect Christian Arroyo to acquire Longoria in the offseason. At just 21 years old last year, Arroyo's bat was too good to keep in Triple-A. After 16 games with Sacramento, the team's top hitting prospect was batting .446 and was called up to San Francisco. In 34 games, Arroyo proved to be a pup with the big dogs in the majors. He hit .192 with three home runs and 32 strikeouts in 34 games with the Giants. But with the Rays, Arroyo's second crack at the majors looks much dfferent in Year 2 compared to Year 1. 

Arroyo's season was cut short in 2017 with a fractured wrist. He started the season in Triple-A Durham this year and was quickly put on the shelf again, this time with a calf injury. Overcoming his wrsit injury, Arroyo's start to the season in Triple-A was the complete opposite this year than last. When the Rays called up Arroyo from Durham, he was batting .200 in 17 games with a .235 on-base percentage and .308 slugging percentage, not exactly major-league-ready numbers. And then, Arroyo replaced old friend Matt Duffy in his Rays debut and laced two singles. 

The recently turned 23-year-old has now played in 19 games, 18 starts, with the Rays. Drafted as a shortstop, Arroyo has played eight games at second base, six at third base and was the DH in two. He finds himself in an infield logjam, but Tampa Bay is in a youth movement and will be sellers before the trade deadline. Arroyo started off hot for the Rays and is now slashing .280/.357/.420 with one home run. 

Offensively, Arroyo is showing maturity with six walks, two less than his eight in 34 games with the Giants, and is barreling the ball with hard contact. Arroyo's average exit velocity is up from 87.4 mph with the Giants to 91.8 mph with the Rays. Longoria has a 90.0 average exit velocity this season. While he will never be a huge home run threat, the stocky-built Arroyo finds the barrel consistently and should at least find gap-to-gap power. 

In an attempt to make another run at October in 2018, there's no denying San Francisco's move to add the 32-year-old Longoria, who is signed through 2022 with a team option for 2023. At the same time, Arroyo, 23, is showing the versatility around the infield and growth with his bat that had Giants fan frothing in the past thinking about his future.

Giants third baseman Evan Longoria fractures bone in left hand

Giants third baseman Evan Longoria fractures bone in left hand

The Giants avoided getting swept by the Marlins with a 6-3 win in 16 innings Thursday, but they couldn't avoid the injury bug bringing them down again. 

Evan Longoria fractured his left hand in the fourth inning, Bruce Bochy announced to reporters after the win. Longoria fractured the fifth metacarpal.

"It's a downer with Longoria," Bochy said on the injury. "That's a tough break for us. We're just having a hard time keeping everybody out there... great win, but tough loss."

Longoria was hit by a pitch in fourth inning on a fastball from Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily. He stayed in the game briefly before being replaced at third base by Alen Hanson. It was clear right away that Longoria's hand was significantly swelling from the hit by pitch.

The Giants will get another opinion on Longoria's injury once they return home from Miami. 

Longoria went hitless in his one at-bat Thursday. In 67 games played, Longoria is hitting .246 with 10 home runs in his first season with the Giants. 

San Francisco acquired the three-time All-Star in an offseason trade where they sent Denard Span, Christian Arroyo, Matt Krook, and Stephen Woods to Tampa Bay. Longoria is signed through 2022 as part of a 15-year, $145.5 million contract he signed with the Rays. He also has a team option for 2023.