The San Francisco Giants enter the offseason with an opening in left field, but a young outfielder could be the one to finally bring stability to the spot.
The San Francisco Giants enter the offseason with very clear and specific needs. Position player-wise, they are just about set. The only real opening is in left field.
After five very solid, but injury-riddled seasons with the Giants, Angel Pagan enters free agency. He spent most of his time with San Francisco as a center fielder, but after the team signed Denard Span last offseason, Pagan became the latest in a long line of players to roam left field after Barry Bonds‘ departure. His time in San Francisco seems like it’s at its end.
There are some big name outfielders that will available in free agency. Major League home run leader Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista, and Josh Reddick are the most high-profile names, and Yoenis Cespedes will likely join them when he opts out of the final two years of his contract.
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The Giants will have money to spend this offseason, but during the final press conference of the season last week, management showed faith in some of the team’s current young players. General manager Bobby Evans mentioned that Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, both rookies in 2016, impressed last season and the team projects both to hit for more power than Adam Duvall, a Giants’ trade deadline casualty in 2015.
That is high praise, considering Duvall surpassed 25 home runs thrice in the Giants’ organization and hit 33 with the Cincinnati Reds last year.
With an open spot in the outfield, it’s time for Williamson to get his chance, earn his opportunity to play everyday.
The overall numbers for Williamson’s rookie season don’t look all that impressive. In 54 games, he slashed .223/.315/.411 and hit six home runs while striking out in 27.6 percent of his plate appearances.
He struggled badly during the early part of the year, hitting just .161 over his first 15 games of the season. But Williamson was yo-yoed back-and-forth between San Francisco and their Triple-A team Sacramento, being optioned and recalled four times by June 21st.
In the middle part of the season, Williamson really blossomed and proved he can hit major league pitching. When injuries to Hunter Pence and Pagan opened spots in the outfield corners, Williamson’s playing time took a tick up, as did his production. While playing more regularly, Williamson flourished.
Beginning on June 22nd, Williamson slashed .284/.407/.537 over a 22-game span, while hitting five home runs and driving in 13. He made better contact, driving his strikeout rate down from 34.4 percent on June 21st to 23.9 percent on July 31st.
For a while as the Giants struggled out of the gate following the All-Star break, Williamson was the team’s hottest hitter. He was driving the ball consistently, and came up with big hit after big hit.
On July 16th, Williamson hit a pinch-hit home run against Carlos Villanueva of the San Diego Padres as the Giants attempted to come back from a 5-2 deficit. That home run, which came off a breaking ball inside, also showed that Williamson could drive offspeed pitches as well.
On July 20th with the Giants down 8-0, Williamson put the Giants on the board with a three-run home run to right-center field. That was the beginning of seven-run rally, but the Giants fell short to the Boston Red Sox.
On July 22nd, he hit a game-tying double in the eighth inning against the New York Yankees. The hit came off of left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, and considering what Miller is doing in the postseason now, hitting a double off the wall against him is an impressive feat.
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On July 23rd, Williamson tied the game against the Yankees with a solo home run in the fifth inning. In the 12th inning of that game, he came through with a run-scoring single, which became the game-winning run.
He even proved that he can play a solid outfield, making enough spectacular catches in a month to fill an entire highlight reel. Williamson’s hot streak was cut short right as July ended. A strained left shoulder, suffered during a diving catch attempt, landed him on the disabled list.
He missed the entire month of August, and couldn’t get into a rhythm after he returned during roster expansion in September. He started once during the month, and went 1-14 with eight strikeouts in 12 games.
During his brief run as a semi-everyday player, Williamson proved he has the ability to contribute to a big league team. Nobody on the Giants’ team hit the ball harder than Williamson (exit velocities can attest to that), and he led the team in slugging percentage for a short time. The ability is there, the ability that made him one of the Giants’ highest-rated hitting prospects. Just give him a chance.
The Giants have the opening in left field, but they also have a need for a power bat in the middle of the order. There is some power in the lineup, with guys like Buster Posey and Brandon Belt owning the ability to go deep, but they don’t have that guy who can really change a game with one powerful swing of the bat, now that Pence is struggling to stay healthy. Williamson could immediately become the team’s top power threat in the lineup. Just give him a chance.
Maybe Williamson is the one to finally bring some stability to left field. The Giants haven’t had a player start consecutive seasons in left field since 2007. With Williamson just 26 years old and under team control for another five years, he could be the answer. Just give him a chance.