In my debut article, I wrote about one key statistic to focus on for Giants infielders. In this column, I will be doing the same for the outfielders.
My choice of players is based on who I believe is likely to make the Giants 2021 Opening Day roster.
Left Field – Alex Dickerson (OPS vs LHP)
The left-field platoon of Alex Dickerson and Darin Ruf was extraordinarily successful in 2020. For his part, Dickerson had a slash line of .300/.373/.579 amounting to .952 OPS vs right-handed pitchers. In a banner 2020, Dickerson hit a 480 foot home run, which was the longest home run hit by a Giant. He was also ranked as the eighth-best outfielder in the league by MLB Network. The question then becomes, how does Dickerson claim left field for himself? The answer is to show that he can hit effectively against left-handed pitchers. In 2020, in 11 plate appearances, Dickerson put up a slash line of .273/.333/.545 for an .879 OPS. However, his career slash line batting against LHP currently stands at .245/.304/.383 which adds up to a .687 OPS. Dickerson will be hoping that he will get enough chances to hit against lefties to prove that his 2020 numbers are the new normal.
Mauricio Dubon (ISO)
Mauricio Dubon was a good all-round player in 2020. He posted a .337 OBP, which was safely above the league average (.322 OBP). Some may also be surprised to know that he was also ranked as the joint third-best centre fielder in the NL by Outs Above Average, according to Statcast. One thing he did not do was hit for power. He produced a .118 Isolated Slugging Percentage in 2020, which rates as below average. An average MLB hitter will have about a .140 ISO. He did post a .160 ISO in 2019, both Dubon and the Giants will be hoping he finds some extra power in 2021, as he looks to elevate himself into the upper echelon of Major League centre fielders.
Mike Yastrzemski (OAA)
Between 2019 – 2020, Mike Yastrzemski was fourth amongst right fielders with a 137 OPS+. He raised his on-base plus slugging percentage from .852 OPS in 2019 to .968 OPS in 2020. He increased his walk rate from 7.8 BB% to 13.3 BB% while also decreasing his 26.0 K% in 2019 to 24.4% in 2020. Between the past two seasons, he has 636 plate appearances which is the equivalent to a full season played. This led to Yastrzemski being ranked as the sixth-best right fielder in the league according to MLB Network.
Whilst Yastrzemski has proved himself offensively, he has work to do defensively. The Giants are a team that relies on positional flexibility (or the ability to play multiple positions).
In contrast to the Mauricio Dubon. Yastrzemski struggled mightily in centre field. Yastrzemski tallied a -2 OAA which made him the joint second-worst centre fielder in this metric tied with Cole Tucker of the Pittsburgh Pirates. This may also be why Yastrzemski did not play the centre field position at all last September. It would be greatly beneficial to the Giants (in terms of line up strategy), as well as for Yastrzemski, for him to become the definition of the “complete” player if he could improve his centre-field defence to at least league average.
Austin Slater (Launch Angle)
One of the most interesting battles amongst Giants position players could be for centre field. 2020 was a great season for Austin Slater. He increased his .750 OPS in 2019 to .914 OPS in 2020. He had .179 ISO in 2019 which he also improved to .224 in 2020. Interestingly Slater had a higher fly ball percentage (FB%) in 2020 than in 2019. He had a 22.9 FB% in 2019 compared to 31.7% in 2020. This contrasted with him decreasing his groundball percentage (GB%) from 52.3 GB% in 2019 to 39.7% GB% in 2020. Looking at these different metrics, they point to Slater increasing his launch angle to hit for more power, which is exactly what happened. According to Statcast, Slater’s launch angle in 2019 was 3.5 degrees compared to 10.9 degrees in 2020. Coincidentally the same average launch angle as 2020 American League Most Valuable Player Jose Abreu. The Giants will hope Slater can take his offensive improvement into 2021 and become the next Giants breakout star in the vein of Mike Yastrzemski.
Darin Ruf – (OBP)
Darin Ruf made a successful return to MLB in 2020 with the San Francisco Giants after spending his previous three seasons, playing in the Korean Baseball Organisation. For his part of the successful left-field platoon Ruf had a slash line of .259/.338/.552 for a total of .890 OPS vs LHP. This was very promising for Ruf as it was a vast improvement on his 2016 MLB season. In 2016, Ruf slumped to a .267 OBP vs LHP, which led to a lowly .695 OPS vs LHP. Ruf’s career 8.7 BB% versus his career 27.0% K% shows exactly why he has struggled to get on-base throughout his career. Ruf’s .370 OBP in 2020 was the highest of his MLB career. Between 2014 – 2016, Ruf’s best year by OBP had been .310 in 2014, slumping to a career-low of .236 in 2020. Ruf’s 13.0% walk rate was the best of his career, in addition to his 23% strikeout rate being the lowest of his career. The Giants will be hoping that the success of their left-field platoon continues. The ascendancy of the highly-touted outfield prospect Heliot Ramos may make Ruf expendable (a trade candidate) later in the season, but until then, the Giants will be hoping he continues to produce to the same standard that he did in 2020.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images
Charlie Baldwin is one of the growing team of writers at Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @BaseballChaz
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