© Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports
Ever since the San Francisco Giants shipped their former centerfielder Denard Span to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Evan Longoria last December, there have been whispers as to who will take over at that position this season.
The Giants are expected to open 2018 with an outfield platoon in centerfield, but Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle argued on KNBR Tonight that should Steven Duggar start the season on the major league roster, the 24-year-old prospect would turn some heads.
“If he started Opening Day on the roster, I think he’d already be one of the top 10 centerfielders in the majors,” Schulman said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that with his glove, his arm, everything like that.”
Thus far, Duggar has yet to offensively disappoint the Giants. Through seven games, Duggar is batting .412 with only six strikeouts in 17 at-bats. He’s spent a majority of the spring as the leadoff hitter, batting .357 with a double and home run in 14 games at the top of the lineup.
Although Duggar’s first home run of Spring Training came on February 25 against James Pugliese, a Double-A prospect with the Chicago Cubs, his second and third were hit off established major league talents in Homer Bailey on March 1 and Kenta Maeda three days later.
In 33 innings spent in centerfield, Duggar hasn’t committed an error with 13 putouts and a 1.86 range factor.
Nonetheless, the Giants aren’t going to merely hand Duggar the centerfield job, and although he’s played phenomenally this spring, he’s faced with fierce competition.
“He would have to, I think, be spectacular and I think one of things that’s working against him at the moment is that Gregor Blanco looks like he’s 25 again,” Schulman said. “They could always go with a Jackson and Blanco platoon early on.”
Blanco signed a minor league deal with the Giants in late January and hasn’t wasted his Spring Training invite. In six games and 13 at bats, Blanco is batting .538 with two doubles and a triple in his first plate appearance of the spring.
Along with Blanco, Mac Williamson is making a case for himself after a tough stretch over the last three seasons. By making some adjustments at the plate, Williamson is batting .375 with three home runs and two doubles in 10 games this spring.
Even without Blanco and Williamson putting the pressure on Duggar, Schulman suspects that Giants will stick to their original plan and give the outfield prospect more time in the minor leagues. Last season, Duggar worked his way to Triple-A Sacramento, but his playing time was limited to 44 games by elbow and hip injuries.
“I don’t know if they’ve changed their thinking or that Bobby Evans has changed his thinking that he needs more at bats in the minors because he missed so much time last year,” Schulman said. “He’s hit a few bombs here in Spring Training. One of them was a hanging breaking pitch and the other was a high fastball.”
To listen to the full interview check out the podcast below, and skip to 2:32 for Schulman on Duggar.