The Giants want to see more Mauricio Dubon. Literally.
An offseason after Dubon was given the marching orders to turn himself from an infielder into a utility player — which he did beautifully, becoming an everyday major league center fielder — the Giants have tasked him with growing not his flexibility but his body.
A player whom the club listed as 6-feet, 173 pounds at the beginning of the year watched a lot of well-hit balls die on the warning track, and the Giants want those drives turning into extra-base hits.
“I know he’s going to put in a lot of effort putting on some strength in the coming months. I think that strength will help him stabilize his lower half,” Gabe Kapler said at the Giants’ end-of-season news conference. “… I know he’s really focused on it already and is prepared to get started immediately. And I think if everything comes together, he’s going to see a lot of playing time next year and be successful.”
The 26-year-old took plenty of leaps this year, not just from last season but from the beginning of this season. Defensively, Dubon had moments that showed he was playing the outfield really for the first time in his life — there were throws to incorrect bases that hurt — but once he settled, he immediately helped stabilize a defense that had been shaky.
By outs above average, Dubon was the seventh best center fielder in baseball — especially impressive because, while he grew into the everyday center fielder, he also played second base and shortstop and did not get the most time to accumulate outfield stats. In the National League, only San Diego’s Trent Grisham and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger were better rated than Dubon’s four outs above average in center.
“I thought he played a nice center field for us. Thought he got relatively good jumps, I thought he took good angles to the ball,” said Kapler about Dubon, whom Statcast ranked in the 87th percentile of outfield jumps. “I think there were times when he was excellent around the wall, really had good judgment about the timing of these leaps, and others that I think we saw it’s a work in progress.”
Offensively, Dubon grew into a hitter who saw more pitches, though still not enough. He drew one walk through his first 19 games and 56 plate appearances, during which he batted .226. Kapler gave him a “mental reset,” Dubon’s time dwindling, but he worked with the hitting coaches and talked with Brandon Belt about pitch selection and improved.
He’s not where the Giants want him yet, but a .274/.337/.389 slashline from a bottom-of-the-order bat who can play a solid center field and second base is a commodity. Especially if that slugging percentage improves.
Dubon hit more and more balls in the air — his 40.2 percent of flyballs trailed only Wilmer Flores, Belt and Mike Yastrzemski on the club — but he couldn’t cash in nearly as much as his company in that category. He had four homers, four doubles and a triple in 177 plate appearances, all numbers the player and club will want to raise with his weight.
The Giants saw him transform his abilities over one offseason. Now, it’s his body.
“It’s really impressive how he managed that transition to center field — it’s obviously not a place where he had a lot of experience,” Farhan Zaidi said. “For him to go out and play one of the toughest positions in the field, do a really nice job, and really get it going offensively in the latter part of the season … is a credit to him.”