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Report cards: Grading Giants’ 2022 position players

© Ron Chenoy | 2022 Sep 20

With two weeks left in the 2022 season, it’s time to evaluate how the Giants got here — on the verge of a losing season one year after a franchise-record 107 wins. 

There have been veterans underperforming, some encouraging signs for the future, and up-and-down performances. Grades will judge production compared to both that of players’ peers and expectations set by their own track records. 

The Giants are on pace to set a new club record for players appearing this year. But not all 60-something players will get a grade. That’s just too much homework. 

So, a cutoff point to qualify for a grade is set at 100 plate appearances. J.D. Davis (113 PA) and David Villar (139) completed the course, but Jason Vosler (74) did not.

This has been a failure of a season for the Giants, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t report cards worth pasting on the refrigerator. 

Statistics accurate as of Wednesday, Sept. 21. 

Infielders 

Joey Bart – B+ 

Bart is the kid in class who needed a reality check at the midterms, and took it to heart. 

Bart went from statistically the worst hitter in MLB to a bonafide franchise catcher in the span of roughly two months. Parsing his rollercoaster of a season into a single letter grade feels almost disingenuous. 

But the bottom line for Bart is that he’ll finish as a surefire foundational piece for San Francisco. From rejoining the Giants from his reset on July 6 through August, his 126 wRC+ ranked sixth among catchers. 

Austin Wynns – C+

San Francisco brought in Wynns as a stopgap solution when Bart got sent down for his reset. He meshed well enough with the pitching staff, particularly Carlos Rodón, and competed enough at the plate to warrant a surprising amount of commitment from SF. 

He’s still a well below average hitter, even for a catcher. There’s no way the Giants front office envisioned Wynns playing 57 games. They surely didn’t think Michael Plassmeyer, the prospect starter traded to Philadelphia to acquire Wynns, would post a 2.41 ERA in 16 Triple-A starts. 

The grade says more about Bart and the Giants’ handling of the backup catcher position than it does of Wynns necessarily. 

Brandon Belt – C-

Heading into this season, Belt boosters could confidently point to his wRC+ over his previous two seasons that rivaled any star in the game’s. No longer. 

Belt battled chronic knee issues that surfaced in spring training and never resided. He put together his worst statistical season of his career, posting a .213 batting average and .676 OPS. The defining moment of his season was striking out on a foul bunt against righty Zac Gallen — a steep fall from boating into Oracle Park on Opening Day. 

At 34 and coming off a third knee surgery, Belt’s career as a Giant is likely over. But with the banishment of the infield shift, could he come back to haunt the Giants in a different uniform? 

Thairo Estrada – A 

The club’s leader in WAR, late-inning heartbeat regulation, versatility and baserunning? No notes. 

Estrada is one home run and one stolen base away from a 15-20 season. Only Hunter Pence (2013) and Andres Torres (2010) have put together such seasons for the Giants this century. 

Brandon Crawford – C+

Thairo Estrada, Wilmer Flores, David Villar, Tommy La Stella, Donovan Walton, Mauricio Dubón. 

That’s a list of second basemen Brandon Crawford has played with this year. That rotating cast in the middle infield — plus occasionally shocking play at first base and nagging injuries — surely played a part in possibly his worst defensive season to date.

Crawford’s slide in the field has been one of the more stunning developments of 2022, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been unexpected given he’s the oldest regular shortstop in MLB. He’s committed 16 errors, most since 2019, and advanced metrics peg him as a below average fielder. 

A deserving MVP candidate in 2021, Crawford fell off both defensively and offensively — where he has posted an OPS 200 points below last year. His .226 average is the lowest since his rookie year. 

But the talent’s still there. It shows in flashes. Maybe he’s just not built to play 150 games anymore. 

The Giants go as their shortstop goes, and, well, he didn’t take them far this year. Whether age has caught up to him or he can get back to producing every day is a major question, as the Giants extended him through the 2023 season. 

Evan Longoria – B+ 

When healthy, Longoria was one of the Giants’ best all-around players. He still has an elite glove at third base and crushed left-handed pitching (.810 OPS). He’s still capable of taking over games, like he did on Aug. 21 in Coors Field. 

Longoria’s presence in the clubhouse also matters. At times, it appeared like he was one of the few veterans still locked in and bringing energy daily. He’s played through a hamstring injury that prevents him from sprinting.

But he’s going to finish the year with about 90 games played. That should be the expectation for a 36-year-old possibly in his final season, but it warrants a demerit nonetheless. Availability counts. 

Wilmer Flores – A-

The numbers scream off the Oracle Park scoreboard, so loud Wilmer Flores can’t help but glance up sometimes. His main focus, of course, is hitting, but the numbers — career-highs in runs, doubles, home runs and RBI — are a nice pick-me-up. 

When asked to explain such strong performance in his age-31 season, Flores told KNBR he hasn’t changed much but thinks he’s made better swing decisions. With age, he’s gotten more mature about seeking out juicy pitches to drive. 

Whatever he’s doing, he should keep doing it. 

J.D. Davis

At one point, Davis had hit more home runs than every other player moved at the trade deadline. He’s since been surpassed by San Diego’s Brandon Drury, but he’s still nonetheless been one of the most productive deadline acquisitions. 

Davis’ five home runs and .808 OPS with the Giants after a miserable start with the Mets traces back to, simply, getting a fully healthy hand back. Who knew hands were important for hitting baseballs? 

He still needs to improve in the field to earn closer to an everyday role. He’ll be working with Giants coaches in Arizona this offseason at first, third, and corner outfield. But he’s proven that he belongs in SF’s future plans, even if he’s maxed out as a right-handed platoon option off the bench. 

David Villar – B  

A borderline disaster in his first couple stints with the team, then a budding star in the season’s final leg, Villar has had two seasons in his rookie campaign. Between them, he did nothing but mash at the Triple-A level. 

Across Triple-A and MLB, he’s hit 33 home runs. He doesn’t need to be San Francisco’s future everyday third baseman, but he’s proven in the second half that he’s ready to contribute from the batter’s box. 

Tommy La Stella – F 

The second baseman was never really able to play second base, which caused a trickle-down effect that limited the roster entirely. Designated hitters had to play out of position all season because La Stella was either physically incapable or not adept enough to earn the coaching staff’s trust to play the field. And as a designated hitter, La Stella didn’t hit; his .632 OPS is a career-low. 

La Stella, and his $11.5 million salary, won’t be in San Francisco’s plans going forward. 

Outfielders 

Mike Yastrzemski – C 

Last season, Yastrzemski pointed to getting hit by a pitch in spring training as a moment that threw his timing off at the plate. This year, there’s no easy explanation for the outfielder’s worst statistical performance. 

Yastrzemski has hit .208 with a .670 OPS. Hopes of him being able to hit lefties like he did in 2020 have ceded. 

Despite a career-worst season from the plate, Yastrzemski still posted 1.4 fWAR — essentially from his baserunning and glove alone. 

If this — a light-hitting plus defender in the corner — is who Yastrzemski is, he shouldn’t start every day. But imagine how valuable he could be if he figures out how to hit again. 

Austin Slater – B+ 

Slater is the closest thing the Giants have to an everyday outfielder. He’s .750 OPS against right-handed pitching is the best of his career. He’s second among position players in fWAR (2.0) and has played solid defense. He grades out as SF’s best baserunner. 

He’ll never slug like a traditional corner outfielder, and he’s probably not be rangy enough to play center every game in Oracle Park. But Slater can play, and he’s a homegrown success story from the last Brian Sabean draft class. 

LaMonte Wade Jr. – D

Wade went from fan-favorite to inspiring legitimate questions about his future with the Giants. One of the most inspired Farhan Zaidi acquisitions lost its magic this year. 

Various injuries disrupted Wade’s rhythm, and he never quite got going in the right direction. He’s setting career-lows in batting average (.194) and on-base percentage (.298). 

Last year, Wade became Late Night LaMonte by going 13-for-23 in the ninth inning and hitting .407 with two outs and runners in scoring position. He was unabashedly clutch. He turned losses into wins. 

This year, he’s hitting .105 with two outs and two in scoring position. In “late and close” situations, he’s hitting .217. He’s 0-for-17 in the ninth inning. He’s been Late Night LaMelatonin. 

Will the Giants be able to carry Wade — a platoon outfielder — if they also retain a combination of Pederson, Yastrzemski and González? There’s reason to believe in the talent, and he could bounce back in 2023, but SF needs to consolidate some platoon groupings. The outfield is the first place to start with that. 

Joc Pederson – B 

Pederson is the only All-Star on this list, but his recent at-bat against Dodgers left-hander Alex Vesia showed why that selection was foolish. All of Pederson’s production comes against righties. That limitation, plus his hardly playable glove, depresses his value. 

In 42 games between July 1 and Aug. 31, Pederson hit just three home runs. The Giants went 5-27 in that span. That’s not a coincidence — it reveals a lot about both how much SF relied on Pederson and how low he sunk. 

At risk of massive convolution, the act of signing Pederson is an A, even if he earned a B. Put mostly in advantageous situations, Pederson has led San Francisco with a .841 OPS. He was arguably SF’s most productive hitter and should be welcomed back — just in a smaller role. 

Luis González – C+ 

González has been working out the kinks on the basepaths and in the outfield all season, and his miserable second half has seemingly flown under the radar — presumably because there weren’t expectations of the outfielder heading into the year. 

First half: .282/.343/.414, 17XBH 

Second half: .200/.287/.275, 6XBH 

Where did all the hits go? That’s not falling back down to earth, that’s meteor-crash journeying to the center of it. 

The Giants signed González when the White Sox released him so they didn’t have to pay him while he rehabbed. The masterful front office stroke allowed González a fresh opportunity, and he ran with it. Still, there’s a ceiling on slap-hitting corner outfielders.

 

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