I only have one recommendation for you today, folks. I’d love to write a second but sometimes it’s best not to force the issue. Not that there aren’t worthy players out there to consider. But sometimes, what’s out there just isn’t all that compelling and just because you can make an argument in favor of something doesn’t always mean you should. I’m talking to you, Jim Cramer. So without further ado, let’s talk a little Mac Williamson (1% Yahoo, 1.1%ESPN, 3% CBS).
Up until now, height, facial hair, and amazing cheek bones were all the similarities these two Giants shared. Williamson is a righty, Belt a lefty. Williamson is a prolific pull hitter who likes the ball in. Belt features one of the most evenly distributed spray charts in baseball and shows a slight preference for pitches out over the plate. But lately, it appears they share another trait and for fantasy owners, it’s an important one: playing time.
But first things first. There is no guarantee that the increased playing time Williamson is enjoying now will continue. The Giants’ outfield is crowded and with Hunter Pence on the mend, it’s likely to get even more so. But we’re at a point in the season when rosters are fluid and returns from the disabled list prove short-lived. So with that in mind…
As of this writing, Williamson has started 5 of the last 10 games for San Francisco and 3 of the last 4. Originally occupying the short end of a platoon in right, he may be carving out a regular spot in the lineup against righties. This weekend Williamson started twice against right-handers, facing Ivan Nova on Saturday and Nathan Eovaldi Sunday. With Gregor Blanco doing his best imitation of Gregor Blanco, I think it’s likely Williamson has jumped ahead of him on the depth chart.
Williamson’s productivity has been a bright spot for the Giants in recent weeks. Since the start of June, he’s slashed .275/.367/.565 in just under 80 plate appearances. He’s also hit six bombs times while walking over 11% of the time and managing his strikeouts. Using a threshold of 90 plate appearances, Williamson’s .247 ISO this season leads the Giants by a wide margin.
The plate discipline profiles well and he seems to be making excellent contact. His 92.4 mph exit velocity and 97.8 mph FB/LD exit velocity rank 32nd and 11th out of 389 batters with a minimum of 50 balls in play, respectively. His homers have averaged 410 feet, a strong mark indicating that while we can expect some regression to his HR/FB%, he’s at least eating his Wheaties.
Now, Williamson’s spray chart is a little concerning. When he elevates balls to his pull side, they always leave the yard. Literally. But more often than not, he rolls over the pitch pulling it to third or short for an easy out.
That said, there’s enough to like here as his power plays in deep enough leagues. His plate discipline and contact profile well and the results, when he’s played, are encouraging. Again, it comes back to playing time and to be fair, it’s not enough to simply caveat it like I did. His situation is worth a deeper dive.
If Blanco was all that stood in Williamson’s way, deep league owners would have jumped on the Mac Train far earlier. But Denard Span has a stranglehold on center and if healthy, Angel Pagan will continue to man left with occasional days off. This leaves a 3-way fight for right between Williamson, Jarrett Parker, and Blanco. Until recently, Williamson sat against righties while Parker occupied the platoon’s long side. But Mac the Knife’s nearly identical platoon splits (135 wRC+ vs righties and 134 vs lefties) and strong defense could give him an edge over Parker. The Giants visited Fenway and Yankee Stadium this past week, having the luxury of starting Parker at DH. But keep an eye on Bochy’s lineup configuration this week as they head back to NL parks.
There’s also the impending return of Pence, currently on a rehab assignment in Sacramento. Pence recently suffered a setback to his surgically-repaired hamstring and while it appears minor, we know how hammies can linger. Given Pence and Pagan’s respective injury histories, I’d be surprised if Bochy didn’t find reasons to rest one or the other in favor of the hot-hitting Williamson as he continues to play a strong corner outfield. And given their position in the market, I wouldn’t be shocked if one of their extra outfielders found themselves on another team come August.
If you’re in need of power, this Belt-clone is definitely worth taking a flier on. If you don’t have the roster flexibility to pull the trigger, keep an eye on his usage in the coming days and how the Giants work Pence back into the fold.
And apologies in advance for not responding to comments as I typically would. By the time this article posts, I’ll be out kayaking with the Orcas for a few days. If one of them tears me apart, tell my wife, son, and Ramon Hernandez that I love them.
Rylan writes for Fangraphs and The Hardball Times. Look for his weekly Deep League Waiver Wire and The Chacon Zone columns this season.