No Surprises in the San Francisco Giants Outfield

It’s time for our Depth Chart Discussions to begin. In an effort to suss out every team, we’ve divided them into four parts (infield, outfield, bullpen, and rotation) and will begin breaking them down for you over the next few weeks. You can find them gathered here.

Eight different players saw time in the San Francisco Giants outfield in 2014 with most at-bats dedicated to Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco, Michael Morse, Angel Pagan, and to a lesser extent Tyler Colvin and Juan Perez. Out is Colvin and Morse, Pagan now returns ostensibly healthy after back surgery, and in is free agent acquisition Nori Aoki. All three outfield positions seem to be pretty well locked down, assuming good health, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you ought to pencil them into your fantasy lineup.

The rock of the group is Pence who has played in every game for two straight seasons, amassing more plate appearances than even Jose Altuve last year. But despite being a virtual Iron Man on the diamond, 2014 wasn’t Pence’s best. I’ll just borrow from Brett Talley’s FG+ player cap on Pence to frame things: “Aside from 17 more runs scored than he had in 2014, Pence’s performance declined last year in virtually every category. He had seven fewer home runs, nine fewer steals, 25 fewer RBI, and he lost six points of his batting average. He walked a bit less, struck out a bit more, hit fewer line drives, more ground balls and infield fly balls, and made a little less contact.

Indeed, Pence had a bit of a down year and Steamer seems to believe that’s the beginning of an inevitable decline, predicting a .268/.327/.431 slash line with 19 home runs, 76 runs, 75 RBI, and 11 steals. Now that’s not nothing, but Pence is currently getting drafted about 60th overall according to the wizards at NESN. If this is indeed the kind of production we can expect out of him, it’s not ridiculous to think you could replicate that out of a guy like Christian Yelich going around 81 or heck, what about Shin-Soo Choo at 163? Sure, neither are probably as much of a guarantee as you’ll get with Pence, which is likely why he’s being selected above them. He’ll nicely contribute across all categories, and let’s not kid ourselves, he’s kinda fun to root for.

In center is the bionically re-engineered Angel Pagan who will look to rebound from two consecutive injury plagued seasons. When healthy, Pagan can contribute in batting average, runs, and stolen bases. But at 33 his days of stealing 30+ bases are probably over, and you shouldn’t rely on much more than 20 if he can manage to stay on the field for the bulk of the season. Depending on where he hits in the order, he could be a source of plus runs, but there’s been some sentiment that Aoki could lead off given the right match-ups. If that means Pagan is in the #2 slot then no harm done, but if that pushes him down to 7, 8, 9, he becomes a guy who can hit for average and a fistful of steals and that’s about it.

Nori Aoki has the commitment from Bruce Bochy, at least what he tells newspapers, that he’ll be the every day left fielder for the Giants, and as I said above — he might even find himself in the lead off slot. Aoki fits a similar profile to Pagan offensively, with an ability to hit for average, very little power, and something on the order of 20-ish steals. If he leads off, he could score oodles of runs, but you shouldn’t count on much in the way of RBI. Don’t forget that Aoki is considered somewhat a liability on defense, although the three years of UZR seem to suggest he can hold his own just fine. What sticks in people’s minds are the occasional gaffes by Aoki that seem poised to join the likes of the Raul Ibanez hall of shame. In his career, Aoki actually has a stronger slash line against left handed pitchers, so the notion of an occasional platoon seems unlikely.

Next in line be there injury or ineffectiveness is likely Gregor Blanco who filled in for Pagan in 2014. Blanco is pretty much a poor man’s Pagan — hits for less average, strikes out more, runs a little less but plays solid defense. He’s not someone you should get excited about on your fantasy roster. Juan Perez is likely to be a fifth outfielder and really doesn’t bring much fantasy relevance. A name to tuck away might be Gary Brown who has notable speed with some power potential, but he really didn’t show enough at AAA in 2014 to make you think he’ll be worth a fantasy roster spot in 2015.

Justin Maxwell and Mac Williamson have non-roster invites and Jarrett Parker is on the 40-man. Oh, and Travis Ishikawa is still kicking around but he’s mostly first base insurance and designated pinch hitter. If any of this group land regular playing time, the wheels have fallen off.

Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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“If any of this group land regular playing time, the wheels have fallen off.”

Exactly! On August 31, 2014, Morse played his last game in the field for the remainder the season, sitting out mostly due to an injury and thereafter because his prowess in the outfield earlier when he was fit to play was alarmingly comparable to the level of incompetence established at that position by one Michael John Morse, over the course of a decade-long MLB playing career ending that same year, during which said MJM consistently hit and stuck at a truly execrable level for ML outfielding.

From that point on, thru the last month of the 2014 regular season and another 17 post-season playoffs and World Series games thereafter, the main starting leftfielder was that Kagamusha character you mentioned, and the wheels fell off so badly the Giants barely managed to limp into the wildcard at 13-12, won the WC by a mere one game, won its division series by merely 2 games, won the LCS by a scant 3 games, and scratched thru the WS by only one game.

And it was every bit as agonizingly horrible to watch as it has been to relate.