If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? That was the Giants’ philosophy in 2011, the year after winning the World Series, and that’s their philosophy now, heading into the 2013 season less than one year removed from their second title in three years. But things didn’t turn out so well for the Giants back then and given the current state of their outfield today, things don’t look so good now either. It was Albert Einstein who said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” and given the current state of their outfield, I’d say the Giants are insane.
Before we get into it, let’s take a look at a quick depth chart:
|Right Field:||Hunter Pence/Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres|
|Center Field:||Angel Pagan/ Gregor Blanco/Andres Torres|
|Left Field:||Gregor Blanco/Brandon Belt/Andres Torres|
Now don’t get me wrong here. When I say the Giants are insane, it’s not because I think that their outfielders played over their heads last season and are going to regress. Defensively, they are sound and believe me, it’s pretty tough for any of them to be worse offensively. I say the Giants are insane because so much happens during a championship run and, for lack of a better way to say it, things come together in some sort of cosmic, ethereal way that allows them to come back from an 0-2 deficit against Cincinnati, to come back from a 1-3 deficit against St. Louis and then to sweep Detroit for the title. If someone has some sort of empirical evidence that predicted that run, by all means, show it to me and I’ll shut up.
But since this is RotoGraphs, I’ll stick to the fantasy aspect and save my opinions of the Giants rewarding a 31-year old Pagan with a four-year, $40M deal or their decision to not upgrade their left field spot with a more potent bat for another time. So let’s just talk fantasy.
Obviously, the biggest bat in the outfield belongs to Pence over in right field. He won’t be platooning at all so a full season’s worth of at-bats can be expected. What can be expected from that full season’s worth of at-bats is a much different story. While Pence has been one of the more consistent producers in both fantasy and reality over the last five seasons, hitting between 22 and 25 home runs each year with 90-plus RBI over the last three seasons, he saw a major drop last year when he came over to the Giants. After batting .271 with 17 home runs over 391 at-bats with the Phillies, he hit just .219 with seven home runs over 219 at-bats for the Giants. For the season, Pence had 109 at-bats at AT&T Park and hit just .220 with three home runs.
Now sure, his RBI total looked great, but that had more to do with Buster Posey’s ridiculous second half than anything else. It’s pretty tough to be a major league hitter and not post great RBI totals when the guy in front of you is batting .385 with a .465 on-base percentage.
The bottom line is that Pence now poses somewhat of a risk. Sure, his numbers look consistent if you just check out the overall counting stats, but there are definite concerns with the batting average, the increased strikeout rate, the dip in power and the decline in steals. You have to factor in his performance moving from a pair of hitter’s havens in his career to one of the tougher parks to hit for consistent power as well. In the NFBC, he’s going in the seventh round (ADP of 105.36) and is the 28th outfielder off the board. Personally, for that price, I’d leave him to someone else.
Pagan is actually a very underrated fantasy player and if I’m playing in a league that requires starting five or six outfielders, I’m definitely giving him consideration for rounding out the position. He’s got an ADP of 167.75 which comes out to somewhere in the 11th round and that’s not too bad if you’re looking for roughly 30 stolen bases with an average somewhere in the mid to high .280’s. While there’s been some fluctuation in his walk and strikeout rates, both have been respectable and should hopefully remain in the same range, at least for this season. We’ll see as he gets older, but for now, he seems like a pretty safe bet. He’s not going to dazzle you with some crazy breakout season, but for what he gives you and the consistency he brings, he’s definitely a fine choice.
Blanco, on the other hand, is a different story. He’s 29-years old and last season was the most playing time he has seen since 2008. He’s bounced around a couple of teams and gone back and forth to the minors quite often but found a home with the Giants last year. He’s got minimal pop in his bat, a little bit of speed (ran a little over his head last year, in my opinion), and a weak batting average. He might be a good temporary solution if you’re dealing with injuries, but he’s not someone to have in your fantasy lineup on a regular basis.
He also will see the bench a little more often as the Giants will be shifting Belt from first base to left field on days that Posey needs a rest from behind the plate. How often the Giants decide to do that is unknown, but it will obviously happen more as the season progresses. Figure those road trips to the midwest and east coast during the dog days of summer as the peak times to see that happen. With that, it makes Belt a decent option in the outfield and I’d be more inclined to draft him there than at first base. For more on him, check out the Giants Infield Depth Chart Discussion which came out on Monday.
And finally, pulling up the rear is outfield back-up Andres Torres. He had a great run in 2010, but has literally done nothing since. If you have him on your fantasy team at the end of your draft, you did something wrong. Really wrong.