While the Giants have won two World Series titles in the last four years, you simply can’t deny that left field has been a consistent problem spot for them. Sure, they’ve gotten away with some patch jobs like Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Gregor Blanco and even Brandon Belt, but the lack of consistency and a true big bat has been more than prevalent. This season, as you look at the Giants’ depth chart, it’s more of the same. The Giants’ brass has changed the dressing on the wound, but it may only be a short matter of time before it starts to bleed through.
It’s not that I’m dogging Michael Morse as the free agent crop for power-hitting outfielders was both sparse and pricey. Considering those who were available, whether by signing or by trade, Morse was both a solid and economical pick-up for one year at $6 million. A late bloomer, really, Morse didn’t get his first real break until his age-28 season when he showed off that power with 15 home runs in 98 games for the Nationals in 2010. The following year he was a full-timer and bumped that ISO from .229 to .247, belting 31 home runs and just looking like a big, lumbering beast at the plate. Unfortunately though, injuries took their toll and Morse’s last two seasons have been marred by a variety of injuries.
Where Morse becomes a concern for the Giants is the fact that this latest injury he’s dealt with is the wrist. He struggled through the 2013 season and finished with a .226/.283/.410 slash line with 13 homers (eight of which came in April) and 27 RBI which was capped off by a 3-for-29 with zero extra-base hits as a late-season rental for the Orioles. Once the season was over, Morse headed for arthroscopic surgery on his wrist and while he is expected to be ready for spring training, we all know what wrist injuries do to power hitters. If he is unable to hit for power, then he is, more or less, an automatic bust. The Giants already have a guy with a soft bat who can play left field and to say that Gregor Blanco is a better defender than Morse would be like telling someone that water is wet. But if Morse can reach even just the 20-home run plateau and be a presence in the middle of the lineup, then he should be worth far more than he’ll be paid and maybe, just maybe, be worth signing again when the season ends. If not, then it’s just a one-year deal and the team will change the dressing on the wound in the offseason once again.
Pence re-upped with the Orange & Black for the next five years and will continue, with all his wonderful awkwardness, to patrol the treacherous right field corner at AT&T Park. The season he put together last year was outstanding and even more impressive was the .314-13-51-8 second half he had. Maybe it was the fact that it was a contract year or maybe he just wanted to shut me up, but whatever it was, it was his first 20-20 season and he now has six-straight seasons of 20-plus home runs.
In Pagan, the Giants maintain some defensive prowess in center and, if the surgically-repaired hamstring is 100-percent, then a little bit of speed on the basepaths as well. He’ll be put to the test early on as he stays atop the Giants’ lineup and should be able to nail down another 20 steals. If he does get hurt again, well then that’s why they have Blanco.
Waiting in the wings, the Giants have a few serviceable reserves…
Roger Kieschnick has flashed some potential in the minors and could be considered a decent left-handed bat off the bench. He’s fine on defense and, should Blanco be needed in center and Morse isn’t hitting as well as the team had hoped, Kieschnick could potentially work his way into a left field platoon if he can just learn to cut down on the strikeouts.
Juan Perez has dazzled the home crowd in San Francisco a few times with some flashy glove work and also has some decent speed. If he’s ever needed in the lineup regularly or even as a pinch runner, he’ll need to be smarter about his base-stealing. Swiping 75 bases in the minor leagues is nice. Getting caught 42 times is not.
And further down the list, they also have Gary Brown, but his development isn’t going as well as they hoped.
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