The San Francisco Giants missed the playoffs by just one game and were a lot more competitive than most pundits would have predicted. The Giants battled adversity and showed a great deal of resilience throughout the season. We saw many players step up and perform well, while others underperformed. Here’s our grade report for the Giants’ 2020 position players and manager Gabe Kapler.
Brandon Belt – Grade = A
Brandon Belt had his best season as a Giant. He has often been maligned as an underachiever, but his offensive contributions in 2020 were critical to the Giants’ run at the playoffs. Belt had a slash line of .309/.425/.591. His OPS of 1.015 led the team. Belt finished the year with nine home runs and 30 RBI. He also played his usual stellar defense at first base.
Donovan Solano – Grade = A-
Donovan Solano led the Giants with a .326 batting average and also had the most hits on the season, with 62. His 29 RBI were a pleasant surprise, as well. Solano earned the nickname of “Donnie Barrels” because of his propensity for hitting the ball on the barrel of the bat so regularly. Solano’s poor defense, however, lowers his grade. He made 11 errors, which easily led the team and his .932 fielding percentage was the worst among players who saw meaningful playing time.
Brandon Crawford – Grade = B+
Brandon Crawford struggled at the plate early in the season but came on in the second half to help the Giants make their playoff push. His eight home runs and 28 RBI were a positive. Crawford had a slash line of .256/.326/.465. Crawford was not up to his usual standards defensively. His .960 fielding percentage ranked 10th among starting National League shortstops.
Evan Longoria – Grade = C
Evan Longoria led the Giants with 193 at-bats and was counted on to be a major run producer in the middle of the Giants’ lineup. Longoria had some great moments, but overall, his production was mediocre. His slash line was .254/.297/.425. Longoria’s OPS .722 leaves a lot to be desired. He finished the year with seven homers and 28 RBI. Longoria had a very good year defensively, with only two errors on the season.
Wilmer Flores – Grade = A-
Offensively, Wilmer Flores was a very pleasant surprise. He led the team with 12 home runs and his 32 RBI ranked second. Flores’ slash line was ..268/.315/.515 and his OPS of .830 was very good, especially for a part-time player. Flores is an average defensive player at best and if the National League does not have the DH in 2021, he may have trouble finding consistent at-bats. He was the DH in 22 of the 55 games he played this past season. When in the field, Flores played mostly first and second base, with a few games thrown in at third. Like in 2020, Flores will likely play mostly first or second base, giving Belt and Solano some rest. If he works on his defense at third base, an ideal situation would be to see him also spell Evan Longoria, giving the Giants a utility player with a solid bat.
Alex Dickerson – Grade = A-
Alex Dickerson had a very productive season offensively for the Giants. His OPS of .947 was outstanding and third-best on the team behind Belt and Yastrzemski. In only 151 at-bats, Dickerson clubbed 10 home runs and drove in 27. He is an ideal platoon player facing right-handed pitching. Staying healthy has always been a concern with Dickerson, so getting rest in a platoon situation fits him nicely. Defensively, Dickerson is mediocre at best in left field. Giants manager Gabe Kapler also had Dickerson play a few games in right field and he looked very uncomfortable out there.
Mauricio Dubon – Grade B
Mauricio Dubon struggled both on offense and defense early in the season, as Kapler had him playing shortstop, second base, and centerfield. Once Kapler left Dubon in center, on a regular basis, he settled in and steadily improved. In his first full season in the big leagues, Dubon finished the year with a slash line of .274/.337/.389. In addition, he became a plus defensive center fielder, and barring any major offseason moves, will likely start 2021 as the starting center fielder for the Giants. Dubon made some dumb, rookie mistakes on the bases, which was a product of his inexperience. He should have learned a lot this past year and hopefully, will not repeat those mistakes.
Mike Yastrzemski – Grade A
Mike Yastrzemski emerged as a solid everyday player in 2019 and followed that up with another stellar campaign in 2020. He had a slash line of 297/.400/.568 and his OPS of .968 was second on the team behind Belt. Yastrzemski’s 35 RBI led the team and he also had 10 home runs. On defense, Yastrzemski also did a fine job in right field and also in center. He became a team leader for the Giants on and off the field and his leadership was a big reason the Giants were such a resilient team. Yastrzemski also won the prestigious Willie Mac Award, which is voted on by teammates, the coaching staff, and fans.
Darin Ruf – Grade B-
After playing the past three seasons in Korea, Darin Ruf made the Giants roster with an outstanding spring training. He proved he could hit and was used mostly in a platoon with Alex Dickerson in left field. Ruf, who mostly faced left-handed pitching, hit .276/.370/.517. His .887 OPS was fifth-best on the team. In only 87 at-bats, Ruf had 11 extra-base hits, including five home runs. Ruf’s 18 RBI was also very good, considering the relatively few at-bats he received.
In addition to left field, Ruf played a little first base, but as the season wore on, that became more of a spot for Flores against left-handed pitching. Ruf is a below-average left fielder and Kapler also put him in right field in three games. That was a mistake, as Ruf was in over his head in right field. With the likelihood of no DH in the National League in 2021, it will be interesting to see if the Giants try to keep him.
Austin Slater – Grade B
Austin Slater emerged as a top-notch offensive threat for the Giants this past season. His slash line of .282/.408/.506 was outstanding. Slater’s .914 OPS ranked him fourth on the team. He also contributed five home runs in only 85 at-bats. The issue with Slater, as it often has been in the past, was health. He battled leg issues early in the season and an injury to his throwing elbow relegated him to a DH role. If Slater’s elbow is healthy enough for him to play in the outfield, he will be a real asset for the Giants in 2021.
Joey Bart – Grade D
The Giants were getting very little production at the catcher position, so they called Joey Bart up to the Majors, even though they knew he was most likely not ready. Bart would have benefitted from a full season at the Triple-A level, but alas, that was not in the cards due to the Covid-19 situation. 2020 absolutely must be viewed as a learning experience for Bart. There were a lot of growing pains both offensively and defensively. His OPS of only .609 was very poor as he often struggled to hit big-league pitching. In 111 plate appearances, Bart struck out 41 times and had only three walks. Bart also had to learn how to work with the Giants’ pitchers, which was often a problem.
His inability to get on the same page with Johnny Cueto was extremely frustrating for the veteran pitcher and it showed in two outings. However, Bart was pressed into service because Buster Posey opted to sit out and the Giants’ other catchers Chadwick Tromp, Tyler Heineman, and Rob Brantly were unimpressive. It’s quite likely that Bart will open the 2021 season in the minor leagues to get more seasoning and continue to learn his craft.
Chadwick Tromp – Grade D
Chadwick Tromp did hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs in only 61 at-bats, so it wasn’t all bad. However, his .213 batting average and .219 OPS was poor. Tromp also had only one walk to go against 20 strike outs, so making contact was a major issue. It’s possible Tromp could be back in 2021 to back up Buster Posey, or the Giants could pursue a veteran backup.
Gabe Kapler – Grade C
Gabe Kapler must be commended for keeping the team together during some very tough times. The Giants started the season at 8-16 and it looked like it was going to be a long season in San Francisco, even though there were only 60 games. However, Kapler steered the Giants to a 21-15 record the rest of the way. His optimism and positive enthusiasm helped the Giants become very resilient and they came within one game of making the playoffs. The Giants offense was far better than in years past and they were able to battle back and win several games.
However, Kapler also had his faults. His management of the bullpen cost the Giants as they blew several late-inning leads. Although no Giants relief pitcher stepped up to claim the closer job, Kapler’s bullpen lacked defined roles and it resulted in a lot of inconsistency. In addition, his constant shifting of players to different positions hurt the team defensively and also cost them some games. As the season moved along, Kapler allowed the players to settle into positions defensively without the continual juggling of positions. This helped the defense improve in the second half of the year.
2020 was indeed a bizarre year and the Giants were much more interesting to watch than most pundits expected. Looking ahead, it will be up to Farhan Zaidi, President of Baseball Operations, to continue building the roster and especially bolster the Giants’ pitching staff.
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