MIAMI–After sending Miami native Andrew Suárez to the mound on Wednesday, the Giants will turn to another rookie and local product, Dereck Rodríguez, in an effort to salvage their series-finale against the Marlins Thursday.
Suárez and Rodríguez both made their major league debuts in 2018 as the Giants had their starting rotation decimated by injuries over the first two months of the season.
While each pitcher will likely remain on the starting staff until veterans Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto are set to return from the disabled list, they’re not the only young players who could help the Giants this summer.
The pitching duo received their opportunities due to injuries and a shortage of healthy arms, but a few position players are on the verge of forcing their way onto the Giants’ radar.
Outfielders Austin Slater and Steven Duggar are both handling Triple-A pitching well, as Slater has been a force for the Sacramento River Cats since the start of the season while Duggar is in the midst of his hottest stretch of the year.
Slater has already taken a handful of big league at-bats this year, but Duggar has yet to make his big league debut and still isn’t a member of the Giants’ 40-man roster.
With a pair of veteran starters and first baseman Brandon Belt poised to return to the Giants within the next few weeks, the club is already facing a roster crunch which creates a challenge when it comes to creating space for players like Slater and Duggar. However, the Giants must weigh several factors in evaluating the state of their roster, including the performances of veteran outfielders and the promise and potential both Slater and Duggar provide.
Armed with a .355 batting average and a 1.011 OPS through his first 46 games in the Pacific Coast League, Slater is the prospect the Giants will likely be inclined to promote first because he’s already on the 40-man roster. That doesn’t necessarily mean Duggar will wait much longer, because the Giants strongly considered keeping him on the Opening Day roster after an impressive spring.
After his average dipped all the way to .245 on May 17, Duggar has raised his clip to .290 and added three more hits to his line in a 7-5 win on Wednesday. The center field prospect has five three-hit games within the last month and would instantly become the Giants’ best defender if he joined the club.
The Giants want Duggar to become the everyday center fielder when they finally do promote him, but even with strong play from Gorkys Hernández over the past month, it’s possible Duggar forces his way into the role before the trade deadline.
Earlier this season, the Giants had the luxury of buying time for Slater and Duggar because they were satisfied with their veteran options in the outfield and wanted to allow players like Austin Jackson, Hunter Pence and eventually Mac Williamson an opportunity to prove they could provide consistent production. While that remains the case, manager Bruce Bochy has hinted that he’s still not satisfied with any of the three players in a full-time role, as the Giants have mixed and matched their outfield personnel during the club’s series in Miami.
If the Giants fail to climb above .500 or go on an extended run before the All-Star break, the franchise may have no choice but to create space for younger, more athletic options because management should feel a sense of urgency.
When the club returns home next week, the team’s schedule becomes increasingly favorable and stays that way through the month of July. But the Giants will only be able to capitalize on the upcoming opportunity if they have their best 25 players on the roster. Slater and Duggar may already rank among the top 25, and sooner or later, a club that’s hovered around .500 for most of the season should consider what the duo has to offer.
Other prospects on the radar
- Right-handed reliever Ray Black reportedly hit 102 miles per hour with his fastball Wednesday and has struck out 43 hitters in 22 2/3 minor league innings this season. Black began the year with Double-A Richmond and was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento, where he has a 4.97 ERA but has allowed a .178 batting average against him.
- Double-A starter Shaun Anderson enjoyed a strong start to the year, but allowed four earned runs in back-to-back starts recently. Anderson rebounded with six shutout innings on June 9 and may wind up climbing another level this season.
- The Giants’ 2015 first round draft choice, Chris Shaw, missed three weeks with a hamstring injury, but returned last week and hit a home run in his second game back. The outfield prospect may not make it to the major leagues before September because he needs to cut back on a high strikeout rate and the outfield depth chart is crowded.