Statistically, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson are in a close race. Parker has 12 hits in 38 at-bats and a .316/.435/.658 line. Williamson has 11 hits in 34 at-bats and a .324/.378/.559 line. Parker has two more home runs (four total), which gives him a decent advantage, but it’s not like Williamson is playing himself out of the competition.
Williamson’s body is playing itself out of the competition. From Andrew Baggarly:
Mac Williamson is out of action because of a tight left quadriceps, all but ending a left field competition that Jarrett Parker had pretty much locked down anyway.
Before the tight quad, Parker was probably the favorite anyway, simply because he’s out of options and Williamson isn’t. Now Parker is healthy, and Williamson isn’t. So while nothing is official, the Giants unofficially have a starting left-fielder.
While both hitters fare better against right-handed pitching, the biggest advantage Williamson had in the race was that he was likelier to be a better right-handed complement to a heavy left-handed lineup, and that he was the only one of the two who wasn’t likely to need a platoon-mate. That wasn’t enough to overcome Parker’s lack of options, as the Giants understandably weren’t willing to expose him to waivers and risk losing him if they weren’t going to carry both players.
If Parker is the starting left fielder, the Giants will have to figure out what to do with him against left-handers. Should they just let ‘er rip and hope that Parker’s historically dreadful platoon splits were an aberration, and that he’ll have figured out how to hit lefties when he’s 28? Or will they start a right-handed outfielder whenever they’re faced with a left-handed starter? Before you answer, read this from Buster Olney:
There is increasing concern in the San Francisco Giants' camp over the play of center fielder Denard Span this spring. The 33-year-old is 4-for-28 and evaluators don't think he's moving well yet.
So when Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw come to town, the Giants can’t just start Gorkys Hernandez or Justin Ruggiano against them in Parker’s place. They’ll probably have to deal with Span, too.
The answer might still be out there:
Hill and Hwang both scheduled to play left field today— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) March 20, 2017
You know that I’m in the tank for Jae-gyun Hwang, and I’d love for him to prove himself in the outfield and sneak onto the roster. But if Hill can play a credible left, he would be a fine candidate for a super-utility spot, even though he’s never shown much difference in his platoon splits over his career.
And, of course, there is another right-handed outfielder in camp. Michael Morse is crushing the ball, and he might be the favorite for the last roster spot if Parker wins the spot. The bench would go something like this:
C - Nick Hundley
OF - Michael Morse
OF - (Center fielder)
INF - Hill/Beckham/Rollins/Hwang
INF - Conor Gillaspie
Now that Orlando Calixte has been optioned, we know the Giants aren’t going to get clever with an INF/OF hybrid to back Span up. While that would be a very, very right-handed bench, with the exception of Gillaspie, it wouldn’t be too much of a problem if the righties didn’t have huge platoon issues.
I’m extremely skeptical about Parker starting full-time for a variety of reasons -- he would threaten Bobby Bonds’ team record for strikeouts if he got 600 plate appearances, he needs platoon help, and he’s already likely to be a finished product at 28 years old — but in 205 plate appearances in the majors, he has a .267/.371/.494 line, showing off patience and power. If he could put those numbers up over a full season, he might even get some down-ballot MVP votes, so it’s not like he hasn’t hit in the majors, and he’s clearly looking like an All-Star in the Cactus League. It could work.
It had better work, because this is what the Giants are almost certainly going with. Meet Jarrett Parker, starting left fielder. It was the likeliest outcome, and the Giants are hoping he’ll hit enough in the first month to keep second-guessers away for the rest of the season.
Imagine, the first homegrown outfielder to start on Opening Day since John Bowker in 2010! And we would get to update the list of Opening Day left fielders since Barry Bonds retired, too.
2008 - Dave Roberts
2009 - Fred Lewis
2010 - Mark DeRosa
2011 - Pat Burrell
2012 - Aubrey Huff
2013 - Andres Torres
2014 - Michael Morse
2015 - Norichika Aoki
2016 - Angel Pagan
Maybe the 10th time is the charm? I wonder what line Vegas is going with on a different left fielder in 2018.
For now, Parker is about to win the job he was probably going to win with a decent spring, much less a monstrous spring. We shouldn’t be surprised. Just a little nervcited. If he brings along his bag of dingers, this might be a watchable offense after all.