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What’s the backup plan for Denard Span?

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I almost said “backup span” but chickened out at the last moment

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Angels at San Francisco Giants Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

At this time one year ago, if a psychic had told you that Denard Span would be within .1 fWAR of Jason Heyward in 2016, how many World Series would you have thought the Giants would win last year? Eight? Twelve? More? Curse you, hypothetical monkey paw psychic. You’re always giving us false hope.

This is an incredibly premature post based in large part on small sample size Spring Training statistics, which are about as reliable as me trying to come up with a non-self referential simile. However, it is also based on scouts watching Spring Training, and both stats and scouts watching the Giants last year, and also also it’s based on the kind of compulsive fretting that’s a hallmark of any good baseball fan, and also also also it’s based on the fact that I can get an article out of it.

So what happens if Denard Span is bad this year? It’s a valid concern. 2016 was not an especially impressive offensive year for him, and so far he’s followed that up in Spring Training by hitting .161/.278/.258. But even if he was doing well in Arizona, the questions would remain about whether he ever got truly healthy after coming back from his hip injury, or if he can be a good player again.

So if we have our worries about ineffectiveness or even just general worry about injury, what replacements do the Giants have in the organization that could step in and take Span’s place in center?

Gorkys Hernandez

Hey, uh, you know how I gave stats up there about how bad Span’s been this spring? Gorkys has been worse. So far, he’s hit .139/.184/.222, for a sweet OPS of .406. He’s still strong defensively, of course, but considering his lack of an offensive track record, his weak spring at the plate has got to make anyone leery of declaring him the starter for an extended spell.

Jarrett Parker

Jarrett Parker has played center field in his minor league career, and he’s even played a little bit of center in the majors. However, he hasn’t been a regular minor league center fielder in some time — the only year he played close to half his games in center was 2012 with San Jose, where he was there for 57 games — and he’s filled out quite a bit since then. It’s not likely that he would play an especially good center field, but if he could play a decent one, and if you combine that with what will hopefully be strong offensive production, then he could well be a decent overall option in center. There are, however, too many ifs in that last sentence to really want to rely on him as a center fielder.

Orlando Calixte

Calixte was a minor league free agent the Giants signed over the offseason who they then felt was so likely to be taken in the Rule 5 draft that they immediately put him on the 40 man roster. It makes sense too; Calixte is both a center fielder and a shortstop, and if he could hit well enough to play in the majors then he would be an extremely valuable player. That’s quite the if, though. He’s slashed .192/.222/.231 this spring, which feeds into the fact that lack of offense always been the knock on him. He did decently enough last year in the minors, but that’s a far cry from “comfortable starting him in center field for a contending team for an extended period of time.”

Kelby Tomlinson

The Kelby Tomlinson in the outfield experiment seems to have been abandoned at some point, but still I’m sure if he wasn’t here someone would wonder why, so I am listing him here.

Yep, Kelby Tomlinson sure got listed here all right.

Austin Slater

Slater had a great year last year in AA and AAA, and even had some people talking about a possible September callup last year. A lack of 40 man space prevented that, but Slater still opened a lot of eyes with his minor league performance at the two highest levels. Slater has played all around the outfield, but he played 48 games in center last year, so he isn’t not a center fielder, which is currently a big plus.

Steven Duggar

Duggar has had a great spring, and he started more games in center last year than Slater. Now, we should be wary of anointing someone based on spring stats — please welcome starting left fielder and 2017 All-Star Chris Marrero — but Duggar’s definitely put himself on the map by making the most of his opportunities this spring. If he can keep it up in the minors and play a strong defensive center field, then he has a good chance to pass Slater on the CF depth chart.