In the offseason, I wrote with increasing resignation about the Giants’ decision to hand the left-field job to Jarrett Parker. In November, my brain was aflame with five- and six-team trade proposals, as I schemed different ways to get Marcell Ozuna with one red paperclip.
By March, I was defeated and willing to accept the idea that the Giants were trying something new.
Then, 21 at-bats later, it was over. April brought us headlines like “When should the Giants do something about left field?”, but we still had no idea what Parker could really do. And when he went down with a broken collarbone, I figured he was gone for the season, and his chances to prove himself as a starter were gone, as well.
Parker back. And the next two months should be all about him. He’ll finally get a chance, and even better, he’ll get a chance to play center field, which will satisfy a tiny itch in the back of my brain.
I’m skeptical, just like I was in March. I’m skeptical because ...
- He’s 28
- The projections from before this season weren’t too geeked on his minor-league numbers
- He’s struggled to make contact at every level of the minor leagues
- It’s going to take a special left-handed power hitter to succeed at AT&T Park, and I’m not sure Parker (career high of 23 homers in the minors) is that hitter
- If he were athletic enough to play center, the Giants would have kept him there in one of his seven minor league stops over the last seven seasons
The age, the lackluster stats, the strikeouts, the chances of success, and the unlikeliness that he can play an above-average center field have me super, super skeptical of his ability to be an even average major league outfielder.
On the other hand ...
- Why not?
- Might as well try
- Use these next two months to experiment with absolutely anything
- Denard Span at shortstop
- Matt Moore in center field
- Look, I don’t care
- In this world of sluggers reinventing themselves to take advantage of the rabbit ball, the Giants deserve at least one
- If he can play center, he would be a fine fourth outfielder
- He’s out of options
- Why not?
The biggest argument in favor of Parker is Span’s rough showing in center field this year, really. If the Giants had any other option for center field right now, other than rushing Steven Duggar up after missing most of the season with an injury, I would probably argue in favor of Parker getting spot starts in left field, at best. Here are the other options, though:
1. Keep Denard Span in center for every game
Why? What’s the best-case scenario there, that he improves so much defensively that the Giants will feel comfortable with him in center next year? That he improves so much that other teams are curious about acquiring him in a trade? How are these improvements going to happen, other than by wishing for them really hard?
If the Giants are going to contend in 2018, they’ll need a strong defensive center fielder. Parker isn’t going to be that guy. But neither will Span, and at least this way, we’ll know if Parker can handle the primary utility-outfielder job next year.
2. Rush Steven Duggar
Duggar is a legitimate prospect, a 23-year-old who might actually be a true center fielder, and he’s shown an ability to hit for average, patience, and a little power. He’s left-handed, which brings us back to the AT&T Park problem, but he also seems like the kind of player who could be valuable even when he isn’t hitting more than 30 extra-base hits per year.
That written, he isn’t on the 40-man roster, and he doesn’t have to be added this year to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Putting him (or Chris Shaw or Andrew Suarez) would mean that another young player would be exposed, and while the list of possible selections is underwhelming, that doesn’t mean the Giants are going to be eager to commit another spot. Especially to a hitter still finding his sea legs in San Jose.
3. Rush Bryan Reynolds
I like him as a prospect, but the chances of a high-strikeout player like Reynolds making the jump all the way from Single-A to the majors are non-existent. You’re right to judge anyone who suggests this.
(Also, the same 40-man roster problem applies.)
4. Gorkys Hernandez!
He’s been hot, alright, and he’s roughly the same age as Parker, but there’s absolutely nothing that suggests he can hit well enough to start in the majors. Not his career .723 OPS in the minors. Not his career .630 OPS in the majors.
He’s been hot, yes. Take the free money and leave the casino.
5. Kelby Tomlinson!
Based on his uncomfortable routes in left field, I am very much in this for the amusement factor. But let’s stick with trials in left field for now.
Nope, Parker is my guy in center for now. While there has been no confirmation that he’ll get even a fraction of the starts in center, I’m thinking his center-heavy time in Sacramento was a big clue as to what the Giants are planning.
I think we’ll see some lineups like this:
- Joe Panik, 2B
- Pablo Sandoval, 3B
- Brandon Belt, 1B
- Buster Posey, C
- Hunter Pence, RF
- Brandon Crawford, SS
- Jarrett Parker, CF
- Ryder Jones, LF
Left-handers would probably cut through this lineup like a hot knife, but, well, down the hatch. The Giants aren’t going to win. They can at least experiment. Welcome back, Parker. Fight for a spot next year.