152 PA, .207/.265/.264, 0 HR, 9 RBI
We like to poke fun at Brian Sabean disregarding advanced metrics like Oh-Pee-Ess, but Kelby Tomlinson’s continued presence on the roster smacked Sabean’s self-parody. According to Sabean, the Giants have been successful with timely hitting and defense, and Tomlinson has that in spades. He’s a guy who could hit for average and play solid defense up the middle. He’s essentially Joe Panik without the power. He might not be able to swing for the fences, but he has bat to ball skills. What’s not to like?
Well, for the third straight season, Kelby Tomlinson had a higher on-base percentage than his slugging. It’s impressive considering his on-base was only .265. Somehow, that wasn’t the worst mark on the team. It wasn’t even in the bottom three. Chase d’Arnaud, Hunter Pence, and Gregor Blanco were all worse at reaching base. I knew the Giants were a bad offensive team, but yeesh.
This was Tomlinson’s worst season by far. He hit for just a 48 wRC+ and he was below replacement at -0.5 fWAR. His minor league numbers weren’t much better. Over 204 plate appearances with Sacramento, Tomlinson slashed just .304/.365/.315 and he needed a .399 BABIP to get that done.
Tomlinson’s not a prospect anymore. He’s 28, so his struggles in AAA raise the question of if he’ll ever even be okay at the plate again. He could bounce back in 2019, but his ceiling is still as a defensive replacement for a team with two gold glovers in the middle infield.
It stinks to point out Tomlinson’s flaws as a hitter because he’s an otherwise likable player even if I don’t think I’ve ever heard him talk. When he came up in 2015 a-slappin’ and a-choppin’ balls while wearing Rivers Cuomo style glasses, it reminded us that baseball players come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to all be hirsute beef boys. Here was a guy that looked like what happens when I try to make myself in MLB The Show and he was succeeding at the major league level.
But Tomlinson’s archetype is obsolete in the Statcast era where launch angle and exit velocity are paramount. Tomlinson is essentially a pre-Moneyball type of player, and the game is well beyond Moneyball at this point.
Role on the 2018 Team
Tomlinson fell farther down the depth chart with the addition of Abiatal Avelino and Alen Hanson showing off his potential. Hanson isn’t without his flaws at the plate, but there’s the possibility Hanson can put things together and turn into a solid bat. Tomlinson remains a better defender, and he walks more, but Hanson has the higher ceiling. With Tomlinson, what you see is what you get, but with Hanson, there’s something to dream on.
Role on the 2019 Team
2018 marked the end of Kelbymania. On Monday, the Giants announced that they outrighted Kelby Tomlinson, and he’ll become a minor league free agent.
Final Grade: D+
Tomlinson played his way out of a job this year. As the Giants enter a new era, they shouldn’t be taking average-dependent defensive replacements. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be sad to see Tomlinson go especially once the Dodgers pick him up and turn him into Chris Taylor.