STAT LINE: 152 PAs, .255/.303/.390, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 0.7 fWAR, 1.1 bWAR
In a year full of position player after position player disappointing us at every turn, at least there was Steven Duggar. The rookie center fielder had a great defensive debut and a serviceable offensive one, and while Duggar wasn’t Mike Trout at the plate, he looked like a competent hitter who clearly belonged in the major leagues.
Remember when the Giants had a lineup featuring several competent hitters who clearly belonged in the major leagues? Man, good times.
The Giants have had a long line of center fielders who let them down. Denard Span, Angel Pagan, Aaron Rowand, Dave Roberts, Jason Ellison ... the position has been a source of trouble for a long time. Now, they haven’t been totally helpless there: Pagan had a very nice year in 2012, and of course Andres Torres had a 6-win year in 2010 and also makes your life better just by choosing an outfit:
Andres Torres serving up looks on the pregame show pic.twitter.com/HnMJ3064g2— Doug (@moonwalkmcfly) July 31, 2018
But Duggar could solidify center field for a lot longer than either Torres or Pagan. When they were on the Giants, they were already over 30, so the clock was ticking on how long they could stick in center; Duggar turns 25 next month. He has the youth, athleticism, and talent to stick around in center for years, and he was electric there in the time he spent in San Francisco this year.
In late August, in what turned out to be Duggar’s final game of the year because he injured himself just before he scored the winning run, all the beat writers had the same quote from Madison Bumgarner after Duggar made a spectacular defensive play to save a run in what turned out to be a 1-0 game.
Me, personally, I don’t care if he ever gets a hit, I love him in center field and anything else he does is a positive, so that’s how I feel about him.
That’s what Steven Duggar brings to the team. That’s what makes him fun. Because when you watch him play center field, tracking down balls that have been automatic extra base hits for years, he is pretty damn fun.
ROLE ON THE 2018 TEAM: As close to a rookie sensation as a Giant hitter could get in 2018. In other words, he drastically outperformed some metrics (more on that later!), still didn’t hit all that well, but was exciting enough in the field that none of that really mattered because Wait how did Duggar catch that that’s supposed to be a double. For a team as dull as the Giants got to be this year, he was a shot of excitement that made them worth watching.
Until, as any halfway decent Giants hitter did in 2018, he went and got injured. That’s being a team player!
ROLE ON THE 2019 TEAM: Starting center fielder, and there’s no doubt about it. This year, Duggar’s defense was as good as advertised, and his offense was good enough to pencil him in the 2019 lineup. It would be a tremendous shock if Steven Duggar, assuming he’s healthy, isn’t playing center field on Opening Day next year.
For all the positivity that I’ve heaped on Duggar in this article, his OPS was still under .700, and all of his other offensive numbers clearly kept him out of A territory. His walk rate was low and his strikeout rate was high, and his .354 BABIP indicates that you can expect some regression. The gap between Duggar’s xwOBA and wOBA was huge. His wOBA was around Evan Longoria’s, but his xwOBA was Tomlinsonian. He still has work to do on the offensive side of the ball, and do not be surprised if he has a rough start at the plate next year while he works on his game.
But in a quarter of a season, Duggar’s fWAR was 0.7 and his bWAR was 1.1, meaning that he was on a 3-4 WAR pace if he played for a whole season. That’s because his glove and his legs are absolute, no doubt major league tools, and he doesn’t have to hit especially well to be valuable. He did as much as he could do in 41 games to establish his defense as a special tool. There are red flags in his offensive game, but even still, Steven Duggar looks to be a good one.