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Steven Duggar needs more time, but will he get it?

The defensive wizard has been slowed at the plate in part because he can’t stay healthy.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

.234/.278/.341, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 64 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR

And so our offseason review series finally comes to an end. No, Steven Duggar was not as good as most of the other players our staff reviewed. I really should stop ending the series this way. But! Here we are, looking at the guy who was the Opening Day center fielder. The defensive master who pushed Superman to right field.

The intriguing talent who just can’t stay healthy.

Now, that’s not to say that he’s dealing with an unending string of nagging injuries, but back-to-back years of season-ending injuries is very much how a major leaguer gets the “injury prone” label. Again, though, we’re not talking about minor things: he tore his labrum at the end of 2018 and sprained his left shoulder AC joint to end this past season. The labrum required surgery, the AC joint did not.

So it’ the Brandon Belt Syndrome. In isolation, we’re talking about serious injuries, not a hamstring that keeps knotting up or a bad back (though Duggar has had issues before with his back); and yet, a player’s ability to “stay healthy” is a factor in their major league evaluation. Some guys play hard and don’t miss huge chunks of the season. It’s the mystery of the human body.

Role on the 2019 team

Steven Duggar was never going to be an All-Star hitter, although the wishcasting of The Next Steve Finley certainly seemed exciting in the moment. He was supposed to be the up the middle defense that prevented runs and a bat with enough pop to not totally hamper an already soggy and sad old lineup.

The Giants acquired Kevin Pillar and moved him to right field to accommodate Duggar because that’s how good he was in the field. Our best measures of the day really like him in center field.

He had a +4 Defensive Runs Saved, 19th best in baseball in just 308 innings in center. He had +5 Outs Above Average according to Statcast, as many as Mike Yastrzemski and Kevin Pillar combined.

He was supposed to be the team’s defensive mascot, but instead his season stopped right at the line of what was supposed to happen. That’s what injuries will do to a projection.

Role on the 2020 team

Duggar will still be just 26, the normal point at which a player enters his prime. Figure the legs and defensive skill will still be there, but consider that he might be a little less primed to fling his body all over the outfield — that’s how he’s wound up severely slowing the pace of his development.

All that missed playing time hasn’t helped with the bat. He’s one of the worst hitters in the league. Yes, it’s been a very small sample size (433 PA), but over the past two seasons, his 72 wRC+ (So, 28% below league average) is tied with Hernan Perez of the Brewers for 342nd out of 371 hitters.

The worst 30 features a lot of catchers — seven, by my count — but also defensive specialists. That could very well be Duggar’s ceiling, but it’s not quite the role they envisioned for him; and, I think that’s the case for the outgoing and incoming front offices.

I’m sure Farhan Zaidi thinks a player with an .815 OPS in the minor leagues and 1.82 K/BB should be a solid major league regular and will be inclined to give Duggar at least one more chance to get healthy and hang around in a starting role for a while. There’s too much on-paper talent there to ignore, but the injury track record means he won’t get a lot of time to sort things out and the Giants might be willing to move on to find their next starting center fielder — or platoon option — as soon as this season.

How “Farhan” of a player is Steven Duggar?

Again, those minor league numbers fit the profile of player who got caught up in The Churn last year, so there’s no reason to believe that Zaidi doesn’t want Steven Duggar on the roster. He’s younger, cheaper, and a much better defender in center field than Kevin Pillar, too. He’s a great player to have around, but it’s looking less and less like a guy to hold out hope for. At some point, a player is who he is and you make do with what’s available.

I can’t help but see a parallel between Duggar and the 2020 Giants. There still might be a great many number of holdovers from the Evans-Sabean era taking up roster space. Some of them will still be expected to be solid contributors for no other reason than that they’re there and the team will have no better options. Steven Duggar is already a better option than most of the outfielders in the organization.

We can assume Duggar will keep doing what he’s been doing — hit poorly, play spectacular defense, and then get hurt — just as we can expect what the Giants’ holdovers will — hit poorly, play spectacular defense, and then get older or hurt — but it’s not going to take a miracle for Duggar and the rest of the holdovers to contribute just a little bit more than that; and if that happens, then the Giants might be interesting for longer than a month.