As long as he remains healthy, Steven Duggar will be the starting center fielder on Opening Day. Even though there’s a lot of competition for the outfield, but he’s the most dependable option. He may not be a five-tool player, but the tool he does have will allow him to be an everyday starter.
Duggar offers the Giants something they haven’t had in years: great defense in center field. In 40 games, Steven Duggar compiled 4 DRS, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the most a Giants center fielder has put together since Juan Perez and Gregor Blanco in 2013. Duggar did it in a quarter of a season, too. It’s also a massive improvement over Denard Span’s -27 in 2017.
If you’re not a fan of defensive metrics, or you think that 345 innings is too small a sample size (which, admittedly, yeah), he also passes the eyeball test. Just look at him robbing David Peralta of a triple.
I’ve watched that clip around 30 times and everytime the camera cuts to here:
I think, “There’s no way he’s going to catch that.”
But he caught it!
He began that play shading over toward left-center, so he didn’t just have to chase down a torched gapper, he had to chase down a torched gapper from the other side of the field. As long as Duggar is out there robbing doubles, he can provide value to the team.
As an elite defender, Duggar doesn’t have to be an average hitter to be valuable. Over the last four years, Kevin Pillar has averaged 3.4 bWAR while his OPS maxed out at .713. Pillar has a bit more power than Duggar, and he doesn’t strike out nearly as often. It’s questionable that Duggar can even hit that well over the course of a full season.
The strikeouts are a major concern. Having a 28.9 percent strikeout rate might be tenable if Duggar were a 30-homer threat, but Duggar might be a 30-double threat and that’s being optimistic. He hit 11 doubles in 152 plate appearances, but he also got a bit lucky. His xwOBA was just .245 and his BABIP was .354.
Take both of those with a grain of salt. Nobody rocks a .354 BABIP, but Duggar hits a lot of line drives, doesn’t pop up and doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls. He can maintain a higher BABIP without it just being luck. Not .354 high, but .320 to .330 might be reasonable.
The xwOBA is also a tad misleading because Duggar only had 98 batted balls, and you can see how inconsistent his batted ball data is.
Usually, those histograms form a nice curve, but Duggar’s is all over the place. His mode batted ball was between 100 and 105 MPH, but the second most occurring exit velocity was between 80 and 85 MPH. Over a full season, his batted balls will clump toward one of those ranges, and we’ll have to hope it’s the higher of the two.
I’m not saying that Duggar will be at the top of the exit velocity leaderboards (or even in the Top-100), but he’s not going to have a lower xwOBA than Billy Hamilton. Duggar has some pop, and he could very well hit over 10 dingers this season which for a Giant, is basically like hitting 20.
After having double-digit walk percentages all throughout the majors, Duggar only walked 6.6 percent of the time. Duggar, to his credit, has a good idea of the strike zone, but if he can’t do anything when he swings, he’s going to see more pitches in the strike zone.
The odds may be above Duggar cutting down on strike outs, drawing more walks, and hitting the ball hard all at once, but remember, he doesn’t have to be a good hitter to be a good player. He just has to not be terrible.
That’s not terrible! It’s not necessarily good, but with the defense it will work. I’m expecting Stevie Doubles to be more Stevie Singles. I also fully expect Duggar to lead the team in steals. If he could get on base more often, maybe he could break 20 steals, but I doubt he’ll get that many opportunities.
Predicting his number of plate appearances is tricky because I don’t know where Duggar is going to bat in the order. He fits the traditional archetype of a lead-off hitter because he’s (A) fast and (B) a center fielder, but he doesn’t quite fit as an optimal lead off hitter because he doesn’t get on base a ton.
If does wind up leading off, he’ll get more plate appearances than that, but he probably fits as a seventh or eighth place hitter.
No. Duggar is under team control, and he should be the center fielder when the team is good again.