When the San Francisco Giants traded for Kevin Pillar, the tune they initially sang was crystal clear: Steven Duggar, the team’s best home grown defensive outfielder in who knows how long, was still the starting center fielder.
Bochy said Duggar won’t move around, will play CF. Pillar can handle all three spots but sounds like he’ll primarily be in RF for now.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) April 3, 2019
Of course, by the time the Nikes were laced for Pillar’s first game, the tune had changed. Suddenly Duggar was shifted to right field, and Pillar was holding down the fort at his old stomping ground in center field.
He hasn’t played an inning elsewhere since.
After Pillar’s homecoming on Tuesday, Bochy solidified the obvious, and stated that they will continue with the current alignment.
You probably have some thoughts about this. Or you don’t, you do you - I’m not going to fault you for not investing mental energy into the outfield alignment of a sub-par team.
But I have some thoughts. My initial thought was “eww, no.” But there are (sometimes) two sides to each story. So let’s look at the pros and cons of this arrangement.
Pro: Pillar is fun to watch in center field
Pillar may be declining as a defensive player, but it appears that he’s still quite capable in center field. The early season statistics, which are way too small to do anything with, think so, and it passes the sniff test.
Pillar just looks fun out there. He’s fast. He takes decent routes. He has superglue on his glove.
He’s fun to watch, just like . . . by god, the entire Giants defense?!
Con: Duggar is even more fun to watch in center field
Everything I just said about Pillar can also be said about Duggar, except perhaps even more so.
Duggar may not be an elite center fielder. The projections are not nearly as rosy as the heart and soul of Giants fans.
But damn if he doesn’t look good out there.
Pro: Pillar’s trade value is solid
Pillar cannot hit well enough to be an asset as an everyday corner outfielder. At this point he’s either an everyday center fielder, or a backup outfielder.
With one year left of arbitration, Pillar could potentially be an interesting trade chip. The Giants didn’t give up much to get him, but they parted with some interesting pieces - and that was after a 1-for-17 start to the season, and Toronto losing all leverage by essentially admitting they didn’t want him.
If Pillar keeps hitting timely dingers, the fact that his still above-average center field defense is getting displayed daily will only raise his market value. One and a half years of Pillar could look very interesting to some playoff teams when July rolls around.
Con: Duggar’s development
Duggar’s bat doesn’t project to a corner. If he’s going to be an every day player with the Giants, it’s going to be in center. Why stunt that growth?
Pro: Duggar stays healthy
Duggar’s promising rookie season was cut short when he injured his shoulder, and needed surgery. The damage was enough that Duggar was under strict orders to not dive for any ball during Spring Training - not exactly comforting news.
In right field, Duggar’s shoulder should see a little lighter load. If that makes him a better player in 2020, which is a more important Giants baseball season than 2019, then that’s a win.
Pro/Con: That’s not a right field bat
Pillar doesn’t hit well enough to play right field, so starting him in center makes sense. Duggar doesn’t hit well enough to play right field, so starting him in center makes sense.