Next up on the San Francisco Giants season reviews is outfielder Austin Slater.
31 games, 104 plate appearances, .282/.408/.506, .914 OPS, 5 home runs, 7 RBI, 16 walks to 22 strikeouts
152 OPS+, 152 wRC+, 1.0 rWAR, 1.2 fWAR
Status throughout the season
Slater made the Opening Day roster. On Aug. 22, he was placed on the Injured List with a groin strain. He was activated on Sept. 5.
The Giants have been hoping for a breakout of sorts from Austin Slater for a few years. In the small sample of a season that was truncated both by the coronavirus pandemic and Slater’s injuries, it finally came.
Slater had just five games all year — including the ones where he pinch hit, or was taken out early — where he failed to record a hit or walk. He flexed power to every part of the field, and spectacular plate discipline.
It was a joy to watch. Through his 19th game of the season he was hitting .347/.458/.653.
And then he got hurt.
And when Slater returned, he wasn’t fully healthy. Even though he returned to the roster with a few weeks left, he didn’t play a single inning in the field. The poor health showed up in the batter’s box as well, as he slashed just .194/.341/.306 in 12 post-IL games.
Still, even with that post-injury slump, he ended the season as the Giants third-best hitter, per wRC+, trailing only Brandon Belt and Mike Yastrzemski. And even though he missed a chunk of time, and finished 10th on the team in plate appearances, he was third among position players in fWAR, again trailing only Belt and Yastrzemski.
Perhaps most exciting for the Giants was that he showed some signs of being able to hit right-handed pitchers. His .735 OPS against righties might not leave San Francisco’s analytics department drooling to get him in the lineup everyday, but it certainly increases his flexibility and playability.
And he hit two home runs in a single game off of Clayton Kershaw so ... come on.
Role in 2021
The Giants re-signed Slater this offseason, agreeing to terms to avoid arbitration. Slater and Darin Ruf are a bit redundant, but Slater seems to have the advantage there.
He seems headed for a spot on the 2021 roster, as a 4th outfielder who starts every time a lefty is on the mound, and sometimes when a righty is.
Small sample size is ... well ... small. But still.
How would you grade Austin Slater’s season?
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