It has been said that Saint Patrick taught the concept of Christianity to the pagans of San Francisco by using a shamrock to explain the holy trinity. Back in those days, the trinity was Barry Bonds, Jeff Kent, and Jason Schmidt. But it’s 2023 now, and the San Francisco Giants have an entirely different roster. With today being St. Patrick’s Day and all, it seems as good a day as any to ask: who will be the holy trinity of the 2023 Giants?
Before we look at the possibilities, let’s build up a little more of a basis for this thought experiment. Obviously, the modern Giants aren’t built with any one or even handful of players in mind. The entire thrust of the endeavor is that no player is better than the front office’s scheme. Players are figures in a model and it’s about the sum of the parts.
That said, human brains aren’t as clever as baseball front offices and seek out things like patterns and entertainment and leaders. Great baseball players tend to be entertaining, if for no other reason than they’re good. I mentioned Bonds, Kent, and Jason Schmidt before. As recently as 2021, you had Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. And during the championship era (RIP — oh, how I miss you so), you had those three along with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner.
It’s true that this exercise will focus on players who are likely to be really good this year, but I’m generally thinking more along the lines of “Who do you think of when you think of the 2023 Giants” or what players will be featured in key art on networks advertising their next telecast featuring the Giants vs. Team X? And I’m going to further limit this list to exclude the possibility of Kyle Harrison and Casey Schmitt later in the year, even if they have nonzero chances of jumping into the fray. Like the front office, I’m betting on the stability of the guys on the roster to reach these outcomes. So, here’s a list of possibilities and why:
He already sort of has become the face of the franchise. He led the team in hitting last year (.373 wOBA), he’s got the Bay Area ties, and just enough swagger to make you feel good about the team’s chances.
Expectations are that Conforto will return to his pre-2021 performance levels. From 2015-2020, he was the 25th-best hitter in the NL (.358 wOBA). Regrettably, my main memory of him is this moment:
The other reason he’s on this list is because if he has a great year, he will opt out of the $18 million he’s set to receive next season. The Giants would be incentivized to push him as a face to show him that it’s good to be a Giant. I mean, that plan won’t work and he’ll leave if he has even a decently above average season, but the Giants will shoot their shot.
He’s probably slightly ahead of Joc Pederson as already being the face of the franchise, but I put him here just because of my inherent position player bias when it comes to team faces. A guy who plays every day should have the edge, but Webb is already the consensus best player on the Giants’ roster. He and Mike Yastrzemski are the two best projected players by ZiPS, and just by fWAR, Webb (8.3) has been the 7th-best starting pitcher in the National League over the past two seasons.
I am mentioning him after Michael Conforto only because I think he’s more of a sentimental pick than a performance pick at this point. The past two seasons, in 1090 PA, he’s hit .219/.308/.424. He is an incredibly fine player after his defense gets factored in, and he’s certainly been a marquee player at times for the Giants, but we’re talking the end of 2019 and 2020 more than we are recently, and while it’s possible some older TV producers will still feature him in the promo art, that’ll probably be a reflection of being behind the times. Still! As the second-best player by projection, it’s not impossible to see him easily reclaim the warmed seat waiting for him in the 2023 trinity.
I have a foggy notion that Doval was featured on a marquee or in key art last season and I think it’s clear the Giants thought very highly of him throughout 2022. He’s going to be a key player, even if the pitch clock might cause him to lose some of that velocity.
But just in case Doval negatively regresses to the point that he becomes unreliable, there’s this guy. By fWAR (6.4), he was the 10th-best reliever in baseball from 2017-2021, and even if the perception was that he took a step backwards last year (4.76 ERA), that’s on us. The Giants handed him a 3-year, $33 million deal and his sinker-slider combo is exactly what they’re in the market for at all times.
The Giants are certainly hoping this kid has a breakout season. He doesn’t have to become a 30-home run guy to make it into the trinity, but a stable presence who hits for power will put himself in the key art right away, and I think a new and exciting face is just what the team needs.
He had the top hard hit rate in the National League last year, has no platoon split, and is fully healthy, crushing baseballs. The swing and miss and lack of defensive ability might limit his exposure, then again, the Giants could find themselves in such an injury hole that he just has to play a bunch. That might just give him enough exposure to capture hearts and minds and turn skeptics into true believers.
LaMonte Wade Jr.
The Giants certainly expected him to carry over that Late Night LaMonte energy from 2021 and 2022 and it just didn’t work out. I’m going to remain skeptical that he bounces back properly in 2023, but I list him here because I’m wrong at least half the time, and I think the team and the people who cover him are ready to push him to the front if he shows he’s still got that hitting prowess.
So there are nine players you can mix and match to find a trinity. I’m going with Pederson, Conforto, and Webb, but ESPN could just as easily put Thairo Estrada in that mix, too. This exercise works if we’re only using the shamrock, but what if we got lucky and found a four-leaf clover? That would mean the Giants are doing quite well, don’t you think? Who could push themselves into a holy quartet? I think if we were getting that extra leaf, there’d be only one person to put:
It’s very unlikely Brandon Crawford has a great season, but I think there’s a better than decent chance that if he actually manages to stay on the field, he’ll still be one of the first guys people think of when they consider the 2023 Giants. Sure, maybe it will be the thought, “That guy’s still playing?” but I think it’s going to be very hard for him to not be considered a face of the franchise as long as he’s on the team.
Who do you think will make up the Giants’ trinity in 2023?