A few minutes ago, the San Francisco Giants announced that David Villar had been optioned to Triple-A Sacramento after yesterday’s game in order to activate Brandon Crawford for today’s finale in Arizona.
Not a surprising move by any stretch — Susan Slusser interviewed him in an article published May 10th where even he knew the writing was on the wall — but another one that shows the Giants are walking a tightrope when it comes to rebuilding and developing. Gabe Kapler says in the Slusser article that I was going to write here:
“The one thing I would be continue to be really clear about is it’s only been 100 plate appearances for David,” Kapler said. “It’s a really quick look and, given his track record, you know he’s a good hitter. I haven’t even for a moment paid attention to the traditional line stats. There’s been enough hard-hit underneath that and consistent enough balls in the air, where you feel like eventually he’s going to put up good numbers.
Villar’s at 50% flyballs in exactly 100 PA and his 14.3% FB/HR rate is nearly right in line with the team’s overall rate of 17.4% (tied for 2nd-best in MLB). The 30% strikeout rate, though, is a real bummer — he’s just not putting many balls in play. Statcast likes his defense and we’ve seen him do well at second base after J.D. Davis’ glove surprised at third enough to push him over.
At the end of last year, I planted my flag with Villar:
Villar’s success doesn’t look like a fluke to me. Those 47 home runs come with a .275 / .388 / .555 line in 812 plate appearances. He carried that over to a .231 / .332 / .455 line in 181 major league plate appearances.
FanGraphs’ Steamer projections value Davis and Villar similarly and not in a way that makes it seem like they will be key figures — .325 wOBA for both, with Villar ahead in fWAR and home runs: 1.5 to 1.1 and 13 to 11, respectively. I’m not smart enough to refute projections, I can only go off of what I’ve seen after four years of the Zaidi era, and that’s how they’ve been able to determine a usage model that maximizes player skills. Most of these skills are reflected in public-facing stats, but not all of them.
The Giants both don’t have a glaring need that would compel them to have patience for Villar to “finish his development at the major league level” (a phrase we’ve heard before when it comes to certain prospects in certain situation), so let’s hope he can mash in Triple-A and hold on to those lessons when he returns.
I have a feeling they’re going to need David Villar’s bat at some point this season.
Meanwhile, Brandon Crawford’s return means Casey Schmitt will get pushed all over the infield when he’s not spelling the 36-year old. This will be another important moment for Crawford because — like Villar — there’s some writing on the wall here. We all know this is Crawford’s last season in a Giants uniform. It might be his last season playing Major League Baseball. The history of 36-year old middle infielders does not suggest a triumphant ending. It’s still worth running him out there as a starter, though, to see just where he lands on the cooked-playable spectrum, and it will provide a good test of Schmitt’s versatility.
Luke Jackson will be an important name to remember as we get closer to the end of the month. As Alex Pavlovic notes, he’s eligible to come off the 60-day IL (on which he had been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) on May 29th.
Back in January, I wrote up the Jackson acquisition — which is still kinda-sorta one of Zaidi’s biggest moves as POBO — and called it John Brebbia 2.0. He pitched in 11 of Atlanta’s 16 postseason games in 2021 but also saw his slider spin rate drop after the league started cracking down on sticky stuff. And then he had TJ surgery last year.
The Giants are going to need a fresher version of John Brebbia to get through the rest of the season. The one they’ve got now is starting to show wear and tear from last season’s overuse, and if the Rays’ model of treating pitchers like bubblegum is now the industry norm, the Giants are going to need a new stick of spearmint here real soon. The bullpen is still shaky.
Of course, the rotation is looking a little shaky these days thanks to Anthony DeSclafani’s toe issue. Yesterday, we learned about how he dropped a piano bench on his toe the other week and it’s still giving him problems. Everyone I’ve ever known who has had a broken to or some other toe-related injury has never fully recovered from them. He’s going to have to get a special shoe or something. Here’s hoping he doesn’t miss any time. The Giants really need his arm... and they need to hope he doesn’t overcompensate to such a degree that it increases the chances of an arm injury.