San Francisco Giants 2016 Season Grades: Infielders and Catchers
The San Francisco Giants Infield was probably the strongest position grouping of any on the Giants. Yes, the rotation was incredibly strong. But the infield accounted for the majority of run production. The home-grown infield did well for the Giants, and luckily this core will be around for a while.
The San Francisco Giants 2016 Season Grades is a series that we will continue through the next few days. We’ll follow the same format and grading scale. As a reminder, here is the criteria: To be eligible for a grade, a position player must reach 30 games played. The grading scale will be on a little bit of a curve.
Each player’s grade is relative to their expectations, past performances, and anticipated development. On top of that, injuries will be taken into account when evaluating performance. Defense will be a good factor in their grade, especially in the infield.
Let’s get started!
SS/2B, San Francisco Giants
Kelby Tomlinson might just be a fan favorite. He would’ve been a valuable fill-in for Joe Panik, just like he was last year, but he was hurt himself. Tomlinson provided plus defense and a great bat, even better than Panik’s off the bench. I love Kelby for the backup role that he plays, and frankly would rather them just use him as the backup middle infielder over Adrianza. I’ll discuss that a little later. Let’s look at Tomlinson’s numbers.
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Kelby had a .292 average in 120 plate appearances, and Had an OBP of .370. However, Tomlinson managed to only slug .330. The OPS is nowhere near as high as it should be. With that slashline, Tomlinson’s wRC+ was 98. The scale that wRC+ is on means that Kelby created runs at a level two percent less than the league average. While that seems bad, five players had a lower wRC+ than him, and three were regular starters (Span, Panik, and Duffy).
Kelby’s glove was pretty decent as well, with only three errors in 214.1 defensive innings. Two of those came from playing shortstop, with only one error in 140+ innings at second. He’s not Panik when it comes to defense at second, but he’s still pretty darn good. His bat, combined with his glove is worth keeping him around over Adrianza.
SS/2B, San Francisco Giants
Frankly Adrianza’s time is up in SF, and I’d rather them start giving Arroyo some big-time exposure next summer than run-out Adrianza. But Kelby is a better option. If they keep Gillaspie and Arroyo up next year, Arroyo can cover every position that Adrianza can, plus third.
During spring training, Adrianza definitely looked the part as a middle infield backup. Unfortunately his injury held him out of building on the solid spring. It will be interesting to see what happens with him in the offseason. Was his spring training a glimpse of what he’s getting into or just a hot-streak? Our many, many, many, seasons past of Adrianza probably tell us that the Spring, and his beginning of the season was just a good start. A .252/.299/.381/.679 slashline is worse than Kelby’s. I have a hard time believing that the injury effected those numbers to the drop-off we saw.
Adrianza had a good glove, as did the whole Giants infield. The Giants churn out top level defensive infielders like a chicken coop churns out eggs. It’s a guarantee that they’ll have good defensive players, or they won’t call them up. It’s a staple of the Giants way right now, and a good one at that. However, I think the Giants have better options within the organization to play Adrianza’s role. Will his time in black and orange be up this year?
C, San Francisco Giants
My biggest question here about Brown was “Is he a better option than Susac would’ve been?” We all know how well he played in the spring, supplanting Susac as Posey’s backup, without a fight. Brown however had a dismal second half. A .237/.283/.364/.647 slash-line was NOT good enough at the plate for this year. Now, the Giants don’t really have a good backup option.
Hopefully Trevor Brown will improve going into his second season, but this year was disappointing considering what the Giants thought they would get from him. It’s not like his defense was good enough either. He had more past-balls than Posey, in nearly 700 less innings, and runners were 24/31 in stolen base attempts with him behind the dish.
Time will tell if the Susac trade was a good one, but at the moment, I can’t help but think if Susac would’ve been as good of an option. He certainly had a higher ceiling than Brown, maybe some time to get used to playing again after his injury would’ve been beneficial. Beside the point, Brown was not good this year, and he’ll need to build on this year if he wants to stay Posey’s backup. Despite the bad season, it was his first full season in the bigs. A “C” seems like a valid grade.
3B, San Francisco Giants
Connor gets an A- because he was fantastic as always when called upon this season. He spent a significant amount of time in Sacramento, and bounced back and forth a little. But Gillaspie was the hero come postseason time, and that is good enough to give him an A-. His situational hitting was some of the best on the team, only grounding into 3 double plays, compared to a staggering 18 from Posey.
In 200 plate appearances, Gillaspie had a .262/.307/.440/.747 slashline. If he can get that OBP higher, he might see his wRC+ shoot up. He’s in no way capable of being the everyday option at third-base. The Giants don’t need a power hitting third-baseman. Just somebody who can field the position well, hit for average power, and get on base.
The runs will follow suit after that. Gillaspie should be the backup third baseman next year though. While I think they need to get Christian Arroyo up at sometime, I’m not sure Arroyo’s production would be any better than Gillaspie’s. Connor’s grade is mainly based on what he did in the postseason, and hopefully he can build off that performance, and carry it into 2017.
2B, San Francisco Giants
Joe Panik had an extremely disappointing season. I made mention of this on Twitter and actually caught some flack for this. A lot of people reminded me of the significant concussion issues he had, and while that is worthwhile claim as to why his numbers were what they were, it was bad before the Concussion. The concussion didn’t help, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with how long it took him to get going at the plate. We know not to expect Brandon Phillips type numbers from Panik, because that’s not who he is. However, he was NOT the Joe Panik of the past.
Last year, Panik swatted a .312/.378/.455/.833 slash-line. In the second spot in the lineup, that kind of production is salivated over by GMs. He won an all-star appearance thanks to that type of play. What happened this year? A .239/.315/.379/.695 slash-line destroyed the run production from the Giants this season. Granted, he was one of the most disciplined batters in all of baseball, striking out only 8% of the time. I will give him a pass on the stats post-concussion. But what about before the concussion?
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On June 18th, Joe Panik was hit in the head by his future teammate, Matt Moore. His production before that time was this: .261/.325/.416/.741. Those are not typical Joe Panik numbers. The concussion easily delayed the return of his bat. We had to wait until the postseason to see the balanced swing that we saw in his rookie and sophomore seasons.
The concussion issues are nothing to be scoffed at. They are a serious brain trauma, and must be taken 100% seriously. We’ve seen how it effected Brandon Belt in the past, and now it plagued Panik. It’s OK that it took him time to get over it. However, he was just not the same at the plate this season, even before the concussion. That’s the area of concern
Defensively, Panik was stellar, as usual. He had the highest fielding percentage amongst NL second baseman, and is certainly a gold-glove candidate. Hopefully he’ll return to his old form at the plate next season, and the Giants offense can really get churning again.
3B, San Francisco Giants
Eduardo Nuñez came over in the Adalberto Mejia trade, and didn’t really do all that well to start. After adjusting to life in the National League, Nuńez came alive. It’s unfortunate that he went down with injury during the postseason stretch, however Gillaspie’s heroics filled in more than adequately.
Nuñez had a much lower batting average than he did in Minnesota. However, his OBP virtually stayed the same. He ended the season with a .288/.325/.432/.758 slashline. This slashline is in line with his projected development as a pro. We’ll see what he looks like next year at the plate. Hopefully we can see something a lot like what he did in Minnesota.
Defensively, Nuñez was a stud. Only two errors with the Giants at third base, he was on pace to do much better than Matt Duffy defensively. It’s safe to say Nuñez is guaranteed to be the third-baseman come opening day 2017. His season overall was quite good and for that, he get’s a B+
C, San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey had a bad year. He was third on the team in WAR, and was probably the “least clutch” he’s been in a season in his entire career. Posey had a .288/.362/.434/.796 slashline, his lowest of his career in each category.* While that was good for the highest average on the team, Posey’s average with runners in scoring position was the main killer.
Buster lead the team with 18 GDPs, and had a batting average with runners in scoring position of .287, and a batting average with RISP and 2 outs of, .203. In 2015, Posey had averages of .351 and .377 in those situations.
For a “potential MVP candidate,” those are not good enough numbers. His WAR being as low as it was, and combined with his batting average in “clutch situations,” Posey significantly regressed this season. For the guy who is supposed to be the “clutch man,” Posey was nowhere near his expectations. A dissappointing year at the plate did not translate to his play when behind the dish.
Posey had the fourth highest defensive WAR in the national league, and the highest for any catcher in the NL. Posey was perfectly fine defensively, and that was a good sign. Posey’s defense has slowly climbed up to making him the best defensive catcher in the game. Posey had his best Caught Stealing percentage of his career this year, and runners stole less than 50 bases off of him for the second season in a row. If Buster can get back to himself at the plate come next season, the Giants should be just fine.
1B, San Francisco Giants
Brandon Belt had his best season as a pro, and it wasn’t even close. While his average took a HUGE dip in the second half, Belt still reached base at nearly the same rate (.400 OBP/.370OBP). He lead the team in 2B, HR, SLG, OBP, OPS, and BB. His wRC+ for 2016 was 138, good for 13th in all of baseball, and 6th in the NL. Not only was Belt great at creating runs, his defense was outstanding.
Defense for first-basemen can sometimes get overlooked, and Brandon Belt has been overlooked as a defensive first-baseman. He had 8 errors, in 1300+ innings this season. Despite that, he had the second highest Range Factor in the NL this year.
Belt also had the second highest WAR on the team this year. Yes, it was higher than Buster Posey’s. Going into the 2016 season, if we told you Belt would have a higher WAR than Posey, you most likely would’ve laughed at us. Well, it happened. And for that, Belt gets a well deserved A.
SS, San Francisco Giants
Brandon Crawford had the highest defensive WAR amongst NL players tied with Addison Russel at 2.7. He also had the Highest total WAR on the Giants this year. With the most RBI and triples on the team, Crawford continued his offensive growth that began last season. Crawford became a reliable batter in critical situations this season and was easily the team leader on the field. For that, he won the 2016 Willie Mac Award, given to the most deserving player as voted on by the Giants ballclub. He shared it with Javy Lopez, but it was clear that Crawford was the team’s 2016 MVP.
Not only was he an MVP at the plate, his defense was as stellar as ever. As mentioned before, he had the highest defensive WAR in the NL, including a top 3 Range Factor. With the most fielding chances in the NL(633), he had the most assists(413), and second most put outs (209).
Crawford wasn’t an all-star for reasons that really can’t be explained. Corey Seager, Aldemys Diaz, and Addison Russell were named to the roster over Crawford. You can probably blame it on the fan vote, but we’ll save that gripe for another day.
He did what was expected of him, and maybe even more. The Giants gave him a big contract extension before this season, and he repaid the favor nicely. That can’t be said for all the recent contract extensions. Crawford was the Team MVP, and for that he gets an A+.
Here is the posting schedule for The Giant’s 2016 Season Grades: