Giants again forced to tweak outfield plan due to limited production

San Francisco Giants outfielders rank at the bottom of nearly every key hitting category

San Francisco Giants batter Tyler Austin (19) hits a two run home run off Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray (38) in the first inning of their MLB baseball game in San Francisco, Calif., on Friday, May 24, 2019. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)
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SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants haven’t had the luxury of exercising patience with many of their inexperienced outfielders this year, but the club continues to show faith in center fielder Steven Duggar.

The 25-year-old rewarded the front office and coaching staff with his fourth home run of the season on Tuesday, a two-run shot into the right center field arcade in a 6-5 Giants win at Oracle Park.

The Giants designated Opening Day corner outfielders Connor Joe and Michael Reed within the first two weeks of the season and designated Mac Williamson for assignment twice, but Duggar has flashed enough potential and given the organization enough to dream on that he’s been granted opportunities to work through his struggles in the major leagues.

Duggar has minor league options left and could wind up spending time at Triple-A Sacramento this season, but the Giants are hopeful new tweaks to his approach at the plate will enable him to enjoy more success.

“We’re trying to make an adjustment with his approach that will allow him to handle and free up both inside and outside pitches,” manager Bruce Bochy said.

Duggar is an above-average defender who boasts the best speed of any player on the club, making him a more valuable asset than some of his peers who have lost playing time and or roster spots. He also has a .236 batting average and .633 OPS, which are below average numbers relative to the rest of the league but superior marks to his fellow Giants outfielders.

Through 65 games, Giants outfielders rank last among all 30 teams in combined batting average (.208), on-base percentage (.261) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.574). For reference, the league averages in those categories among outfielders are a batting average of .254, an on-base percentage of .327 and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .764.

The Giants would have liked the big league stints of Joe, Reed, Williamson and Triple-A outfielder Mike Gerber to be longer, but together they went 8-for-89 with 38 strikeouts.

Mike Yastrzemski, the latest prospect to debut with the Giants, has 12 hits in 55 at-bats with San Francisco, but the 28-year-old owns a .618 OPS that has fallen more than 250 points since June 1. Yastrzemski was in the Giants’ lineup on Tuesday against the Padres, but he’ll sit for Wednesday’s series finale as Bochy adjusts his outfield rotation.

With veteran Kevin Pillar reaching base at a .242 clip, the Giants are now focused on evaluating slugger Tyler Austin in left field. Austin had appeared in just one career game in left before being traded from Minnesota to San Francisco in April, but he’s starting at the position for the second straight game on Wednesday.

Austin has struggled in parts of four major league seasons to make contact against right-handed pitchers, striking out in more than 40 percent of his at-bats against righties, but the Giants believe he can improve over a larger sample size.

Bochy has indicated he’ll use a four-man rotation of Austin, Duggar, Pillar and Yastrzemski in the outfield for the time being, but it’s likely the competition for playing time features a handful of others this summer. Former first round draft choice Chris Shaw was recently promoted from Double-A to Triple-A where Gerber and Austin Slater have performed well throughout the year.

The Giants may also pursue young outfielders on the trade market this summer as president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi seeks to create depth and solve a consistency issue that’s been plaguing the Giants for two-plus years.

Posey returns

The Giants activated catcher Buster Posey (right hamstring strain) from the 10-day injured list Wednesday and Posey will start against Padres left-hander Joey Lucchesi.

Posey missed the minimum amount of time on the injured list after tweaking his hamstring while running out a groundball in Baltimore against the Orioles on June 1.

To clear a spot on the 25-man roster for Posey, the Giants optioned catcher Aramis Garcia to Triple-A Sacramento.

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