Two weeks ago I broke down the Boom Candidates for the NL West. This week, I will be breaking down the bust players in the NL West, and will be staying focused on one team only. For my three players, I will be choosing the San Francisco Giants outfielders. I want it on the record that I am not a Dodgers fan, and have nothing against the Giants, but the sudden success from Darin Ruf is bound for regression, and Austin Slater and Steven Duggar are not the right answers heading into 2022. You’re probably wondering why you should care about three outfielders with very little fantasy relevance. It is more about who the Giants have in their farm system to replace them, and how it impacts their timeline. Let’s dig into each player and why you should expect them to take a step back and who you can expect to take their place.
Darin Ruf – (1B/OF)
When playing with Philadelphia, Darin Ruf was a .230 hitter. Ruf left for the KBO for 3 years, and subsequently found success before returning on a minor league deal with the Giants. In 2020, in a small sample size, we saw his average jump 35 points and his OBP jump roughly 60 points compared to the line he posted in 2016. In 2021 it climbed even higher. Due to his success at the plate, we saw him often times used as a pinch hitter, but in his 39 at bats as a pinch hitter he only had 6 hits with a .154 BA. Ruf’s success at the plate this late in his career, however, seems short-lived at best. He put up a .344 BABIP in 2021 and .322 in 2020. Ruf also ranks in the bottom half in zone swing differential out of qualified hitters (250 plate appearances). What this means is that, although he did not swing much outside the strike zone (17.8%), he only swung at pitches in the strike zone 50% of the time.
2015 is the best sample size to compare the old Ruf to new Ruf, as he had a similar number of at bats. In 2015 his barrel percentage was 7.9%, with a sweet spot percentage of 29.7%, and a hard hit percentage at 42.1%. In 2021, all of these numbers climbed drastically. His barrel percentage was 14.2%, sweet spot 40.9% and hard hit, 54.9%. He was also in the top 10% with an average exit velocity around 93 MPH. It is very clear Ruf improved as a hitter in the KBO, and continued that success in the MLB.
What does any of this have to do with fantasy you might ask? Ruf was only used as an outfielder in 29 games as a starter but 31 games as a 1B due to Belt’s injuries. Due to his below average defensive ability, and the looming possibility of the National League adopting a universal DH, I fully expect Darin Ruf to be a DH/Platoon player. I do think Ruf’s average will decrease back to what we saw him do in Philadelphia but expect the power to stay present.
Steven Duggar – (OF)
Duggar is another hitter that we saw the Giants utilize last season who posted a very high BABIP in 2021 (.355), and is bound for regression. He had his best season at the plate with a .257 BA and a .330 OBP with 8 HR’s and 7 SB. Unlike Ruf, however, he does not hit the ball nearly has hard, posting an 87.4 average exit velocity. In 2021, he took a different approach at the plate, going from a traditional ground ball hitter to more of a fly-ball/line-drive hitter. I know you’re wondering how this is even fantasy relevant with a player who should not be rostered, but stay with me.
Duggar started 67 games for the Giants in the outfield, and was often used as a defensive replacement. If it wasn’t for LaMonte Wade taking huge strides of improvement, or Ruf’s bat being extremely hot, we probably would have seen Duggar play more outfield. That being said, expect to see Duggar’s average drop back around .220 and become more of a defensive option for the Giants.
Mike Yastrzemski – (OF)
This is probably a name many Giants fans will question me on, but the truth is, what we saw from Yaz in 2021 is closer to what many should expect from him moving forward. He posted a BABIP of .325 in 2019 and .370 in 2020, and saw it decrease heavily in 2021 to .254. With that, we saw his average drop down to .224 with a .311 OBP. Although his power did not seem to drastically drop, we saw his hard hit % drop about 5% from his average from years prior, and he started to become more of a fly-ball hitter instead of a line-drive hitter.
Why did he struggle? In previous years, he had a lot of success against off-speed/breaking balls, and he actually had a comparable average to what he had with fastballs. In 2021, we saw his average dip below .150 on breaking balls which was about 100 points lower than 2020 and 130 point difference in comparison to 2019. His average on off-speed pitches also dropped about 100 points. With all that being said, he saw more breaking balls and off-speed pitches in 2021 when pitchers started to figure this out. In 2019 and 2020, Yastrzemski had a combined 636 plate appearances, and had 532 plate appearances in 2021. When comparing the difference in pitch type, however, you'll notice that he saw a similar number of off-speed and breaking balls last year in 104 fewer plate appearances. It's safe to say that pitchers will be taking the same approach in 2022, and you can expect to see a similar result from him moving forward.
With everything I’ve mentioned, it’s time to actually dig into the fantasy value that these factors can have for you. Fortunately, for Giants fans, there is a lot to look forward in outfield prospects. Between Heliot Ramos, Hunter Bishop, and Luis Matos as their top outfield prospects, this does not appear to be a long term area for the club, however. With Alex Dickerson being a free agent, and the DH looming for the National league, there seems to be room for 1-2 outfielders on their roster. The Giants do not appear to be interested in signing a high profile outfielder, so unless they can strike a deal with Seiya Suzuki, expect Heliot Ramos to be called up in short order to fill their needs.
Darin Ruf earned himself a starting spot on the Giants roster, but due to his subpar defense, expect him to DH and platoon between 1B and outfield. Steven Duggar will primarily be a defensive replacement, along with Austin Slater, but I expect the Giants to look for a more productive bat when both of them struggle. I do see Yaz being a long term outfielder for the Giants, but if you think he will repeat his 2019 season, don’t hold your breath.
Heliot Ramos should be the answer for the Giants as a productive outfielder. With a plus arm and good speed, Ramos is still likely to shift to a corner outfield spot, but could see time in centerfield. Ramos has plus power, although he does not have much loft on his swing. Although his AA and AAA numbers weren’t overly impressive, Ramos can easily put up similar numbers to the production the Giants saw in 2021, with significantly more upside. Ramos easily has the potential to be a 20/20 player. Hunter Bishop looked to be the answer when drafted in 2019, but we have not seen much of him since he came to the Giants after finishing his collegiate career at Arizona State. His power and average have declined mightily, but I still see Hunter as a very affordable prospect if you can stash players away, as I expect him to take huge step forward in 2022. Pairing his plus speed and power with above average fielding, I see Hunter making his debut as a late season call up in 2023. Don’t take his small sample size in 2021 too seriously, as he was injured for most of the season, and missed all of the 2020 season thanks to Covid. The most promising outfield prospect the Giants have stashed away, by far, is Luis Matos. In 2021, Matos batted .313 with 15 HR’s across 109 games in A ball. Look to see him build off his 2021 season and climb into the top 10 prospect list this year, and after another successful season, finish the year in AAA ball. If you can stash him away, look to see him debut in 2023 as well, and make you look like a savvy dynasty owner.
The Giants have one good outfielder currently on their roster in Yaz, and one average outfielder in LaMonte Wade. Darin Ruf belongs at DH, and everyone else should spend the next 3 years over in the KBO to sip on whatever Ruf got into while he was away. Look to the above mentioned Giants prospects to be productive fantasy assets in the future, and players we will see in the very near future! Heliot Ramos can be a 20/20 player, but Luis Matos is the outfielder that you should targeting this offseason.