When Andres Torres signed with the San Francisco Giants, the Giants set up their left field platoon of Gregor Blanco and Torres, both speedy and talented outfielders.
However, after just two weeks of spring training, some of those thoughts have significantly changed. And that's because of another left-field hopeful that has broken onto the scene.
Francisco Peguero has dominated this spring, hitting .550 (11-for-20) and playing decent defense. Peguero is smoking the baseball and running out ground balls, and he has impressed a lot with his hustle. Peguero will make routine ground balls into close plays, and he sometimes beats out those ground balls with great speed and hustle.
In other words, Peguero has looked a lot better than he did when the Giants called him up late in August of 2012.
Peguero went 3-for-16 after being called up as a backup outfielder, and he looked a bit rattled at the plate. Peguero pinch-ran a lot and stole three bases, and he was never caught. He has lots of speed, and that's something the Giants value. However, it didn't translate into immediate success, and Peguero was left off the postseason roster.
Blanco and Torres are both great defensive players, but neither has much pop. Peguero has a lifetime minor league average of .305, and while his plate discipline has brought up concerns, it's not slowing him down now. Peguero is hitting the ball and hitting it incredibly well, and that's something the Giants want.
Because the Giants aren't a team built around big names on offense, they need production from everyone. Having Blanco or Torres, both of whom strike out a lot (25.3 percent strikeout rate combined), isn't going to be enough. Neither have good batting averages, as neither reached the .245 mark last year.
Who Should Be the Giants Fifth Outfielder?
However, it's almost guaranteed that one of those guys will start, largely because of their defensive value. On the bench, the Giants would have whichever left fielder doesn't start, a backup infielder (such as Kensuke Tanaka or Wilson Valdez) and Hector Sanchez. None of those guys has pop, and they won't help the Giants pinch-hit.
Last year, Giant pinch-hitters hit .218. Peguero could most definitely change that with the ability to record extra-base hits. He can keep the chain moving for the Giants, which is very important considering that the Giants were last in the league with 103 home runs last year.
You could say that Cole Gillespie or even Brett Pill could fill that role, as Pill has pop as a pinch-hitter. However, Pill hit .210 with an offensive wins over replacement (oWAR) of -0.3. Pill needs regular at-bats to succeed, and he won't get them with Brandon Belt at his natural position, first base.
The transition to left field could also cause a problem for Pill, and that would not be good for the Giants, who need good defense to thrive. Pill has power, but he's going to have trouble keeping the chain moving. Pill has a .239 batting average in the majors and a .280 batting average in the minors, neither of which stands out. Pill could steal a spot as an infielder, but he's not going to make the roster as a left fielder.
Gillespie, however, could make the roster as a left fielder. In 110 career major league at-bats, his batting average is just .236 and his on-base percentage (OBP) is .292, but he has impressive minor league stats. This spring, Gillespie's batting average is .261, but his OBP is .370 and he has three doubles.
His career major league fielding percentage (.981) is also decent, showing that he can support the Giant pitchers with defense—something that's very important in San Francisco. However, Peguero has a .1000 fielding percentage in left field and a .979 fielding percentage in the outfield. This suggests that both are good at defense, which is a true statement.
Both can hit, too. Gillespie has a stellar minor league batting average of .290. While it's not as good as Peguero's, it shows he can get hits off the bench. Peguero has better hitting numbers, and he has shown that he wants to start. He's been outperforming everyone, including Gillespie. If Peguero keeps this up, he will be assured a starting role.
Gillespie is a good all-around player and a nice backup option, but Peguero has more potential. Torres has been hurt a lot, and if he does get hurt again, it could hurt the Giants. Gillespie has struck out in 27.3 percent of his MLB at-bats, and the Giants don't want guys who strike out. Peguero struck out in 17.9 percent of his minor league at-bats, and he can keep the chain moving with good hits. He's certainly done that this spring.
And if he keeps it up, Peguero could even slide past Blanco and Torres and into a starting role.