Austin Slater's First Career Home Run Was a No-Doubter
It may only be June, but the season for the San Francisco Giants is likely already over. With a record of 25-37, they sit 13.5 games out of first place in the National League West, and 11.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.
Our rankings accurately reflect their dismal record. Their -0.90 nERD is currently 27th, and they have just a 1.5% chance of making the postseason.
This is perhaps why 24-year-old rookie Austin Slater was called up last week. He was slashing .322/.381/.460 across 196 plate appearances in Triple-A, and the Giants might as well see what the kid can do.
Slater got off to a slow start with just 2 hits - both singles - in his first 13 plate appearances, but likely turned some heads on Thursday, in what was his fourth game in the big leagues.
461 feet and the longest HR by a @SFGiants player this season?! Not bad for the first homer of rookie Austin Slater’s career. #Statcast pic.twitter.com/AlJvmTXklj
— #Statcast (@statcast) June 8, 2017
Hear what the announcer said about the blast looking unusual? It's because Slater hit it so far that it bounced back into play and tricked the announcer into thinking it hadn't left the yard. According to Statcast, the ball traveled 461 feet, making it the longest home run by any Giant this season. (Yes, even further than any their top slugger Madison Bumgarner has hit. I kid.)
There's no doubt it was a moonball, but what does it mean for Slater moving forward? What can be expected out of the young outfielder?
Outlook For 2017
Despite demonstrating some serious power on Thursday, Slater's minor league numbers suggest not to expect a barrage of home runs in the majors. Not counting two games he played in rookie ball in 2014, Slater has only had an Isolated Power above .172 once, and the same can be said for a slugging percentage above .490. The power may eventually come with age, but based on his past performance, don't expect it to happen this season.
A potential lack of home runs doesn't mean that Slater is incapable of providing value, however. Only 45 hitters with at least 250 plate appearances in Triple-A last season posted a superior walk percentage to Slater's 11.9%, suggesting he has a good understanding of the strike zone, and isn't overly aggressive.
Slater's high batting average in the minors -- he's never hit lower than .292 (again not counting two games in rookie ball) -- combined with his high walk percentage, confirms that he sees the ball well. It's helped lead to impressive wRC+ totals over his stint in the minors.
Beginning the 2016 season in Double-A, Slater posted a 154 wRC+, earning him a promotion to Triple-A the same year, where his 137 wRC+ ranked 28th best among players with at least 250 plate appearances. He was off to another solid start this season, as his 123 wRC+ was just outside the top-40 hitters with at least 190 plate appearances.
There are certainly some aspects to Slater's game to like, but for fantasy purposes, he should still be avoided for now for two reasons. First, the Giants are unlikely to take significant playing time away from their regular starters, which leaves Slater buried in the bottom of the lineup. (We like guys that hit towards the top of the order and have more opportunities to get us points; Slater has hit eighth in each of the four games he's played.) And second, with Hunter Pence recently back from the disabled list, the Giants have a glut of outfielders, meaning Slater may not see regular playing time.
Slater's impressive home run on Thursday may have earned him some additional at bats, but hold off on adding him to your squad until it's clear he's going to be an everyday guy, and preferably one hitting in the top-half of the order.