The Importance of the San Francisco Giants' Homegrown Infield
If you want some idea as to why the San Francisco Giants have won three World Series titles in five years, you only have to look at their infield.
You see, they're all really good, and all of them, every single one, was drafted by the team they're playing for.
Between first baseman Brandon Belt (2009 5th round pick), second baseman Joe Panik (2011 1st round pick), third baseman Matt Duffy (2012 18th round pick), and shortstop Brandon Crawford (2008 4th round pick), the Giants have put together one of the best young infields in all of baseball, and all of them have come from the draft.
So, here's a closer look at four of the names you're probably going to hear a lot about when the Giants inevitably win another World Series this season.
No, it's the 24-year-old Panik, with a 3.0 fWAR, a slash line of .310/.379/.459, a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .366 and a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 140. Panik has hit 6 home runs this year, and his 20 doubles are third-most in baseball, behind Jason Kipnis and Brian Dozier. Oh, and there's this.
Since being called up on June 21st last season, Joe Panik has a higher OPS than Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia, Carlos Gomez, Joe Mauer...— Ahmed Fareed (@AhmedFareedCSN) June 28, 2015
In fact, since he made his Major League debut on May 22 last year, Panik has hit .308/.362/.416 with a .344 wOBA and a wRC+ of 125 in 602 plate appearances. His wRC+ is the best on the team this year, and there seems to be little doubt that he'll be a part of the NL All-Star team in Cincinnati next month. Here is how he compares to other top NL second basemen this season.
Duffy's emergence as one of the best-hitting third basemen in the National League is perhaps even more impressive, considering he was an 18th-round pick. Since becoming the team's everyday starter on May 22, he's hit .315/.369/.577 with 6 home runs, 20 RBI, 22 runs scored and a wRC+ of 151. He has the sixth-highest fWAR among NL third basemen (2.2), and has far outplayed the man he replaced, Kung Fu Panda.
|Pablo Sandoval||Red Sox||7||.275||.321||.414||102||-0.6|
Duffy has been among the best third basemen in the NL since he became the full- time starter, although that NL All-Star team will be a tough nut to crack with a suddenly stacked list of National League third basemen.
One guy who should be joining Panik in Cincinnati is Crawford, who, according to fWAR, has been the best shortstop in all of baseball this year. His 2.8 fWAR is far and away better than the next closest players, Atlanta's Andrelton Simmons and Miami's Adeiny Hechavarria, both of whom are at 2.0. Crawford hit another home run on Sunday, his 10th of the season, and is now slashing .275/.354/.477 with a wOBA of .358, and a wRC+ of 135.
Brandon Crawford’s awesome catch dot GIF: http://t.co/WHlWGAMuSB— Sara (@gidget) May 27, 2015
Finally, there's the other Brandon, the 27-year-old Belt, who is also having an excellent season, although his numbers are not as good as some of his contemporaries at first base. Still, Belt is hitting a respectable .264/.338/.472 with 9 home runs, 32 RBI, 34 runs scored, with a .349 wOBA and a wRC+ of 128. His 1.8 fWAR is just eighth among NL first basemen, but he's still a better-than-average run producer at his position, on pace to finish with another 3.5 to 4.0 fWAR season if he can stay healthy.
Individually, each is having an excellent season. But when you take all four players together, it's really remarkable how much production San Francisco has gotten from these four draft picks, and how little they've had to pay for it.
|Brandon Belt||.264||.338||.472||.349||128||1.8||$3.6 mil.|
|Brandon Crawford||.275||.354||.477||.358||135||2.8||$3.175 mil.|
Perhaps only the Houston Astros can match that kind of production for that little cost. Simply put, the Giants are getting more bang for their buck out of their infield than virtually any other team in baseball.
And it's just one reason why the Giants are only one game behind the sputtering Dodgers in the National League West.