Saturday, April 1 2023

Why Villar enters camp as Giants’ starting third baseman originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The setup at the annual spring training media day led to an interesting sequence midway through the session.

Gabe Kapler and Farhan Zaidi both attended, but they had their own tables, separated by about five feet. A couple of minutes after Zaidi finished answering a question about his third base options, a reporter from Arizona walked up to Kapler and asked him about Evan Longoria, the Giants’ third baseman the previous five seasons.

Longoria is now a Diamondback, and on Wednesday, Zaidi left no doubt about the top choice to replace him. He has talked up David Villar all offseason and he said the third base job is Villar’s to lose as camp opens at Scottsdale Stadium.

“I feel like what he’s done has kind of gone under the radar a little bit: Playing as well as he did in Double-A, winning player of the year in his Double-A and Triple-A leagues, and then almost OPS-ing .800 (in the big leagues),” Zaidi said. “It felt a little quiet because he obviously played well at the end, but we were still facing good competition. His defensive metrics and our player development’s evaluation of him defensively at third base, I think they give us a lot of optimism that we’re going to see better defense from him this year.

“We obviously have other guys like Wilmer (Flores) and J.D. Davis that can be over there, and other guys in camp that are competing around the infield, but I think we do see him as the incumbent and hope he takes it and runs with it and can be an everyday guy for us.”

Villar put himself in this position with a strong finishing kick in 2022. He hit eight homers over his final 26 appearances and had a .967 OPS in the final month of his rookie year, showing that he quickly made the adjustment after a rough first stint in the big leagues.

The production backed up the 47 homers Villar hit in the minors in 2021-22, and it made it easier for the Giants to decline Longoria’s option after the season.

On the “Giants Talk” podcast earlier this month, Villar said he’s excited to try and grab the everyday job.

“I have such an opportunity in front of me,” he said, “And to be able to say that I made it to the big leagues and now I can become an impact player at the highest level, it’s just truly a blessing.”

RELATED: Offseason stress fracture in back hinders Luciano’s spring

In Villar, Flores and Davis, the Giants have three right-handed hitters who are best suited for corner infield spots. That would make up half of their Opening Day group of infielders, but Zaidi said he doesn’t see an issue with that roster construction.

The Giants plan to get Villar reps at second base this spring so he can move there when Brandon Crawford gets a day off and Thairo Estrada slides to short. In that alignment, either Davis or Flores would play third.

The two veterans will be valuable bench bats, and when left-handed starters are on the mound, one can start at first base with the other at designated hitter. The Giants currently have left-handed hitters at first (LaMonte Wade Jr.) and designated hitter (Joc Pederson), but will continue to platoon when they can.

“We really like all those guys,” Zaidi said of his right-handed-hitting infielders. “There is some redundancy, but there is a role and at-bats for each of those guys.”

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Source: Yahoo Sports


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