3 Players To Watch Series
LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: San Francisco Giants
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
In 2021, the San Francisco Giants won 107 games along with the NL West Division Crown, but they took a step back in 2022 and finished in third place at 81-81.
In November 2022, the Giants lost a few to players to free agency which included veteran players LHP Carlos Rondon, Brandon Belt, and Evan Longoria. In return, they signed notable names like Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto and they had Carlos Correa in their grasps, but we all know how that turned out and for those that don’t; lets just say after two failed physicals, he is with the team he ended 2022 with and for less than what the Giants were willing to pay. Might be a blessing in disguise for the Giants.
But looking ahead for the Giants, here are a few names that standout and should be players to watch in 2023.
This is one name I have been waiting for a while to see put on a baseball uniform again. Michael Conforto last played baseball in 2021 with the New York Mets. After filing for free agency in November 2021, he missed the entire 2022 season after undergoing shoulder surgery in April of 2022.
Conforto made his MLB debut on July 24, 2015 and after going 4 for 4 in his second day in the show, he played out the rest of the year finishing with a .270 batting average, 14 doubles, nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 56 games. After a decent season in 2016, he upped his game in 2017 and made his first all star appearance and finished the season batting .279, with 20 doubles, 27 Home runs and 68 RBIs through 109 games. The next few seasons he continued to be a clutch hitter for the Mets while also showcasing his power bat, launching 28 home runs in 2018, 33 in 2019 and nine through 54 games in a short season of 2020 (60 games total played by the teams).
In 2021, Conforto, who has not been a stranger to the injury list, played in only 125 games with the Mets as he dealt with a strained right hamstring.
After he elected free agency at the end of the 2021 season, the thought was that he may resign with the Mets, but after not signing with any team, it was reported that he chose to undergo surgery over playing in 2022.
Conforto, who just turned 30 on March 1st, has the best years still ahead of him and with enough playing time he can be a force in any line up. So far this spring he is 3 for 11, with a home run and batting .273 through Saturdays games.
The Giants may have decided not to take a chance on Correa’s ankle, but they will be rewarded by taking a chance on Conforto’s shoulder and power bat.
On December 8, 2022, the Giants may have received a gift when catcher Blake Sabol was traded to from the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds acquired Sabol off waivers from the Pirates organization, prior to trading him to the Giants.
The 7th pick in the 2019 June Draft for the Pittsburg Pirates, has so far enjoyed a very successful minor league career, which started in 2019 thru 2022 and saw him play from Low A to Triple A. In that span, he hit 34 home runs and drove in 142 RBIs, and walked 128 times, while batting .282.
This spring, the Aliso Viejo, California native and brother of former Mets prospect Stefan Sabol, is making it easy for himself and hard for the Giants to pick a starting catcher for their 2023 roster. He has yet to make his MLB debut, but so far that may not matter, if he continues to tear it up this spring.
Through 11 at bats, he is batting .455, with five hits, that include three doubles and two home runs, while striking out only twice.
Sabol will be a player to watch in 2023 and that may start sooner than anyone had expected.
Going to keep the youth movement going with this pick, as 3B David Villar could be what departed Evan Longoria wasn’t for the Giants, a solid third baseman and consistent bat in the lineup. Longoria just didn’t play in enough games in his time with the Giants, while battling injuries.
Villar, who was an 11th round pick for the Giants in the 2018 June Draft, has shown power with his bat since he started pro baseball in 2018. Through four minor league season, Villar has batted 2.72, with 95 doubles, 73 home runs, 244 RBIs, 161 walks in 365 games. His best season was in 2022, with the Triple A squad as he hit .275, with 27 home runs and 82 RBIs in 84 games.
On July 4, 2022, Villar made his MLB debut and recorded his first MLB hit and finished 2 for 4, with a double and a single. He struggled at the plate for most of the season, but turned it on towards the end, as he hit safely in four of his last six games, batting .444 (8 for 18), with four-multi hit games. He also enjoyed a two homer game on the last day of the season for the Giants.
This spring, Villar has struggled out of the gate, as he is hitless in 11 at bats, but that should not detour anyone’s thinking as Villar has struggled in his previous spring season. In 2022, he also struggled as he was only 1 for 11.
Look for Villar to turn it on when it matters the most, Day 1 of the 2023 MLB season.
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