When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series a season ago, they seemed to have everything going their way, but there was one question that had yet to be solved and that was their situation at third base. Pablo Sandoval, who had manned the hot corner and made a name for himself in San Francisco, was a free agent. There were people, who ended up being right, who said Sandoval was going to test the free-agent market and he ended up leaving the Giants for the Boston Red Sox. From there, who was going to take that spot at third base that had been occupied by “the panda” for so many years?
It wasn’t as if they had a plethora of options in San Francisco, so they decided to trade for Casey McGehee from the Miami Marlins to fill that void. It was a good deal for both sides because McGehee was expendable with Martin Prado in that spot instead when he came over from the New York Yankees. For the Giants, it filled a void with a player who was coming off of a 2014 comeback campaign in which he hit .287 with a .712 OPS to go along with 76 RBI. This was looking like the steal of the offseason for the Giants and they had looked like they weren’t going to miss a beat with Sandoval in Boston.
Well, not everything goes according to plan, and McGehee just didn’t have it at all. On May 24, the Giants finally just decided to DFA him because he was not producing at all. At the time he was only hitting .200 with nine RBI and that wasn’t going to cut it. That, however, is where Matt Duffy comes in to play.
Duffy came into 2015 without really having too much experience in the Majors, although manager Bruce Bochy did call him up as a utility role player in 2014. In terms of being a starter at the Major League level, this was his beginning. When McGehee was cut, it was Duffy’s job at third and he has put a stranglehold on that spot so far this season.
Some may call it beginners luck, as he hasn’t played a Triple-A game yet, and some don’t really know what to call it. He is probably one of the most underrated players in baseball this season and he deserves a little bit more credit for his season thus far. Through June 28, Duffy has hit .288 with 8 homers, 37 RBI, and an OPS of .840. Those numbers don’t lie and really show you what kind of player he is and is still capable of being as he is only 24.
Now, how does he compare to other top third basemen around baseball?
In the last 30 games, Duffy ranks eighth in batting average ahead of the likes of the aforementioned Sandoval, and All-Star-caliber players like Nolan Arenado, Josh Donaldson, and Kris Bryant. I’m not saying that Duffy should be an All-Star this year, although it wouldn’t be too far fetched, but what I am saying is that Duffy is knocking on the door of stardom and no one is talking about it! Sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due.
As a fielder, Duffy also matches up well with the rest of them. He has a fielding percentage of .969, which is good for tenth in the Majors and also well ahead of Sandoval this season for the Red Sox. He ranks among the top ten in every defensive metric even though he has only played 393.2 innings, which is about 200 innings less than some of the guys who began the season as starters. Duffy has the tools to become a very good player and if he can keep this up, he’ll have the hot corner in the city by the bay locked down for quite some time.
A very relatable player to Duffy is third baseman Kyle Seager up in Seattle for the Mariners. Both have decent power numbers and both have good gloves in the field. The reason why they are so relatable is because coming up in their first few years, or first year in Duffy’s case, they were both highly underrated and left alone from the headlines and they continued to get the job done. We’ll see if down the road, Duffy can snag a Gold Glove like Seager did in 2014, but with Arenado in Colorado, that might be a tough task.
Before the season, no one had really heard of Duffy except for those inside the organization. Now, hopefully he is get more publicity because he is well worth it. The Giants weren’t quite sure what they were going to do at the hot corner after this season, but now with a homegrown talent, they can fill that void at a cheap price and add maybe another piece to this San Francisco offense that is already one of the best in the league.
The Giants really found a hidden gem in Duffy and the stars aligned for him to make this push and become the player that he is. Some may call San Francisco a little bit lucky, but others will call them smart for making the moves that they made. McGehee is back on the 25-man roster, but he is obviously giving way to Duffy who continues to take advantage of this opportunity he has and he sure is making the most of it.