The infielder wasn’t on your radar when the season began, but he certainly was when the year ended.
The next player on our list of San Francisco Giants season reviews is infielder Thairo Estrada.
52 games, 132 plate appearances, .273/.333/.479, .813 OPS, 7 home runs, 119 wRC+, 118 OPS+, 0.9 fWAR, 0.7 rWAR
I thought basically nothing of the move the Giants made in just the second week of the season, when they traded cash considerations to the New York Yankees in exchange for Minor League infielder Thairo Estrada. The team already had Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, Mauricio Dubón, Wilmer Flores, Donovan Solano, and Tommy La Stella at the Major League level. Jason Vosler, Jason Krizan, and Arismendy Alcántara were waiting in the wings in Sacramento.
Minor League depth is always a pleasant thing to have, but it’s rarely anything impactful.
I should have known better. Since taking over as President of Baseball Operations, Farhan Zaidi has made a living out of turning should-be-inconsequential acquisitions into needle-movers.
“Needle-mover” is perhaps a slightly generous term for Estrada, but he quickly surpassed the aforementioned trio of Minor League options, as well as Dubón on the infield depth chart. Solano made the postseason roster over Estrada, but it’s probably safe to say that Estrada enters the offseason ahead of Donnie Barrels (who I’m guessing has played his last game as a Giant).
He wasn’t a defensive ace by any stretch of the imagination, but the errors that plagued him in Sacramento were mostly absent in San Francisco. He was a comfortably above-average hitter, and while his walk and strikeout numbers are nothing to get excited about, he achieved that offensive success with a very modest BABIP, lending optimism to those wanting to believe his production is sustainable.
Players like Estrada have become an underrated part of the Giants success. Yes, the stars like Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Kevin Gausman, and Logan Webb are the biggest reasons for a 107-win team, but filling in the gaps in the roster with players who are comfortably better than replacement value is how you stretch your talent out and grab an extra win a week.
The Giants had 15 players between 0.5 and 2.0 fWAR this year. That’s a lot of quality glue to put between the stars, and Estrada was a key part of it.
Role in 2022
Estrada would seem to have the inside track to earn a role on next year’s Opening Day roster, as Dubón had a rough season and Solano is a free agent. But Estrada, like Dubón, is out of options, so if the Giants decide to make significant upgrades in the middle infield department, look for Estrada to be traded. Dubón might be able to pass through waivers, but I doubt Estrada could.