Feature Photo: Steven Duggar, OF, Giants
The San Francisco Giants’ recent dynasty has been built, in large part, on the strength of their scouting and player development. The Giants have done well with their top-round picks, selecting stars such as Buster Posey (2008), Madison Bumgarner (2007), Tim Lincecum (2006) and Matt Cain (2002) with first-round selections. However, the Giants have also found gems in the later rounds, plucking regulars such as Brandon Belt (fifth round, 2009), Brandon Crawford (fourth round, 2008) and Kelby Tomlinson (12th round, 2011) after day one of the Draft.
Outfielder Steven Duggar (sixth round, 2015) is threatening to be the next Giants homegrown regular to come from the second day of the MLB Draft. In his one-and-a-half years as a pro, the Clemson alum has done a little bit of everything: hitting for average, getting on-base, driving the ball into the gap and playing solid defense in center field. In 188 career minor league games, Duggar has a .299/.389/.423 slash line. Last season, Duggar raised his prospect profile considerably when he hit .302/.388/.448 in 130 games split between High A San Jose of the California League and Double-A Richmond of the Eastern League.
A National League scout who has seen Duggar frequently says Duggar profiles as a league average major leaguer, who projects to having a floor of a versatile fourth outfielder, and in the best case, a ceiling of an everyday center fielder and number two hitter. The scout notes that Duggar has a plus hit tool and makes plenty of contact, but he doesn’t project Duggar to hit for a lot of power at the big league level.
“It will be more of a contact-first approach, with some gap-to-gap potential,” the scout said. “[Duggar] has really good defensive skills: plus arm, and a glove that projects to be above-average. Not a true burner but he can run, and he has good instincts so his range plays up. I like his approach at the plate; he knows balls from strikes and isn’t a hacker.”
Duggar’s standout 2016 season earned him a non-roster invitation to the Giants’ big league spring training camp. The Giants have given Duggar a solid look this spring. Through Wednesday, he had 12 at-bats in eleven big league spring games. He’s made an impact when he has played, collecting four hits and four walks in those 12 at-bats while slashing .333/.500/.417. He’s also stolen two bases in two attempts. Surrounded in camp this spring by a veteran core that led the Giants to the NLDS last season, Duggar has been focused on trying to learn as much as he can while with the big league club.
“It has been great to be around the clubhouse, watching and observing,” Duggar said in a phone interview in late February. “I’m trying to take after some of these guys, trying to build on what I did last year. I want to be able to continue to grow and be the best overall player that I can be for this organization.”
Duggar says his transition from college to the pros has been smooth, thanks in large part to camaraderie that permeates the Giants’ organization.
“The Giants have done a tremendous job throughout the organization making it a family atmosphere. I don’t think you normally get that in pro ball,” Duggar said. “From the top down, they have created this culture where, if you’re a guy that can help us, the clubhouse is fantastic. Even in big league camp, being a young guy walking around, they make you feel like you are a part of the team. I think that is pretty special.”
One of the areas Duggar is focused on improving this spring is his work on the bases. In college, Duggar was a prolific basestealer, swiping 50 bags in 65 chances in 184 games for Clemson. Since turning pro, Duggar hasn’t been able to maximize his base-stealing chances, however. He was only successful in 15 of his 29 stolen base attempts last season.
The Giants brought former MLB stolen base champion Vince Coleman (MLB, 1985-1997, multiple teams) in to camp this year to work with several Giants’ players—including Duggar—on improving their baserunning. Duggar says he is already seeing significant improvement with his own baserunning since working with Coleman.
“There has already been some pretty good progress over there so far,” Duggar said. “I think my basestealing is more of a refined technique now, being able to get that first explosive jump and being able to almost anticipate the pitcher going home and always having your focus on trying to get to the next base.”
The progress Duggar has made already has him optimistic about the stolen base numbers he can put up this season.
“I’m looking to get about 30-to-40 stolen bases. Increasing the number of stolen bases is something that I think is definitely possible, just with the work I have put in with Vince,” Duggar said.
Another area Duggar has focused on this spring is continuing to improve defensively. Duggar says that working with Giants’ starting center fielder Denard Span has given him better insight on how to position himself before each pitch.
“It’s definitely been a progression on the preparation, the walk-through and preparing for any ball being hit my way,” Duggar said. “We play in a pretty tough division, and runs are at a premium. Being able to play defense and getting some good jumps and running down some balls is important. I’m watching Span closely here: what he does before each pitch, how does he get out his breaks, just everything. Being able to learn from a guy like him and observe how he does things has been great.”
Coming out of college, Duggar was known for being able to hit for average and also work a walk. He hit .304 as a junior for the Tigers with a .432 OBP. However, Duggar slid to the sixth round in large part because of concerns over whether he would hit for enough power to be a MLB regular in the outfield. Duggar worked closely with the Giants’ player development staff to make adjustments with his swing in order to improve his ability to drive the ball. He has already reaped the benefits from those changes, slugging .448 last season and hitting 10 home runs.
Duggar points to one adjustment, in particular, as the key to his power surge.
“I think it was mainly just bat path. In college, I tended to be in and out of the ‘zone relatively quickly. Now working with our hitting coordinator [Andy Skeels] and our farm director [Shane Turner] and talking things over, it has been exciting—with all of the preparation and work that goes into that process—to see the results pay off,” Duggar said. “I would definitely say it was the bat path, for sure, and then it kind of took off from there.”
Duggar also credits the Giants’ player development staff with helping him stay on the field for 130 games last season.
“I think it started with nutrition. You’ve got to put the right things in your body to stay healthy,” Duggar said about his durability. “I give a lot of credit to the trainers and health staff that we have here that we were able to stay on top of any minor things that might come up. I was definitely thankful to be able to stay on the field all year last year. It’s a testament to all of those guys that we were able to stay healthy.”
Another healthy and productive regular season should put Duggar in the running for an opportunity in the big leagues by the end of the year.