Everyone remembers Conor Gillaspie and his heroics from the Wild Card Game and Game 3 of the NLDS last October, leaving many ecstatically asking “WHO IS THIS GUY?” Long-time fans will recall that Gillaspie is no B-level prospect, and actually has a pretty successful baseball history. Conor was the 37th overall draft pick for San Francisco back in 2008, and spent less than a month in the farm system before being called up. Yet at the start of 2009, he found himself trapped in the minor leagues after a stint of poor performance and bad attitude his rookie year.
Now, with the 2017 season on the horizon, fans are left wondering who will take Matt Duffy’s old job at the hot corner. The newly reborn Conor Gillaspie has certainly made his case, but let’s not forget the man who helped the Giants get to the Postseason in the first place— Eduardo Nunez.
Last season Nunez played 50 games for the Orange and Black, hitting .269 with a .327 OBP. He slid nicely into the leadoff spot for some time, effectively sparking the then-flat Giants offense. The right-handed hitter stole 13 bags for San Francisco, and swiped 40 in total in 2016 including his 91 games with the Twins. He made several notable plays at the hot corner where he played for the G-men, and also has experience at short earned through his stay with Minnesota. I wouldn’t count on him stealing Brandon Crawford’s job though.
Gillaspie’s resume is fairly similar. The lefty hit .262 over the span of 101 games in 2016, but only had an OBP of .307. That raises a red flag for you Saber guys, I know (he does make up for it with a touch of power). Both guys have pretty sound gloves, but Nunez has a bit of an edge there too. Conor also doesn’t have the same speed, and with Pagan departing, that alone might be the deciding factor for Bochy.
We must also remember that the Giants acquired Nunez while Gillaspie was already playing 3rd base, so they’ve previously shown that they may not be totally comfortable with Conor starting every game. On top of that, San Francisco acquired infielder Gordon Beckham after Nunez went down to a hamstring sprain the last week of the regular season. Opportunity returned for Gillaspie only when Beckham became ineligible and they had nowhere else to turn, which just happened to be on the two biggest stages of the year. And he rose to the occasion— which certainly counts for something here.
Beckham spent last year with Atlanta, playing in 88 games and hitting a measly .212. The Giants picked him up for one week at the end of the season.
Most likely, you can expect to see Eduardo Nunez in the starting lineup on an almost-daily basis. The Giants seem to like his consistency and the speed he brings to the table (speed is one thing that can’t slump, much unlike the San Franciscan bats). But don’t worry, you haven’t seen the last of Conor Gillaspie either. You can expect him in the lineup a few times a month when the team is facing a tough righty and Nunez needs a rest. Or hopefully facing a flame-throwing lefty somewhere deep in the heart of October baseball.