Dennis Wierzbicki, USA Today

SF Giants: How Secure is Eduardo Nunez at Third?

Eduardo Nunez should be the San Francisco Giants third baseman on opening day, but how solid is his footing at the hot corner?

The San Francisco Giants have a ton of pitching, both on the big league roster as well as some arms in the minors that could be filling out the rotation as early as next year, which is why last summer GM Bobby Evans traded away left-hander Adalberto Mejia to the Twins in exchange for Eduardo Nunez. Even after an impressive playoff run in the absence of Nunez, Conor Gillaspie will most likely be used in the team's utility role, taking reps at the infield corners. 

Here is how Nunez fared with the Twins and Giants in 2016. 

PA AVG HR RBI OBP SB CS OPS+
Twins 396 .296 12 47 .325 27 6 106
Giants 199 .269 4 20 .327 13 4 98

After receiving nearly exactly half the number of plate appearances with the Giants than he did in Minnesota, we can get a sense of how Nunez will perform over a full season in San Francisco. His power numbers (surprise, surprise) will be down, and he may not be as effective at stealing bases as he was with the Twins, but the speed that he does bring to the table will be an added dimension for the lineup. All in all, he's roughly average at the plate, which means that he is replaceable. 

Over on FanGraphs, their Steamer projections have him hitting the same .269 that he boasted with the Giants last year, but they also have his OBP dropping 15 percent and peg him as seven percent below league average at the dish. 

With this in mind, there could certainly be room for improvement at the plate from the position. Defensively, he was also roughly average in 2016, but has definitely had troubles in the field in the past. It looks as though those woes at shortstop from four years prior are behind him, but they'll still be in the back of everyone's minds if his glove work falters. 

So what other options do the Giants have at third? Gillaspie is the most likely to displace Nunez early in the season, but Orlando Calixte and Kelby Tomlinson are also on the 40-man roster, which would make it easier to call either of them up for a spell. Calixte would fit more in the utility player role and for now is seen as a depth option, having accrued four innings in the field and three at-bats in the big leagues. 

Tomlinson has seen limited action at third, but is likely more suited for playing up the middle with the Giants. That said, he could find a role for himself at third if the club decides to go with a lefty-righty platoon.

wRC+ vs. LHP wRC+ vs. RHP
Nunez (R) 87 96
Gillaspie (L) 40 102
Tomlinson (R) 126 96

 According to the table above, Tomlinson may be the best offensive option for the club at third based on his much smaller sample size in the majors. Another player that will be considered at some point is new addition to the organization, Jae-gyun Hwang, who will most likely start the year down in Sacramento, but will be up in San Francisco at some point, in some role. Jimmy Rollins has an outside chance at cracking the roster as a utility guy, but even he admitted to the Chronicle that his everyday duties are behind him. 

While Gillaspie earned himself a legitimate look this spring with his hot streak during the Giants playoff run, his career numbers suggest that he will be another depth option for the club, with Tomlinson, Hwang and eventually Christian Arroyo all waiting in the wings for the third bad job. If Hwang performs well and cements his name into the role, Arroyo could also become a valuable trade chip this summer if the lack of experience in left field or in the bullpen proves to be worrisome. There is a lot of roster flexibility for the Giants when it comes to third base, both on the field and subsequently on the trade block. 

Nunez is set to hit the free agent market after the 2017 season, which will clear the way for either Hwang or Arroyo at third with the other becoming a depth option. If one of them comes up to claim the job in 2017, however, Nunez could be relegated to the utility role and in turn give the team a great option off the bench. 


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