Austin Slater: Great Name, Great Investment
Being an expectant father, I’ve found that reactions to pregnancy announcements are generally the same. The order of conversation topics goes something like: congratulations, then due date, then sex, and finally name. Muscle memory does all the work for you in responding to most of those, which is great for someone who dislikes this circular conversation. However, muscle memory does not take care of the name. There is a tremendous amount of pressure that comes with choosing the name of an individual. I’m seeking a name that connects with family history, but also sounds like a baseball player. Jackson Fox is the current clubhouse leader. My partner approves.
Austin Slater’s parents should feel proud because they gave him a damn good name, even if they didn’t do as well as Mookie Betts’ parents. “Austin Slater” is very good as far as baseball names go, despite it being two first names. Not only does the name sound great, but he could also be a valuable asset to your dynasty team. I am a firm believer that Austin Slater (and his great name) deserve a little more discussion within the dynasty baseball community.
What’s in a Name?
Slater popped up on my radar in 2016 when I was sorting statistics and noticed his .887 OPS. He was listed as a second basemen and I was intrigued, so I dug a little deeper:
- 2016 AA (172 pa) – .317/.413/.490 .902 OPS .172 ISO 14 BB% 20.9 K%
- 2016 AAA (278 pa) – .298/.381/.506 .887 OPS .208 ISO 11.9 BB% 18.9 K%
Slater’s ISO, BB%, and slash line warmed my heart, even if the numbers became a little less seductive when I learned that Slater had shifted to the outfield. His K% is a bit concerning, but not enough to scare me off in the current whiff-happy state of baseball.
He hit 18 round-trippers in 2016 between AA and AAA, with 13 coming for the AAA Rivercats in the Pacific Coast League. His previous high (3) was obtained in his first stint in AA in 2015, so even after adjusting for the PCL surge it’s likely that the increase is reflective of in-game power.
Baseball America had Austin Slater listed as the Giants’ 19th best prospect coming into 2017, and that’s in a system that was consensus bottom-third. That means our hero’s 2016 efforts did nothing to impress many of fantasy baseballs’ brilliant minds. However, Slater put up solid numbers in an injury-hampered 2017 as well.
- 2017 MiLB (206 pa) – 5 HR 28 R 27 RBI 7.3 BB% 18.9 K%
- 2017 MLB (127 pa) – 3 HR 15 R 16 RBI 7.3 BB% 22.8 K%
It’s nice to see his ratios staying strong and consistent across AAA and the majors, even though this small sample size was 117 appearances fewer than 2016’s.
He’s not without his downsides, though. There isn’t much in his BaseballSavant metrics to validate his performance thus far. It also needs to be said that his power output was down and he has a groundball rate of over 50% throughout his career. There’s also a bit of concern with his ability to hit RHP, as he batted .259 against them in his brief stint in the majors. His slash line has declined steadily against RHP as he’s faced tougher competition as well. But these warts are what make him such a bargain. That, and playing time.
See You Slater this Year?
Tremendous name or not, Austin Slater comes with risk. But of all the questions about his ceiling, at present the biggest risk is that he doesn’t get the at-bats to prove his skills at the major league level. RosterResource has Austin Slater starting 2018 in AAA, and Steamer’s projections have him only collecting 90 plate appearances, so there appears to be some agreement there.
This was the part of the article where I was going to tell you how Austin Slater will get time in the outfield in 2018. As fate would have it the Giants acquired Andrew McCutchen during the process of writing this article. It’s not all doom and gloom, as there’s a couple possibilities that get Slater some playing time at the major league level.
The first is that Jarrett Parker, his absurd first name, and his 29 years of age are all still Jarrett Parker. His best attributes are his plate discipline and his defense. He makes a great platoon-mate with Slater as Parker owns a .269/.355/.473 slash line against righties. While that .355 OBP is not so good for Slater, let me remind you that baseball players often get hurt. Particularly the ones who crash into walls. Slater could still pick up ABs even with Jarrett Parker slated to be the starter.
The second scenario is that the Giants roster of 2014 World Series contenders doesn’t work out, and they end up being sellers at the trade deadline. In this scenario they finally move Hunter Pence and possibly flip McCutchen too. Both are in their final year of their contracts, so the incentive would be to move them if they’re out of contention. Our well-named hero would have a chance at picking up more ABs with potential for a full-time gig in 2019.
Austin Slater’s floor is a short-sided platoon OF4, and there’s some small potential for super-utility player based on his infield background. His ceiling is probably that of an OF3. He’s someone who is widely available, and worth a spot on your watch list or bench in your dynasty league.
If not for his stats, than at least for his name.