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Yaz one of Giants' best acquisitions of '19

@mi_guardado
November 5, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- The transaction seemed rather nondescript at the time, but it ended up yielding one of the Giants’ best acquisitions of the season. On March 23, the Giants sent Minor League right-hander Tyler Herb to the Orioles in exchange for outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who had spent his entire

SAN FRANCISCO -- The transaction seemed rather nondescript at the time, but it ended up yielding one of the Giants’ best acquisitions of the season.

On March 23, the Giants sent Minor League right-hander Tyler Herb to the Orioles in exchange for outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, who had spent his entire professional career toiling in Baltimore’s farm system.

Yastrzemski reported to Minor League camp and opened the season at Triple-A Sacramento before making his long-awaited big league debut with the Giants on May 25 at the age of 28. He never went back to the Minors, emerging as a revelation after batting .272 with an .852 OPS and 21 home runs, tied with Kevin Pillar for the team lead.

“Obviously, what Yastrzemski has done this year has been really fun to watch,” Pillar said. “It’s really cool to see a guy that’s willing to stay in the Minor Leagues that long, continue to grind and then ultimately get his opportunity at age 28 and go out there and have the type of season he’s [had]. There’s really never been a moment for me being around him that he wasn’t prepared to be in the big leagues. From day one, he showed up, and he acted like he belonged.”

What went right?

Yastrzemski’s power came as a bit of a surprise, as he had never hit more than 15 home runs in any Minor League season with the Orioles. After his three-homer game against the D-backs on Aug. 16, Yastrzemski said that he'd worked with former Vanderbilt teammate and current Cub Tony Kemp last offseason to make some adjustments to his swing that allowed him to drive the ball better in 2019. He became the first Giants rookie outfielder with 20 or more homers in a season since Dave Kingman in 1972.

Yastrzemski also showed the ability to play all three outfield positions well and eventually settled into the leadoff spot with his steady production at the plate.

What went wrong?

Yastrzemski was susceptible to occasional lapses on the basepaths. After collecting his first career hit on a bloop single to left field, Yastrzemski wandered too far off first base and was immediately picked off. He finished only 2-for-6 in stolen-base attempts.

Best moment

Yastrzemski, the grandson of Hall of Famer and Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski, delivered one of the highlights of the entire MLB season on Sept. 17, when he homered in his Fenway Park debut. The young Yastrzemski crushed a solo shot to center field for his 20th home run of the season, drawing a standing ovation from Red Sox fans.

2020 outlook

Yastrzemski might not have a long track record of success in the Majors, but the Giants believe he has a swing that can handle big league pitching and will allow him to sustain his success. He figures to be a key piece of the outfield next year, but he doesn’t plan on resting on his laurels this offseason.

“I have to try and take the offseason and understand that there’s a lot of work to be done still,” Yastrzemski said. “Never being satisfied with where you are. You can’t take it for granted. It’s a time to get healthy and to get stronger and better.”

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.