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Duggar competing to earn SF's center-field job

Giants anxious to evaluate prospect's performance during Spring Training
MLB.com @sfgiantsbeat

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steven Duggar hasn't played in a Major League game. He's not even on the 40-man roster.

Yet No. 5 prospect Duggar's performance in Spring Training, which begins next week for the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., could heavily influence the competition for roles in the ballclub's outfield, as well as the definition of those roles themselves.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Steven Duggar hasn't played in a Major League game. He's not even on the 40-man roster.

Yet No. 5 prospect Duggar's performance in Spring Training, which begins next week for the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz., could heavily influence the competition for roles in the ballclub's outfield, as well as the definition of those roles themselves.

Spring Training info

Brian Sabean, the Giants' vice president of baseball operations, said recently that the club's decision-makers don't know "how Duggar may or may not rear his head." That could happen in multiple ways:

• If Duggar excels in workouts and Cactus League exhibitions, the 24-year-old rookie could open the season as San Francisco's everyday center fielder. If Duggar were to join the lineup, free-agent acquisition Austin Jackson probably would occupy the fourth-outfielder role.

Video: ARI@SF: Blanco makes a great sliding grab in left

That, in turn, would create a scramble for the outfield's fifth and final spot among Gorkys Hernandez, Gregor Blanco, Austin Slater, Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson.

• The left-handed-hitting Duggar could platoon in center with the right-handed-hitting Jackson, who could amass close to 500 at-bats while filling in at the corner spots besides playing center part-time. Competition for the fifth-outfielder duties still would be ferocious.

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If the Giants decide that Duggar's not ready yet, he would return to Triple-A Sacramento and refine his game while Jackson would play center regularly for San Francisco. Blanco and Hernandez both might make the Opening Day roster, and chances for Williamson and Parker probably would improve without a glut of outfielders.

Video: STL@SF: Parker makes great sliding grab to rob Molina

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Duggar, a sixth-round selection in the 2015 Draft, has long impressed the Giants with his range in center field. Gary Davenport, a coach for the Giants' Class A Advanced San Jose affiliate, noticed Duggar was special when he became the prospect's first professional manager at Class A Short-Season Salem-Keizer in '15. Davenport recalled that Duggar reminded him of Steve Finley, the talented center fielder who played 19 big league seasons. Finley was past his prime when he played for San Francisco in '06, his next-to-last campaign. But he was an All-Star-level performer before that.

Davenport said Duggar reminded him of Finley in "the way he looks, the way he swings, the way he plays the outfield. He really covers a lot of territory."

Video: STL@SF: Hernandez leaps to rob Pham of a home run

A .292 hitter in 232 Minor League games entering this season, Duggar reportedly progressed while playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League during this offseason. His numbers weren't outlandish -- he posted a .263/.367/.421 slash line for Scottsdale -- but he drew 12 walks, accounting for the gap between his batting average and on-base percentage. He also hit three home runs in 90 plate appearances and stole nine bases in 10 attempts.

Davenport said he could envision Duggar leading off and playing every day for the Giants, without requiring a platoon.

"He's never been protected against lefties. He's always played against them," Davenport said.

Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.

San Francisco Giants, Steven Duggar