Giants Have Hitters, But Pitching Needed As Rebuild Continues
LOS ANGELES—The Giants have found some hitters they can lean on through their rebuild.
Now, they need to find pitching.
The Giants fell to the Dodgers, 7-2, on Friday for their fifth loss in their last six games. Jeff Samardzija gave up six runs (five earned), including three home runs, in four innings before he was pulled.
The Giants have now played 15 games this season. They have not had a starter pitch six innings in a single one.
They are the only team to not have a starter complete six innings in a game this year.
“We mentioned in our secondary camp that we were going to do our best to give (our starters) a longer, slower ramp up” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “Not overextend them and do our best to protect them. That’s just us doing our best to keep them healthy and strong through the season.”
The Giants have a 5.12 ERA, sixth-worst in the majors. Four-fifths of their current rotation—righthanders Samardzija, Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman and lefthander Tyler Anderson— are veterans whose contracts expire within the next two seasons. Righthander Logan Webb, 23, is the only young starter who has made a convincing case to be a part of the franchise’s future plans.
Having an older staff and poor numbers isn’t unusual for a rebuilding team. The concern for the Giants is they don’t have much help on the way.
The Giants’ top seven prospects are all position players. The only two pitching prospects in their top 10, lefthander Seth Corry and righthander Sean Hjelle, have been left out of the Giants’ 60-man player pool thus far, meaning they are not at the alternate training site in West Sacramento and are missing out on a full year of formal, in-person instruction and development.
It’s easy to see the Giants’ position player core moving forward. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski and second baseman Donovan Solano are late-blooming standouts who have proven to be shrewd acquisitions. Shortstop Marco Luciano, catcher Joey Bart and outfielder Heliot Ramos are three of the top prospects in baseball. The club’s two most recent first-round picks, outfielder Hunter Bishop and catcher Patrick Bailey, were standout performers at high-profile college programs and have a chance to climb the minors quickly. In addition to Luciano, the Giants’ recent re-commitment to scouting Latin America has yielded outfielders Alexander Canario and Luis Matos and third baseman Luis Toribio, three talented teenagers advanced beyond their age.
The Giants' pool of pitching prospects, by contrast, is much shallower. In all, only four of their top 15 prospects are pitchers—and one of them is Webb.
For now, the Giants’ best hope is to have their young relievers in the majors take steps forward and at least give the franchise a solid bullpen foundation to work with. Righthander Reyes Moronta, currently out with a shoulder injury, is a standout. Rookie lefthanders Sam Selman, Conner Menez and Caleb Baragar have shown promise early. Righthanders Shaun Anderson and Rico Garcia have had their moments and were starters in the minors, as were Menez and Baragar.
“We’ve seen flashes of real major league relievers from a lot of our guys,” Kapler said. “We've got a lot of young kids trying to make a name for themselves and certainly many of them have taken steps forward.”
Even so, the current outlook isn’t promising. In addition to the sixth-highest ERA, the Giants have the fourth-highest WHIP and opponent’s batting average in MLB, and there is little help on the immediate horizon.
For a franchise that built three World Series championship teams on a foundation of homegrown pitching, it’s an odd place to be. But it’s where the Giants are, and now the hunt for young pitching will have to accelerate as the rebuild process continues.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Orioles had not had a starter complete six innings this season. Tommy Milone pitched six innings on Aug. 7.