This year’s ZiPS projections are out and offseason free-agent signing Kevin Gausman is predicted to be the San Francisco Giants best starter in 2020.
In the wake of Madison Bumgarner departing in free agency, the San Francisco Giants began the offseason in need of starting pitching help.
The only locks for the staff at the start of the offseason were veterans Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, but the team added another proven arm to the mix on a low-risk deal in December.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman was inked to a one-year, $9 million contract on Dec. 10, 2019.
Additionally, the Giants included incentives for Gausman to potentially earn more on the heels of the worst season in his MLB career.
Traded from Baltimore to Atlanta at the 2018 deadline, Gausman went 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with the Braves following the trade.
However, he began the 2019 season with a horrid 3-7 record, 6.19 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. The 10.4 H/9 he allowed through his 16 starts in a Braves uniform were the worst of his eight-year career.
That performance was poor enough for a contending Braves team to designated him for assignment in August.
The 29-year-old was then claimed off of waivers by the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 5, at which point he was relegated to bullpen duties.
Gausman pitched better with his new team, finishing with a 4.03 ERA in 22.1 innings while posting a more palatable 8.5 H/9 rate. However, he was given one start by the Reds on Sept. 16 and was pulled after just two full innings after giving up three hits and three earned runs.
The Giants are hoping that last year was a one-off for a typically consistent pitcher. And despite the issues he had starting games, Gausman finished 2019 with a career-high 10.0 K/9 innings in 102.1 total innings.
The 2020 ZiPS projections have him pegged for a resurgent season in 2020, which likely parallels the assessment the Giants made when signing him.
He was projected to finish 9-9 with a 3.81 ERA and 103 ERA+ to go along with 149 strikeouts in 151 innings and 2.1 WAR.
Those stats go beyond just being individually solid. Compared with the rest of the San Francisco rotation, Gausman’s projections paint him as the team’s best starter in 2020.
Even long-time baseball writer and creator of the ZiPS projections Dan Szymborski had something to say about what his own algorithm reported.
"I like Kevin Gausman quite a bit, but the fact that he projects as San Francisco’s most valuable pitcher is rather inauspicious. I still think Gausman needs a consistent breaking pitch to reach his potential as a starter, but even without one, he’s better than the 5.72 ERA hurler he was in 2019."
Best pitcher on staff or not, it seems that everyone — the Giants, Szymborski, and the ZiPS program — see Gausman as a bounce-back candidate in 2020.
His no-risk, one-year deal could pay dividends for the Giants if he emerges as a viable trade chip come July.