Who’ll be in the SF Giants’ rotation when the season opens?
As the San Francisco Giants restart spring training at Oracle Park, and with a 60-game season, they might get creative with how they form their rotation.
More than likely, the Giants will pursue a traditional approach with many of their starters, but with the caveat that starts will be shortened, especially early in the season as pitchers begin to rebuild arm strength.
With the Giants, there are few questions about the composition of the rotation. Regardless of the order, the first four starters will include Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman, and Drew Smyly.
This configuration might look different after the Aug. 31 trade deadline, especially considering that Samardzija, Gausman, and Smyly are on expiring contracts and could help a contending team.
The primary question remains, who will hold that fifth spot? Originally, the answer was going to be right-handed hurler Tyler Beede, but the young pitcher was dealt a blow after sustaining an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.
Without Beede, Logan Webb looks to have the inside shot at earning that last spot. When spring training originally opened, the thought was that the 23-year-old was going to be on an innings limit.
However, Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports speculates that that might not be the case anymore:
Buster Posey caught Logan Webb in live BP, said he looked “really, really good. I mean, his stuff was electric. It was, I thought, a tick or two up from this spring.” Webb could be set up to grab rotation spot, no longer has to worry about an innings limit.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) July 4, 2020
So, if Webb holds onto the final rotation spot, then the issue is resolved, right? Well, not completely.
The San Francisco Giants have built up their starting pitching depth and have a couple of options behind the five starters mentioned above who could carry a heavy workload.
With the 60-game season and the short three-week spring training reboot, pitchers are only going to have a handful of appearances to build up arm strength through intrasquad and simulation games.
This could expose some to injury risk once the season begins, so more than likely, teams will need to get creative with how they manage a pitcher’s workload.
The Giants brought in both Tyler Anderson and Trevor Cahill to compete for a role on the pitching staff. Of course, the Giants also have Conner Menez, Andrew Suarez, and Dereck Rodriguez competing for roles as well.
However, Cahill and Anderson carry significant major league experience.
The veteran Cahill has appeared in parts of 11 seasons as both a starter and a reliever. In that time, most notably with the Oakland Athletics, the right-handed hurler has generated a 4.21 ERA including 3.95 ERA out of the bullpen.
If the Giants want to get creative with their rotation, Cahill could be used as the backend of a piggyback start with someone like Webb.
The right-hander was reeled in on a minor league pact this past offseason, and his experience as a swingman could come into play. He does not have a spot on the 40-man roster, but he seems like a candidate to be added once the rosters are finalized.
On a different note, the Giants want to see what they have in Tyler Anderson. The southpaw was claimed off of waivers in October of 2019 from the Colorado Rockies.
Anderson missed substantial time in 2019 after sustaining a knee injury. Though, he appears to be healthy now:
Giants will report July 1 with more healthy players than at end of camp. Pablo Sandoval and Tyler Anderson are fully cleared, Tony Watson is feeling much better. Aramis Garcia could be ready by mid August and Reyes Moronta could be ready by late August.
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) June 24, 2020
For his career, the 30-year-old has produced a 4.69 ERA with an 8.3 K/9 across 397 frames while having to pitch in the unfriendly confines of Coors Field. This includes a strong rookie campaign in which he posted a 3.54 ERA in 114.1 innings (3.2 WAR).
I think the Giants just want to see how Anderson looks away from Coors Field. He does not have a power fastball, but he has a good feel for pitching.
As evidenced by his 8.3 K/9 mark, the lefty generates swings-and-misses at a healthy rate while not having major command issues.
Since he is currently on the 40-man roster and teams can begin the season with 30 players on the roster, Anderson has a good shot at making the team.
Unlike Cahill, Anderson has not pitched much out of the bullpen. He has appeared in 73 games at the major league level, but only two of those appearances were out of the bullpen. So, he will likely be used differently than Cahill.
Perhaps, the Giants could employ a six-man rotation as the season begins meaning that Anderson could find himself as a back-end starter.
Either way, San Francisco will need extra depth as the trade deadline will only be six weeks after the season begins. No one can predict how busy trade season will be, but there is never a shortage of teams needing pitching, so I would expect the Giants to be pretty active on that market.
There are few question marks in the rotation as the season gets closer. With not much time to ramp back up and a condensed season, the Giants may get creative with the pitching depth they have built.
I would expect both Cahill and Anderson to carve out solid roles with the Giants in 2020 whether that be in the bullpen or the rotation.