SF Giants: Could a Hard-Throwing Prospect be the Closer of the Future?

SF Giants hat in the dugout. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
SF Giants hat in the dugout. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The SF Giants bullpen has been a mess in 2020, but is the closer of the future already in the organization?

In an interview on KNBR’s The Murph & Mac Show, SF Giants beat writer for The Athletic Andrew Baggarly  identified pitching prospect Camilo Doval as the team’s potential closer of the future:

The following day, after the team promoted top catching prospect Joey Bart, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi spoke to reporters about Bart and the other prospects at the team’s alternate site in Sacramento.

Doval ranked as the 28th best prospect in the SF Giants organization in ATF’s updated top prospect ranking.

Originally signed with the Giants out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in October of 2015, Doval has slowly worked his way up the minor-league ladder.

Across four professional seasons, the 23-year-old righty has posted a 3.31 ERA and a 12.8 K/9 across 163.1 frames.

In 2019, Doval produced a 3.83 ERA with 80 strikeouts and 34 walks in 56.1 innings. Despite the high walk total, he only yielded 41 hits while being very difficult to barrel-up for California League hitters.

Similar to Reyes Moronta, Doval possesses a combination of tantalizing stuff and poor command. As we have seen with Moronta, the suboptimal command has rarely been an issue as hitters struggle to even make weak contact.

The ability to rack up the strikeout totals has put Doval’s name on the map, and it’s one of the reasons San Francisco decided to include him in their 60-player pool to begin the season.

So what makes Doval so special and a potential name to watch in the future? Eric Logenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs breaks down the underlying attributes that makes him such an intriguing arm:

"“When he’s right, the long-armed, side-winding right-hander chucks upper-90s stuff with either heavy sink, or rising cut action caused by his arm angle. He also throws a hard, horizontal slider. The Trackman readout for Doval is shocking. His primary fastball/cutter spins in at about 2700 rpm, which is incredible considering how hard he throws. He also generates nearly seven feet of extension, and the effective velocity of his fastball is about 2 mph harder than its actual velo. There are outings where he’s untouchable for several innings. He also has nuclear outings where he walks everyone and gives up a bunch of runs before registering an out… We’re not even all that confident that he’ll figure it out, but we’re bewitched by his stuff and think he has a chance to be an elite bullpen weapon if he ever does.”"

The prose from Logenhagen and McDaniel is very analytically-driven, so I will paraphrase: Doval is deceptive while throwing very hard and being difficult to barrel-up for opposing hitters.

In the video below, you can see Doval’s electric stuff and some wildness as well. I have always believed that opposing hitters are the best gauge of a pitcher’s stuff, and you can see some very uncomfortable at-bats.

The stuff is there, but the command and control of his arsenal are a step behind. On paper, he has a lot of qualities that could eventually turn him into an effective closer. The Giants will be tasked with giving him the right environment and coaching to reach that ceiling.

Also, given that he is in the 60-man pool, we could see Doval sooner rather than later. If he follows the Moronta career arc, he may be the type of pitcher that does not need a ton of seasoning in the higher minor league levels. This is especially true given that he is already 23-years-old.

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If this assumption holds, he could even be up before the end of the season. Few arms in the bullpen are making a case to stick in 2021, and the Giants might want to see what they have in Doval before the season is over. That said, it is possible that the Giants closer of the future is already in the building.