David Laurila of Fangraphs sat down with SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler to discuss a number of baseball topics including evaluating how his team performed in 2020.
The SF Giants manager talked about the successes of the 2020 team including the resurgent seasons from both Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford as well as how the young bullpen arms developed as the season progressed.
Kapler had a lot of praise to hand out, but one name, in particular, stood out – reliever Caleb Baragar. He believes that the left-handed hurler has a bright future ahead of him [8:30]:
"“Baragar stands out to me as a guy who is going to be a very good major league reliever for quite some time… He is a strike-thrower whose velocity crept up as the season went on. Showed to be extremely durable."
While Kapler liked Baragar’s development as a reliever, he does not believe that is the only avenue for him as a major league pitcher [8:45]:
"“He also has a history of being a starting pitcher. So, while he took some steps forward in the bullpen. I don’t think that is the only path to him being a good major leaguer."
Baragar surprisingly made the Giants roster out of camp after having a combined eight innings at Triple-A under his belt. The left-handed hurler made 24 appearances, including one start, as he registered a 5-1 record with a 4.03 ERA (4.04 FIP) and a 21.6 percent strikeout rate against a 5.7 percent walk rate.
However, he did perform better as the season wore on. Across ten appearances in September, Baragar did not yield a run while collecting nine strikeouts. When you look at a player’s development, it is encouraging to see him get better with more experience while also being around the major league coaching staff.
To Kapler’s point, Baragar’s fastball sits in the mid-90’s and he pairs this with a curveball and slider.
Despite the lack of experience at Triple-A, the Giants were likely excited about the quality of his arsenal. Specifically, the southpaw’s fastball (2,491 RPM) and curveball (2,955 RPM) were in the 92nd and 93rd percentile, respectively, in terms of spin rate across baseball:
Before 2020, the 26-year-old had worked primarily as a starter as he rose through the minor league ranks. With that being said, he had accumulated 20 appearances out of the bullpen as a minor leaguer, so the role was not completely new to Baragar.
Speaking of uncharted territory, Baragar will enter Spring Training with an inside track for a bullpen spot given how he performed in 2020. Last year was an encouraging year for a pitching prospect who surprised many just by making the Opening Day roster.