2 former top pitching prospects making a case to crack the SF Giants Opening Day roster

2024 San Francisco Giants Spring Training
2024 San Francisco Giants Spring Training / Andy Kuno/San Francisco Giants/GettyImages

Two former top pitching prospects entered SF Giants camp as non-roster invitees with an outside shot at making the club. On Saturday, both Daulton Jefferies and Spencer Howard strengthened their respective cases to break camp with the club.

2 former top pitching prospects making a case to crack the SF Giants Opening Day roster

The Giants were not as active in minor league free agency this winter. Especially on the pitching side, they will be relying on their farm system to support the major league pitching staff. Keaton Winn and Kyle Harrison are both expected to see considerable time in the rotation this year, whereas Carson Whisenhunt, Mason Black, Landen Roupp, and Hayden Birdsong may not be that far behind.

By the end of the year, there is a possibility that all of those pitchers will appear on the 40-man roster. While they will be relying on the farm system, they did add Howard and Jefferies on minor league deals.

Howard was signed to a minor league deal late in the 2023 season. On the other hand, Jefferies confirmed his signing with the Giants earlier in the offseason. They both have different profiles on the mound, but with similar, unfortunate circumstances that have derailed their careers up until this point.

Howard was a second-round pick by the Phillies in 2017 out of Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. Philadelphia was cautious with his workload during the first couple of years as a pro, but he put his name on the map with a stellar 2019 campaign. The right-handed hurler tallied a 2.03 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 11.9 K/9, and a 5.88 SO/W ratio in 71 innings across four levels, including a couple of brief appearances in Rookie Ball.

Following that season, Howard was considered one of the top prospects in baseball, ranking as high as No. 27 according to Baseball America prior to the 2020 season. The 27-year has appeared in parts of four seasons in the majors with the Phillies and Texas Rangers. He has struggled to the tune of a 7.20 ERA across 115 innings.

Unfortunately, he has spent considerable time on the injured list with shoulder and lat ailments. The latter injury shelved him for much of the 2023 season.

On the mound, Howard flashes a mid-90's four-seam fastball with a slider and a changeup. The fastball gets plenty of late movement through the zone, but the slider remains his best pitch as it gets quality two-plane movement. The changeup is a good third offering with fading, downward movement.

Similarly, Jefferies was a first-round pick by the Oakland A's in 2016 out of Cal - Berkeley. He has plenty of familiarity with the Giants' coaching staff from their days with Oakland.

The pitching prospect has an advanced feel for pitching with above-average command, so he moved through the lower minors with relative ease. In 2019, he registered a 3.42 ERA with 93 strikeouts against nine walks in 79 innings split across two levels, including Double-A.

However, similar to Howard, Jefferies spent has spent considerable time on the injured list in recent seasons. He has had Tommy John surgery twice as well as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) surgery. While the recovery process from Tommy John surgery has been refined and improved, there are just not many instances of pitchers coming back from TOS surgery.

Jefferies is looking to curb that trend. On the mound, he flashes a low-90's sinker, an above-average changeup, and cutter that morphs into a slider at times. The 28-year-old pitcher's pitch mix does not overwhelm hitters, but all of his offerings play up due to his excellent command. Jefferies has produced a 5.75 ERA in parts of three seasons with the A's.

Both Howard and Jefferies are looking to make the Giants roster and each has made a solid case. On Saturday, the Giants had a split squad going against the Cleveland Guardians and the Chicago White Sox. Jefferies started against the Guardians, whereas Howard started against the White Sox.

Both completed four scoreless innings. In fact, Howard was perfect through his four innings of work. Jefferies has had the better camp overall with a 1.64 ERA, 11 strikeouts, and only two walks in 11 Cactus League innings. On the other hand, Howard has tallied a 1.64 ERA with eight strikeouts and five walks in 9.2 frames this spring.

Jefferies and Howard are second and fourth, respectively, on the club in terms of innings pitched. The Giants are giving each pitcher a fair look and they must like what they see so far.