Bullpens are typically the most volatile area on any roster. The SF Giants had the best bullpen in baseball in 2021 with a 2.99 ERA, but that unit has struggled to the tune of a 4.06 ERA in 2022. They will need to do a lot of work to fix the bullpen for next season, but a couple of left-handed relievers might be making a case to stick beyond 2022.
A pair of lefty relievers are making a case to be on the SF Giants roster in 2023
At this point, Camilo Doval, John Brebbia, and Jarlín García are the only relievers who should have assurances of playing time next year. That said, Scott Alexander and Alex Young are making a case to stick as well.
The front office does look at every possible avenue for upgrading the roster. And, that was the case with Young, who was acquired via a waiver claim, and Alexander, who signed as a minor league free agent.
These moves do not get a lot of attention, carry very little risk, but the reward can be encouraging. Adjusting pitch mix is often the quickest way to improve a reliever's performance and that is what we are seeing with Young.
Prior to joining San Francisco, the 29-year-old reliever had a four-pitch mix that emphasized his sinker and cutter, whereas the curveball and changeup were secondary offerings. However, the Giants changed his mix to focus more on his curveball and changeup as he has flashed those pitches in 37.5 percent and 32.8 percent of the time, respectively.
Neither pitch grades out as above average, but the curveball has recorded a 41.4 percent whiff rate and has proven to be a tough pitch for opposing hitters to barrel up. On the other hand, the changeup has generated a launch angle of -1 degrees. This has led to Young registering a 2.57 ERA, 3.01 FIP, 6.9 K/9, 1.60 SO/W ratio, and a 53.7 percent ground ball rate in 21 appearances. Plus, he has not allowed a home run yet.
Scott Alexander did not necessarily need a change in pitch mix. He was available due in part to injuries. Health will be the biggest question mark for the veteran reliever.
He spent the first six seasons of his career with the Kansas City Royals and the Los Angeles Dodgers where he posted a 3.16 ERA. The Dodgers outrighted him off of the 40-man roster last year as he was only able to appear in 18 games for Los Angeles.
The southpaw has a pitch mix that includes a sinker, slider, and a changeup. He does not overpower opposing hitters with velocity as his sinker sits comfortable in the low-90's. However, Alexander does induce a fair bit of weak contact.
In 13 appearances with the Giants, he has tallied a 1.38 ERA, 2.96 WHIP, 0.76 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, 9.0 K/9, and a 74.3 percent ground ball rate. That ground ball rate might seem unusually high, but it is only a few points above his career rate of 70.3 percent. It is clear that Alexander has quickly gained the confidence of Giants manager Gabe Kapler as he has been used in high-leverage spots.
The Giants could certainly benefit from having more relievers with overpowering stuff but every good bullpen usually needs a couple of relievers who can get a much-needed ground ball to set up the double play. Both Young and Alexander have performed well enough in their auditions for next year and bringing them back should be an easy call as they are under team control.