Don't look now but I think the SF Giants have unearthed another sneaky good prospect from an unexpected source.
Landen Roupp is one of the biggest sleepers in the SF Giants system
With their 12th-round pick, the Giants selected Landen Roupp from UNC Wilmington. For those unfamiliar with UNC Wilmington, the school garnered attention when 2019 first-rounder Greg Jones of the Tampa Bay Rays made the school his home. We can assume that Roupp is one of those prospects that one of the Giants scouts took notice of when scouting Jones and has followed him ever since. He was a solid rotation piece for Wilmington in his four years in college with a 2.99 ERA, 286 strikeouts, and just 190 walks in 258.2 innings.
Upon signing with the organization, he was the second prospect in the 2021 draft class to reach full-season ball (after first-rounder Will Bednar) by making a relief appearance for the San Jose Giants late in the season where he flashed his ability to throw a nice-looking curveball. He was definitely in consideration for making the San Jose roster entering the 2022 season and sure enough, he did and the results so far have been spectacular.
Pitching out of the bullpen as part of a piggyback rotation, Roupp has been excellent when given the call with a 2.92 ERA, 59 strikeouts to 14 walks, and held batters to a measly .185 batting average in 37 innings pitched in the first two months of action. Interestingly, Roupp was placed in the rotation in the second half of June when the pitching staff experienced a shuffle and he was as good, if not better, on the role with a 1.54 ERA, 10 strikeouts to just three walks, and a .195 opponent's batting average in two starts. His punctuation mark moment was his start against the Stockton Ports where he threw six shutout innings of two-hit ball with just a walk and struck out seven lowly Ports hitters.
So what made Roupp such an effective pitcher in the Cal League? It's because everything he throws has lively movement and Low-A hitters are often allergic to pitches with movement. His main weapon is a lively fastball that sits at 91-95 MPH with more tail than sink that he can throw on both inside and outside of right-handed batters. Roupp combines a true 3/4 release point that can sometimes dip to a low 3/4 slot when he wants to and a heavy drop-and-drive delivery to produce a sinker that has a good approach angle, though not as extreme as Logan Webb. The curious thing though is that for a guy who throws an above-average tailing fastball, he only has a 52% groundball rate this season and that's because he throws it in the upper half of the zone more than usual.
His best secondary pitch is his flurry of breaking balls. He has two distinct ones but has a similar way of movement. His slider is the better-looking of the two as it tunnels well with his fastball arm slot where it looked like a fastball in the first third of its flight before nose-diving hard with some sweeping action. His curveball also looks good with knee-buckling action and some sweep but its pop is noticeable because of his low arm slot. Even though he only has a hair below-average strike rate, his pitches are competitive and will grade well in execution models as his misses are not far off the strike zone.
Getting this level of talent like Roupp on the third day of the draft is already highly commendable. Roupp has proven that Low-A hitting could not handle his level of pitching this year and was rewarded with a promotion to Eugene to start the month of July. Because there is a truckload of prospects who are similar to Roupp in terms of profile, a multi-inning pitching prospect with solid velocity, a good feel to spin a breaking ball, and throws enough strikes, he could oftentimes be lost in the shuffle. With the way he's pitching though, he separated himself from the fringy pitchers and joined a group with a non-zero shot of making the big league roster. He has the look and feel of a starter but if changeup does not develop (he's looked like he's throwing a splitter right now), his fastball and the flurry of breaking balls could make him a solid multi-inning reliever in the big leagues.
Like Vaun Brown, age is Roupp's biggest drawback right now (a four-year college starter plowing Low-A competition does not sound the most exciting thing in the world) but both Brown and Roupp are looking to prove that age is not an issue as long as the talent is there. The Giants looks like they got a steal in Roupp and I am excited with what he will do as the second half of the season progresses.