As the SF Giants start to prepare for the new season, it is clear that there is still work to be done on the starting rotation. What would the Opening Day rotation look like if they made no further additions.
Projecting the SF Giants 2024 Opening Day rotation
The Giants had an opportunity to make the starting rotation a strength this winter. While the free-agent class was top-heavy, it did include several frontline starters and solid, mid-rotation arms. Many of those names are off of the board by now, but they continue to be connected with a two-time All-Star.
The only notable addition they have made to the rotation this winter has been acquiring Robbie Ray from the Seattle Mariners in a three-player swap. The 2021 Cy Young winner underwent Tommy John surgery of May of 2023 and should return at some point this season.
On the other hand, Alex Cobb is expected to miss the first part of the season after undergoing hip surgery in October. The recovery timeline for that was expected to be approximately six months.
So, that means that the Giants are set to begin the year without two pitchers who they are counting on in 2024. If they do not make anymore additions, what would the starting rotation look like on Opening Day?
1. Logan Webb
2. Ross Stripling
3. Kyle Harrison
4. Tristan Beck
5. Keaton Winn
Obviously, Webb will anchor the rotation followed by Stripling and a trio of inexperienced arms. Webb finished second in the NL Cy Young voting in 2023. The Giants will be counting on four pitchers behind him who either do not have a good recent track record or have no reliable track record. Interestingly, if this is the direction they go, they would be starting the year with four pitchers under 30.
Stripling is coming off of a poor 2023 season in which he struggled to the tune of a 5.36 ERA in 22 appearances. The right-handed hurler had an opportunity to opt out of the final year of his two-year, $25 million pact, but decided to remain with the Giants given that he would have struggled to recover that guaranteed portion in free agency. The Giants are hoping for a bounceback season and if you are looking at Stripling's career year, a poor season is usually followed by a quality one.
Harrison headlines the trio of young pitchers. Even if the Giants add another starter, he has a strong hold on a rotation spot given that he remains one of the better pitching prospects in baseball. Both Beck and Winn had promising moments in 2023 and it was frustrating to see neither one get a long look in the rotation.
Beck pitched to a 3.92 ERA across 85 frames with the Giants, whereas Winn posted a 4.68 ERA in 42.1 innings. Fangraphs' Steamer 2024 projections on Winn are interesting: 1.6 fWAR, 4.09 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 7.73 K/9, 2.76 SO/W ratio and a 49.2 percent ground ball rate in 161 innings. By the way, I am right there with you in that projections only carry so much weight, but there is not much else to talk about in the middle of January.
Winn's projection is not the type of production that will carry a team to the playoffs, but it is a solid line for a back-end starter. His 1.6 fWAR projection is in the same neighborhood as José Quintana, Michael Wacha, and Taijuan Walker. All three have had their moments in their respective careers.
The Opening Day rotation will look much different than the one in the middle of the season or the end of the year. The Giants still need to make an upgrade as they are putting a lot of faith in an unpredictable group outside of Webb. That said, it could mean that a couple of younger pitchers unexpectedly get an opportunity to show what they can do.