SF Giants News: Unheralded pitching prospect dazzles in Cactus League debut

San Francisco Giants Photo Day
San Francisco Giants Photo Day / Christian Petersen/GettyImages
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The SF Giants have a lot of arm talent in the organization after leaning so heavily in favor of pitching over the last two drafts. Many fans are well aware of top pitching prospect Kyle Harrison, but there is one unheralded prospect who could debut before Harrison. Keaton Winn is not a name many fans are familiar with but he is beginning to appear on the radar, especially after a dazzling Cactus League debut against the Los Angeles Angels.

SF Giants News: Unheralded pitching prospect dazzles in Cactus League debut

Winn completed one scoreless inning, allowing no earned runs on one walk and one strikeout. Even though it was spring training, the 25-year-old did not have an easy task as he had to pitch against Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.

Winn got Trout on a ground out and struck out Ohtani. Sure, it is just spring training, but getting two of the best players in baseball out has to be a confidence-builder for a pitcher who has pitched a total of 30.1 innings above High-A.

The Giants originally drafted the pitching prospect in the fifth round of the 2018 draft out of Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was rarely regarded as one of the organization's top prospects, but that could be due in part to injury and circumstance.

Like many prospects drafted in the years leading up to 2020, Winn lost an important year of development due to the canceled 2020 minor league season. This was compounded by the fact that he underwent Tommy John surgery in the following year.

There was nearly a three-year gap between pro appearances for Winn. However, when he did return, the Giants were deliberately aggressive. He rehabbed in Low-A and finished the year in Double-A. Across three levels, the righty registered a 4.08 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 10.4 K/9, and a 3.91 SO/W ratio in 27 appearances including 25 starts.

That was enough for the Giants as Winn was added to the 40-man roster this winter to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs came away impressed with Winn's form after returning from major surgery:

""Winn returned from Tommy John with mid-90s velocity, sitting 95 across about 100 innings after not pitching since 2019. His plus splitter and average slider give him a starter’s mix, and his strike-throwing was better than I expected when he vaulted up the Giants list in the middle of the year.""

Eric Longenhagen

His fastball sits in the mid-90's but it plays up in shorter appearances with the ability to reach triple digits. There has been some positive buzz from the Giants about Winn in camp.

He is still very light on experience, accumulating just 278.1 innings since being drafted. He has made 68 appearances with 50 of those coming out of the rotation. Given that he made 25 of 27 appearances out of the rotation in 2022, that is potentially an indication of how the Giants plan to use him.

However, he is on the 40-man roster, so the quicker route to the majors could be out of the bullpen for now. Solid command with a quality split-finger and slider are some of the ingredients for sticking as a starter.

The decision on that will come later. For now, Winn is healthy after missing substantial time. Not only that, he impressed in Cactus League debut and likely made a few new fans before the end of Monday.