As of midnight Eastern time on December 2, Major League Baseball teams have been unable to sign anyone to a contract to go on a 40-man roster thanks to the MLB lockout. Front offices are still busy figuring out depth pieces and lottery tickets, however, and the SF Giants have not been left out.
SF Giants sign former top prospect and others to MILB deals
On Friday, the Giants agreed to minor-league contracts with three right-handed pitchers: Jon Duplantier, Gray Fenter and Mauricio Llovera. Two of the trio, Duplantier and Llovera, have Major League experience, while Fenter has pitched as high as Double-A.
The most interesting is Duplantier. A 2016 third-round draft choice by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Rice University, he broke out in 2017 between Low-A Kane County and High-A Visalia, turning in a combined 12-3 record with a 1.39 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) while striking out 165 in 136 innings pitched.
The outstanding campaign earned Duplantier plenty of notice in the prospect-ranking community. Entering 2018, both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline had him as the D-Backs' top prospect, and he was the #73 overall prospect in the game according to both groups.
An issue with right biceps tendinitis limited Duplantier to just 67 total innings in 2018 and dulled his prospect sheen somewhat, but a 2.69 ERA in 14 Double-A starts showed he still had promise when on the field.
Arizona made the decision to put Duplantier on the big-league roster at the beginning of the 2019 season. He was 24 years old and debuted April 1 of that year, turning in a 4.42 ERA in 15 games (three starts).
After spending the 2020 coronavirus-shortened season at the D-Backs' alternate site, the righty was given another chance in the majors in 2021. Duplantier made four starts from late-May to mid-June but was rocked in every one, taking three losses with a 13.15 ERA. He did strike out 12 batters in 13 innings, but eight walks and five home runs were detrimental to his hopes of success.
Llover, the other signee with Major League experience, worked seven games out of the bullpen for Philadelphia in 2020-21, giving up five homers in 7 2/3 innings pitched. The Venezuela native and seven-year pro will turn 26 in April of 2022.
Fenter, a former Baltimore Orioles prospect, had an outstanding season in 2019 with Delmarva of the South Atlantic League, going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA in 22 games (17 starts) while striking out 123 in 94 1/3 innings pitched. Double-A was not kind to him in 2021, though, as evidenced by a 5.47 ERA.
All three pitchers signed appear to be on track to start 2022 in the high minors, with Duplantier the best chance to become an impact pitcher in the majors if the Giants' pitching coaches can work their magic.