SF Giants starting rotation depth is being tested after Alex Cobb landed on the injured list while Anthony DeSclafani goes through a rough patch. Despite this, the pitching staff is being held together due in part to Tristan Beck and Keaton Winn.
SF Giants starting rotation injuries could present opportunities for 2 rookie pitchers
When the season began, the Giants felt comfortable with their rotation depth. In addition to Cobb and DeSclafani, the Giants had Logan Webb, Alex Wood, Sean Manaea, and Ross Stripling on the roster. However, Wood has been on the injured list a couple of times, Stripling remains out, and Manaea has battled ineffectiveness. That said, Manaea has performed better lately in a different role.
The Giants have filled the gaps with bullpen games. While bullpen games seem unpredictable in terms of who will appear, the Giants do have a plan going into each game. For example, just because Beck is not starting a game does not mean he will not handle a starter's workload.
The coaching staff sees a starter as a relatively fluid term. Using that same example. Beck may not start the game, but he is expected to cover four or five innings. This has worked as the Giants have been the best team in baseball in June.
Of course, the big picture is to continue winning games. However, a narrative of this season is how this year's roster impacts future seasons, specifically in terms of player development. Can you see someone like Patrick Bailey as the long-term answer at catcher? The same goes for the pitchers.
Cobb is not expected to miss a lot of time, so he will return sooner rather than later. In the meantime, this is an excellent opportunity for Beck and Winn to grab hold of a roster spot.
Whether it is at the start of the game or later on, San Francisco will need pitchers to cover multiple innings. This is where Beck and Winn come into play. Beck has seen a little more time than Winn, but both have looked good in the early going.
Beck has tallied a 3.05 ERA, 4.01 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 7.5 K/9, and a 4.57 SO/W ratio across 38.1 frames in 2023. He has a four-pitch mix including a four-seam fastball, slider, sweeper, and curveball.
The four-seam fastball has been his best pitch as it sits comfortable in the mid 90's and opposing hitters have posted a .158 batting average against. The 26-year-old has demonstrated unusually strong control, so that is probably due to regress. Nevertheless, the Giants need to see what he can offer.
On the other hand, Winn has quickly created a bit of excitement for someone who was not heralded as a top prospect. The right-handed hurler missed substantial time earlier in his pro career due to the canceled 2020 season and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2021.
When he did return to the mound last year, Winn's fastball demonstrated a noticeable uptick in velocity. His sinker and four-seam fastball both sit in the mid-90's. Plus, his splitter flashes considerable vertical drop.
He has the best splitter in the organization. Though, it is fair to mention that few pitchers in any organization consistently throw a splitter. In two outings, the pitching prospect has yielded just two earned runs on six strikeouts and three walks across nine innings.
He has a couple of ways in which he can get opposing hitters out, including getting swinging strikes with his fastball and getting ground balls with his splitter. He did record an 8.8 K/9 in four minor league seasons, so Winn does get a healthy number of strikeouts. A combination of modest strikeout totals and a high groundball rate is something that can lead to success.
Overall, the pitching staff has been good, but it feels like the starting rotation is beginning to leak oil. Reinforcements should return soon enough, but the Giants can use this spate of injuries and underperformance as a way to evaluate two rookies who have produced well so far.