Who is the X Factor in the 2023 bullpen for the SF Giants?

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants / Lachlan Cunningham/GettyImages

The SF Giants have added a couple of notable arms in Taylor Rogers and Luke Jackson to address the bullpen. They have a handful of relievers with some level of past success in the majors, but there is one arm who is very much a wild card and could become an important piece in 2023 - Thomas Szapucki.

Who is the X Factor in the 2023 bullpen for the SF Giants?

In a minor surprise, the Giants shipped Darin Ruf to the New York Mets at the trade deadline. They acquired four players in that trade, including Szapucki, and this has become a move that they have definitively won.

The inclusion of Szapucki did not receive a lot of attention at the time as he had tallied a 60.75 ERA in one appearance in 2022. The left-handed hurler can thank the Giants for that as they recorded nine earned runs in his lone appearance with New York last season.

Szapucki underwent ulnar nerve transposition surgery in 2021, so when he appeared for the Mets, he was filling in for an injury-battered rotation while still recovering from injury as well.

The Mets drafted the 26-year-old pitcher in the fifth round of the 2015 draft out of Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He developed into one the better prospects in baseball as he was rated as the No. 69 prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2017 season.

In six minor league seasons, the lefty recorded a 2.88 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 11.5 K/9, and a 2.85 SO/W ratio while working primarily out of the rotation. He struggled with control (4.0 BB/9) but showed modest improvement out of the bullpen.

He had the pedigree and success of a top prospect, but due to injuries, he was limited to just 18.2 frames on a major league mound over the past two seasons. His most extensive look came with the Giants at the end of last season and he impressed in a very small sample, posting a 1.98 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 1.17 WHIP, 10.5 K.9, and a 4.00 SO/W rate in 10 appearances.

The lefty flashed a mid-90's four-seam fastball and a curveball that recorded good spin and was tough on opposing hitters. He threw the curveball 34.7 percent of the time in 2022, which was a sharp increase from his brief time with the Mets in 2021. Hitters registered a .217 batting average against it last year, so it was a tough pitch to barrel up.

Szapucki is an interesting position with the Giants in that he does not have a ton of experience and is out of options. San Francisco cannot remove him from the active roster without exposing him to waivers. Somebody will take a chance on his upside if they do.

The Giants are betting on the fact that last season was a fluke with many of their relievers, but Szapucki is really an unknown. He performed well in 10 appearances, flashed a good fastball-curveball combination, and could quickly carve out a role in the 2023 bullpen if he performs. There is a lot of variability in what he might be able to do next year, but he could help to stabilize a bullpen that really struggled last year.