The SF Giants are seemingly done with making additions to the starting rotation this winter. Given the moves they have made, it is clear that they will be relying on organizational depth to support the rotation. And they should have plenty of options to do so.
Why the SF Giants will rely on organizational depth to support starting rotation
If we are being honest, there is a lot of hope involved with this rotation. The Giants hope that both Alex Cobb and Robbie Ray can return to their pre-surgery form once they make it back to the mound. They hope that Ross Stripling can rebound after struggling to the tune of a 5.36 ERA in 22 outings last year. They hope that Jordan Hicks can successfully transition to the rotation.
It is hard to pin so much of the team's success on hope and I will discuss whether that is the right strategy in a future piece. If any of those hopes do not come to fruition, the Giants are well-equipped to pivot with a younger option.
On the 40-man roster, they have quite a few. Kyle Harrison, Keaton Winn, and Tristan Beck are just a few names who will compete for rotation spots. The Giants also added Kai-Wei Teng and Trevor McDonald to the 40-man roster earlier in the offseason. Both have experience as a starter, but development tends to become expedited and needs-based once they are in the mix.
It feels like Harrison and Winn have an inside track for rotation spots to start the year. Of course, Harrison is considered one of the better prospects in baseball and posted a 4.15 ERA in seven outings down the stretch for the Giants last year. Similarly, Winn tallied a 4.68 ERA across nine outings with San Francisco. His splitter is a plus offering, but it would behoove him to add a pitch that moves horizontally.
Beck had a nice season last year, posting a 3.92 ERA in 85 frames for the Giants. He did well both out of the bullpen and in the rotation. There is a good chance that he gets a look out of the rotation next year as well.
Outside of the 40-man roster, the Giants have several options in the upper minors. Carson Whisenhunt is arguably the most notable name of the bunch and is already ranked as one of the better prospects in baseball.
The 23-year-old pitcher recorded a 2.45 ERA in 58.2 innings across three affiliates while reaching as high as Double-A. He relies on an above-average changeup that he pairs with a low-90's fastball and a developing curveball.
In addition to him, the Giants have Mason Black, Hayden Birdsong, and Landen Roupp. Black finished the year in Triple-A and put up a solid 3.86 ERA in 13 starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He flashes a quality fastball-slider combination. The fastball gets good armside run on right-handed hitters and the slider has nice, sweeping action across the plate. He might be the closest to a promotion.
Birdsong might be a pitcher who the Giants internally view more highly than prospect rankings. He has quickly become a bit of a development success story, adding several ticks to his fastball since being selected in the sixth round of the 2022 draft. He pairs this with a biting curveball and a changeup that is still a work in progress. He produced a 3.31 ERA across three levels but struggled a bit in his first turn through Double-A.
Lastly, Roupp was off to a nice start before he landed on the injured list. The pitching prospect has added some velocity since being selected in the 12th round of the 2021 draft. He now sits closer to the mid-90's and flashes a high-spin curveball as well as a slider that gets good two-plane movement. With Double-A, he pitched to a 1.74 ERA in 10 outings before finishing the year on the injured list. I did not get to watch many of his starts in 2023, but he is a strikethrower and does a good job of moving the pace of the game along.
The Giants have used a lot of higher draft picks in recent years on pitching. That will begin to pay off soon enough and the Giants feel comfortable with the depth they have built. It is one of the reasons why they just have not targeted starting pitching depth this offseason. They believe that they will be able to rely on players both on the 40-man roster and off as soon as this year.