You had to be a pretty experienced prospect-watcher to be familiar with the three players the Giants added to their 40-man roster last month, but it's a group that most fans may soon be familiar with.
Before the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft, the Giants added right-handers Camilo Doval, Gregory Santos and Kervin Castro to their roster. During an appearance on The TK Show, president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi identified the three when asked by host Tim Kawakami to discuss prospects who stood out in 2020.
"None of those guys have Double-A or Triple-A experience but all three guys were touching 100 mph and throwing really well in that environment," Zaidi said. "That was really exciting for us to see as a team that's looking for young relievers to fill out our bullpen, to have guys really step forward in the instructional league and work their way onto the 40-man roster. Even though those guys don't have upper-level experience, when you're a reliever and you have that kind of arm you can move really quickly. We were really excited about that development."
The Giants already have an example of that type of meteoric rise in their bullpen. A year ago at this time, Caleb Baragar was a Double-A starter not many people knew about. The Giants didn't protect him from the Rule 5 Draft and didn't even initially bring him to their summer camp, but he showed up late, threw the ball well, and surprisingly made the roster. Now, the left-hander might be the pitcher in the bullpen with the best odds of being around for the next postseason run.
Relievers move quickly, particularly when they're converted starters who pick up several ticks on the radar gun in shorter stints, which may end up being the case with two of the guys Zaidi mentioned.
Doval would be the exception, and he's the closest to the big leagues. The 23-year-old has 233 strikeouts in 163 1/3 minor league innings, although like most young hard-throwers, he can battle command issues. Doval threw well at the alternate site in Sacramento this summer and actually was brought to San Francisco late in the year as part of the taxi squad. He was apparently throwing 97 mph cutters in Sacramento, and given the experience he gained this year, it wouldn't be a shock to see him jump from High-A to the big leagues next year.
Santos, 21, was acquired in the Eduardo Nuñez deal with the Red Sox but has had trouble staying healthy. He made eight starts in Low-A in 2019 before taking strides with his development this summer and having an eye-popping performance in the instructional league. Castro, also 21, made 14 starts in rookie ball in 2019, posting a 2.66 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. His stuff has also ticked up since then, and like with Santos, Giants officials who were in Arizona this fall say he made it look easy in the instructional league.
Teams generally allow high-upside pitching prospects to start as long as possible, but the fastest way for Santos and Castro to reach the big leagues would be an eventual move to the bullpen. The Giants plan to add veteran right-handers in free agency, but their big league depth chart is pretty wide open from the right side.
Tyler Rogers and Reyes Moronta are locks for 2021, but after that, there's a long list of players who have battled inconsistency, guys like Sam Coonrod, Shaun Anderson and Rico Garcia. Trevor Gott is arbitration-eligible and Melvin Adon appeared to get hurt in winter ball. There will be opportunities for right-handed relievers to carve out roles next year, and it appears the Giants have a really promising group on the way.