SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — During his playing career, former Giants pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was popular with reporters because he told it how it was, even if that sometimes led to uncomfortable exchanges. The Giants like having him as a roving instructor in the minor leagues for the very same reason.
So my ears perked up the other day when Vogelsong, in the midst of a longer discussion about the organization, mentioned how much he believed in the young pitching the Giants have coming through the pipeline. Vogelsong travels to the affiliates during the season and spends time with pitching prospects, and he’s encouraged by what he has seen.
“First of all, they’re all very talented, but the thing that I like the most is they’re all hungry,” he said. “They all want to be perfect. I know sometimes that can be a bad thing, but in their case it’s a good thing.”
The Giants sent Vogelsong to a Madison Bumgarner rehab start last year to give him a familiar sounding board, and young pitchers have found a similar sense of comfort. Logan Webb, featured here, raved about the work Vogelsong has done with him. Vogelsong said he has found eager pupils.
“They listen, they’re open to adjustments, and that all goes along with it,” he said. “But the biggest thing is they’re hungry and they all want to be great.”
It’s been a while since the Giants consistently developed pitching. Their Opening Day rotation could feature just one player — Madison Bumgarner — who they drafted. The last four guys in the bullpen — Will Smith, Tony Watson, Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon — were all signed or acquired in a trade. Even one of last year’s breakout starters, Dereck Rodriguez, spent most of his career with the Twins.
But there’s a group of young starters in camp that may become contributors over the next two years. Here’s a breakdown of how they’ve done thus far:
Shaun Anderson: He has pitched in just one Cactus League game, giving up two unearned runs in two innings, but coaches are impressed by his stuff. He looks like Noah Syndergaard and like Webb, he has a reputation for being competitive in a good way. Anderson is the organization’s top pitching prospect and may debut this summer.
Webb: He has pitched twice this spring and struck out three in 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Garrett Williams: Last season, if you asked about a sleeper in the system, you heard about Webb. Two years ago team officials would tell you about Williams, a lefty starter. The 24-year-old had a 2.32 ERA in 2017 but took a big step back with his command last year, walking 61 in 81 2/3 innings in Richmond. He hasn’t given up a run in three relief appearances this spring, striking out three and walking one in 2 1/3 innings.
Conner Menez: He doesn’t get mentioned often, but the lefty’s peripherals tell an interesting story. Menez has averaged more than a strikeout per inning since the Giants took him in the 14th round in 2016, but he also has had walk issues. Last year he pitched at three levels and struck out 171 in 135 1/3 innings. Some scouts think he may ultimately be a good reliever, but for now the Giants will keep him in a rotation.
Tyler Beede: He’s part of a different class and already has made his big league debut, but he’s also just 25, and he has gotten himself back on the radar with an impressive spring. Beede simplified things over the offseason, cutting down to a three-pitch mix, and his velocity is back to 97-98 mph range that made him a first-round pick. The breaking ball has been nasty, too. Beede talked about his new approach on a recent episode of The Giants Insider Podcast, and if he keeps it up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him leapfrog some guys ahead of him on the starting depth chart and work his way into the rotation by the end of the season.