How Giants pitchers and prospects could be affected by using opener

How Giants pitchers and prospects could be affected by using opener

SAN FRANCISCO -- No matter how Nick Vincent fares as the Giants' opener Tuesday, you can bet this isn't just a one-game experiment. A front office that opts for something so untraditional isn't going to base any future decisions on one or two innings.

So the Giants have officially joined the opener era, and they'll do it again, perhaps adding their own twist. They have internally discussed wide-ranging concepts for getting 27 outs, and at the Winter Meetings in December, Farhan Zaidi explained why the idea of using a reliever in the first inning is so appealing. 

"Once you get away from 'this guy is going to throw the first six innings of the game,' it opens up a lot of stuff," Zaidi said at the time. "Even with an opener, is an opener a one-inning guy, a two-inning guy, a three-inning guy? Again, I think the more versatile your pitching staff is and the more kind of multi-inning guys you have, the more kinds of ways you can get through (games)."

Even though they haven't tried it yet, the Giants actually do have a staff with plenty of good options. Here's a look at how the opener could open opportunities for some current Giants:

Derek Holland: Moved to the bullpen over the weekend, he could end up being the "bulk innings" guy if the Giants want a lefty soaking up most of the outs. Perhaps he's even the choice to follow Vincent, a righty, on Tuesday. 

Holland's strikeout rate (10.9) is the highest of his career and he's holding lefties to a .437 OPS. Imagine him coming into a game when the opponent has lefties stacked up for a couple of innings? Holland also did well out of the bullpen last year, so this won't be new to him. 

Trevor Gott: Vincent was the choice for Tuesday's first inning, but Gott could also be a good option down the line. With a fastball that sits 95-96 mph, he would be an uncomfortable way for a lineup stacked with righties to start a game. 

Tyler Beede: There are some in the organization who still feel Beede's best chance at having an impact in the big leagues is as a reliever, and with a 98 mph fastball, good curve and plus changeup, he certainly has a repertoire that would fit in short stints, too. With a lesser load to worry about the fastball would play up, and Beede got bullpen experience last year in Triple-A, so the warming-up aspect wouldn't be new to him. 

Travis Bergen: The rookie doesn't have huge splits so far, but if the Giants are to turn to a lefty in the first inning, Bergen would be the likely choice since Tony Watson and Will Smith are late-innings fixtures. 

Reyes Moronta: Alright, this is a bit extreme, but if you really want to make an opponent uncomfortable, imagine Moronta coming out in the first throwing 98 mph fastballs? Against an opponent with righties at the top -- say, the Trevor Story/Nolan Arenado Rockies -- Moronta could be a good bet to get through a couple of shutout innings and give Bochy just seven innings to figure out. One of the main points of the opener, after all, is to make sure your best pitchers get in while the game is important. 

Ty Blach: He's still on the 40-man roster, and the Giants considered using him to open for Jeff Samardzija last month. Blach ended up getting rocked by the Dodgers, but the Giants may turn to him again as they start getting creative. Blach has the ability to stretch out to four or five innings if he's having one of those nights when a lineup can't figure him out and he's sprinting back and forth from the dugout to mound. 

Madison Bumgarner: Just to be clear, the Giants would never use an opener for their best pitcher. This is something you only do once a rotation, for the most part, so this will never be a concern:

[RELATED: Giants need to make major changes now, Buster Olney says]

Shaun Anderson: A closer at the University of Florida, Anderson would have no issues figuring out the bullpen part, and the Giants may find that this is a good way to ease their top pitching prospect into the big leagues. The Giants could start someone like Bergen and then bring Anderson in to try and get through a lineup twice with a completely different look. In fact, the Giants announced that Anderson will make his MLB debut on Wednesday -- but it appears he'll be used as the traditional starter.

Pablo Sandoval: Ok, this is *mostly* a joke. But Bruce Bochy loves rewarding one of his all-time favorite players, and if the season keeps going this way, it would be one hell of a story to let Sandoval take the mound in a September game and then shift over to an infield spot for the final eight innings. Also, keep in mind that Bochy wants to let Sandoval play all nine positions at some point. Why not start that day on the mound? 

Five weird Giants stats that stand out after 20 games of odd MLB season

Five weird Giants stats that stand out after 20 games of odd MLB season

The Giants' 2020 MLB season officially is one-third of the way done. That feels extremely weird to write after a 20-game sample size, yet here we are. Blink and the 60-game season will be over.

After their 5-1 loss Wednesday night against the Houston Astros, the Giants are 8-12 on the year. They just finished a grueling road trip where they went 3-7, and finally have a day off after 16 games in 16 days. With their latest defeat, the Giants now are tied for the second-most losses in baseball. 

Despite that fact, they're far from out of the playoff picture as the postseason has been expanded to eight teams for each league. Here are five stats -- good and bad -- that have defined the first third of the Giants' season. 


I mean, who didn't expect Donovan Solano to be hitting .458 right now? It was pretty obvious this would happen. Right? .... right? 

OK, back to reality. Nobody, and I mean nobody, saw this coming. Solano, 32, did hit .330 last season and proved he's a major league hitter. Now, he's one of the best stories in baseball. 

Solano has the third-highest batting average through 16 games in San Francisco Giants history. Only Barry Bonds (.525) in 2004 and Willie Mays (.470) in 1964 have been better. That's a pretty, pretty good group to be a part of. 

Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon (.472) is the only player with a higher batting average than Solano right now. They're joined by New York Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu as the three players hitting over .400 this season. The only down side is Solano has been shelved recently with an abdominal injury.


For as great as Solano has been at the plate, the Giants' catchers have not. Chadwick Tromp (.226) and Tyler Heineman (.212) are batting a combined .219 right now. 

This doesn't sit well with the crowd begging for the Giants to call up top prospect Joey Bart

Tromp has hit two home runs and shown some power, but he also has 11 strikeouts to only one walk. Heineman has displayed a better eye at the plate, however, he virtually has no power at the plate. The two have been solid when it comes to framing pitches, they haven't been as great when it comes to actually hitting pitches.

After a three-game series with the A's, the Giants then have four games against the Los Angeles Angels and three vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perhaps then it finally will be Bart time.

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]


That's the number of home runs the Giants have hit as a team this season, with their power being an improvement from last year. A total of 11 Giants have gone deep this season. They're currently tied with the Houston Astros with the 17th-most long balls in baseball. 

But that's not the 21 we're focusing on here. 

The Giants also have made 21 errors, the most in the game by far. The next highest is the Kansas City Royals with 17. San Francisco is committing more than one error per game, which can't happen with a team that isn't full of sluggers at the plate. 

For as great as Solano has been at the plate, he has been atrocious defensively. He leads the team with four errors and his fielding percentage is just .902 right now. These aren't the Yankees, these aren't even the San Diego Padres. If the Giants want to compete, they have to clean it up defensively.


Speaking of cleaning it, the Giants also can't afford how many free bases their pitchers have allowed. They lead the NL with 79 walks, which ranks fourth in the majors. 

Sometimes walks can be deceiving. Trevor Cahill walked four batters in 1 2/3 innings in San Francisco's loss to the Houston on Wednesday. Those walks never really came back to hurt him, but there's a bigger picture here. Giants pitchers struck out seven batters and walked six in the loss. Astros pitchers struck out nine and walked one. That's a winning formula, the Giants' is not. 

Giants pitchers also have hit 12 batters, tied for the fourth-most in the big leagues. Their 5.10 ERA is the seventh-worst in baseball, and they rank 22nd in strikeouts with 142. It all starts with the walks, though. 

Once again, this is a team that can't afford sloppiness and free bases.

[RELATED: Slater, Solano's injuries expose Giants' offense in loss]


When the Giants signed Billy Hamilton in the offseason, he gave them a speed factor they haven't had in years. Hamilton is one of the fastest players the game has ever seen. He also never played an inning as a Giant. 

San Francisco traded him to the New York Mets for pitching prospect Jordan Humphreys on Aug. 2. Still, the Giants are tied for eighth in stolen bases this season, with eight. 

Known speedster Austin Slater leads the Giants with five stolen bases to go with his three home runs. Slater also has legged out a triple, and Mike Yastrzemski has two three-baggers. 

The Giants finished last season with the third-lowest stolen base totals in baseball. They're a team that needs to take advantage of every extra base they can get, and whether it be a stolen base or hustling for a double or triple, they're doing exactly that this season.

Dereck Rodriguez impressed by Joey Bart, Giants prospects at alternate site

Dereck Rodriguez impressed by Joey Bart, Giants prospects at alternate site

There wasn't a player at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento who had a better feel for high-upside talent than Dereck Rodriguez. He's the son of a Hall-of-Fame catcher and grew up in big league clubhouses. 

Rodriguez, then, was the perfect person to ask about the top prospects who are spending their summer getting reps against more experienced pitchers like him and Trevor Cahill, both of whom were called up Wednesday. He gave a glowing scouting report, too. 

"(Joey) Bart is unbelievable. Bart, he's a big league player if I could say it. He's awesome to throw to," Rodriguez said. "He's awesome calling games, and he looks like a veteran at the plate

"Heliot Ramos, that dude has some pop like no other, and Luciano, for how young he is, he is really disciplined at the plate. He takes some pitches that are tough. Him and Ramos were tough at-bats down there. I don't think I got Ramos out once, and Luciano, man, Luciano was good. He was battling. He would walk here and there. I would have to throw him pitches and he would sit on them. Usually younger guys -- 2-0, 3-0 counts are usually fastball counts -- but to him you have to treat him pretty much like a veteran. He makes good adjustments, it's pretty cool. He's a big boy, man, he can hit."

[BALK TALK: Listen to the latest episode]

Bart, Ramos and Luciano are the organization's top three prospects, and are among the 30 or so players working out in Sacramento every day.

When the minor league season was canceled, the Giants brought most of their top prospects to Northern California, hopeful that they could accelerate their development with daily reps against guys like Rodriguez, a breakout star in 2018 who has seen an uptick in velocity and is back in the big league mix after a down 2019. 

Luciano hasn't even played Low-A ball yet, so this summer is all about learning. But Bart should debut at some point this year, and Rodriguez said he didn't think Ramos would be overmatched. Like Bart, Ramos reached Double-A last season, and as an outfielder he could have an easier adjustment to the big league level. 

[RELATED: New Giants catchers thrive in this stat]

"He's a great runner, he reads the ball well off the bat, he has a really good arm, and he sees spin really well. He's a good, disciplined hitter up there," Rodriguez said. "In my opinion I think he could be up here at any moment. And Bart, everybody loves Bart. I think a lot of the guys up here (in the big leagues), a lot of the pitchers that threw to Joey in camp were really impressed and are excited honestly. 

"We're really excited to try to get him up here at some point, either by the end of the year or next year.  It's going to be a lot of fun seeing him up here and throwing to him."