Giants

Shaun Anderson, Giants' top pitching prospect, ready for MLB debut

Shaun Anderson, Giants' top pitching prospect, ready for MLB debut

SAN FRANCISCO -- Few pitching staffs in recent college baseball history have been as decorated as the one Shaun Anderson was part of at the University of Florida. The rotation was so loaded with marquee arms that Anderson was forced to become the closer.

A funny thing happened on the way to the big leagues, though. The Gators' closer was the first to make it to a big league rotation. 

Anderson will make his MLB debut on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays, auditioning for a spot in a Giants rotation that all of a sudden is in transition. He will toe the big league rubber before former Gators A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning, who have been set back by Tommy John surgery, and Alex Faedo and Brady Singer, who are working their way through the minors. 

This may all seem like it happened quickly for Anderson, as even a few months ago the Giants were still trying to figure out if he was better served as a starter or reliever. But he has prepared for this opportunity and spent much of his spring talking to veterans about what a big league debut is like.

"They said that when you do get the call, just know that you're on the team now," Anderson said. "You're here to help them win."

Since stealing Anderson in the Eduardo Nuñez deal two years ago, the Giants have always felt the right-hander could help them do that. He has a big arm and a bulldog's demeanor on the mound, and during the spring there were plenty of signs that veterans were ready to bring him into the fold. Buster Posey caught Anderson's first bullpen session of camp, and Madison Bumgarner would good-naturedly call the long-haired young pitcher "Baby Thor" as he walked through the clubhouse. 

Anderson kept his head down and impressed in the spring, and then went out and made his way through the landmines of the ridiculously offense-heavy Pacific Coast League. He was averaging more than a strikeout per inning and allowed just three home runs in seven starts. That last stat stood out as management decided to make changes. 

"We're shaking up the rotation a little bit so we need someone for that spot," manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had a spot open and he's a guy that's throwing as well as anybody down there, so that's why he's here."

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It initially may just be a day in the big leagues, as the Giants have hit the "young man, you have minor league options, so ..." portion of their season. But whether it's now or over the course of the second half, Anderson, 24, will get a long look. The Giants need to find out if he's part of the next contender they build.

They nearly did last year, as Anderson was flown to New York and was all set to start at Citi Field before the team changed plans. The flight this time was much further for his parents, who live in Florida, but they'll be there for his first big league pitch. Well, maybe. 

"I heard there's rain coming," Anderson said, smiling. 

Giants roster breakdown: Johnny Cueto, veterans to fill out rotation

Giants roster breakdown: Johnny Cueto, veterans to fill out rotation

In recent Giants seasons, it has become relatively commonplace for a team's PR staff to put out game notes that list a bunch of TBDs as the pitching probables. Managers are becoming more and more hesitant to give away even seemingly innocuous information, and the surge of openers has made it even more difficult to predict what a series might look like. 

This season, you can expect even more of this, but for a whole new reason. With just three weeks to prepare for a 60-game season, teams do not expect to have true five-man rotations. Giants manager Gabe Kapler made it clear earlier this week that his starting staff will carry a much different type of workload, but there still will be a starting staff in some form.

Here in Part II of our Summer Camp preview, we take a look at the guys who likely will start the most games for the Giants over 60 games. 

Johnny Cueto

The last thing Kapler did before spring training shut down was name Cueto his Opening Day starter, and there's no reason to think that'll change. Kapler and his coaches have been regularly checking in with their pitchers, but all you need to keep tabs on Cueto is an Instagram account. He has been posting regular videos of his bullpen sessions and recently uploaded a fun series of matchups with former Giant Eduardo Nuñez:

Cueto returned from Tommy John for four up-and-down starts last September, and on Opening Day, it will have been 24 months since his last big league start of more than five innings. But the Giants have always thought Cueto would age well, and if he can find his healthy 2016 form (18-5, 2.79 ERA) they'll have a much better shot of staying in contention. 

Jeff Samardzija

Few, if any, Giants have more at stake this season than Samardzija, who is coming off an underrated 2019. He threw 181 1/3 innings last year with a 3.52 ERA, and this is the final season of a five-year deal he signed on the eve of the Winter Meetings in 2015. 

Samardzija turned 35 in January and is the type of mid-level player you would expect to have a tough time this offseason given the grudge owners will hold, but he has 10-12 starts now to state his case. 

Kevin Gausman

It seems like it's been three years since the right-hander signed a one-year, $9 million deal. Back in December, the Gausman agreement looked like it could set both sides up for the future. Gausman, a former first-round pick, had a great chance to rebuild his value before hitting free agency again. For the Giants, Gausman and Drew Smyly represented opportunities to potentially repeat the Drew Pomeranz-for-Mauricio Dubon deal they made last July.

What does this all look like after the hiatus? The 29-year-old should have a dozen starts to build his value, but the Giants likely will not be in a position to be all that active at a deadline that comes after just five weeks of games. 

Gausman had some success as a reliever for the Reds last season and he was throwing well this spring. Perhaps the Giants will have him air it out a bit more than he normally would in the early innings, making him more of a power starter than he would have been over 162 games. 

Drew Smyly

The Giants gave Smyly a $4 million deal in January and immediately threw him into the rotation, and like Gausman, he was throwing well in Scottsdale. Smyly should be right at home in a strange season, as he has started and relieved in his career. 

Smyly hasn't been a full-time member of a starting rotation since 2016 and has dealt with some serious injuries, but the left-hander is still just 31 and he has a chance to set himself up nicely for the offseason. Teams are expected to be stingy, but left-handed starters are always in high demand.

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Logan Webb and Tyler Anderson

The fifth starter spot was supposed to go to Tyler Beede, but his elbow started barking in Scottsdale and he had Tommy John surgery in March. Beede won't miss nearly as many games as first anticipated, but he'll be out all of this year and could miss the beginning of next season. 

It seems unlikely that Kapler even names a full-time fifth starter at this point, but there are two guys who stand above the rest -- the Giants have plenty of former starters headed for their bullpen -- as likely candidates to take the ball.

Webb might have given Beede a true run for this role in spring training had it not been for an innings limit. Because of a suspension, he only threw 103 innings last year. The Giants were going to slow-play Webb early in the year, but now the harness can be taken off. Webb is just 23 and showed flashes of his potential last season. Over 60 games, perhaps he'll grab a long-term spot in the rotation. 

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Anderson had knee surgery last year that was supposed to keep him out until about June. Well, it's July, and he'll be a full go in camp and ready for Opening Day. The lefty had a 4.69 ERA in four seasons with the Rockies and the Giants were excited to get him to sea level. 

It's unclear how deep he'll be able to go in starts given the long layoff, but Anderson and Webb might form a pretty effective duo if the Giants piggyback their fifth starter. Webb is a hard-throwing righty and Anderson relies heavily on a cutter and changeup from the left side. They would give completely different looks to an opposing lineup. 

Why most of Giants' reported MLB draft contracts are under slot value

Why most of Giants' reported MLB draft contracts are under slot value

With last month's MLB draft being shortened to just five rounds, front offices had to get creative to try and get the most bang for their buck. On Thursday we got a better idea of what the Giants' plan was with their league-high seven selections. 

The Giants announced that three additional picks had signed Thursday, and according to MLB.com's Jim Callis, two of them came in well under the slot value for their selection. 

The Giants also have signed second-rounder Casey Schmitt, although it's unclear what his bonus was. On Wednesday, first-round pick Patrick Bailey signed, and he also reportedly came in under the slot value of the 13th pick. 

The Giants had $9,231,800 to spend on their seven selections and thus far have announced the signing of four of them. If you add up the savings of the known bonuses, they're about $1.1 million under slot. Where is that being made up? With a local player, who was viewed by many in the industry as too tough to sign.

De La Salle left-hander Kyle Harrison went in the third round in part because it was thought it would be hard to get him out of a commitment to UCLA. Harrison was picked 85th overall by the Giants and, while they haven't announced a deal yet, he reportedly will sign for $2.5 million, which was the slot value for the 28th pick in the first round. 

That figure, if it ends up being his signing number, is nearly $1.8 million more than the slot value for Harrison's pick, and the Giants had to get to that amount by making cuts elsewhere. It's a strategy that was clear during the draft, as some of their other picks were viewed as slight reaches by opposing scouts. 

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It's a gamble, but a worthwhile one. If the Giants are right about Harrison, they've added a first-round talent to their organization and potentially have filled a future hole in their rotation. In order to make the numbers work, they simply used some of their other picks on players who might have gone slightly higher than they expected and would sign for a lesser number. 

While the Giants have not yet announced that Harrison deal, they are confident that all seven of their selections will sign. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]