Tyler Rogers

Giants roster breakdown: Bullpen could be filled with former starters

Giants roster breakdown: Bullpen could be filled with former starters

It might not surprise you that Jeff Samardzija led the 2019 Giants in wins or that Madison Bumgarner finished second. But even the most diehard Giants fans might have trouble naming the pitcher who ranked third. 

Picked up in a deal with the Washington Nationals that cost the Giants just cash considerations, right-hander Trevor Gott went 7-0 in his first season with the Giants. This year, Gott and other similar relievers have a real shot at leading the club in that category, which might be hated by statisticians but still is important to players. 

This will be the year of the reliever, and likely the year of the multi-inning reliever. The Giants feel they're prepared for it and ready to carry a large and varied collection of swingmen who can supplement whatever the rotation looks like.

Over the last two days we previewed catchers and starters. Here's a look at the relievers coming to Summer Camp.

Closer Candidates

Gott certainly has the stuff to pitch late in games, and he could end up as one of new manager Gabe Kapler's top setup men. There are two others, however, who look more likely to pile up saves. 

Tony Watson has experience and is the veteran leader of the bullpen. The lefty was going to miss the start of the year with shoulder tightness but has had three extra months to recover. Still, it's worth noting that Kapler has mentioned a couple of times this week that Watson might be slightly behind other pitchers in camp. We'll find out soon what that truly means. 

Since the start of shelter-in-place, Kapler has repeatedly raved about Tyler Rogers, who wasn't even given a shot by the previous regime but dominated in a September cameo. Rogers was sharp this spring and is working on weapons to stymie left-handers.

The Giants probably won't even name a true closer, but Rogers might be your best bet if you're playing in a fantasy league. For what it's worth, Rogers was his ninth-inning guy when Kapler was posting screenshots from MLB: The Show simulations he was doing in April.

All three of these relievers are locks for the 30-man roster and should regularly see work in the late innings. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The Starters-Turned-Relievers

Just about the whole bullpen might be made up of these types. 

Shaun Anderson, Dereck Rodriguez, Andrew Suarez and Conner Menez have started games for the Giants the past two years and should be able to contribute in multi-inning stints out of the bullpen. Even Sam Coonrod qualifies; he only once pitched more than an inning as a rookie but was a pretty good starting prospect before having Tommy John surgery. 

Newcomers Trevor Cahill, Rico Garcia, Trevor Oaks, Luis Madero and Andrew Triggs have starting experience, along with Carlos Navas, who spent last year with Double-A Richmond and Triple-A Sacramento. 

The Giants plan to have multi-inning backups for all of their starters initially and could use the strategy to take down nine innings on a regular basis. That puts all of these guys in the mix, and it's possible you'll see all of them over 60 games. You can expect quite a few roster moves this season to provide fresh arms. 

The Left-Handers

Few did more to potentially earn jobs this spring than Jarlin Garcia and Wandy Peralta. Garcia, picked up from the Miami Marlins in the offseason, struck out eight over five scoreless innings. Peralta pitched in eight games for the Giants last year and struck out 10 over his five scoreless Cactus League innings. 

The Giants are going all-in on matchups and platoons, and both of these guys seem like good fits alongside Watson. In addition to Suarez and Menez, the Giants have Sam Selman from the left side. He made 10 appearances last year. 

[RELATED: First look at Oracle Park's new bullpens]

The Rule 5 Pick

Normally a Rule 5 pick has to spend at least 90 days on the active roster in order to be kept the following year, but this year that number has been reduced to 50. That still means the Giants will have to carry right-hander Dany Jimenez for most of the season if they want to keep his rights. 

Jimenez had mixed results in the spring and hasn't pitched above Double-A, but it shouldn't be too hard for the Giants to roster him initially with four extra spots. While they expect to compete, there also should be some innings that Jimenez can soak up in blowouts the first two weeks. That's when the decision will get more complicated.

The Giants must reduce their roster to 28 after two weeks and then cut down to 26 one month into the season. If they're off to a good start, can they afford to keep a Rule 5 pick over a more experienced player? Jimenez's future will be tied to how he pitches, but also to a large extent may be determined by the team's record through one month. 

Looking to Break Through

Tyler Cyr, a 27-year-old Bay Area native, is looking at his best shot at making his big league debut. Cyr made just three spring appearances before getting reassigned on March 6, but the staff is bringing him back for a second look. 

Cyr looked like he would debut in 2018 but he fractured his elbow and missed the rest of that season. He returned to Double-A last year and had a 2.05 ERA and 10.6 strikeouts-per-nine before joining the Sacramento River Cats for the end of their postseason run.

Gabe Kapler has two front-runners for Giants closer, wants flexibility

Gabe Kapler has two front-runners for Giants closer, wants flexibility

Giants manager Gabe Kapler will treat this 60-game regular season like the playoffs, viewing it as a race to the finish line. Which brings us to this: Who will be responsible for the final three outs?

The Giants lost All-Star closer Will Smith, who had a 2.76 ERA and 34 saves last season, to the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. Kapler doesn't have an obvious choice as his closer, but believes the Giants have at least two solid options to end games. 

“During spring training, Tyler Rogers emerged as a guy who can take really important pockets of the opponent’s lineups, because he’s got through left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters, induce ground balls and get uncomfortable swings,” Kapler said Monday on KNBR's on "Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks" show. “There’s no real stretch in anybody’s lineup that would be overwhelming for Rog.

"He’s a good candidate.”

Rogers, 29, didn't allow any runs over 4 1/3 innings in spring training while striking out seven batters. He finally made his MLB debut last season and made the most of it. The submarine-style pitcher went 2-0 with 1.02 ERA in 17 appearances out of the bullpen. 

As Kapler mentioned, Rogers was able to get batters out from both sides of the plate as well. Right-handed hitters hit .209 off Rogers, while lefties were even worse with just a .136 batting average. 

The other name Kapler mentioned has much more experience at the big league level. Left-hander Tony Watson seems like a viable candidate to step in for the departed Smith. Kapler agrees.

“Having Tony Watson on a roster is a real plus," Kapler said. "Because of the experience, because he’s been so effective against left-handed batters for so many years and for various clubs. It’s nice to know that if you are facing two or three lefties in a row, he’s a guy that you can have take down that pocket of a lineup, but he’s also effective against righties.

"Both of those guys are good options.”

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Watson, 35, hasn't closed games 2016 and 2017. He had a 4.17 ERA over 54 innings last year, but a 2.59 ERA the year before.

One thing is clear, though. No matter who Kapler chooses as his "closer" after Summer Camp, it won't be a one-man job. It's no secret Kapler is a believer in modern analytics and mentioned Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who comes in during any situation, throughout the interview. He wants flexibility, and both Rogers and Watson should provide that.

“The one thing I just want to make clear is while if somebody emerges as a surefire closer option for us, a guy that fits the ninth inning, we’ll absolutely put that person in that role," Kapler said. "However, we want these guys to be flexible to take down multiple innings, because as you guys know, we’re not going to have our starters built up by the end of camp to take five, six, seven innings. 

"So, we’re going to need a little more bulk from some of our relievers."

[RELATED: Three takeaways as Giants release initial 51-player pool]

Kapler believes Rogers is a reliever who can pitch back-to-back days and possibly multiple innings. Rogers pitched multiple innings three times last season, and back-to-backs days four times. 

Expect the Giants to get very creative with their pitching this season. That certainly includes their so-called closer.

How five-round MLB draft would have impacted current Giants, past stars

How five-round MLB draft would have impacted current Giants, past stars

Giants outfielder Mike Yastrzemski has a sweet swing from the left side, a discerning eye at the plate and a solid all-around game. He has been preparing for this life since he was in the crib, and after high school in New England he went to Vanderbilt, one of the best college baseball programs in the country.

He learned the game from a grandfather, who is in the Hall of Fame, and a father who played professionally. 

But if Yastrzemski had been chasing his dreams in 2020 instead of 2013, he likely never would have gotten a chance to carry on the family tradition. 

There's a lot we don't know about the 2020 MLB season. What we do know is that the owners -- in a bid to save a bit of cash and perhaps wrestle away a bit more control -- have cut the draft to five rounds. That's a nightmare for players trying to follow the footsteps of someone like Yastrzemski, a 14th-round selection by the Orioles seven years ago.

The best of the best will still get drafted, and many will return to school and try again in 2021, but hundreds of players will slip through the cracks. Here's a look at how the short-sighted rule change would have impacted the Giants dynasty and the current roster: 

Sergio Romo: As a small right-hander with a below-average fastball, Romo had little shot to be a top draft pick. The Giants took him in the 28th round of the 2005 draft and three years later he forced his way to the big leagues. Four years after that, he stunned Miguel Cabrera with the final pitch of the second title run. Only two of the first 23 players the Giants took that year reached the big leagues, but five players taken in the 27th round or later did, including current first base coach Antoan Richardson (35th). 

Jonathan Sanchez: Do the Giants win their first title without the left-hander they took in the 27th round out of Ohio Dominican University in 2004? Sanchez was the most valuable player in that Giants draft class. The one who played the most big-league games -- Kevin Frandsen -- was a 12th-round pick. 

Brian Wilson: Years before the bushy beard and Taco Bell commercials, he was a hard-throwing right-hander taken in the 24th round out of LSU. Wilson was drafted in 2003 and made it to the big leagues three years later. 

Travis Ishikawa: He'll never have to buy another drink in San Francisco, but 18 years ago, he was a high schooler from Washington taken 612 picks after the Giants called Matt Cain's name. 

[GIANTS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Mauricio Dubon: Many of the best high school players will forego the draft and attend college, getting an education and trying again in three years. Some will go the junior college route for a season or two. But there are always prep stars who are eager to start chasing that dream no matter the cost, and Dubon was the type of player who won't exist in the 2020 draft. Taken in the 26th round in 2013, he signed with the Red Sox and started the slow journey through the minors, finally achieving a goal that led him to move from Honduras to Sacramento as a teenager. 

Jaylin Davis: The eye-popping power didn't really come until 2019, when he hit 35 minor league homers across two organizations. Davis hit just 10 total homers at Appalachian State, a school in basketball-crazed North Carolina, but he got better and better after being taken in the 24th round by the Twins in 2015. If the season started tomorrow, he could be in the big league outfield. 

Dereck Rodriguez: Like Yastrzemski, he has the Hall-of-Fame pedigree. But he would have been right on the edge of the draft in 2020. Rodriguez was a sixth-rounder in 2011. Teams are allowed to sign undrafted players for $20,000 and perhaps players from well-off families will take that path, but it's still a rough consolation prize when you were considered a high-round prospect. 

Austin Slater: He was a top prospect in Florida before breaking his ankle while playing frisbee. Slater went to Stanford and got taken in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. Four of the players the Giants took ahead of him have reached the big leagues, but Slater currently leads the class in games played and WAR. 

Tyler Rogers: If the Giants had taken the field as planned in March, there's a decent chance Rogers would have been Gabe Kapler's closer. Seven years ago he was a 10th-round pick out of Austin Peay. Rogers repeatedly had to prove scouts and executives wrong just to get a shot at the big leagues. It would have been even tougher under the current system. 

Steven Duggar: The 2020 version of Steven Duggar is going to be a fascinating case. He was taken in the sixth round in 2016, but with so little breathing room, perhaps teams will prioritize guys like Duggar, who have very defined skills -- defense, speed -- that you know will get them to the big leagues. Perhaps Duggar would sneak into a five-round draft. 

Matt Duffy: One of the best draft-and-develop success stories in franchise history, Duffy was an 18th-round pick in 2012. He has more at-bats than the rest of that Giants draft class combined. 

Kelby Tomlinson: The utility infielder was a 12th round pick in 2011 and ended up playing more games for the Giants than anyone in that class other than first-rounder Joe Panik. He's with the Rockies now, by the way. 

[RELATED: Looking back at Giants' top five prospects after 2011 season]

Brett Bochy: A cool thing in the draft every year is seeing the sons of former big leaguers get selected, and a lot of them make it to the big leagues. Bruce Bochy counts Brett's first appearance as one of the highlights of a career that'll put him in the Hall of Fame. Brett was taken in the 20th round in 2010. 

Chris Heston: His no-hitter in New York was the best moment of the 2015 season, but Heston was once a 12th-round pick out of East Carolina. His draft class is a good example of what's being lost. Jake Dunning (33rd round) and Ryan Lollis (37th) also reached the big leagues with the Giants.