WASHINGTON MORNING POST
US News, Politics, Business, Economy, Technology, Sports, Culture, Markets, Stocks and World News.
The Giants took nearly the same group of relievers into this season as the one from their playoff roster last year, when they were the best in the majors. Come September, the faces have changed, the results have been wildly different, and there is no playoff roster to account for.
Thus is the fickle nature of bullpens.
Looking ahead to next year, key holdovers from 2021 — Dominic Leone and Jake McGee — are already gone. Others, such as Tyler Rogers and Jarlín García, have assumed lower-leverage roles. One arm, attached to Camilo Doval’s right shoulder, looks like a fixture for years to come.
The Giants have cycled through 16 relievers this month as they attempt to mold their next relief corps — to surprising success. The ragtag group ranks sixth in the majors this month with a 3.18 ERA — nearly a full point better than their season mark, 4.01, which ranks 19th — and were the driving force behind their 6-1 road trip, covering 70% of the innings and posting a 1.23 ERA in two tough pitching environments.
With the season winding down, let’s assess how next year’s bullpen is taking shape.
Job locked down, role secure
Camilo Doval, RHP, age 25
September ERA: 0.77 (11 G, 11⅔ IP)
Manager Gabe Kapler refused to name a closer this spring, but with his strong finish to 2022, Doval gives the Giants one known quantity entering next year. Added a third pitch, a sinker, at midseason to much success — a 1.69 ERA since he started throwing it around the All-Star break — and has recently hit new highs on the radar gun, 104 mph, with his four-seamer. Three saves away from the second-most in a season by a pitcher 25 or younger in Giants history.
Job secure, role in question
John Brebbia, RHP, age 32
September ERA: 3.86 (10 G, 9⅓ IP)
Arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2023, maybe Brebbia should petition to be paid like a starter. He leads all relievers in games “opened” this season, with eight. Then again, his 71 appearances are also near the top of the major-league leaderboard. From Tommy John patient to the Giants’ Mr. Reliable, expect Brebbia to be back next season in a similar role.
Tyler Rogers, RHP, age 31
September ERA: 0.00 (7 G, 11⅓ IP)
The Giants’ faith in Rogers never wavered, and it has paid off this September. Pitching more bulk, low-leverage innings, Rogers has possibly carved out a role for himself next season. What’s changed? Rogers is throwing more strikes and, while he is generating the same soft contact, defenders are doing a better job of turning it into outs. Since the start of last season, only six relievers in the majors have a lower home run rate than Rogers.
Jarlín García, LHP, age 29
September ERA: 3.55 (9 G, 12⅔ IP)
Like Rogers, García has moved into more of a bulk role of late, with success. Six of his past 10 outings have been at least four outs, including two pitching three innings. Even in an up-and-down season, García’s 2.98 ERA ranks third in the bullpen.
Jakob Junis, RHP, age 30
September ERA: 5.04 (5 G, 25 IP)
Even if the Giants don’t bring back Carlos Rodón, four rotation spots will already be accounted for before the Giants make a single move this offseason. A far different position than last year, when Logan Webb was the only starter under contract days before the lockout. Junis will be arbitration eligible and should be a surefire bet to bring back, but whether it’s in the rotation or out of the bullpen — you’ve seen him pitch behind an opener twice this month — could depend on how the offseason goes.
Strong first impressions
Scott Alexander, LHP, age 33
September ERA: 1.69 (11 games, 10⅔ IP)
Giants relievers have struggled all year to get out lefties — opponents’ .265 batting average is higher than every team but Colorado — but the team possibly found an answer in Alexander, an established but oft-injured arm whom they quietly signed in May. After months of rehab, Alexander looks to have regained his effective old form, when he posted a 3.16 ERA in 211 appearances over six seasons in Kansas City and Los Angeles. Eligible to become a free agent, but shouldn’t be hard to coerce back: Alexander grew up in Santa Rosa rooting for the Giants.
Shelby Miller, RHP, age 31
September ERA: 0.00 (1 G, 2⅔ IP)
Only one appearance so far, but it was electric: seven strikeouts, no walks while blanking the D-backs in 2⅔ innings of relief. A former top prospect, an All-Star at 24 year old and the centerpiece of two blockbuster trades, San Francisco is Miller’s sixth stop while trying to resurrect his career following Tommy John surgery in 2017. Saved the first games of his professional career while posting a 2.87 ERA at Triple-A this year, his first full season as a reliever.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, age 27
September ERA: 1.42 (4 G, 6⅓ IP)
Singled out by Kapler when he was optioned earlier this month. The Giants value strike throwing above all else, and Ortiz fills the zone with the best of them.
Thomas Szapucki, LHP, age 26
September ERA: 2.70 (5 G, 6⅔ IP)
Alex Young, LHP, age 29
September ERA: 2.08 (8 G, 8⅔ IP)
Young and Szapucki are also vying with Alexander for left-handed relief roles next season. While Alexander can decline a minor-league assignment — and did with the Dodgers – both players will have options, giving the Giants more flexibility.
Making names for themselves
Cole Waites, RHP, age 24
September ERA: 2.08 (5 G, 4 ⅓ IP)
Shot through the Giants’ farm system about as quickly as his heater, going from High-A to the majors, and his fastball was as-advertised in his big-league debut. Has work to do with his secondary pitch (a slider) and his command but could break camp with the big club next spring.
Sean Hjelle, RHP, age 25
September ERA: 8.10 (3 G, 10 IP)
Proving he is more than a novelty with the two best major-league outings of his career coming this month, but with one stinker in between them, apparently needs to do more to prove he’s worthy of filling a rotation spot, even in Alex Wood’s absence.
Outside looking in
Jharel Cotton, RHP, age 30
September ERA: 0.00 (2 G, 3⅔ IP)
A former top prospect making a comeback as a reliever, like Miller, with plenty of success in Minnesota’s bullpen this season (2.83 ERA, 25 appearances). Tough to pencil into next year’s bullpen with only two appearances since being plucked off the waiver wire, but certainly possible Cotton figures into the puzzle.
Yunior Marte, RHP, age 27
September ERA: 5.40 (8 G, 8⅓ IP)
Unable to consistently get major league hitters out, despite his electric fastball-slider combo. Should return as an optionable, controllable arm, however.
Zack Littell, RHP, age 27
September ERA: 9.53 (6 G, 5⅔ IP)
Mouthed off to his manager and wasn’t heard from again.