clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The strength of the Giants' farm system

New, 599 comments

It's the bullpen. And if there's a strength for a contending team to have, this isn't a bad one.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball America has their organizational rankings up, and the Giants' farm system ranks 19th, tied for their highest ranking in the last five years. Rather than put that into a 300-word post that's stretched out like an 11th-grader's essay, I wanted to highlight just one part of the capsule:

The Giants have proven time after time that they can get the most out of players with solid all-round tools and they have a lot of pieces to work with. It’s not the sexiest system, but the Giants are in a spot where they don’t have a lot of glaring needs, so the system’s strengths may match the needs.

The next section has to do with the deepest part of the Giants' farm, which is unquestionably the bullpen. For the last two seasons, their top prospect has been a player who is clearly blocked at the major league level (Andrew Susac last year, Christian Arroyo this year), but the depth of the system is exactly where the Giants would probably like it to be. While the Giants are probably set in the bullpen -- this really looks like it will be the most boring spring training in years -- there's no such thing as being blocked as a reliever. There's always something that happens to a major league reliever or five over a six- or seven-month season.

So let's take a quick look at that depth and list some of the relievers already on the 40-man roster whom we might realistically see this season. Remember that season when the Giants re-acquired Doug Henry in, like, August because they didn't have another arm? They probably won't have to do that this year.

Steven Okert is a 24-year-old left-hander who's had a consistently high strikeout rate throughout his professional career, just like Josh Osich. He throws hard and mixes in an above-average breaking ball, just like Osich. In Baseball Prospectus 2016, his top comp is former Giants farmhand Joe Peterson, just like Osich. He has a five-letter last name that starts with "O," just like Osich. His secretary is named "Osich" and Osich's secretary is named "Okert."

If Javier Lopez stumbles in his advanced age and doesn't pitch until he's 46, which I'm expecting, personally, the Giants still have a little left-handed depth. Okert spent last year in Triple-A, striking out 69 batters in 61 innings, walking 29 and allowing seven homers.

Derek Law was the official relief prospect of McCovey Chronicles after his 2013 season, when he walked one and struck out 45 in Class-A. He disappointed in Double-A early in 2014, but that was because he needed Tommy John. He made a quick recovery, and while his ERA in his Double-A return wasn't scintillating, he still struck out a promising 11.2 per nine innings with a 2.8 BB/9.

He's still the official relief prospect of McCovey Chronicles! I wonder if we should make him a shirt. I'll bet he would totally wear it around the clubhouse and his teammates would grumble and say awww man because they wish they had one.

Ray Black has thrown 60 professional innings since being drafted in 2011. He's also struck out 122 batters in those 60 innings while throwing baseballs 103 miles per freaking hour, though he's also walked 6.1 batters per nine innings. The Giants are being hyper-cautious about his workload, understandable considering his extensive injury history, so if you see him in the majors this year, that means that something has gone horribly, horribly right.

Ian Gardeck and Jake Smith were both added to the 40-man roster this offseason after impressive seasons in the Cal League, and they both have a similar story. Gardeck walked 39 batters in 37 innings in 2014, which ... isn't optimal. Smith walked 4.7 per nine innings in 2014, mostly in Low-A, which is better, but not that promising for a 24-year-old reliever.

They both went to San Jose and learned how to throw strikes, and that led to ludicrous strikeout numbers. Gardeck threw 86 innings, striking out 104 and walking just 24 batters, while Smith struck out 118 and walked 21 in 84 innings. Both relievers throw hard with widely acclaimed sliders, and they'll probably start in Double-A, which means a strong season by either of them will put them in line for a September callup, at the very least.

Kyle Crick probably won't have the same come-to-Kimbrel moment that Gardeck and Smith had, but wouldn't it be awesome if he did?

Cory Gearrin appeared in five games for the Giants last year and looked funky-effective. Mike Broadway appeared in 21 games for the Giants and the gap between his clear, unmistakable stuff and his ability to get outs was frustrating. This game might have been the worst of the year, for example. Neither one is a prospect, but they're both talented pitchers that we might see this year, so they're certainly worth including. They're probably 1a and 1b on the depth chart, at least in the beginning of the season.

That's almost an entire bullpen's worth of mid-90s arms, which is in line with the direction bullpens are trending in baseball. The current Giants' bullpen is mostly high-80s/low-90s arms -- the softest throwing bullpen in the business, even with Hunter Strickland. Over the next couple years, that should change. There are the folks who will help, hopefully.