The Giants’ rotation will include Ty Blach and Chris Stratton. It was likely always going to include them, which means that the team has extracted some pitching value out of their farm system. They were capable of filling two open spots in their rotation with internal options, which allowed them to acquire high-priced players like Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. That’s one way to look at it.
Another way to look at it is that Blach just might be the best pitcher the Giants have developed since Madison Bumgarner, and that’s a problem. It’s been a problem for a while now, and the injuries to Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija are going to make it a whole lot worse.
If we’re going to rank the homegrown pitchers to follow Bumgarner’s debut in 2009, it would go something like this:
- Ty Blach
- Chris Stratton
- Chris Heston
- Derek Law
- Kyle Crick
- Josh Osich
- Steven Okert
- Does Clay Hensley count?
- What about Bob Howry?
- Joe Nathan definitely counts
That’s almost a full decade! While the end got a little silly (and ignored Ryan Vogelsong, who definitely counts), I promise, I’m not omitting anyone noteworthy. Here’s every pitcher who’s appeared for the Giants since 2009. There aren’t a lot of homegrown success stories over the last few years, and that’s being entirely too kind.
This is a marked difference from the old Giants. Every start in the 2010 postseason was made by a homegrown pitcher. It wasn’t just the starters, as Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo were huge contributors, too. While it’s true that the Giants had to lose an awful lot to get Lincecum and Bumgarner, there was a sense that they were a team operating one level ahead of the other teams trying to develop pitching. They could make pitchers out of widgets and adobe they found around the clubhouse. They were feared. Respected.
Since then, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, a no-hitter, and a handful of maybe-they’ll-be-good-one-day relievers are all the Giants have to show for their farm system. Either the game has changed and left the front office behind, or they were getting a lot luckier with their pitching before 2009 than we had previously thought.
This lack of depth will be apparent for the first two months of the season, when the Giants will be without Bumgarner and Samardzija and starting, like, Albert Suarez or Andrew Suarez or Artie Suarez or Anibal Suarez. But it’s been apparent for a lot longer than that. The reason the Giants got rid of Adam Duvall is because they didn’t have a young pitcher they trusted as much as Mike Leake.
The reason the Giants are worried about the luxury tax right now is because they didn’t develop any pitching, which is why they had to pay hundreds of millions for Johnny Cueto and Samardzija.
The reason the Giants were pantsed in front of the entire country in the 2016 NLDS is because they couldn’t develop a cavalry of relievers to help them.
The reason the Giants spent the offseason making expensive trades for Longoria and McCutchen is because they didn’t have the prospects to deal for Christian Yelich or Marcell Ozuna.
The reason the Giants are in a dilly of a pickle without Bumgarner and Samardzija is because their only homegrown pitchers come with exceptionally low ceilings. I like Blach and Stratton well enough, but I’ll set the over-under on combined All-Star games at .5 and take the under. The Giants were counting on 400 innings from the two injured pitchers, and now they’ll get at least 100 from NRIs or pitchers who aren’t ready.
This is a problem that’s been years in the making, and it’s been kicking them in the butt the whole time. The Giants’ current situation is just the most obvious manifestation of it. After losing two starters in spring training, the plan is to use four starters and bring up someone untested when they do need a fifth starter, and while I’m all for Tyler Beede or Andrew Suarez becoming immediate fan favorites who unexpectedly help the Giants win a lot of games, I’m also not going to predict it. This is almost certainly going to be a mess.
If this all reads like, “Breaking: Farm Systems Are Important, Film At 11,” well, sorry. This is rehashing a lot of what we already know, which is that the Giants are likely hosed for the next couple years because of the lack of minor league talent, and that has to do with more than pitching. It’s every position, give or take a Steven Duggar, and it’s why David Bell was hired to mix everything up.
Still, it’s important to remember just how abysmal the pitching development has been over the last few years, and how it’s been responsible for a majority of the franchise’s problems since 2014. This isn’t a call to action — Bell’s hiring, the Felipe Alou Baseball Academy, and the second-overall pick all suggest that this will change, and hopefully soon — just a lamentation of what could have been. The Giants have been remarkably awful at developing pitchers over the last seven years.
There’s nothing like two of the team’s best starting pitchers going down within 72 hours of each other to remind us all that it’s a pretty big problem. It has been for a while.