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Who will be this year’s breakout pitcher?

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The Giants seem to be stacked in the bullpen. Is that where we’ll see a special performance?

San Francisco Giants v Kansas City Royals Photo by John Williamson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Yesterday, we tried to predict this year’s breakout hitter (POLLS ARE STILL OPEN). Today, let’s try to do the same with the Giants’ pitching. Again, the team isn’t going to be very good, so there’s going to be plenty of bad pitching, but who will stand out as least bad or actually good in the bunch?

2018’s breakout was Dereck Rodriguez, but that just brings us back to the problem from yesterday’s post — what does “breakout” mean? Rodriguez pitched 118 innings and posted an fWAR of 1.7 (78th best in MLB for pitchers with a minimum of 100 innings pitched), but a K/9 of 6.77 (116th). K/9 is important because strikeouts remain one of the best measures for predicting future success, and in a high strikeout era, pitchers who can’t get in on that hot strikeout action would arguably struggle to have success long-term. He was still better than Madison Bumgarner in 2018, but does “breakout” just mean at the top of the heap on a given team or does it reference the entire league?

That’ll be for you to decide in the poll below. In the meantime, at the very end of December, Mike Petriello of MLB.com put forth his list of breakout pitchers league-wide:

  • Shane Bieber (CLE), thanks to his 5.1 strikeout to walk ratio, tied for 10th in MLB.
  • Nick Pivetta (PHI), because his 27.1% strikeout rate was 22nd in baseball and his defense will be remarkably better this year than last year
  • Tyler Glasnow (TB), despite control problems, his slider is rated as the 2nd-best in baseball. Hitters can’t make good contact against it.
  • Josh James (HOU), a starter who throws 101 and strikes out a lot of hitters
  • Corbin Burnes (MIL), has an “elite” spin rate on his fastball, which already averages 95.

These are all starters, so I could limit it to that same field for the Giants, but that doesn’t seem like much fun. Drew Pomeranz could have a great year, but it wouldn’t be a breakout. Chances are, it would be similar to his 2015-2017 run. Can Derek Holland improve much on his nice 2018? And if he did, would that be considered a “breakout”?

To me, “breakout” has to have an element of the unexpected. The feeling I get from most of the Giants’ roster is that we have a pretty good sense of who most of these players already are... but there’s always that Dereck Rodriguez factor, it’s true. Still, Will Smith had a fantastic 2018 — a breakout? Possibly.

Here’s the list of potentials for 2019 (this season’s age in parenthesis):

Travis Bergen (25) - the left-handed Rule 5 pick has pitched all of 85 innings in the minors, but has a career K/9 of 12. His career strikeout-to-walk ratio is 4.38. To put that in perspective, Tony Watson’s was in MLB’s top 10 at 5.14, and Will Smith was 4.73 (14th). Obviously, it won’t perfectly translate to the majors, but the possibility is there.

Reyes Moronta (26) - his 10.94 K/9 in 2018 was 25th best among all relievers, ahead of closers like Cody Allen, Wade Davis, and Kenley Jansen. If he can get his walks under control — his 14.1% walk rate was 6th-worst — he could build upon what was really a great 2018 season (2.49 ERA / 3.24 FIP and 79 K in 65 innings) to become an elite closer-type.

Ray Black (29) - we know he’s got velocity, but can he harness it? He struck out 33 in 23.1 innings, but walked 10 and allowed 4 home runs — when he was bad, he was really bad.

Pablo Sandoval (32) - I’m serious. What if Pablo Sandoval pitches, like, 20-30 innings? Some will say it’s a sign that the Giants’ season has really gone poorly. Well, in one sense, that’s the plan. In another sense, if the Giants are following market trends and hyper-specializing their roster, then it stands to reason that they might need a guy who can pinch hit, then pitch in place of the guy he just pinch-hit for and then play the field once a week. Would a breakout be a sub-4.00 ERA?

Melvin Adon (25) - He’s on the 40-man roster and was moved into a relief role for this most recent Arizona Fall League. In 12.1 innings, he struck out 21 and walked only 3. His fastball “sits” at 98 and he can get to 100 a lot of the time.

Logan Webb (22) - It’s highly unlikely we’ll see him this year, but again, he’s on the 40-man roster. The Giants drafted him when he was 17, so he’s always been much younger than whatever league he’s been in. For modern baseball, that’s actually a point in his favor. He pitched only 6 games in Double-A last season, but did okay (26:11 K:BB in 30.2 IP). This scouting report from 2080 Baseball suggests we’ll see him in 2020, though, but they give his future potential a 55 — which is an above average ML starter.

Mystery Pitcher (??) - You know I had to add this in. Maybe Farhan Zaidi trades for a player right before Spring Training or even during Spring Training who winds up making huge contributions to the 2019 team.

What do you think?

Poll

Who will be the breakout pitcher in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Travis Bergen
    (55 votes)
  • 23%
    Reyes Moronta
    (136 votes)
  • 15%
    Ray Black
    (88 votes)
  • 18%
    Pablo Sandoval
    (104 votes)
  • 17%
    Melvin Adon
    (100 votes)
  • 4%
    Logan Webb
    (26 votes)
  • 10%
    Mystery Pitcher
    (61 votes)
570 votes total Vote Now