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Season review: Caleb Baragar

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A surprising addition to the roster had an equally surprising season.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants offseason is underway, which means so too are the player reviews. Today it’s left-handed pitcher Caleb Baragar.

Season stats

24 games (1 start, as an opener), 22.1 innings, 17 hits, 5 walks, 1 hit by pitch, 3 home runs, 19 strikeouts, 0.985 WHIP

4.03 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 0.3 rWAR, 0.2 fWAR

Status throughout the season

Baragar made the Opening Day roster, and stayed on the active roster for the entirety of the season.

Season review

If, before the season, I had told you that Caleb Baragar would make the Giants roster this year, you probably wouldn’t have had much of a reaction, because you probably didn’t know who Baragar was.

I don’t say that to disparage your knowledge of Giants baseball, it’s just that, prior to the 2020 gutting of developmental baseball, each team had roughly 20-40 notable prospects and somewhere between 200 and 109,000 less-notable prospects.

Baragar kind of fit into that latter category, and as a result, many fans had probably never heard of him.

If you had heard of him and I told you that Baragar would make the Giants roster this year, then you probably would have been pretty surprised.

Baragar was a ninth-round pick in 2016, and has all of 8 innings of AAA experience. He started 2019 in high-A ball, and has never sniffed a “top prospects in the Giants farm” list. He was Rule 5 eligible over the winter, and the Giants opted to not protect him.

There really wasn’t any reason to think he’d be a consideration for the Giants roster at any point this season, let alone for Opening Day.

That sentiment was amplified when Baragar wasn’t invited to Spring Training, which left him on the 2020 radar of exactly zero Giants fans.

But something happened in those pandemic months between Spring Training and Summer Camp, because Baragar got the call to be one of the 60 people in the Player Pool. And then he made the Opening Day roster.

And then he made his Major League debut against the Los Angeles Dodgers, tasked with protecting a lead against a historically potent offense. Which he did, by the way.

And he stayed in the bullpen all year long, as a trusted lefty who, we should note to unnecessarily stir the pot, finished the year with a lower ERA than Will Smith.

Perhaps most impressive was Baragar’s resolve. From Aug. 6 through Aug. 12, he appeared in three games, and they did not go well. He gave up at least 2 runs in each appearance, totaling 8 earned runs in just 2.0 innings.

The Giants gave him a few days of rest, but kept him on the roster.

And how did he respond when put back on the mound? By not allowing a single run, earned or unearned, for the rest of the year, which spanned 16 appearances and 14.1 innings.

In a year of Giants exceeding expectations, Baragar was one of the best stories.

Role in 2021

The Giants are clearly high on Baragar, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll only get better. He still has his rookie status remaining, so suffice to say, there’s a lot of team control remaining there.

Making the bullpen will be harder in 2021 than it was in 2020, since roster sizes will likely shrink back to 26, and since the Giants will probably acquire a few more arms between now and then.

But Baragar will be in the mix for Opening Day 2021, and will almost surely spend a chunk of next year on the team.

Grade

Grading a player like Baragar is difficult, because it’s so arbitrary. Are you grading them in a vacuum, strictly as an MLB reliever? Or are you grading them within the context of being a player who wasn’t even invited to Spring Training, and how they performed relative to expectations?

I haven’t laid out those parameters, and I won’t, so they’ll keep changing. But I can’t ignore context for Baragar.

B+

Poll

How would you grade Caleb Baragar’s season?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    A
    (28 votes)
  • 49%
    A-/B+
    (139 votes)
  • 30%
    B
    (84 votes)
  • 6%
    B-/C+
    (19 votes)
  • 1%
    C
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    F
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    Incomplete
    (3 votes)
280 votes total Vote Now