Giants pitchers and catchers officially reported to spring training on Wednesday, February 17th. Today will be the first official workout, with starters Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Matt Cain expected to throw their first bullpens of 2016.
The potential of the Giants pitching rotation is sky high, with the key word here being potential. Of course, there are tons of question marks around the health of the entire Giants team, But, if everyone can stay healthy, and it is a big if, boy are the Giants loaded and ready to compete for another even-year World Series crown.
Manager Bruce Bochy announced at the annual Giants Fan Fest this past Saturday that Bumgarner will, for the third consecutive year, take the ball on opening day on April 4th against the Milwaukee Brewers. Either Cueto or fellow free agent signee Jeff Samardzija will follow Bumgarner, with Jake Peavy and Cain rounding out the rotation.
If the rotation can remain healthy, the Giants will once again own one of the top rotations in all of baseball, something that lead to their success in winning the 2010 and 2012 World Series titles.
Bumgarner, the 26 year old kid from North Carolina, is coming off another dominant season in which he went 18-9 with a 2.93 ERA and 234 K’s in 218 innings pitching. Bumgarner threw to a 1.008 WHIP 2.87 FIP, his strongest since 2011. The scary part? We may have not seen the best of the bearded lefty ace. Bumgarner has reportedly put on a few pounds of muscle, and is a wise pick to finish at the top of the Cy Young voting this year- especially given he no longer will have the pressure of being ‘the guy’ in the rotation.
Cueto, who signed a six year deal worth $130 million with an opt out after year two, will likely serve as the number two starter barring a disastrous spring training. Cueto, when heathy, is one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. While he had a disappointing stay in Kansas City, Cueto absolutely dominated in the hitter friendly Great American ballpark as a Cincinnati Red. A 20 game winner in 2014, Cueto put up a 2.25 ERA over 243 2/3 innings, striking out 242. Absolutely gaudy numbers, and making the move to a spacious AT&T park will certainly help his cause as he looks to bounce back from a mediocre second half in 2015.
Samardzija is an interesting case. While he has never quite put up the season that many pegged him to be capable of, his arm is still lively with his 95-97 mph fastball to give the Giants a hope that working with the likes of Dave Righetti, Bruce Bochy and Buster Posey will help Samardzija put it all together.
Rounding out the rotation will be Cain and Peavy, both huge question marks with their health. Cain, given his age and track record, has a higher ceiling if he can get his game back on track. He admitted last year was a learning curve, where he essentially relearned how to pitch after altering his pitching angle. We saw towards the end of the year that he was able to regain his velocity, and while he may never be the horse he once was, having Cain at 80% of what he used to be would easily make him one of the best number four starters in all of baseball.
Peavy, in the last year of his contract, showed that he is still effective and competitive when healthy. Peavy threw to a 3.58 ERA, and while he doesn’t possess the same swing and miss stuff he used to in his hey-day, Peavy is still able to craft his game and get hitters out. He makes for a great number five, if he can remain healthy.
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