The Giants have more depth this season than they’ve had in recent years. Unfortunately, it looks like the pitching depth will be tested early, as Tyler Beede was removed from his most recent outing in Spring Training. After experiencing tightness in his elbow and leaving his outing, we learned that Beede is suffering from a flexor strain and a sprained UCL.
While surgery isn’t expected, he is expected to miss some time. What does Beede’s injury mean for the Giants? He looked like the favorite to win the final rotation spot – especially after his hot start this spring with his three scoreless innings. However, the Giants do have some options to replace him.
See related article: Giants Starting Pitching Rotation Breakdown
Fortunately, the team has some in-house options to hold them over. Long-time journeyman Trevor Cahill had a rough 2019 but saw his GB/FB rate go from 1.96 to 1.35, meaning that he gave up a ton fewer ground balls and a ton more fly balls. From 2015-2018 he had GB/FB rates of 3.57/2.62/2.11/1.96 so we should expect his GB/FB rate to normalize and so should his ERA.
Dereck Rodriguez is also up for the job. Rodriguez pitched to a 5.64 ERA in 2019 and his underlying numbers don’t suggest much improvement going forward. So there isn’t much hope for him and his ability to become anything more than a long reliever.
Tyson Ross wasn’t great in 2019 either. Ross was an all-star caliber arm with the Padres in 2016 but has seen his career derailed due to injuries. He pitched to a 6.11 ERA last season in just seven starts as he dealt with another injury. In 2018, he pitched to a 4.15 ERA and all the underlying numbers suggested the upward trend was going to continue. Expect a minor bounce back from him if he breaks camp.
Andrew Triggs is another journeyman type who has a shot to make the team as a reliever or a starter. He falls in line with pitchers that struggled in 2018 but should rebound. Triggs missed all of 2019 with an injury. 2018 was rough for his peripheral stats but the good news was that he pitched to a hard contact percentage of 26.7% in ’16 and 26.9% in ’17. Before that, it had skyrocketed to 40.7% in ’18. Everything in his underlying stats says he should bounce back to a mid to low four ERA in 2020.
Finally, Logan Webb is the likeliest answer to who will get the fifth rotation spot. He has elite stuff with a 50-grade fastball, 60-grade slider, and a 55-grade changeup, giving him two above-average pitches. His underlying numbers suggest pure dominance. Webb had a 4.12 FIP, 3.89 xFIP, 48.8% GB%, and a 23.1% FB%. All of those numbers suggest a future number three starter with upside for more. It feels like he is the no-brainer for the final rotation spot but the Giants have made it clear they want to limit his innings which may cause them to go in a different direction for now.
External Options for the Final Rotation Spot
There are still some free agent options that the Giants could consider if they want to bolster their depth. Andrew Cashner stands out as the best of the bunch. The righty pitched to a 4.68 ERA, 4.66 FIP, 5.11 xFIP and a 1.8 WAR across two teams last year. All of his underlying stats suggest a similar outcome in 2020 if not worse. He wouldn’t be the worst option, but also not the best.
Another decent free agent option would be Jason Vargas. Vargas has long been considered a quality starter at the back end of rotations like the Mets. He pitched to a 4.51 ERA/4.76 FIP/5.44 xFIP and also pitched to a 1.8 WAR. He had a BABIP of .276 which suggests he was lucky in 2019 and his FIP and xFIP support that notion. We should expect him to regress in 2020.
Even talking to the Marlins about Jose Urena could be an option. Urena pitched to a 5.21 ERA/4.74 FIP/4.60 xFIP and a 0.6 WAR last season. He had his BABIP sit at .323, while his GB% and FB% maintained, as well as his K-BB% which means that he simply had bad luck. He should regress to a low to mid four ERA in 2020.
The loss of Tyler Beede is already pushing the Giants’ pitching depth. While there is no need to panic, the Giants would love to escape the spring with no more injuries – especially to the pitching staff.
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