Player Profiles 2020: San Francisco Giants Bullpen
San Francisco’s bullpen was a middle-of-the-pack unit in 2019, though it did boast several strong performances from individual members. Will Smith saved 34 games (tied for fifth in MLB) and struck out 96 batters in 65.1 innings. Reyes Moronta (70 Ks, 2.86 ERA), Sam Dyson (2.47 ERA, 0.90 WHIP), and Mark Melancon (3.50 ERA, 44 Ks in 46.1 IP) also stood out.
The issue for the Giants is none of these players remain on the roster for 2020. Dyson, Melancon, and a resurgent Drew Pomeranz were all dealt in summer deadline moves. Moronta suffered a catastrophic shoulder injury that will keep him out of 2020, and Smith kicked off free agency by signing a lucrative deal with the Atlanta Braves (three years, $39 million).
All of these subtractions create a murky fantasy future for the Giants bullpen in 2020, especially when paired with their hiring of manager Gabe Kapler, who caught a lot of flack for his bullpen management during his recent tenure in Philadelphia.
|Potential Closer||Potential Closer||Setup||Middle||Middle|
|Tony Watson||Shaun Anderson||Sam Coonrod||Trevor Gott||Tyler Rogers|
Potential Closer – Tony Watson
Tony Watson fell off heavily in the second half of the season, posting a 5.59 ERA and 1.45 WHIP after the break. His overall production (4.17 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) was a far cry from what he posted in 2018 (2.59 ERA, 1.03 WHIP), and he regressed badly in K% in 2019 (-9.8 K%). His plate-discipline metrics remained steady (12.7 SwStr% in both 2018 and 2019; +3.6 O-Swing% in 2019), so a return to higher strikeout production in 2020 is not out of the question.
For that to occur, Watson’s secondary offerings need to regain their previous effectiveness, especially his slider. After two straight seasons of sub-.200 production against his slider, batters teed off on it in 2019, slashing .474/.323/.684. The pitch also had decreased effectiveness in other areas (-18.3 K%, -9.9 Whiff%, -11.7 PutAway%). As the veteran of the group and one of the few options with previous closing experience, Watson will be a candidate to finish games for the Giants in 2020. A lack of strikeouts limits his value in that type of role, as does the unclear approach Kapler may take with his pen.
Potential Closer – Shaun Anderson
Shaun Anderson may not end up in the bullpen for 2020, but the closer experience he had in a past life (0.97 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 13 saves as a junior at the University of Florida) makes him a unique possibility as the Giants figure out their roster in the spring.
His brief 2019 foray into relieving did not go well (6.08 ERA in 13.1 IP, 1.58 WHIP), though it did wonders for his strikeout production (10.1 K/9 as a reliever, 6 K/9 as a starter) and the effectiveness of his slider (52.9% K%, 46.2% Whiff%, 33.3% PutAway% in September).
Anderson is a dark-horse candidate for low-cost relief production and has the pedigree to surprise if given a full-time relief role in 2020. His control will need to improve (8.9% BB% in 2019), but there is enough there to consider him as an under-the-radar add based on how spring training rolls out.
Setup – Sam Coonrod
Sam Coonrod debuted in 2019 and logged 27.2 innings for the Giants during his rookie campaign. His 3.58 ERA looks solid, though less so when you dig deeper (5.40 SIERA). A high walk rate (13.2% BB%), limited strikeouts (17.5% K%), and a below-average swinging-strike rate (8.8%) all come together to question the validity of his performance.
The righty did showcase higher strikeout abilities in the minors (27.9 K% in Triple-A) and has the stuff to develop into a late-inning arm if he can get a handle on his control issues. He offers limited fantasy value but could gain value as he develops.
Middle – Trevor Gott
The Giants acquired Trevor Gott from the Washington Nationals at the beginning of spring training and were rewarded with 52.2 innings of solid production (4.44 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) for their investment. Advanced metrics liked Gott’s performance better than his end result (3.12 FIP, 3.73 SIERA), and he posted solid rates for both K% (26.6%) and BB% (7.9%) on the season.
Gott was also very difficult to take out of the yard, posting the 10th-best HR/FB% in MLB among relievers with at least 50 innings pitched. The lack of a true closer in San Francisco will mean open competition for that role in spring training (barring other winter additions), and while Gott is better suited for earlier innings, he could be an intriguing option at the back of a pen if given the chance. Unless that happens, his fantasy value is minimal at best.
Middle – Tyler Rogers
Tyler Rogers was completing his fourth season at Triple-A before getting the call to join the Giants at the end of August. He was very effective in his 17.2 innings pitched for the season (1.02 ERA, 0.85 WHIP) and downright untouchable for the bulk of that time (0.63 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in September). The submariner is an unusual pitcher in that he does not break 85 mph on any of his offerings. His main weapon during his brief run was an impressively slow curveball (Baseball Savant clocked it at 72.8 mph) that generated big league results (54.2% K%, 39% Whiff%, 30.2% PutAway%).
The younger brother to Minnesota Twins closer Taylor Rogers has limited fantasy value and will likely only be used for specific matchups should he make the team in 2020. Despite that, he is fun to write about and should be followed if only for moments like this:
First career strikeout for Tyler Rogers. I have no idea what this pitch is: pic.twitter.com/Sk8WmugDQJ
— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) August 31, 2019
Jandel Gustave, Conner Menez, Melvin Adon
One thing is for sure, there will be a lot of competition during spring training to fill out the Giants bullpen. Jandel Gustave was solid in 24.1 innings with the club in 2019 (2.96 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) and has a high-octane fastball that could play well in an extended role, though heavy control issues exist with him. Conner Menez (30.1% K% in 17 MLB IP, 31.1% at Triple-A) and Melvin Adon (31.2% K% at AA, 32.1% K% in Triple-A, 80-grade fastball) are other young options to keep an eye on, though the latter has severe control issues of his own to work through before he will be viable in the big leagues. The signing of Kevin Gausman and the potential for other additions to the rotation mix could also push rotation candidates (Dereck Rodriguez, Tyler Beede, etc.) into the pen as well.
Photo by Stephen Hopson/Icon Sportswire / Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)