The San Francisco Giants pitching staff is up in the air at the moment, and outside of Madison Bumgarner there really isn’t a sure bet in the rotation. Sure, Matt Cain is still with the club and Chris Heston has a productive rookie season, but Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong are set to be free agents and Tim Hudson is retiring. One of the team’s solid “Core Four” relievers is also retiring in Jeremy Affeldt, so there will be some questions for the Giants to address this offseason. With numerous free agent starting pitchers, including Zack Greinke whom many San Franciscans have their collective hearts set on, there will be ways to address the rotation via free agency–especially with so much money coming off the books in Lincecum ($18M in 2005), Vogelsong ($4M), Hudson ($12M) and Affeldt ($6M). That’s $40 million freed up for next season that can be spent without the Giants upping their payroll at all from 2015.
The bullpen logged a 3.33 ERA in 2015 while the cobbled together starting staff put up a 3.95 mark. The Giants will do their due diligence on just about all of the big name starting pitchers, which should help improve that ERA and give the Giants a nice one-two combo with Bumgarner and also put less pressure on Cain and Heston to be top of the rotation guys and shift them lower in the pecking order where they are better suited.
Two Minor League names that could help the Giants next season are left-handed pitcher Adalberto Mejia and right-handed reliever Raymond Black. Mejia was suspended for 50 games this season after testing positive for a banned substance and spent another month on the shelf with a left shoulder injury. With these two setbacks, Mejia tallied just 51.1 innings pitched in Double-A Richmond where he went 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 12 games (9 starts). In his time with the Flying Squirrels, Mejia struck out as many batters (38) as he allowed to reach base via a base hit. MLB Pipeline believes Mejia can profile as a number three starter down the road with his decent command and sinking fastball. When Mejia develops his curveball into a solid third pitch, he should find himself in San Francisco. His ETA on MLB Pipeline is 2016.
Black spent his season in Hi-A San Jose and also had to battle the injury bug in 2015. In the hitter friendly California League, Black posted a 2.88 ERA over 25 innings, striking out 51 (18.4 K/9 rate) in the process. The downside here is that he also walked a batter an inning on average, so his command will have to improve before getting a look in San Francisco, but both he and Mejia are in Arizona right now working out the kinks in the Fall League.
Black consistently touches 100 miles per hour, and according to Pipeline can reach 103 mph when he’s feeling frisky. He impressed Keith Law on Tuesday night:
RHP Ray Black of the @SFGiants just threw 8 pitches at 100 or 101 mph in the 9th inning here in Scottsdale
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) October 21, 2015
While neither player will be ready to take the field come opening day, with some growth over the next month and a solid spring training, both players could find themselves just an injury away from being called up. Plugging in Black with the presumed future closer and fellow fireballer Hunter Strickland could be a combo that rivals the Royals bullpen, while Mejia could become another solid left-handed starter in a rotation that could certainly use another southpaw outside of Bumgarner.