With another season of Giants baseball looming on the horizon, Bobby Evans said they are expecting to have Chris Stratton and Ty Blach as the fourth and fifth starters respectively in next year’s rotation. Nonetheless, Evans didn’t count out the possibility of either Tyler Beede or Andrew Suarez stealing those starting roles from Stratton or Blach. Here are the cases for and against each of these pitchers being named to next year’s rotation.
Pros: Of the four, Blach easily has the most experience in the Major Leagues with 26 starts over the last two seasons. Amidst an up-and-down 2017 season, Blach pitched exceptionally well over a four-game stretch late last May, where he had a 1.76 ERA and wins against a pair of soon-to-be playoff teams in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs.
His pitching style also works hand-in-hand with the defensive talents of Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik. When a pitcher like Jeff Samardzija takes the mound, fans expect to see plenty of strikeouts. With Blach, you won’t see that. Instead, he led his fellow starters with a 46.7 ground ball percentage in 2017. And adding Evan Longoria to an already defensively-loaded infield only betters Blach’s chances to succeed.
Cons: Blach had his fare share of struggles last season, resulting in a 8-12 record with a 4.78 ERA. Each of his decisions came after joining the rotation in late April, when Madison Bumgarner hit the disabled list following his dirt biking accident. That’s where Blach remained until being demoted to the bullpen in early September after losing his last five starts.
One possible reason for his troubles, especially late in the season, could be his response to an added workload. Although he pitched 179.2 innings in 2016, only 17 of those were thrown in the Major Leagues, and struggling through 163.2 innings entirely with the Giants last year could be a sign of endurance issues.
Pros: Despite struggling through the minor leagues, specifically the start of last season when he was 4-5 with a 5.11 ERA in 15 starts in Triple-A Sacramento, Stratton reached the Major Leagues around the same time as Blach. In 2016, he had a 3.60 ERA in seven appearances and 10 innings, along with his first career win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 11, but didn’t make his first start with the Giants until last season.
Although the Detroit Tigers spoiled Statton’s starting debut, handing him the loss after scoring five runs through 6.2 innings, his success turned around after rejoining the rotation in early August. Stratton finished the season 4-2 with a 2.42 ERA in nine starts. Like Blach, Stratton was incredibly successful against playoff-caliber opponents, boasting 10-strikeout games against the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Cons: However, after seeing Blach struggle with a full workload, last year’s sample size didn’t guarantee that Stratton can do any better. Despite his success, Stratton only threw 58.2 innings, a workload similar to that of a reliever as opposed to an every-fifth-day starter. If Stratton wins the starting job after Spring Training, the Giants would be wise to monitor how the young pitcher progresses as his number of innings increases.
Pros: After four years in the minor leagues, Beede, the Giants’ No. 21 overall selection in 2014, had his first taste of the Major Leagues last spring. He finished Spring Training 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA through 13.1 innings pitched after making his final start against the Athletics at Oakland Coliseum. He held the A’s to two runs and five hits while striking out five through five innings to ultimately receive the win.
Prior to that, Beede was selected to the Futures Game with Double-A Richmond and was a California League Mid-Season All-Star with Single-A+ San Jose in 2015. Then, he went on to become an Eastern League Mid-Season All-Star with Richmond and a MiLB.com Organization All-Star the following year.
As the only top-five pitcher in the Giants’ farm system, according to MLB.com, Beede is the closest to a Major League debut and possibly a shot at the rotation.
Cons: Unfortunately for Beede, an already tough 2017 season with the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats was cut short because of a groin injury last July. Leading up to the injury, Beede was 6-7 in 19 starts with a bloated 4.79 ERA. He’s since made two starts in the Arizona Fall League, the first of which he allowed five runs through two innings.
Although he bounced back to hold his opposition to two unearned runs through four innings, Beede will have to prove he’s put this injury behind him if he hopes to have a shot at the Major League rotation.
Pros: As for Suarez, the best way for him to find success in Spring Training is to rely on his defense the same way Blach does. In 88.2 innings pitched in Sacramento last season, Suarez held a 49.2 ground ball percentage, along with a 6-6 record with a 3.55 ERA. Suarez’s pitching style can benefit with the reliability of the Giants’ defense at his disposal, but he’s going to have to take full advantage of that this spring if he hopes to win next year’s starting role.
Cons: Although Suarez’s numbers haven’t been horrendous since the Giants selected him in the second round of the 2014 MLB Draft, they don’t exactly scream that of a pitcher who’s ready to jump into a Major League rotation and his success is on a downward trend.
Suarez pitched phenomenally in his first season in the Giants’ minor league system, maintaining a 1.60 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched between the Arizona Rookie League and Single-A+ San Jose Giants, but wasn’t as dominant the following two years. He was 9-8 and held a 3.63 ERA with San Jose and Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels in 2016. Then, Suarez was 6-6 with a 3.55 ERA in Sacramento last season.
Granted, Suarez’s statistics could be much worse and given his small sample size in Triple-A there’s certainly the possibility of improvement, but of the four he appears to be the farthest away from making the rotation.