Can young relievers make an impact in the bullpen?
The Giants farm system isn’t exactly stacked, to put it lightly, but they have a few useful relief pitcher prospects and young players. Three of them have the potential of making notable contributions to the bullpen next season. The most well known is Hunter Strickland. Strickland isn’t really a prospect anymore, as the 27-year old has 58.1 career innings in the major leagues. Still, he’s a young player with only a year of experience in the big leagues. His impressive season went largely unnoticed around baseball—a 2.45 ERA, 2.90 FIP, 8.77 K/9, and 1.75 BB/9 were all very good. Strickland has three useful pitches in his arsenal, including an elite fastball with elite velocity and a plus curveball. Strickland has the look of the Giants’ closer of the future, and that role could be given to him as soon as early next season.
One of the Giants most electric pitchers is Kyle Crick. The Giants gave Crick every chance to be a starter, as Crick could have been a stud if he could’ve harnessed his control. But, a 9.43 BB/9 last season was enough to convince the team that he probably wasn’t going to be able to start. After being converted to a reliever midway through last year, Crick had a 3.86 ERA, 13.7 K/9, but unfortunately, an 11.14 BB/9. Crick’s stuff is major league ready, but his command is lagging far behind. There’s a chance that things click for Crick next season, and in that case, he could shoot to the big leagues. As long as his control is average, the 23-year old has elite reliever upside.
The last exciting reliever in the Giants system is Ray Black. Black has special velocity, being clocked as high as 102 miles per hour on radar guns. His elite fastball and solid curveball has allowed for elite strikeout rates (18.36 K/9 last season in High-A), but just like Crick, his control has held him back. Despite a 2.88 ERA in 25 innings last season, Crick had a horrible 9 BB/9. As the case with Crick, Black is nearly major league ready, with control being the only thing keeping him in the minors. The same situation with Crick applies to Black—improved control could quickly lead to an exciting major league debut.
It’s not hard to see Hunter Strickland being a huge contributor for the Giants next season, and in a perfect world, Crick and Black wouldn’t be too far behind. Unfortunately, in this world, control is important, so the chances of the latter two prospects reaching the big leagues aren’t great. Still, it wouldn’t take more than better control for Crick and Black to be dominant relievers as soon as next season, and they’re fun names to watch.