It is anybody’s best guess as to how the San Francisco Giants starting rotation will look like for the 2014 season. After a stretch of being looked at as the best rotation in all of baseball, it has declined dramatically this season.
Tim Lincecum has remained inconsistent, Matt Cain has had a shaky year, Ryan Vogelsong has been hurt, and #RallyZito hasn’t exactly translated from the playoffs to the regular season.
What had once been relied on as the backbone and foundation of this team has now turned into a question mark when given players toe the rubber.
With Lincecum and Chad Gaudin free agents, and team options for Vogelsong and Zito, it will be very interesting to see how manager Bruce Bochy sets up the five man rotation to start the 2014 campaign.
A lot can change, but here is my best guess as to how the 2014 rotation will shape up –
1) Madison Bumgarner, LHP
It is a no doubter that Bumgarner, alongside Matt Cain, will be a part of the 2014 rotation. Ever since bursting onto the scene in the middle of the 2010 championship season as a 20 year old, “Mad Bum” has seemed to grow and develop every season.
This season, Bumgarner has taken a Giant step, making the All Star team for the first time in his bright looking career. With question marks surrounding the rest of the rotation, Giants’ fans have felt pretty confident each time Bumgarner has the ball.
2) Matt Cain, RHP
Cain hasn’t had the type of season that Giants fans had hoped for with a 6-6 record and a 5.00 ERA, but the matter of the fact is that Cain is part of the Giants core and a huge part of the future of this organization. Cain and Tim Lincecum have both struggled this season, but for different reasons.
While many worry about the durability of the 5-10, 171 pound Lincecum, Cains concerns seem to center around his mechanics and pitch location, which San Francisco know that he can fix. The Giants organization committed a lot of money to Cain for a lot of years, and expect him to have an improved 2014 season
Bumgarner and Cain are givens to be atop of the rotation, but then it gets interesting from there.
3) Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
The Giants have a $6 million dollar option for Vogelsong next season, and with very little major league ready pitching in the farm system, it is almost certain that he will be back.
Vogelsong had been rock solid in 2011 and 2012, eating up innings and giving the team a chance to win every game he pitched. He did not have the best start to start the 2013 campaign before going down with a broken hand, but he seems to be in good shape, throwing the ball well, and expected to give the rotation a spark when he returns sometime in the beginning of August.
4) Edwin Escobar, LHP
Escobar impressed many in the cactus league and was viewed as a potential candidate for the rotation after one more season under his belt in the minor leagues. He has had a nice year with the Class A San Jose Giants and Class AA Richmond Flying squirrels, posting a 3.15 ERA with 1.20 strikeouts per inning pitched.
If he were to be called up to the rotation, Bochy would almost certainly put him in the fourth spot to switch between LHP’s and RHP’s. The Giants may have to call up someone from the minors, and Escobar is a strong candidate.
5) Chad Gaudin, RHP
For a contract that doesn’t even pay him $1 million, Gaudin has had a tremendous season and has done more than anyone could have expected. Originally signed to fill the long reliever role, Gaudin has excelled since moving into the starting rotation, posting a 2.77 ERA on the season. He will be relatively inexpensive, and San Francisco should make an effort to bring him back.
Where is Tim Lincecum? If he is not traded before the end of the season, I just don’t see San Francisco offering him a lucrative contract based on the success that he has had in the past – the two Cy Young’s should mean nothing to the Giants front office when negotiating with Lincecum – that is the old Timmy, and he will never be the same, 97 MPH, flame throwing ace that he once was. The Giants will put what they believe is a fair offer, and if he doesn’t accept, they will move on.
San Francisco will have to piece together their rotation for 2014 season, but come 2015, they may not have to worry for a while. The Giants have three very strong pitching prospects in Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Chris Stratton that are expected to need one more season to mature before they are major league ready.
A lot can change, but a potential 2015 rotation of Bumgarner (Age 25 – in 2015), Cain (30), Krick (22), Blackburn (22) and Stratton (24) sure sounds like a bright future.