San Francisco Giants Minor League Major Performers: Pitchers of the Year

WASHINGTON, D.C. - JULY 15: Shaun Anderson #32"tpitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - JULY 15: Shaun Anderson #32"tpitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park on July 15, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 23: A general view of the pitching mound is seen during the MLB match between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at Sydney Cricket Ground on March 23, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) /

Left-Handed Starting Pitchers

John Gavin

22-year-old southpaw John Gavin earned a spot on the Sally League All-Star team with an excellent campaign in Augusta. In 20 starts, Gavin pitched to a 2.08 ERA and 0.958 WHIP while striking out 111 batters in 95 innings compared to 37 walks.

While navigating his first trek through full-season ball, the 2017 eighth-round pick shut out his opponents five times, and held them to one run nine other times. Only twice did he allow more than three runs. In 10 of his starts he recorded more strikeouts than innings pitched, including setting a career-high with nine punchouts four times.

He didn’t fare as well after an early August promotion to San Jose, with a 5.60 ERA and 1.463 WHIP in six starts. Still, he struck out 28 batters in 27.1 innings, and used his excellent changeup to show flashes of the success he had in Augusta. That includes a couple of back-to-back five-inning starts in which he struck out six and seven batters, respectively.

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There were plenty of highlights during his Augusta stint. On June 23rd, Gavin threw seven no-hit innings against the Rome Braves, striking out nine to go with one walk. He received a no-decision as the game went 10 innings. He victimized Rome again on July 8th, throwing a seven-inning complete game shutout in game two of a doubleheader. He allowed two hits and a walk with six strikeouts. On the year, he finished second in the organization with 139 strikeouts.

Conner Menez

23-year-old Conner Menez bounced around quite a bit in the system in 2018. He started the year with one start in San Jose, then moved up for a start in Sacramento when San Francisco pulled up some starters. He went back to San Jose for eight starts before being brought back to Sacramento for another spot start. He was in San Jose for a pair of starts after that, then moved up to Richmond, where he finished his year with 14 starts.

There were some really brilliant flashes in those moves. During his second stint in Sacramento, he threw seven shutout innings on May 31st, allowing one hit and one walk while he struck out eight, earning the PCL’s Pitcher of the Week award. In his 28 starts, he struck out at least seven batters in half of them, and reached double-digits three times. On August 19th, he punched out a career-high 11 batters for Richmond.

His ERA (4.46) and WHIP (1.382) for the year weren’t pretty, but there’s no denying his strikeout abilities. His 171 total strikeouts led the Giants’ organization by a wide margin, while his 11.4 strikeouts per nine were third (min. 50 innings). He also finished atop the organization with 28 starts, was fourth with 131.1 innings, and was second with nine wins.

Sonny Vargas

A 17-year-old southpaw from Venezuela, Sonny Vargas started his first professional season in the Dominican Summer League team’s bullpen. It did not go well. In his first four appearances, all as a reliever, Vargas allowed eight runs on 10 hits and four walks in just 6.2 innings. Opposing hitters slashed .357/.455/.500 in 34 plate appearances.

He moved into the starting rotation after that and turned his season around. Vargas made 11 starts and pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 0.902 WHIP, striking out 42 batters and walking only 10 in 51 innings. That opponent slash-line dipped all the way down to .189/.240/.258.

Vargas finished the season on a tear. In his final six starts of 2018, he allowed only five runs (four earned) in 32 innings pitched while walking just two batters and striking out 28. Despite the way his year started, it was an overall successful debut season for Vargas.

Honorable Mentions:

19-year-old Seth Corry began the year in the AZL for the second straight season, where he made nine starts. He did well, earning a 2.61 ERA and striking out 42 batters in 38 innings. His ERA jumped up to 5.49 in five starts with Salem-Keizer, though he only allowed one earned run in his first three starts at the level. Overall, he struck out 59 batters in 57.1 innings, though the 32 walks are rather ugly.

Also in the DSL, Juan Sanchez earned a spot on the All-Star team with a strong year in his first pro season. He was excellent in his first 10 starts, throwing to a 1.79 ERA and 1.013 WHIP while holding opponents to a .218 average. Things fell apart for him August, however. He allowed 21 hits and four walks that led to 14 runs in 10.2 innings over his last three starts while batters hit .404. His 3.39 ERA and 1.246 WHIP on the season look solid, but were both inflated by the latter part of his year.