PT TOMORROW: NL West—SF Rotation Taking Shape

San Francisco Giants

With long-time ace Madison Bumgarner (LHP, ARI) now toeing the rubber for a division rival, the Giants rotation will look quite a bit different heading into 2020—with new faces mixed in with some familiar ones as well.

Veterans Jeff Samardzija (RHP, SF) and Johnny Cueto (RHP, SF) will anchor the top of the staff. Samardzija, 35, enjoyed a nice bounceback campaign in 2019, with a 3.52 ERA that included a sparkling 2.67 ERA across 98 IP in the second half. Take note though: his 91.9 mph velocity is a full couple ticks off his career level (94.1 mph), and a repeat of his fortunate 25%/75% H%/S% seems unlikely. The 34-year-old Cueto, meanwhile, will try to rediscover the All-Star form he flashed from 2014-2016 (2.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 8.2 Dom in 675 IP) after missing a large chunk of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery. Cueto has traditionally done a good job of limiting walks (career 2.6 Ctl), which he’ll need to continue if his propensity for the longball (1.4 hr/9 over last 38 starts) persists.

Newcomer Drew Smyly (LHP, SF) enters the mix having bounced from TEX to PHI last year, where he posted a combined 6.24 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and 9.5 Dom. That said, if your leaguemates get hung up on those unsightly stats on draft day, there could be room for profit. In the second half of last year Smyly scrapped his change-up and leaned more heavily on his cutter and curveball, which he coupled with an uptick in velocity (91.8 mph) en route to a 4.30 xERA, 9.8 Dom (12% SwK) and 3.0 Ctl (61% FpK) in the second half.

Another name generating buzz as a late-round option is former prospect Tyler Beede (RHP, SF). Beede, 27, pitched to a 5.08 ERA (4.75 xERA) across 117 IP at the big-league level. He employed a diverse pitch mix, getting double-digit SwK on his change-up (18.3%), curveball (16.3%) and cutter (17.6%). Add in the improved underlying metrics (65% FpK, 12% SwK) he showed in the second half, and it’s no wonder Stephen Nickrand recently referred to him as “one of the game’s premium end-game targets.”

 

Colorado Rockies

It’s been a turbulent offseason in Colorado despite relatively little action in terms of roster additions/departures, with news of a possible Nolan Arenado (3B, COL) trade dominating much of the discussion.

In terms of on-the-field production, the 28-year-old Arenado continues to be one of the steadiest players in the game. Over the last 5 years, his HR totals have hovered between 37-42, RBI between 110-133, and batting averages between .287 and .315. As noted in the Baseball Forecaster, however, there are a couple of very small chinks in the armor that could begin to show themselves in the coming years—most notably, a career-low xBA (.287) and a fairly sizable gap between his HR (41) and xHR (27).

If Arenado were to be dealt, the most immediate beneficiary would seem to be Garrett Hampson (2B/OF, COL), who would likely get a much longer look at second base while Ryan McMahon (2B/3B, COL) presumably moves over to third. Hampson was one of the most talked-about players heading into 2019 drafts but fell well short of expectations, hitting just .247/.302/.385 with 8 HR and 15 SB in just under 300 AB. He went on an absolute tear in September though, hitting .318 with 5 HR and 9 SB. That's right: nine stolen bases. September stat lines are a notoriously bad barometer for predicting future success, but Hampson was known for having game-changing speed entering the year, and his improved bb% (from 4% to 9%) between halves could be viewed as a young player making the necessary adjustments.

The team’s #3 prospect, Colton Welker (1B/3B, COL) could eventually be an option as well. Although there are some concerns about his lateral quickness at 3B, scouting reports suggest he has good bat speed with room for more raw power, with the ability to cover all four quadrants of the strike zone thanks to advanced barrel control.

And beyond Welker, a selection from this year's draft, Aaron Schunk (3B, COL), could be groomed as a possible alternative in a couple of years. Currently the team’s #14 prospect, Schunk was a two-way collegiate prospect with a good glove and above average raw power, now projected as capable of being an average everyday 3B.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks, who made a somewhat surprising run at the Wild Card last year, are adding more pieces as they push forward in 2020.

Part of that push involved bringing in bullpen reinforcements in the form of Junior Guerra (RHP, ARI), a converted starter who pitched to a 3.55 ERA (4.64 xERA) and 1.12 WHIP while racking up 20 Holds in 72 appearances. His velocity (94.7 mph) has seen a bump since moving to the pen and he’s generating more swinging strikes (12%), but that has yet to show up in his strikeout numbers—with a 8.3 Dom on the season, 7.9 in the second half.

Guerra should nonetheless be there to step in should incumbent closer Archie Bradley (RHP, ARI) falter or need a rest. Bradley assumed the closer role in late July and racked up 17 saves over the season’s final two months, throwing his sinker more (5% usage vs. 18%) in the second half. On the year, Bradley finished with a 3.52 ERA (4.09 xERA), 10.9 Dom (11% SwK), despite an unusually high walk rate (4.5 Ctl). And while the overall profile lacks the dominance of other high-end relievers, he seems to have done enough to earn the team’s trust out of the gate. 


Kevin Ginkel (RHP, ARI), too, is worth keeping an eye on. Ginkel closed 11 games across AA/AAA prior to his August debut, posting a combined 90/22 K/BB in 58 innings of work. He relies on an impressive FB/SL combination, even if the 93.5 mph isn’t exactly overwhelming. The 26-year-old righty could quickly force his way up the pecking order, and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if he ends up handling closer duties at some point this season.

 

San Diego Padres

Jurickson Profar (2B, SD) will be playing for his third team in as many seasons, coming over from Oakland in exchange for Austin Allen (C, OAK) earlier this offseason and reuniting with A.J. Preller, who was the Rangers’ assistant GM when Profar was a top prospect.

Profar, a switch-hitter, saw his BA take a nosedive with the move to Oakland, hitting .218 in 459 AB. A closer look though reveals that the plate skills (9% bb%, 84% ct%) and hard-hit metrics (109 HctX, 98 xPX) stayed relatively stable, and that an ugly 22% h% did much of the damage. His 13% bb% and .296 xBA provide even further reason for optimism, and if he can regain his rhythm on the defensive side of the ball as well, he could be primed for a nice bounceback.

Behind Profar could be Ty France (2B/3B, SD), who last year decimated PCL pitching to the tune of a .399/.477/.770 line with 27 HR in 348 AB, and who amassed a 201 AB at the big-league level. In that time, France hit just .234 (.240 xBA) with 7 HR (96 xPX). His September was particularly encouraging, when he hit .259 (.286 xBA) with 5 HR (124 xPX), providing hope that he can build on that success in his sophomore season.

In addition to newly acquired Jake Cronenworth (2B, SD), another name to watch this spring is Esteban Quiroz (2B, SD). Quiroz isn’t a prospect of note—earning only a 6D rating in the Minor League Baseball Analyst—but there was some thought that having Quiroz in the system gave Padres management more comfort when dealing Luis Urias (2B/SS, MIL) to the Brewers. As for Quiroz, he slashed .271/.384/.539 across 96 games (366 AB) last year in the PCL, hitting 19 HR while driving in 66 runs. He hits LHP/RHP equally well, and his versatile glove could have value at various spots around the infield.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

The team looks set to hand over catching duties to the up-and-coming Will Smith (C, LA), who last year burst onto the scene with a standout rookie performance—hitting 15 HR and driving in 42 runs in just 54 games (170 AB), even enjoying a brief mid-August run hitting in the #3 hole of the Dodgers lineup. Smith had shown improved patience and contact ability at Triple-A before last year’s call-up, and his .253 BA (.258 xBA) along with 69% ct% are both passable, if unspectacular. His extreme fly-ball rate (51% on season, 57% in 2H) could torpedo his h%/BA and lead to some streakiness, but all told there is a lot to like in his profile, and his above-average skills behind the plate should solidify his playing time as he works through any necessary adjustments.

For now, back-up duties appear ready to fall to Austin Barnes (C, LA), who over the last couple of years has disappointed fantasy owners hoping he would build on an impressive 2017 in which he hit .289 (.295 xBA) with 8 HR and 4 SB in 218 AB. In the two years since, Barnes has hit a combined .204 with 9 HR and 7 SB in 412 AB, earning a negative rotisserie value (5x5) in each season. The 30-year-old has seen his plate skills erode (10% bb%, 74% ct% last year), and his hard-hit metrics remain below league-average, which doesn’t make for a great combo when mixed with his increased FB% (42%) last year.

Once thought to be ahead of Smith in the Dodgers MiLB rankings, 21-year-old Keibert Ruiz (C, LA) is still a name worth keeping on radars. Ruiz got off to a slow start in Double-A and then broke his finger not long after his Triple-A debut, ending with a combined slash line of .261/.331/.347 with 6 HR across two levels. Still, as noted in the Minor League Baseball Analyst, his “[d]isciplined, contact-oriented approach at the plate and average power should keep him on track for a 2020 MLB debut.”


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.