The San Francisco Giants could head towards a rebuild, though with some players who may be difficult to jettison (like Evan Longoria). That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily going to push towards challenging for the NL West in 2019, but instead they can’t take the “atomic” route trading everything that isn’t nailed down as they look 2-3 years down the road.
Where they likely can cash in, and arguably should, is with their bullpen arms. With high leverage left-handed pitchers they should be able to get strong future assets for players who likely won’t be a factor when their time comes to compete.
Should and will are two different things, though. While there have been rumors, for now the Giants still have Will Smith and Tony Watson on the roster and they figure to play a prominent role in the bullpen. Let’s take a look their upside, as well as who could step in if/when a trade occurs:
The Closer – Will Smith
Smith has long been a strong setup man, though he missed all of 2017 so it was fair to wonder if he could return to form. He answered those questions, and when an opportunity emerged after Hunter Strickland’s injury Smith proved that he could flourish in the role as he racked up 14 SV.
Over 53.0 IP Smith posted a 2.55 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, displaying strikeouts (12.06 K/9) and surprising control (2.55 BB/9). The latter has never been his strength (3.34 career BB/9), though he was getting more swings and misses outside the strike zone (39.0% O-Swing%). That justifies the improvement and he was consistently good (only one month with a BB/9 over 3.00).
He also showed enough groundballs (41.7%) and that he can get both RHH and LHH hitters:
- vs. LHH – .169/.183/.257
- vs. RHH – .202/.285/.298
If he sticks with San Francisco Smith could be a Top 10 closer in ’19.
The Setup Man – Mark Melancon
Melancon may get the first opportunity to step in if Smith needs to be replaced, but that’s more due to his experience. He did post a 3.23 ERA over 39.0 IP last season and has typically had strong control (2.11 BB/9 for his career, though a 3.23 in ’18) and consistent groundballs (55.5% for his career, 52.7% in ’18). He lacks the strikeout stuff of a prototypical closer (7.15 K/9 in ’18) and he also isn’t going to be the future. The Giants could audition him, to try and drive up his trade value, but he likely won’t be more than a short-term play.
The Name to Watch – Reyes
Those playing in dynasty formats will want to acquaint themselves with Moronta, who likely is the long-term solution for San Francisco. There is no questioning his ability to generate gaudy strikeout totals (10.94 K/9 in ’18) as the hard-thrower (he averaged 96.8 mph) has already proven capable at the highest level. He also showed an ability to generate weak contact (29.5% Hard%) and popups (21.3% IFFB), so there isn’t a need for consistent groundballs.
Moronta’s upside lies with his ability to throw strikes consistently:
- Minor League Career – 3.8 BB/9
- 2018 – 5.12 BB/9
Given the other numbers all he needs is to get his walk rate down to 4.00-4.50 and he’s going to be a lockdown closer. The 26-year old needs to take the necessary step forward now, but it’s not impossible that he does. Those searching for saves want to have him at the top of their list to monitor. Of course the Giants could take the “frugal” approach, looking to keep him out of the ninth inning due to the risk of an inflated arbitration cost.
Time will tell, but there’s enough upside to monitor him closely.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Reference