Keeping a working and deep bullpen is important to a baseball team. When the Giants set a franchise record for wins in 2021, they had a great bullpen. When they struggled in 2022, the bullpen was struggling as well.
The good news is that the farm system is deep with interesting arms, although no top tier closer types. What’s better is that the system is top-heavy. A couple of these prospects have already had MLB debuts, and more than half have been up at Triple-A. So a lot of these players could be seen and be a big part of the team this very season.
Will they all pay off? Probably not. But these are the names you’ll want to know this season.
Cole Waites rocketed up the farm system in 2022, and now sits on the verge of a regular job in the minors. Waites has the look, the arsenal, and the hair to be a classic closer, but even if he doesn’t reach that level, Waites could become a hard-throwing compliment to Camilo Doval at the back end of the bullpen.
After getting added to the 40-man roster ahead of the 2022 season, Randy Rodriguez flirted with some starting early in the year. But once he switched back to the bullpen, the Giants pushed him quickly up the system, and his stuff could land him deep into the bullpen rotation once he makes it.
The Giants’ top reliever draft pick from 2020 moved up to Triple-A mid-season and dealt with some challenges, but his fastball-curveball pairing made him a very hard pitcher to hit, even as he had other struggles. Once he’s healthy and gets his stuff back, Dabovich should be in Sacramento and ready to make the big leagues soon.
Trevor McDonald was drafted as a raw but talented high schooler in 2019, and just like outfielder Grant McCray, McDonald finally had his breakout season in 2022. Although he was used a lot as starter that season, McDonald will likely be moved to the bullpen soon and shoot up the system.
A longtime talented pitcher, Blake Rivera finally had his healthiest season in 2022, though he still missed a couple of months, but his numbers showed the potential he’s always had. He’ll be in Sacramento in 2023, and while he won’t be an option right away for the big leagues, he could be later in the season.
With the Mets, Szapucki was called up to the Majors for only one game in 2022…and it was against the Giants, and the Giants knocked him around a bit. But once Szapucki got traded to the Giants, his performance kicked to another level. He’ll be up and down this season between SF and Sacramento as needed, and could be a key lefty piece for Kapler’s bullpen.
Uber Mejías was a big, late international signing after defecting from Cuba a couple of years ago. A little older than most international signings at 21 and with some bigtime experience, Mejías could go either as a starter or reliever, but until we see him play, I’m going conservative with predictions with his role as a reliever and his ranking. But he could move up quickly.
It’s been a long, slow push for the power lefty after he had a great start in Sacramento this season. He sits on the verge in Triple-A still, as the lefty still needs to work on his stamina, and keeping right-handers off-balance.
The Giants took a big swing on Matt Mikulski in the second round of the 2021 draft, banking on his velocity he showed in his senior year at college. Unfortunately, he was missing it in 2022, and Mikulski struggled through the season. If he gets his velocity back, he could be moved to the bullpen to focus on his strengths.
A 6th round pick in 2022, Birdsong dominated in his very short pro debut late in the season, including striking out 12 and walking none in in just 5.2 innings. Can he keep up to those expectations in a full season? If the big guy keeps getting strikeouts, he’ll move quickly.