After the all the buzz surrounding the San Francisco Giants heading into the off-season, they failed to hit pay dirt on two of their biggest targets before baseball’s Winter Meetings kicked off. Then, news broke that Marcell Ozuna also moved to a new team that is not the Giants. Did the Rule 5 Draft yield anything positive, or was it more of the same for fans of the black and orange?
Many Giants fans might be familiar with the right-hander, Albert Suarez. He debuted in the big leagues with San Francisco in May of 2016. He would compile seven straight innings across four games without allowing an earned run. Then, in relief of a Matt Cain outing cut short by injury, Suarez would step in. He allowed three runs over five innings, and took the loss.
Suarez would bounce between starter and relief pitcher roles in 2016, finishing with the campaign with a 4.29 ERA. Despite having some growing pains in his rookie year, Suarez showed flashes of potential.
In 2017, however, Suarez’s struggles persisted. After starting the year in the minors, his appearance late in the summer was meant to bolster an ailing bullpen. Instead, his ERA ballooned to 5.12 across 31 1/3 innings pitched in relief. While the Giants would have preferred to retain Suarez, they recognized that he would prove to be the odd man out when they determined their 40-man roster.
He was designated a free agent in the off-season, and picked up via the Rule 5 Draft to join the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. After bouncing around in the minor leagues since 2008, the hope is that the 28-year-old reliever will have a chance to return to the big leagues.
In exchange for the loss of Suarez, the Giants themselves managed to gain another arm. Julian Fernandez is a reliever out of the Colorado Rockies’ organization. Despite not seeing a major league game yet, Fernandez has drawn interest around the league. The simple reason for that is his fastball, which tops out at 103 mph, and averages around 100. The hurler has otherwise been unimpressive within the organization, struggling with his location and generally having less impressive secondary pitches.
The feeling is that the Giants, who had a series of successes with their bullpen during their World Series campaigns, hope to be able to coach up the talent in their farm system in order to have more pitching production in late innings. San Francisco has a lot of ground to make up, as they ranked 19th in the league last year in bullpen ERA, and compiled the third fewest innings coming from the bullpen in 2017, according to ESPN’s statistics.
While there would be little gain for the bullpen right away, assuming the Fernandez pick-up works out, the draft could yield an overall gain. Suarez, despite having the potential to make a spot start for the Giants, proved to be inconsistent. There was an understanding within the organization that he may not have even had a spot going into Spring Training.
The Giants now will need to make use of their new reliever. If he does not stay on the 25-man roster for the team throughout the season, he must be offered back to the Rockies for $50,000. That said, finding space for him should not be an issue. Realistically, the Giants need as many quality arms as they can get into that relief squad.
The Giants may have been flat out of the gate despite big aspirations, but this draft may prove to be the first step toward becoming competitive in 2018.
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