The Giants made headlines this offseason by adding to their starting rotation while signing Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. But, just last year with the Royals winning the World Series, the importance of a great bullpen was put on display.
Pitch counts are growing more frequent as arm issues continue to rise. Relying on relievers to shut teams down as early as the sixth inning can key a chance at making a run for a ring.
With Opening Day around the corner, where does the Giants' bullpen sit in the competitive NL West?
San Francisco Giants
Casilla, 35, doesn't get a lot of credit for a long run of success. I own him in a dynasty league and nobody believes he'll last the season as the Giants closer. Last year, Casilla traded some ground balls for more strikeouts. He threw his straight fastball less frequently, instead using his curve and slider more often.
While I'm not comfortable buying into over a strikeout per inning, I don't see why he can't maintain a rosterable punch out rate. He hasn't exceeded a 2.84 ERA since 2009. As long as his skills remain intact, he could top expectations once again.
Romo's been around for ages. He setup for Brian Wilson, closed while Casilla performed setup duties, and now he's back in the setup role. The 33-year-old is a slider specialist. He controls the zone well for a guy who throws mostly breaking balls. He's posted a sub-2.00 BB/9 in each of the last five seasons.
Romo's prone to a little variance in his outcomes due to a shaky 87 mph fastball-sinker combo. Both pitches are below average. As such, he's a good pick for holds, but he's unlikely to nail down the closer role for an extended period.
When people look for the next Giants closer, they see Strickland. He possesses one of the best fastballs in baseball. His 98 mph heater performs nearly as well as Aroldis Chapman's fastball – that's the gold standard. Unfortunately for Strickland lovers, his offspeed pitch is no better than adequate. Plenty of relievers get by with just a fastball and a show-me breaking ball, but few of them are top closers.
Kontos is a middle reliever at best. He seems to have a role in the bullpen though. He throws six different pitches and focuses most on the fastball, sinker, cutter, and slider. Serviceable is a word I would use to describe him. Fantasy relevant is not a phrase I would use.
Last week, it was announced that Josh Osich would make the Opening Day roster. The southpaw throws a 97 mph fastball, a 91 mph cutter, and a rarely used changeup. He was used as a platoon pitcher last season despite relatively small splits.
There's reason to hope Osich could sneak into a left-handed setup reliever role with about a strikeout per inning. He may even have ceiling for more if the cutter is as good as the small sample data suggests.
The real LOOGY in the Giants bullpen is Javier Lopez. He's been ensconced in the role since he was acquired in 2010. Left-handed hitters have trouble doing anything with Lopez's offerings while righties tend to torch him. Lopez can give you cheap holds without using many innings. Last year, he made 77 appearances, pitched 39.1 innings, and recorded 20 holds. I'd still look at higher octane alternatives.
Heston was solid out of the rotation last season and even tossed a no hitter. The righty is currently caught in a numbers crunch. He'll either serve as the long reliever or spend time in Triple-A. If Heston doesn't make the club, Cory Gearrin and Mike Broadway are a couple of the alternatives.
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