As the countdown to pitchers and catchers intensifies, the San Francisco Giants‘ impending active roster appears fixed, but some players considered afterthoughts could become significant contributors in 2014.
The Giants’ offseason was highlighted by the acquisitions of veteran right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson and slugging outfielder Michael Morse. San Francisco failed to significantly upgrade a roster that won just 76 games last season, forcing substantial pressure on players like Buster Posey and Hunter Pence to perform at an extraordinary level next season.
The Giants’ success totally hinders on their pitching staff, though. In 2013, the Giants’ stronghold of formerly dominant arms faltered on a massive scale, registering a 4.00 ERA to rank 22nd in the league. Some of the Giants’ struggles could be attributed to the duress induced from playing an extra month of ultra-competitive baseball when they won the World Series in the season prior.
But fatigue isn’t an excuse for players bred to handle the difficulties of a big league season. It seems imminent for guys like durable innings-eater Matt Cain (8-10, 4.00 ERA in 2013) to rebound from subpar season-long performances, although the Giants need more consistency in order to contend.
Spring training typically brings about off-the-radar surprises that common fans cannot predict. Right-handed reliever Erik Cordier has the potential to be that guy for San Francisco this spring. The Giants currently have one vacant bullpen spot available on the 25-man roster, assuming manager Bruce Bochy opts to carry seven relievers.
Cordier has flashed serious signs of inconsistency over the course of six minor league seasons. The Giants need a hard-throwing reliever that can achieve the antithesis of “inconsistent,” though. Cordier promises to be an intriguing name in Giants’ camp regardless. He throws an upper-90s fastball and strikes out 11.0 batters per nine innings pitched.
If the Giants retain Yusmeiro Petit as their long-man, the competition for the final bullpen spot will likely include four players: Cordier, Geroge Kontos (RHP) J.C. Gutierrez (RHP) and Sandy Rosario (RHP). All players, other than Cordier, have big-league experience. But none of the names on the back end of that list can consistently come near triple digits on a radar gun.
According to Baseball Savant, the Giants ranked dead last in the big leagues in the fast pitch category. San Francisco pitchers combined to eclipse 95 mph just 59 times all season. In comparison, St. Louis Cardinals‘ pitchers ranked first, combining to throw 3,709 pitches over the 95 mph-marker.
The 27-year-old minor league lifer might not have big league experience, but he has what the Giants need: the ability to throw fastballs in the upper-90s. If Cordier is able to demonstrate control in camp, he’s deserving of a spot on the Giants’ opening day roster.