The San Francisco Giants‘ pitching staff must cumulatively register better numbers in order to propel the team to a division title in 2014. The glaring weakness potentially preventing the Giants from accomplishing that is Ryan Vogelsong, who was an integral part of the 2012 World Series team, but mostly struggled in 2013 and appears bound for another rocky season.
Vogelsong signed a one-year, $5 million deal over the offseason after the club denied his $6.5 million option. The move solidified that Giants’ starting rotation, but it now seems possible for Vogelsong’s new deal to unintentionally become a severance package at some point this season.
The 36-year-old pitcher has been awful in Spring Training, posting an alarming 9.00 ERA while allowing 33 hits, including five home runs, in just 19.0 innings of work. While Giants’ coaches aren’t alluding to a possible change at the back end of the rotation, it’s becoming increasingly possible for the team to move on from their former feel-good story at some point in 2014.
The Giants’ best alternative option to Vogelsong is farmhand Edwin Escobar, who allowed five runs in 8.2 innings of work this spring. At 21 years old, Escobar could certainly use some additional seasoning in the minor leagues before making the climb to the big leagues. Escobar owns a 3.86 ERA over five seasons in the minor leagues. He ascended atop the Giants’ list of prospects in 2013, posting a 2.67 ERA and 1.056 WHIP in 10 starts at the double-A level. He began the season at high class-A, striking out 11.1 batters per nine innings pitched.
Escobar, a left-handed pitcher, would help balance the Giants’ starting rotation, which currently features four right-handed pitchers. He would ideally serve as a dependable No. 5 starter, lengthening the club’s pitching staff. Vogelsong won’t be kicked to the curb because of a poor effort this spring, but his job is certainly up for grabs if his struggles carry over into the regular season.
The Giants need as much stability as possible in their rotation, especially considering how they frequently struggle to score runs. Running Vogelsong out to the mound every fifth day cannot become some kind of misguided charity. If he doesn’t perform at a high level like he did in 2011 and 2012, there is simply no purpose for him being on this team.