San Francisco’s Giant Pitching Prospects

The San Francisco Giants organization recently promoted its two top pitching prospects from high-A ball to double-A. Left-hander Madison Bumgarner and right-hander Tim Alderson – 2007 first-round picks out of high schools – have both taken slightly different paths through the minors but they should spend the bulk of the 2009 season together in double-A.

Bumgarner was the Giants’ first pick (10th overall) in 2007 out of a North Carolina high school. He signed late that year and did not make his debut until 2008. He skipped over both short-season and rookie ball by going straight to low-A ball. The league was not a problem for the lanky lefty, who went 15-3 and lead the league with a 1.46 ERA (1.71 FIP). Bumgarner dominated by allowing just 111 hits and posting rates of 1.33 BB/9 and 10.42 K/9.

In order to avoid the cold weather of the double-A Eastern League, the Giants assigned the now 19-year-old pitcher to high-A San Jose. He posted a 1.48 ERA (2.05 FIP) with 20 hits and just four walks allowed in five starts. With the weather warming in Connecticut, Bumgarner was promoted to double-A last week. In his first start for the Defenders on May 11, Bumgarner faced the last-place New Britain Rock Cats (Minnesota’s affiliate) and allowed just one run in six innings of work. He allowed seven hits and no walks, while striking out two batters.

Alderson, 20, was the club’s second pick (20th overall) of the six selections it had before the second round in 2007 (The club lost a lot of players to free agency the previous winter). He showed excellent stuff and above-average control, but teams were scared away by his mechanics and delivery. Obviously, though, with Tim Lincecum in the big league rotation, the Giants organization is not scared off by unique pitchers.

Alderson, now 20, also took his sweet time signing his first pro contract, although he did make three appearances late in 2007. He did not allow a run or a walk in five rookie-ball innings. Alderson allowed just four hits and struck out 12 batters. The right-hander was so impressive that the Giants challenged him with a 2008 assignment to high-A ball, a move almost unheard of amongst prep draftees in their first full season. He rose to the challenge and went 13-4 with a 2.79 ERA (2.64 FIP) with 125 hits allowed in 145.1 innings of work. Alderson posted a walk rate of 2.11 BB/9 and a strikeout rate of 7.68 K/9 during the course of the season.

Again, because of the weather in Connecticut, Alderson began 2009 by repeating high-A ball for five starts. Perhaps cruising a bit, the Arizona native allowed 31 hits and three walks in 26 innings. He also struck out 20. Along with Bumgarner, Alderson was promoted to double-A and he made his first start against the first-place New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto’s affiliate) on May 10. He did not allow a hit over 6.2 innings of work and was removed due to his pitch count. Alderson walked one and struck out 10 batters.

Bumgarner, 6’4” and 215 lbs, has the makings of a No. 1 or 2 starter. His repertoire includes a moving fastball that can touch the upper 90s. He has above-average command of the pitch. Because his fastball has been so dominating, his secondary pitches, a curveball and change-up, have suffered. He’ll definitely need to work on them to succeed in Double-A – and eventually the Majors.

Alderson, 6’7” and 220 lbs, has an average fastball at 88-92 mph but his command of the pitch makes it play up. His curveball is amongst the best in the minors and his change-up is improving. Alderson is also working to induce more ground balls, which he did effectively in his double-A debut. He could see the Majors by the end of the season – likely from the bullpen. He has the ceiling, though, of a No. 2 or 3 starter.

Both pitchers have bright futures in the Majors and should be extremely valuable to not only the San Francisco Giants organization, but also fantasy baseball owners in keeper leagues.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

3 Responses to “San Francisco’s Giant Pitching Prospects”

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  1. Kevin S. says:

    Bumgarner is so good, he gets the definite article affixed to his name? :P

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  2. Marc Hulet says:

    LOL. He probably IS that good.

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  3. AJP says:

    The Giants really have a good thing going for them right now because of their pitching depth. Lincecum & Cain alone are enough to make them a top of the line rotation but top that with the potential of Bumgarner and Alderson and we could have the next best staff in baseball for years to come.It reminds me of the Braves rotation of Maddux, Smoltz, and Glavine, chances are that it probably won’t be that good but it will be good. If they could just get some bats in their lineup, watch out. They won’t even need a top of the line offense to win, a mediocre offense and an awsome pitching staff will do wonders.

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