The San Francisco Giants are struggling.
With a combination of injuries and mediocre performance, the defending World Series champs are hardly playing up to their capabilities. Their recent series against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers ended in a sweep on Wednesday, leaving the Giants in fourth place in the NL West.
Their record as of June 27th? 38-40. Two games under .500.
Now that the doom-and-gloom is out of the way, the season is far from over. Just as easily as this current slide began, it can end. If the pitching staff can finally pick up the slack and key players such as center fielder Angel Pagan can return from injury and perform, the Giants can return to championship form.
The current roster of Major Leaguers may need some help down the stretch, especially if the slump continues on after the All-Star break. If that happens, some eager players waiting in the Minor League wings could be called up for duty.
The Giants have already played musical chairs with some of their farm system talent. Nick Noonan, Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, Tony Abreu and others have been shuffled between the majors and minors all season. Currently, the Giants boast Abreu, Perez and catchers Guillermo Quiroz and Hector Sanchez as utility players off the bench.
On the pitching side, Mike Kickham is fulfilling the role left vacant by the injured Ryan Vogelsong and the more recently injured Chad Gaudin, who was placed on the 15-day DL on June 25th due to a bruised elbow.
Relievers are also moving up and down like stacked elevators. Hurlers Jean Machi and George Kontos traded places, with Machi moving to Triple-A Fresno and Kontos rejoining the San Francisco squad.
Right-hander Jake Dunning made his MLB debut earlier this month after being promoted in place of the struggling Ramon Ramirez. Chris Haft of MLB.com reports:
"Bochy envisions Dunning as a middle-inning reliever. The 24-year-old Spring Training invitee was 1-2 with a 1.75 ERA in 23 relief outings for Fresno. In 36 innings, he struck out 31, allowed 38 hits and walked 10. That gave him a WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of 1.33."
So far this season, Dunning is 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 innings pitched. Hopefully, he can eat up innings just as manager Bruce Bochy predicted.
With so many roster moves being made on a seemingly daily basis, other minor leaguers are looking to make their respective MLB debuts as well.
Top prospects Kyle Crick and Gary Brown remain underdeveloped in the minors, and the Giants will want to maintain a level of patience in the development of these potential stars. Crick was recently chosen to represent the Giants in the Future's Game on July 14.
Andrew Owens of MLB.com writes of the top prospect:
"At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Crick has reaped the benefits of his strength during his brief professional career. Although he has impressed in the Minor Leagues, he is still a ways away from making an impact on the big league roster because of his age and development."
The Giants have a rich recent history of developing young arms, such as Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner. They will wait until Crick is prime and ready before moving him up to make his anxiously awaited MLB debut.
More MLB-primed players such as Francisco Peguero and Nick Noonan can and should return to the Giants' active roster as the season progresses.
Noonan was demoted after Pablo Sandoval returned from injury. However, if the Kung Fu Panda falls again, or utility infielders Joaquin Arias and Tony Abreu fail to perform, Noonan could just as easily return.
Needless to say, the shuffle will continue until the Giants are able to work their way out of their current funk. Hopefully, a more permanent roster will be inked into the lineup card soon.