When the 2009 season began, the San Francisco Giants minor league system reached the highest ranking it had seen in quite a long time after a new emphasis on a long-term project that began in 2006.
With their new emphasis on building from within and commitment to pumping more money into player development, the Giants not were not only willing to draft players who would be difficult to sign, but they also reestablished themselves as a force on the international market as well.
The gem of the system in recent years is obviously Tim Lincecum and his shaggy hair. The 2008 National League Cy Young winner was the Giants’ first round pick in 2006, and is the model of how teams want to have draft picks make a huge impact just a year after being drafted.
With Cain and Lincecum now amongst the leagues elite, there is another talented youngster plying his trade and doing it in dominating fashion. The season he has had could very well mean we’re going to be seeing him at the big league level throwing fastballs by people on a regular basis in the near future.
There are other pitchers who have had solid seasons in the Giants system, but Madison Bumgarner has become a household name without even throwing a pitch in the majors.
The Giants will be looking to fill a void with Randy Johnson’s contract expiring and Bumgarner is, and should be, the No. 1 choice to take the Big Unit’s spot in the rotation after he departs.
His minor league résumé speak for itself. He was named MLB.com Class A Starting Pitcher of the Year, Minor League Baseball's Most Spectacular Pitcher, and South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Pitcher.
2008 was Lincecum’s first-full year as big leaguer, and 2008 was Bumgarner’s first-full year as a professional pitcher.
The season began with Bumgarner, along with fellow high-touted pitching prospect Tim Alderson, at High Class A San Jose as the headliner on a team loaded with the Giants’ future.
It was just a matter of time before they got promoted to Double-A Connecticut to really gauge where they two of them were at in terms of their development, and the middle of May saw that happen.
And as of right now—so far, so good in the biggest jump a prospect could make before reaching the majors.
While both are having very good seasons, as the season has gone on, Bumgarner has certainly separated himself from the pack. Saying he is the best pitching prospect in the minors wouldn’t exactly be going out on a limb.
How dominating has Bumgarner been?
His totals between San Jose and Connecticut: 10-2, 1.54 ERA, 75 K, 24 BB, and 0.98 WHIP in 93.1 innings pitched
Easy to see why the Giants are so high on him, isn’t it?
At some point in time, Mad Bum is going to have to finish a season with an ERA above two or a WHIP above one. That doesn’t seem to be likely in 2009, though, as he is eating Eastern League hitters alive.
He’s doing all of this while on a pretty strict pitch count that has seen him average around six innings per start.
It doesn’t matter though. Bumgarner has been on cruise control since his promotion in mid-May. The season is getting better and so is Mad Bum.
There won’t be a replication of Lincecum’s rise through the Giants system after he was drafted in 2006. Seeing a Giants prospect make only 13 minor league starts, go 6-0 in those starts with a 1.01 ERA before he makes his big league debut is something that only the greats can say that did.
Some numbers are only obtainable by The Franchise.
With the season he is having though, there’s no reason to think that Bumgarner won’t be in contention for a spot in the rotation in the spring next year. Unless the Giants want to pull a move like several other teams have done with their top prospects to put off their arbitration clock, Bumgarner could very well see his name on the Opening Day roster at just 20 years old.
He won’t come close to matching the number of outings it took Lincecum to reach the minors, but with the pace he’s on, he will surely beat the number Cain posted (75 starts) before he made his major league debut.
There’s a reason why Giants GM considers Bumgarner to be yet another jewel in the system he has rebuilt in just three years.
Giants followers have been hearing about a potential rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Alderson since they were drafted in 2007. Now with 2010 just in sight, the vision is close to becoming a reality.
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