The San Francisco Giants announced their non-roster invitees for Spring Training 2010, and on that list are a few pitchers who might make a splash and make it to the Opening Day pitching staff.
The bullpen has usually been a launching pad for Giants pitchers, and in the past few years a couple guys have made a real impact coming out and making stops.
A list of bullpen successes for the Giants would be very long, but the short list includes Joe Nathan, Brian Wilson, and more recently names like Sergio Romo, Waldis Joaquin, and Alex Hinshaw have all made a good impression when given a chance at the show.
This article will take a look at four of the younger members of the San Francisco Spring Training staff, and their chances of making the club.
Steve Edlefsen (Pictured)
With all the hype about Dan Runzler, who won Minor League Pitcher of the Year after shutting down teams at literally every level of baseball last year, including the majors, not many people heard about Steve Edlefsen.
A 16th round pick in the 2007 draft, Edlefsen quietly put together a nice little season of his own last year, going 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA at Single-A San Jose, AA Connecticut (now Richmond), and AAA Fresno.
He struck out 72 in 69.1 innings, and sported a WHIP of 1.226, and went on to have a pretty successful Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions, posting a 3-0 record and a 2.08 ERA.
Originally an infielder through most of college, Edlefsen had Tommy John surgery and missed all of his 2005 season at the University of Nebraska and was converted to pitcher after he was drafted.
Tanner is one of the top pitching prospects in the Giants minor league system. He was a third round draft pick right out of De La Salle high school in 2006, and has put up double-digit win totals in each of his last three seasons.
Last year at Single-A San Jose, the young left-hander went 12-6 with a solid 3.17 ERA and a 1.249 WHIP. He proclaims his slider to be his best pitch, but his changeup also has a lot of movement and he has a solid fastball.
His strikeout totals aren't high (less than 1.0 per inning), but more importantly his K/BB ratio is almost three to one.
Tanner thrived in the playoffs, allowing only one run in 14 innings and helping the San Jose Giants to their tenth California League title. This is Tanner's fifth year in the organization, though, so after this season he'll have to be placed on the 40-man roster or be made available to other teams.
Turpen is another reliever that posted a Runzler-like season, going post-to-post as one of the best relievers in the minor leagues.
He was drafted in 2007 in the 8th round, and was joined later by his fellow Oregon State Beaver Joe Paterson in the 10th round. Paterson also had a good year, but unlike these four, was not invited to Spring Training.
In 2009 Turpen notched a 1.24 ERA and seven saves in 46 games.
Two years ago at Augusta, he ended the year a K/BB ratio of 48/13. I'm stressing these ratios because, out of the bullpen, keeping runners off the bases is key. Having a low WHIP is instrumental, as is keeping runners from scoring, and Turpen showed in 2009 that he could maintain that kind of level for a whole year.
Clark, at 26, is a little older than the rest of the prospects on this list, but his stats speak for themselves. So does a California League Pitcher of the Year award from 2009. And so does a stat line of 16-2/2.86/1.131 and winning 15 decisions in a row. Not bad for the 14th round pick out of Penn State in 2007.
Like Tanner, Clark kept people off the bases, with a K/BB ratio of almost four to one (135/36), and averaged over eight strikeouts per game. He's certainly got the stuff, and his 29-9 career record in the minors is impressive. Although Clark finished the season at San Jose, he looks to be promoted to AA Richmond or maybe even AAA Fresno.
The Giants have a lot settled in their bullpen, like last year, but there's always room for improvement, and there's always the chance that someone gets hurt.
Jeremy Affeldt and Brian Wilson have spots for sure, and Sergio Romo will most likely be the right-handed setup guy. Brandon Medders is back, and it looks like Waldis Joaquin will take over where Merkin Valdez left off in middle relief.
Runzler proved that he's ready for the show, and that honestly doesn't leave many spots left for the likes of these four AND Alex Hinshaw, Osiris Matos, Joe Martinez, Henry Sosa, or Kevin Pucetas, who are all on the 40-man roster.
But, as I said before, there are always surprises, and you never know who will rise and who will fall during Spring Training. Keep an eye on these four; you'll be seeing more of them soon enough.