The San Francisco Giants are stacked with pitching. But anyone half-heartedly following the team should already know this.
From Tim Lincecum all the way down to Jonathan Sanchez, the Giants' starting rotation is the envy of almost every team in the league. While GMs around the MLB try to ape this rotation through trades and free agent signings, San Francisco has consistently struck gold through the MLB Draft.
The Giants’ staff of arms is undoubtedly strong from one through four with the only unstable piece being the offseason addition of No. 5 pitcher, Todd Wellemeyer.
Wellemeyer’s unimpressive start with the Giants has many crying out for his replacement. But, does San Francisco have any more pitching gems buried somewhere deep within the farm to take his spot?
Giants GM Brian Sabean has outwardly expressed his concerns with Wellemeyer. Whether his demotion comes sooner rather than later, San Francisco will most likely see another young face join their rotation sometime during this elongated season.
With that said, let’s take a look at the top performing pitchers in the San Francisco Giants’ farm system, and see if there is yet another promising pitching prospect that fans should be excited to make the Big Show sometime in the future.
Eric Hacker - Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A)
Signed to a minor league contract by the Giants this offseason, Eric Hacker is hardly a newcomer to the minors. For the past eight years, he has chopped his way through the lower league jungle, spending the majority of his time in the Yankees' and Pirates' farm systems.
This season with the Giants, Hacker exploded to an excellent start, winning his first five games while allowing only five runs in that span.
Hacker has stumbled slightly since his hot start (allowing three runs in both of his last two appearances), but the minor league journeyman is showing that he still has a ton of gas left in the tank.
His six wins this season is the most among Fresno pitchers, and it is tied for the most among all pitchers in San Francisco’s farm.
Justin Fitzgerald - San Jose Giants (A-Advanced)
After spending his entire 2009 season with the Augusta Green Jackets as a reliever, Justin Fitzgerald solidified a spot in San Jose’s starting rotation coming out of the spring and he is relishing the opportunity.
In his five starts for the Giants, Fitzgerald has put together an impressive 3-0 record with a near-perfect 1.20 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Although his strikeouts have taken a noticeable dip from the 10.1 K/9 that he posted in 2009 to a 4.8 K/9 this season, he has improved immensely in his BB/9, knocking this number down from 4.3 to 1.8.
Fitzgerald has yet to give up a home run this season, and his last outing (May 12) was the deepest he has gone since joining the Giants’ organization (7IP, 7H, 2ER).
While Fitzgerald’s game still needs a bit of polishing, his promising beginning as a starter has many people excited about this prospect's future.
Eric Surkamp - San Jose Giants (A-Advanced)
A sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft, Eric Surkamp spent the entirety of last season in Augusta. In 23 starts, he recorded a 3.30 ERA, an 11.6 K/9, and an 11-5 record.
This season in Double-A, he is doing his best to continue on last year's success.
Through seven starts and 44 innings pitched, Surkamp is dazzling opponents. In his last start against Bakersfield Blaze, he twirled a complete game shutout, striking out seven and only allowing three runners to reach base.
His 2-1 record is not quite indicative of his early season success. However, a practically spotless 2.05 ERA and 0.91 WHIP has many salivating about the promising future that this prospect can bring to this organization.
Daryl Maday - Richmond Flying Squirrels (Double-A)
Although he has only pitched more than six innings once this season, Daryl Maday is riding an exquisite six-game winning streak with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, forcing people to look twice at this late pick from the 2006 MLB Draft.
Last season, in his first year in the Giants’ farm system, Maday quickly moved up to Double-A ball where his progress stalled.
However, things appear to be heading in a different direction for Maday in 2010. Through his seven starts, Maday has posted a remarkable 1.54 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. He collected his sixth win on May 12, tying his entire win total from last year.
Maday’s 7.7 H/9 is the lowest it has been since he was drafted and his ceiling for improvement seems to be rising.
Joe Martinez - Fresno Grizzlies (Triple-A)
Most fans will remember the name Joe Martinez—but probably not for his pitching. It is hard to forget the game last season where Martinez took a comeback pitch right off his dome and missed practically the entire season because of a fractured skull.
This season, Martinez is arduously working his way back up to the Show, and a 3-1 record with a 7.2 K/9 as a Grizzles’ pitcher is definitely pushing him in the right direction.
However, Martinez is still struggling slightly with run containment, posting a pedestrian 3.92 ERA in his seven starts this season. While his strikeout totals are still impressive, keeping runners off the base paths was a huge problem for Martinez when he was up in San Francisco, and if the big-wigs think that he is still having this problem down in Fresno, then it could be a while before we see him back up in the MLB.