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Jacob Junis is the latest Giants pitching revival

Heading into the 2021-22 offseason, Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi and general manager Scott Harris have more than just one or two. four rotating spot.each Kevin Gaussman, Anthony Descraffani, Alex Wood When Johnny Cueto was a free agent. Of the team’s 2021 starters, Logan Webb was under the control of the club.

Indeed, much of it was the work of the front office itself. A generally risk-averse unit, at least as far as free agency is on multi-year deals, the Giants signed each of Gaussman, Wood, and Deskraffani to his one-year deals ahead of his 2021 season. Continuing his generally risk-averse approach this past offseason, in total he added $125 million to his rotation. Carlos Rodon (2 years, $44 million), DeSclafani (3 years, $36 million), Wood (2 years, $25 million), Alex Cobb (2 years, $20 million).

Clearly, a $125 million investment isn’t a risk-free proposition, but for a team that has averaged a salary of $179 million since 2015, it’s possible to reduce that number to four without spending more than three years. Dispersing to a person’s pitcher doesn’t exactly work. The 19-year-old had a high of $205 million in 2018 and an average salary of $152.5 million over the past two seasons.

The quintet of Webb, Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood, and Cobb had the potential to be a strong group. It also could well have been an injury-plagued unit that caused major headaches in the front office.Rodon, Deskraffani, Wood and Cobb each had long injury histories. We needed depth beyond that group, and the Giants lacked it in the upper minors.

What followed was a series of judicious additions. Matthew Boyd The Giants signed a one-year contract worth $5.2 million as the Tigers’ longtime southpaw hoped to be back from flexor surgery by mid-June.Former Royals right-hander Jacob Junis After receiving no bid from Kansas City, he signed a one-year, $1.75 million contract. Carlos MartinezA former Cardinals All-Star who signed a minor league deal.

Of all the names in that group, Junis was perhaps the most anonymous. appeared to be part of the 1980s, but its last three years in Kansas City were on fire. In 2017-18, Junis gave the Royals a 4.35 ERA in 275 1/3 innings with a slightly below league-average strikeout rate, strong walk rate, and a slightly below-average ground ball trend. . It was never a star profile, but ask scouts around the world and they’ll be thrilled at the idea of ​​unearthing a viable fourth or fifth starter in the 29th round of the draft.

However, the 2019-21 season did not go as Junis and the Royals hoped. He made his still career-high 31 starting appearances in 2019, but his ERA surged to his 5.24 as his steps increased and the amount of hard-his contacts began to rise. did. Things got even worse in 2020, and by June 2021, Junis realized he had opted for a Triple-A for the first time since 2017. He chose not to offer him a contract. , instead launched him into the free-agent market.

Junis’ 1-year deal with the Giants looked like a sensible depth pick-up for an experienced arm with a minor league option left with a year left, but it’s proving to be far more than that. . In his 17 games with San Francisco, 14 of which have started, Junis has a stellar 4.04 ERA, 20.9% strikeout percentage, and 4.7% walk percentage. Defense-independent metrics such as FIP (3.83), SIERA (3.72), and xERA (3.85) all feel he’s significantly better than that. Throughout the year, his ERA has been in his mid-3.00s or lower, but his 6-run blunders in his two recent sets have inflated his ERA a bit.

But even in his most recent brawl, Junis wasn’t just a temporary stopgap in the rotation. Also, he has managed to keep opponents to his 3 or fewer points in his 13 games this season.

The Giants changed Junis’ pitch choice to good effect. 210/.255/.359 in his 192 at-bats that ended with that pitch. He also effectively scrapped four seamers and cutters in favor of throwing sinkers with a clip of 30.6%. The pitch is still hit hard, but the opponent is doing far less damage to the pitch than either of his two previous fastballs. A repeat that Junis used in a much higher clip.

Junis will probably take turns giving the Giants one to two wins this year. He currently has 1.6 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR. With pay increases this year, it’s still a bargain to dive into the $3MM range as a useful fourth starter.

The Giants already have four starters under contract for 2023 — Webb, Wood, Cobb and Descraffani — but if Carlos Rodon turns down the player option (locked as long as he’s healthy), the FA very likely to become We’re not going to simply replace Rodon with Junis and be done with it, so Impact could add his starter, with Junis as his sixth or seventh starter as he enters 2023. That would put him in the bullpen early in the season, possibly in a long relief role, but given the injury history of Deskraffani, Wood, and Cobb, there should be an innings available to him next year.

Picking up Junis is clearly not a masterstroke enough to change the direction of the franchise for years to come, but he’s quietly been very valuable to the Giants club, which has had its share of pitching injuries. There was. Investments for the 2023 season. Not a ton has gone well for the Giants this year, but their ability to rehabilitate and possibly reinvent pitchers is still very strong.

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