Jakob 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 face the enviable task of filling not just one or two, but Four Rotation point.Every Kevin Goldman, Anthony Descrafani, Alex Wood and Johnny Cuito is a free agent.Of the team’s 2021 starters, only Logan Webb under the control of the club.

Granted, most of this is done by the front office itself. A generally risk-averse unit, at least when it comes to signing free agents for lucrative multi-year commitments, the Giants have Goldsman, Wood and Descrafani each on one-year deals before the 2021 season.They continued to take a generally risk-averse approach to supplementing their rotation this past offseason, paying a total of 125mm Carlos Roden (two years, $44MM), DeSclafani (three years, $36MM), Wood (two years, $25MM) and Alex Cobb (two years, $20MM).

Obviously, a $125 investment is hardly a risk-free proposition, but for a team that has averaged $179 salary since 2015, spreading that number across four pitchers without committing to more than three years and Not entirely valid. 19, with a maximum salary of 200.5mm in 2018 and an average salary of 152.5mm over the past two seasons.

The quintet of Webb, Rodon, DeSclafani, Wood and Cobb has a lot of potential to be a powerful duo. It also has a lot of potential to be an injury-riddled unit that causes a lot of trouble for the front office. Roden, Descrafani, Wood and Cobb all have long injury histories. Depth beyond that group is needed, and the Giants lack it in the senior minors.

What follows is a series of sensible additions. Matthew Boyd Signed a one-year deal worth 5.2mm as the Giants hope the longtime Tigers southpaw can recover from flexor surgery in mid-June.former royals right Jacob Junis Signed a one-year, 1.75mm contract after Kansas City went unbid. Carlos MartinezSigned a minor league contract with the Cardinals’ former All-Star.

Of all the names in the group, Junis is probably the most anonymous. A 29-year-old right-hander and a former 29-round pick, he looked to be part of the Royals’ player development success story in his first two seasons, then stellar his final three years in Kansas City. Starting in 2017-18, Junis has provided the Royals with a 4.35 ERA in 275 1/3 innings, a slightly below-league strikeout rate, a high walk rate, and a slightly below-average ground ball. tendency. It’s not a star-level profile by any means, but ask any scout in the world and they’d be thrilled to unearth a viable fourth or fifth starter in the 29th round.

However, the 2019-21 season didn’t go the way Junis or the Royals had hoped. While he still had a career-high 31 starts in 2019, his ERA soared to 5.24 as his walk rate rose, and he started allowing more and more hard touches. Things got worse in 2020, and by June 2021, Junis found himself picking AAA for the first time since 2017. In the interim, starting with the 5.36 ERA Junis posted in 2019-21, it’s no surprise that the Royals chose not to give him a contract and instead put him in free agency.

Junis’ one-year deal with the Giants looks like a sensible depth boost for a veteran arm with one minor league option year remaining, but it turns out it’s much more than that. In San Francisco’s 17 games, including 14 starts, Junis has a 4.04 ERA, 20.9 strikeout rate and 4.7 walk rate. Off-the-field-independent metrics like FIP (3.83), SIERA (3.72) and xERA (3.85) all think he’s better than that. He’s had an ERA around 3.00 for most of the year, although a recent pair of 6-run clunkers have bloated his ERA a bit.

However, even with his recent scrimmage, Junis isn’t just a simple stopgap in the rotation. He averaged only about five innings per start — more or less in line with the league average at this point — and has kept opponents to three or fewer in 13 games this season.

Giants changed Junis’ pitch selection, with great effect; he hit a career-best 51.9 percent on the slider and was just .210/0.255/0.359 in 192 games that ended with that pitch hit rate. He also effectively ditched his four-seam machine and his cutter in favor of the sinker he threw 30.6 percent from the field, and while the court was still battered, more than either of the first two fastballs , opponents deal much less damage to the pitch than the iterations Junis used in higher clips.

Junis could end up giving the Giants from one win to more than two substitutions this year — his current bWAR is 1.6 bWAR and 0.9 fWAR — a solid return on their minimal investment in themselves. But the Giants will also retain Junis’ rights into the 2023 season, as he remains eligible for arbitration and will end the year with more than five years of service. He’s getting a raise this year, but it’s still a good deal to jump into the 3MM range to find a fourth available starter.

The Giants already have four starters in 2023 — Webber, Wood, Cobb and Descrafani — but if he declines the player option (which is locked, as long as he stays healthy), he’s likely to lose Free agent Carlos Roden. They’re not going to simply replace Rodon with Junis and call it quits, so they’ll likely add an impactful starter and go into 2023 with Junis as a sixth or maybe even seventh. That would put him in the bullpen at the start of the season, possibly in a long-term backup role, but he should be able to play a few innings next year given the injury histories of Descrafani, Wood and Cobb.

Junis’ pickup obviously won’t change the team’s course for years to come, but he’s quietly very valuable to a Giants club with a pitching injury — and he’ll continue to pay dividends on their investment for the 2023 season. There hasn’t been much progress for the Giants this year, but their ability to rehabilitate and, in some cases, reinvent pitching remains strong.


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