Mar 23, 2010, 1:43 PM EDT
Sporting a 27-5 record and 1.65 ERA in the minors Madison Bumgarner ranked 14th on Baseball America‘s annual list of the game’s top prospects and began spring training as the favorite to claim the final spot in San Francisco’s rotation.
Unfortunately the 20-year-old southpaw showed up at Giants camp with his fastball topping out in the 80s, continuing a worrisome trend from late last season when his velocity dropped from mid-90s to low-90s.
Bumgarner appeared in three spring games, tossing seven innings with a 6.43 ERA, zero strikeouts, and seven walks, and this afternoon the Giants optioned him to Triple-A.
Obviously something isn’t right with Bumgarner physically, but setting that aside there’s certainly no harm in letting a 20-year-old spend some time at Triple-A before handing him a rotation spot. In this case the move not only gives Bumgarner some additional minor-league seasoning and likely allows the Giants to eventually push his free agency back another year, it lets him try to work out the kinks in a low-pressure environment.
Now that Bumgarner is out of the picture, for a bit at least, Todd Wellemeyer is likely to begin the season as the Giants’ fifth starter. Wellemeyer is almost a dozen years Bumgarner’s senior and has 191 more games of big-league experience, but he’s also a question mark after an injury wrecked 2009. However, he’s looked healthy this spring and went 13-9 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for the Cardinals in 2008.
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