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Bumgarner Makes Major League Debut

September 9, 2009
Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch during his Major League debut.

Madison Bumgarner delivers a pitch during his Major League debut.

In a head-scratcher of a move, the Giants purchased the contract of top prospect Madison Bumgarner and started him Tuesday night against the San Diego Padres. Bumgarner went 5.1 IP, allowing five hits, two runs, a walk and four strikeouts for a Game Score of 53. His fastball sat between 87-89 MPH and topped out at 91; which is something of a concern for the lefty reputed to have a blazing mid-90’s heater.

Here’s Bumgarner’s scouting report from Baseball America:

Strengths: There may not be a lefthander with a better fastball than Bumgarner’s. He hits 97 mph with minimal effort, consistently pitches at 93-94 and hitters have trouble picking up his heater from his high three-quarters delivery. His fastball has boring action and is a devastating two-strike pitch when he elevates it. He gave up just three homers all season, as his command and control were impeccable. “He has another gear,” catcher Jackson Williams said. “He’s so long and so loose, the ball just pops—and it pops hard.” His breaking ball and changeup showed improvement throughout 2008. Bumgarner, who’s from a small town in North Carolina, initially came across as a timid kid when he first reported to instructional league in 2007. But he soon dispelled any concerns about his makeup. “The closer to home plate they get, the more he reaches back and goes after them,” Augusta pitching coach Ross Grimsley said. “For 19, he’s a very mature, smart kid. He knows he’s got some things to work on to make himself a more complete pitcher and not just a thrower.” Bumgarner is a physical, durable beast and a good athlete who also makes hard contact as a righthanded hitter.

Weaknesses: While Bumgarner’s fastball control far exceeded San Francisco’s wildest expectations, his secondary pitches remain a work in progress. Coaches worked to replace an erratic curveball with something closer to a true slider that developed depth the more he threw it. Because his fastball was nearly unhittable, he didn’t get much practice setting up hitters. He often threw his changeup in fastball counts just to work on it. “That’ll be the biggest thing,” Grimsley said. “He’ll need the changeup for the higher levels and he understands that.”

The Future: Bumgarner has all the gifts to be a No. 1 starter, though it’s hard to imagine anyone unseating Tim Lincecum in San Francisco in the foreseeable future. The Giants hope to instill a friendly rivalry between Bumgarner and their other first-round prep pitcher from the 2007 draft, Tim Alderson. They’re expected to form a supremely talented 1-2 punch at Double-A Connecticut, potentially with 2008 first-rounder Buster Posey as their catcher. If Bumgarner continues to easily dispatch hitters after skipping a level, San Francisco will be tempted to give him a taste of the big leagues in September.

I watched a bit of his start last night and must say that I was woefully unimpressed with his breaking pitches. Had he thrown against a league average offensive team I believe he would have been hit much harder. Luckily for us, Madison is only 20 and has plenty of time to develop his offspeed pitches- I just hope that the Giants allow him to do this in the Minor Leagues all of next year. He just doesn’t look MLB-ready to me right now.

Also, I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s surprised to see Bumgarner make his debut before Buster Posey. It’s a damn shame that Bochy hasn’t gotten him in even for a pinch hit appearance.

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