The San Francisco Giants face a tough uphill climb to contend in 2020. An effective Johnny Cueto would go a long way towards making it happen.
The offense features some aging veterans past their prime, while the starting rotation isn’t wowing anyone, either. In terms of the latter, what would help is to get a nice comeback season from veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto.
Cueto, 34, has missed the majority of the past two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. Last year, he made four starts in September, with two good ones and two bad ones. He was decent but not great in 2017, and the year before that he finished sixth in NL Cy Young Award voting, posting a 2.79 ERA in 32 starts as the Giants made the playoffs.
In a rotation that’s also projected to feature Jeff Samardzija, Kevin Gausman, Drew Smyly, and Andrew Suarez, Cueto will need to bounce back and be the leader for the Giants to have any chance against the mighty Dodgers and the Diamondbacks, who stole away long-time Giants ace Madison Bumgarner this past offseason.
Can it be done? Does Cueto still have something left in the tank?
If there’s any reason to believe that he does, it’s largely based on the fact that his average fastball velocity last year (91.3 MPH), though it’s a small sample size, is very comparable to that of 2016 (91.5 MPH). Slider velocity was the exact same, while changeup velocity actually went up. The good news for Cueto is that he won’t have to keep it up over a full 162 games this year.
Of course, should Cueto get off to a good start here in 2020, he could attract some trade interest and help a contending club, like he did with the eventual World Champion Kansas City Royals in 2015. If the Giants fall out of contention and Cueto does pitch well, they should consider it, as the Giants really need to start doing more to get their rebuilding process going.
Until then, it will be interesting to see whether Cueto can give the Giants some good starts in this 60-game season. He’s proven throughout his career that he can get the job done; for Giants fans, let’s hope he still has something left.