The Giants' opening day pitching rotation, led by Madison Bumgarner, is likely to include Jeff Samardzija as well. There are a few others we can predict, but the rotation is likely to be in flux throughout the season.
Last season, the starting rotation had its fair share of injury issues, as was the case with the position players. Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija (SF's top 3 starters) each missed considerable time due to injury, with Bumgarner being the only one of the three to accumulate enough innings to look anything like his usual self. Even so, his record of 6-7, 3.26 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 7.57 K/9 each represented quite a step back from Mad Bum's career averages. A far cry from what Giants fans have come to expect from the 2014 World Series MVP.
All things considered, the aforementioned trio (when healthy) would occupy the first three spots in the starting rotation. However, Cueto is coming off of Tommy John surgery and isn't expected to return until late in the 2019 season. Samardzija appears to be healthy, already having one Spring Training start under his belt. Barring any setbacks, of which there have been many throughout his career, the Notre Dame product should be ready to reclaim his role in the rotation.
So, after penciling-in the mainstays (Bumgarner and Samardzija), Derek Holland should get the nod based on his stellar (and surprising) 2018 effort, during which he posted a respectable 3.57 ERA and 169 K in 171.1 IP. His contribution to the ailing '18 rotation was much more valuable than mere statistics can measure, as he was one of, if not the most, constant and consistent fixture in the starting group.
This leaves two spots open on the back end of the starting-five. Presumably, the recently-signed Drew Pomeranz will have what should resemble a "leg up" on the competition. Assuming Spring Training doesn't reveal the lefty to be a dud, this leaves former first-round pick Chris Stratton and a pair of sophomore hurlers in Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez vying for the final spot.
With Stratton lacking minor league options, it stands to reason that the organization would want to take a long look at what the young righty has to offer the big league club. This virtually guarantees that he will break camp, with the Giants, as their no. 5 starter. Moreover, both Andy Suarez and D-Rod could benefit from beginning the 2019 season with AAA Sacramento, where they can continue to accrue starter's innings, while simultaneously allowing the organization to closely monitor and manage their workload.
At the end of the day, the rotation should shape-up to look something like this:
- LHP, Madison Bumgarner
- RHP, Jeff Samardzija
- LHP, Derek Holland
- LHP, Drew Pomeranz
- RHP, Chris Stratton
With that said, I must apply this disclaimer: While I'm fairly confident that this will be the group that breaks camp, odds are this will change throughout the season. We all know how precarious the regular season can be, what with injuries, players returning from injuries, and level of play. All of these factors conspire to practically ensure this rotation will look quite different by the end of the 162-game marathon.