Kyle Harrison could be SF Giants’ most important rookie of them all

Giants prospect Kyle Harrison throws a pitch in spring training this March in Arizona.

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Think of a word to describe the Giants’ offense over the last month or so. Stagnant? Maybe sluggish? Depressing? How about DOA? All of them work, because to say the Giants have been struggling to score runs lately is an understatement. Since the end of their 10-game winning streak in June, they’re last in the league in batting average, OPS and home runs, yet have somehow managed to play close to .500 baseball in that timeframe. 

It’s not new, as a number of Giants teams in the past — including the 2014 championship team — have gone through prolonged offensive slumps. Streaky hitting seems to be embedded into the Giants’ DNA, and this year is only different in that it feels like the streakiest team of them all. For as ice cold as they’ve been lately, they’ve shown they can get just as nuclear hot when the mood strikes them. It’s frustrating and fascinating all at once. 

The series against the Rays was a perfect example. After scoring only two runs in a loss on Monday, the Giants exploded for seven on Tuesday and won going away. Wednesday? Another offensive hibernation and a 6-1 loss. The series almost perfectly summed up the Giants over the past month.


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What’s saved those streaky Giants teams of the past has been pitching — dominant, shutdown pitching that allows the offense to score just enough to squeak by. The same thing is happening so far this year, too, albeit in a much different way. 

While the Giants teams of the past had strong starting rotations, this version barely has any rotation to speak of. Beyond Logan Webb and Alex Cobb, there’s nobody on the roster whose usage would suggest a traditional starting pitcher. The Giants have fully embraced the much-debated “opener” strategy, and it seems to be paying off for them, as they’ve managed to stay in contention for a playoff spot despite not being able to score any — err, many — runs over the past month or so.

The thought behind using an opener is simple: use a high-leverage reliever to face the opponent’s best hitters while the game is guaranteed to be tied, rather than waiting for the later innings when the game could be out of hand. In theory, this gives the Giants’ offense time to strike and take the lead before a more traditional “starter” like Ross Stripling comes in to face the opposing lineup twice through. Starter may not be the right term, actually — they’re more like a “featured guy,” as Gabe Kapler called Stripling a few weeks ago. 

Is it a sustainable strategy? That’s debatable, though successful teams like Tampa Bay have used it for years. Stripling, for instance, only gave up two runs in his last “featured guy” appearance against Texas, but was knocked around by the Rays on Wednesday. He was one of the big offseason rotation additions that completely faltered, and an equally big reason why the Giants embraced the opener strategy. Pure necessity. 


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Still, in a short playoff series, it’s nice to have three dominant starters you can count on to eat innings, keep the bullpen rested, and keep the team in the game. The Giants have an ace in Webb and a very solid option in Cobb. They could use one more starter to truly solidify the top of the rotation, and since there wasn’t one to be found at the trade deadline, the answer may be up the road in Sacramento. 

Kyle Harrison, the top left-handed pitching prospect in the game according to, is knocking at the door. The Giants have slow-played his development since he was drafted out of De La Salle High School in 2020, and their patience may finally pay off in the next few weeks. Harrison hasn’t been overwhelmingly dominant in Triple-A, but he’s shown enough to prove he can contribute at the Major League level. And he’s just what the Giants need. 

If Harrison can slot into the rotation between Webb and Cobb and pitch well, the Giants suddenly have a competent top of the rotation for the rest of the season. They can spread out their use of openers more and make sure not to overwork any of their relievers, and maybe even use a few of them in high-leverage situations later in the game. Having reliable starting pitchers would allow them to use frequent openers like Ryan Walker — who has absolutely filthy stuff — as a terrifying bridge to Camilo Doval at the end of games. It’d also allow them to get more out of Stripling and Sean Manaea, both of whom have performed much, much better out of the bullpen.  

In a year the Giants have counted on their rookies to carry them through, Harrison may end up being the most important of all. He could be the key to the pitching staff persevering through the stretch run, supporting a struggling offense and leading them to the playoffs. 


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Or, the streaky lineup could just as easily get hot again, start averaging 6 runs per game, and it won’t matter who’s starting. Either way. 


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