Why Giants are excited about South African-born prospect Kieran Lovegrove


You probably missed it, but the Giants made an under-the-radar move late in November that has boom or bust potential. 

Across the minor-league transaction wire, the Giants signed 24-year-old reliever Kieran Lovegrove, a move that can bring major results in the future. Just ask president of baseball operation Farhan Zaidi. 

“He’s a terrific arm, a terrific prospect," Zaidi said Wednesday on KNBR. 

Lovegrove was born in South Africa and was the Indians' third-round pick out of Mission Viejo High School in 2012. This past season was his best to date and he even suited up for Team World in the Futures Game. Mostly pitching in Double-A with three innings at Triple-A and 10 games at Advanced Single-A, the 6-foot-4 right-hander went 4-0 with a career-best 2.73 ERA in 41 relief appearances. 

Ever since being drafted, Lovegrove has had a hard time with his control. Throwing a fastball that sits at 95-96 mph and can touch triple digits, it sometimes has a mind of its own. 

“My fastball is a four-seam, but something about the way I pronate makes it two-seam at times,” Lovegrove said to FanGraphs last month. “When it’s down, it registers as a sinker at 2,500 (RPM). I wish I knew why it does what it does, but it’s working for me right now, and that’s what matters.”

As Lovegrove is coming off his career-year where he struck out 10 batters per nine innings, Zaidi believes the past is the past and his new acquisition will build off the momentum he created in 2018. 

“He’s on the uptick, he’s had some injury issues, but we’re really encouraged by what we saw last year," Zaidi said. "There was a lot of competition for him, so we were excited we were able to land him.” 

The Giants are yet to make a big move this offseason as perhaps the top two arms are off the market in Patrick Corbin (Nationals) and Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox). But as Zaidi spoke on Lovegrove, he hinted at what his focus may be right now to boost the Giants' roster.

"One of the things I think we need to use is our ability to recruit pitchers as free agents because they know that this is a terrific park to call your home park if you're a pitcher," Zaidi said. "Even pitching in the NL West, I think is generally advantageous.

"That’s one platform that I think we really need to use, not just with a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, but all the way up to the major league level.” 

While Corbin and Eovaldi are gone, the Giants have their eyes overseas as they've heavily scouted free agent Yusei Kikuchi. Whether it's a minor-league free agent like Lovegrove, a big name in free agency, or searching the trading block, Zaidi sounds like he's looking to take advantage of AT&T Park and building a top-notch starting rotation. 

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