Madison Bumgarner is one of the Giants' top prospects. The 20-year-old southpaw was the tenth overall pick in 2007, and he subsequently breezed through the lower levels by posting 187 strikeouts and 25 walks in 166 innings in A-ball. Already rich in pitching talent, the Giants were looking ahead to having Bumgarner slide neatly into a dominant rotation.â†µ
Things hit a snag in the middle of 2009, however, when Bumgarner - who'd previously been clocked in the low- to mid-90s - saw his fastball dip into the high-80s. Much was written about his reduced velocity, and though the organization insisted nothing was structurally wrong, explanations and excuses abounded. Bumgarner's missing miles were a mystery, a mystery to which no one had a good answer. From July on in AA, the teenager struck out just 31 batters in 62 frames.â†µ
Still, Bumgarner remained high on prospect lists despite the unexplained issue. Prospect hounds said he was a quality pitcher, even with a weaker fastball. But now we may have some encouraging news. From a report on Bumgarner's most recent start in AAA:â†µ
For the record, Bumgarner's fastball hovered between 91 and 93 mph, according to pitching coach Pat Rice.â†µ
Bumgarner's early numbers with Fresno aren't the most impressive, but if he's getting some of his velocity back, then that will put a lot of minds at ease. Even if Bumgarner was still on track to be a quality Major League pitcher, those ticks could give him a greater margin of error that's difficult to overstate.