Giants ace Madison Bumgarner is on top of the baseball world right now, but back in early 2010 there were a lot of people worried about the then-20-year-old prospect.
Bumgarner was a first-round draft pick and elite prospect, but during spring training in 2010 his velocity was way down into the mid-80s and he posted a 6.43 ERA with seven walks and zero strikeouts while competing for the final spot in the Giants’ rotation.
That got Bumgarner demoted back to the minors and the Giants gave the job to journeyman Todd Wellemeyer (who went on to go 3-5 with a 5.68 ERA).
Here’s what manager Bruce Bochy said at the time:
He’s 20 years old. We think a lot of him and he has a bright future. But we think there are still some things he needs to work on. … It’s fair to say he was just out of sync for the most part this spring. He didn’t have his good command this spring. Building arm strength is part of spring training.
Things were even worse in the minors, as Bumgarner allowed 11 runs on 21 hits in his first two starts while opponents batted .538. And then, suddenly, he was fixed.
Bumgarner put together a 12-start stretch at Triple-A in which he posted a 2.14 ERA and the Giants called him back up to the majors in mid-June. He never looked back, posting a 3.00 ERA in 18 starts as a rookie and then turning in four consecutive 200-inning, sub-3.50 ERA seasons culminating in his historic World Series performance.
At age 20 he was a big question mark. At age 25 he’s the World Series MVP.