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Coonrod On The Rise

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SAN FRANCISCO
—With his mid-90s fastball, fist-pumping competitiveness, max-effort delivery and notably short warmup sessions prior to his starts at Southern Illinois, righthander Sam Coonrod looked like an obvious short-relief prospect to most scouts. Between those reports and stats that didn’t jump off the page in his junior year, Coonrod slipped to the fifth round of the 2014 draft.
The Giants saw a fastball that couldn’t be taught, and an honor-roll student who had the aptitude to learn the rest. Coonrod’s first full season couldn’t have gone much smoother. The 23-year-old won the low Class A South Atlantic League’s pitcher of the year award after recording a 3.14 ERA in 23 games while finishing third in the SAL with 114 strikeouts in 112 innings. Why didn’t they go with conventional wisdom and point him toward a bullpen mound? "Starting pitching is the hardest thing to find and develop, so we thought we would give him the opportunity to see if he could do it,” farm director Shane Turner said of the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Coonrod. "Physically he’s a very strong kid—very durable. He had three pitches.” While Coonrod excelled at Augusta, he turned in his finest start on July 20, when he held Hickory to an unearned run on three hits in eight innings. He was able to carry his modest pitch limit so far because he retired 12 of his first 14 batters on groundball outs. Of course, consistency is everything. Coonrod gave up six runs and recorded just four outs in his next start. But the Giants see a pitcher who could turn into a rotation workhorse. "Now you’re seeing a real smooth, effortless delivery,” Turner said. "Even in a 30-pitch inning, you don’t see his mechanics get away from him. We call that first (full) year the ‘Augusta experience,’ and we have to like how he handled it.” GIANTICS • It speaks to the level of pitching in the Giants system that they protected eight arms by adding them to the 40-man roster and yet still lost one, 25-year-old righthander Joe Biagini, in the major league phase of the Rule 5 draft. • The Giants did not select a player the major league phase, but they did take Padres Double-A righthander Wilson Santos in the minor league phase. They also lost Double-A outfielder Devin Harris
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