Joe Biagini describes the personality of the 2014 San Jose Giants’ pitching staff as more of a college team. That’s high praise, being as Biagini hardly got to enjoy his college career.
As a sophomore at College of San Mateo in 2010, Biagini underwent Tommy John surgery which effectively ended his tenure with the Bulldogs. By the numbers as a junior transfer at UC Davis, he didn’t have much fun, posting a 7.47 ERA over 13 relief outings.
Something peculiar happened during that 2011 season though, as the right-hander experienced a sever spike in velocity. A self-described weak kid growing up, Biagini topped out at 88 mph with his fastball on a good day while at CSM. By the end of his junior year at Davis though, he was touching 94 mph.
It was then Biagini — who was born in Menlo Park but moved to Santa Clara at age 4 — started getting some serious attention from major league scouts. And it was the team for which he grew up rooting that landed him, as the Giants selected Biagini in the 26th round of the 2011 draft.
“It didn’t really hit me right away. It was kind of a surreal experience,” Biagini said. “I felt honored to be worthy of playing for the Giants.”
After spending two seasons in Giants Low-A affiliate Augusta, Biagini was promoted to High-A San Jose to start the 2014 season. He made his debut with the minor-league Giants Monday at Lancaster, dealing to the tune of two hits through six shutout innings. Departing with a 1-0 lead, he ultimately took a no-decision as Lancaster rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Tyler Mizenko to walk off on a two-run double by cleanup hitter Rio Ruiz.
Opposing teams figure to be hard-pressed to score against San Jose’s pitching staff this season though. San Jose is composed of most of the staff from last year’s Augusta team which ranked fourth in the South Atlantic League with a 3.45 team ERA and finished with best overall record in the league. The headline act in San Jose this year is 2012 first-round draft pick Chris Stratton, who earned his first win of the year in San Jose’s 7-1 opening-day win at Rancho Cucamonga.
“You can tell when you watch [Stratton] pitch that he just has something that throws hitters off,” Biagini said. “He is very unique.”
Biagini said he is in awe of many of the pitchers with whom he has come up through the ranks of the Giants’ farm system. Nine hurlers on the current San Jose staff pitched for the 2012 Short-Season Salem-Keizer team with which Biagini began his professional career.
“I feel pretty comfortable with most of the guys. Most of the other pitchers and I were together in Short-Season [in 2012]. I immediately noticed how close the team was. … This team definitely has a close-knit group.”
While Biagini has had his ups and downs throughout his career — he currently owns a 9-14 career record with a 5.16 ERA — the big 6-foot-4 right-hander owns what may just be one of the best senses of humor in the minors. When asked what he brings to the table amid a pitching staff with so many talented weapons, his response was an immediate laugh and a questioning tone as he said: “A smile?”
Playing in the Giants’ system is the second time in Biagini’s life he has pitched for the same organization as his father, Robert. Not only was his dad a minor-league pitcher for the Giants in 1981 and ’82, but he also played at CSM. While his father having played for CSM wasn’t the bottom line in his decision to enroll there, it was Robert who recommended the program to his son after Biagini graduated from The Kings Academy.
“I’ve never wanted to say (I went to CSM) just because he went there,” Biagini said. “But he knew the program. He knew the legendary John Noce. … But it was more of a baseball decision. It felt like the right place for me at the time.”
Now recovered from the arm injury which derailed his career with the Bulldogs, Biagini is having more fun than ever.
“I was excited about being in with this group,” Biagini said. “If you ask anybody, [the camaraderie] is actually more like a college team.”