Despite their penchant for dealing prospects for veterans, the Giants have amassed an impressive group of young arms that ranges from potential frontline starter to back-end innings-eaters (and everything in between). What the organization lacks, though, is a potential impact bat.
The Year in Review: The big, tall pitcher dominated the California League in 2013, at least when he was healthy. Crick made just 14 starts on the year due to an oblique strain. The injury didn’t stop him from striking out 95 batters or from limiting hitters to just 48 base-knocks in 68.2 innings of work. His control was off, though, and he walked 39 batters. He made up for the lost innings while on the disabled list by appearing in the Arizona Fall League. He added another 24 strikeouts in just 15.2 innings but also issued 11 free passes.
The Scouting Report: Crick is your prototypical hard-throwing Texan. His fastball resides in the mid-to-upper 90s and he complements it with a hard slider that has plus potential. Like most young pitchers, he needs to trust his changeup more. Crick’s command is still inconsistent, but that should improve as he learns to repeat his mechanics and becomes more of a pitcher.
The Year Ahead: Crick will almost certainly open 2014 in Double-A. He just recently turned 21 years old but the young hurler could reach the Majors before the end of the coming season.
The Career Outlook: Crick has the stuff, frame, and makeup to develop into a legitimate No. 1 starter at the big league level. All he needs to do is polish his control and avoid significant injuries.
The Year in Review: It seemed like such an innocuous trade at the time. On April 1, 2010, the Texas Rangers were looking to secure the rights to Rule 5 draftee Ben Snyder, whom they had no spot for on the 25-man roster. In return for that honour, the Rangers agreed to part with Escobar who signed out of Venezuela for a six-figure bonus in 2008 but had just 13 games of professional experience at the time. Fast-forward four seasons and Escobar is the second-highest rated prospect in the Giants system after a year that saw him split his time between High-A and Double-A. In total, he struck out 146 batters in 128.2 innings and was taken deep just five times.
The Scouting Report: Escobar isn’t flashy but he gets results. The lefty has a three-pitch repertoire that could boast a trifecta of average or better pitches as he matures. His fastball velocity is average, or a tick above, at 88-92 mph. His second best offering is his curveball but the changeup also has its moments. Escobar shows above-average control but he needs to command his pitches on a more consistent basis. He’s averaged just under 130 innings pitched over the past two seasons.
The Year Ahead: If Escobar comes out with a strong spring training, he could receive an opening day assignment to Triple-A. More than likely, though, he’ll return to Double-A for a little more seasoning before moving up to either Triple-A or the Majors.
The Career Outlook: The southpaw starter has the makings of a durable, innings-eating No. 2 or 3 starter. Escobar continues to look like a steal for Snyder, who never did reach the Majors and last pitched in the minors in 2012. The talent evaluator who recommended the acquisition deserves a raise from the Giants.
The Year in Review: Like top prospect Kyle Crick, Mejia’s 2013 season was interrupted by an oblique strain and he made just 17 starts and failed to crack the 100-inning plateau. The lefty spent most of the year in the High-A California League where he struck out 89 batters in 87.0 innings of work. He also received a spot start in Triple-A, which speaks to how highly regarded he is in the organization. Mejia, 20, also received an assignment to the Arizona Fall League where he was roughed up in 17.0 innings.
The Scouting Report: Mejia has above-average control for his age, which helps his slightly-above-average repertoire play up. The lefty’s fastball works in the 88-93 mph range and his second-best offering is a changeup. His slider should be average or better with further experience and polish. Mejia gets into trouble when he elevates his pitches and he gave up 13 home runs in 92.0 innings last season.
The Year Ahead: Despite his fall struggles, the talented lefty should find himself in the Double-A starting rotation in April. With Mejia, Crick, and Escobar all at the Double-A level or higher in 2014, the big league club will soon be flush with an abundance of young pitching talent.
The Career Outlook: Mejia has some polish to add before he reaches his ultimate ceiling but he should settle in to the Majors as a durable mid-rotation starter.
The Year in Review: A number of talent evaluators felt Arroyo’s selection at 25th overall in the 2013 amateur draft was a reach. To that, though, the young shortstop said, “Stuff it,” by going out and performing as one of the best prospects in the rookie level Arizona League. The Florida native hit .326 with unexpected gap power (18 doubles, five triples) in 45 games.
The Scouting Report: Arroyo, 18, isn’t flashy and he doesn’t have an overabundance of plus tools, but he showed a knack for hitting in his pro debut. He doesn’t project to hit for much power and he’s not going to steal many bases so he’ll have to make friends by reaching base at a consistent clip. In the field, Arroyo quieted some concerns over his ability to play shortstop in pro ball, although he may eventually transition over to second base in deference to a stronger, flashier defender.
The Year Ahead: You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find the last time the Giants took a prep bat (Tony Torcato) with their first selection in an amateur draft. Arroyo’s strong debut could convince the Giants to push him aggressively up to Low-A ball to begin 2014 but something tells me he may be headed for extended spring training and another short-season assignment come June.
The Career Outlook: Arroyo currently looks like a future solid, but unspectacular, middle infielder at the MLB level. With that said, he’s not likely to challenge for a big league assignment for another four years or so.
The Year in Review: Agosta got off to a strong start in his first full pro season but he pitched just 37.0 innings after the end of May due to blisters and arm problems. Despite the rough second half, the 2012 second round draft pick left a strong impression with 109 strikeouts and a 2.06 ERA in 91.2 innings of work.
The Scouting Report: The right-hander has experienced a fair amount of success in the starting rotation but he projects as a reliever in the Majors, unless he can improve his secondary offerings. Agosta’s fastball works in the 90-93 mph range and he also throws a cutter and a slider. Both offerings could develop into average pitches.
The Year Ahead: If healthy, Agosta should open the 2014 in the California League where he’ll look to break the 100-inning mark and build upon the strong foundation that was laid back in April and May of 2013.
The Career Outlook: Agosta has just slightly more than 100 innings of professional experience so projecting his future at this point includes a fair amount of educated guess work. He has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter but might also succeed as a high-leverage reliever.
The Year in Review: Williamson, 23, enjoyed his time in the California League. He wasn’t exactly young for the league but he impressed the organization when he slugged 25 home runs. He also produced a .375 on-base percentage thanks to an unexpectedly-high batting average. On the downside, he struck out 132 times in 136 games.
The Scouting Report: Williamson’s carrying tool is his plus power. His hit tool projects as average-at-best because of his swing-and-miss tendencies. He could end up offering 20+ home run pop with a .240 to 250 batting average but his decent walk rate helps him compensate a bit for his shortcomings. In the field, he has the potential to be an average right-fielder with an above-average arm.
The Year Ahead: Williamson will face a stiffer test when he opens 2014 in Double-A, a more age-appropriate league for him. There is no disputing his pop but the powerful outfielder needs to work on improving his pitch recognition. Look for the North Carolina native to make his MLB debut at some point in 2015.
The Career Outlook: The Wake Forest alum probably won’t ever be a star but he could be a value big leaguer because of his powerful arm and potent right-handed pop.
The Year in Review: Gregorio battled injuries in 2013: first an oblique strain and later blister problems on his throwing hand. When he was healthy and on the mound, the right-hander was around the strike zone a lot but his lack of command in the strike zone led to a significant number of hits allowed. On the plus side, he walked just 17 and struck out 84 batters.
The Scouting Report: Signed in early 2010, Gregorio has been slow to develop and he’s never pitched in more than 76.1 innings in a season after managing just 69.2 frames in 2013 thanks to an injury. The right-hander towers over his competitors at 6’7” but his heater ranges in the 88-92 mph range with above-average movement but he’s still projectable and could have more velocity to tap in to. His slider has above-average potential but the changeup has a ways to go. Gregorio also has above-average control for his age.
The Year Ahead: Entering his fifth pro season, Gregorio will look to prove his durability as he moves up to High-A ball. He’ll likely spend the entire year at that level while attempting to surpass 100 innings pitched for the first time.
The Career Outlook: Gregorio still has a lot to prove but he has the raw ability necessary to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter. He could also eventually find his way to the bullpen where he could focus on his fastball-slider combination.
The Year in Review: Just 20, Blackburn moved up to High-A ball in 2013 and produced solid results despite playing in a league that significantly favors hitters. The right-hander walked just 38 batters while striking out 138 in 133.0 innings. He made some adjustments in the first half of the season and had a strong finish to the year.
The Scouting Report: Blackburn has a strong frame and projects to develop into a No. 4 pitcher capable of providing 200+ innings. He succeeds with average stuff by pounding the lower half of the strike zone and shows the potential to command three or four pitches, including an 87-93 mph fastball, curveball, slider and changeup. His best offerings right now are his fastball and curveball.
The Year Ahead: Blackburn will move up to Double-A in 2014 and should spend the entire season at that level. He doesn’t need to be added to the 40-man roster (to protect him from the Rule 5 draft) until after the 2015 season so the organization can afford to be patient with him while he polishes his repertoire. Expect to see his strikeout rate to dip noticeably as he faces more mature hitters that are used to pitches being able to command the ball more consistently.
The Career Outlook: The California native has a solid chance to develop into a solid, but unspectacular, back-of-the-rotation starter who should chew up plenty of innings for the Giants. Double-A will be a strong test for him.
The Year in Review: Hembree returned to Triple-A for a second straight season in 2013 and produced respectable results. He was rewarded with his first taste of big league action and did not allow a run while striking out 12 batters in 7.2 innings.
The Scouting Report: Hembree has the kind of makeup and mound presence that allows him to get the most out of his abilities. It also hints at his potential to develop into a high-leverage reliever at the big league level. In the past, Hembree threw more consistently in the 94-95 mph range but he sat in the 91-93 mph range during his debut in The Show. He has above-average control thanks to his simple, repeatable delivery but he needs to improve the command of both his fastball and his slider. He also falls in love with his breaking ball a little too much at times.
The Year Ahead: Hembree has nothing left to prove in the minors, although he has all three minor league options remaining. As it stands right now, the right-hander should have a good shot at breaking camp with the Giants but a lot can change between now and April. He’ll likely start out in a middle relief role.
The Career Outlook: The South Carolina native has both the skill and the makeup to develop into a high-leverage reliever for the Giants, either as a closer or a very good set-up man.
The Year in Review: Despite going 20th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, the college product spent the entire 2013 season in Low-A ball at the age of 22 (now 23). He was old for the league and he produced solid results but his raw stuff failed to impress.
The Scouting Report: Stratton displayed three average offerings in 2013 with his fastball, slider and changeup. He displayed OK control but his command in the strike zone fluctuated and his stuff was often flat. The Mississippi native had a habit of hanging his breaking ball and needs to finish it off more consistently. He has an strong, athletic frame and fields his position well. He could end up as a respectable No. 4 starter in the Majors.
The Year Ahead: Stratton will look to rediscover the stuff that made him a highly-ranked amateur prospect just two years ago. If he produces, he could split the year between High-A and Double-A.
The Career Outlook: A former first round draft pick, Stratton hasn’t developed as hoped and he has a considerably lower ceiling than expected when he was selected out of Mississippi State University in 2012. He should pitch in the big leagues but it will be in the middle to back end of the rotation rather than at the front.
The Next Five:
Andrew Susac, C: Susac’s bat hasn’t been quite as good as advertised since signing as a second round pick in 2011 but he’s made significant strides behind the plate. The California native should provide at least average big league defense in his prime. His bat is another story but he’s been pushed aggressively through the system and began his first pro season in High-A ball. He played in Double-A in 2013. The right-handed hitter had a nice showing in the Arizona Fall League, which provides some hope that his offence is about to kick into high gear.
Gary Brown, OF: Brown has been a bit of a disappointment since going 24th overall in the 2010 amateur draft he has some tools that should allow him to be a useful big league contributor. The speedy outfielder plays an above-average centre field with solid arm strength and plus speed. Unfortunately, his bat projects as fringe-average. Despite having four years of pro experience under his belt, Brown has a lot of work to do at the plate and needs to get on base on a more regular basis to take advantage of his stronger tool.
Keury Mella, RHP: The Dominican right-hander came stateside for his second pro season and was overpowering at times in the rookie Arizona League. He struck out 41 batters and induced a high number of ground-ball outs in 36.0 innings over 10 appearances (nine starts). Mella, 20, probably has a future as a hard-throwing reliever but the organization will no doubt give him every opportunity to succeed as a starter. He throws in the low-to-mid 90s with his heater and also shows a solid curveball.
Ty Blach, LHP: Blach had an eye-opening season while pitching in the offense-boosting California League (High-A). The southpaw utilized above-average control, strong pitching know-how, and an average four-pitch repertoire to post a 2.90 ERA in 22 appearances (20 starts). Blach’s fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range and his best secondary pitch is a plus changeup. He also throws both a curveball and a slider. He could settle into a big league rotation as a durable No. 4 starter capable of eating up 200+ innings a season.
Ryder Jones, 3B: Jones had an outstanding debut in rookie ball by hitting more than .300 and showing power potential from the left side of the plate. Already 6-2, 200 pounds, the teenager will have to watch his conditioning to stick at third base where he currently projects to develop into an average fielder (given more experience) with a strong arm. Like with first rounder Christian Arroyo, Giants scouts did an excellent job of identifying and taking talents that went higher in the draft than expected, potentially landing some steals.