The Giants are using the remainder of the season to look at younger players like Roger Kieschnick.
The defending champion San Francisco Giants weren't expecting to head into September in last place. However, even with two straight wins over the Pittsburgh Pirates, they will go into the season's final month out of the race. Thus, the club has started to look at some younger players.
Roger Kieschnick was recalled from Triple-A Fresno after hitting .273/.339/.497 with 13 home runs. He's hit just .246/.319/.277 over 65 at-bats in the big leagues, but he's playing every day against right-handed pitchers. He doesn't look like he'll be the answer in left field for next season, but he'll likely get another month to try to earn the job.
23-year-old catcher Hector Sanchez is back with the Giants after a demotion earlier this season. He still looks raw behind the plate, but he's having better plate appearances with the bat since being recalled.
Brett Pill is also back with the team after hitting .344 with 18 home runs at Fresno. Pill will be 29 next month, so he isn't really a prospect. However, he could help San Francisco in a bench role next season.
Instead of defending a title in the heat of a pennant race, the Giants are now looking to the future. With Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and other talented players coming back, the club should be able to reload over the winter.
The farm system isn't likely to provide much help in the immediate future, as most of the Giants' top prospects are in the lower levels of the minor leagues. Let's take a look at how they fared in the season's 21st week.
Kyle Crick is the club's top prospect.
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 13 GS, 2-1 W-L, 1.75 ERA, 39 BB, 84 K, 61.2 IP
Kyle Crick struck out five more hitters over five innings of work last week. He's now struck out 84 batters in 61.2 innings this year while allowing only 46 hits.
The only blemish on Crick's resume is the 39 walks he's issued this season after walking 67 in 111.1 innings last year. He has a mid-90s fastball that tops out at 99 mph, so he doesn't need to nibble. His ability to control his above-average velocity will determine if he becomes an ace starter in the future.
If Crick's control improves as he advances up the chain, he'll be pitching at the top of San Francisco's rotation in the near future.
Last Week: 1 GS, 5 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 22 GS, 7-5, 3.83 ERA, 34 BB, 131 K, 127 IP
The long ball hurt Clayton Blackburn last week, as he allowed three home runs over five innings. He struck out seven, but he also walked three and allowed five runs on five hits.
Before last week, Blackburn had allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven straight starts.
On the year, he's now posted a 3.83 ERA with a 3.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are excellent numbers for a 20-year-old pitching at the High-A level.
Blackburn doesn't have the same ace potential as Crick because he doesn't throw nearly as hard. However, he'll likely settle in as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter for the Giants.
Last Week: 1 GS, 5 IP, 5 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
2013 Stats at Low-A Augusta: 21 GS, 8-3, 3.16 ERA, 44 BB, 119 K, 125.1 IP
Chris Stratton took a step back last week. After allowing just three runs over 21.2 innings spanning his last three starts, he allowed six hits, three walks and three runs over 5.1 innings while striking out only two hitters in his latest start.
Stratton's numbers for the season are solid but unspectacular for a first-round pick pitching at the Low-A level. He's striking out less than a batter per inning while walking 3.2 per nine innings pitched (BB/9). He also turned 23 years old last week, so he isn't young for the level he's at.
The jury remains out on Stratton. He'll likely open next year at High-A San Jose, where he'll need to be more dominant to live up to his pedigree as a former first-round pick.
Last Week: 1 GS, 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Edwin Escobar could pitch in the big leagues some time in 2014.
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: 16 GP, 3-4, 2.89 ERA, 17 BB, 92 K, 74.2 IP
2013 Stats with Double-A Richmond: 9 GS, 5-3, 2.59 ERA, 11 BB, 48 K, 42 IP
Edwin Escobar got knocked out in the first inning of his start last Wednesday after allowing three walks and two runs. But he bounced back with 6.1 shutout innings on Sunday. He struck out six, walked one and allowed only four hits.
Escobar has posted a 2.59 ERA in nine starts at Double-A after putting up a 2.89 ERA over 16 gamest at San Jose. He has a 2.77 ERA over 25 appearances this season. He's struck out 140 against only 28 walks in 123.1 innings.
His success at the Double-A level could put him in line for a potential promotion to the big leagues in 2014.
Last Week: 2 GS, 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
2013 Stats at Double-A Richmond: .263/.338/.352, .689 OPS, 26 2B, 3 3B, 4 HR
Joe Panik went 7-for-25 (.280) with three walks last week. He's hitting .273/.368/.303 over his last 10 games, and .263/.338/.352 on the year.
He walks a lot and avoids striking out, but he doesn't hit for enough power right now. Only 33 of his 130 hits have gone for extra bases this year.
At age 22, Panik is young for the Double-A level. Thus, he still has time to add some more power to his game. He needs to improve in the power department if he's going to make it as an everyday player in the big leagues.
Last Week: 7-for-25, 3 BB, 2B
Injuries have interrupted Andrew Susac's season.
2013 Stats at Double-A Richmond: .256/.362/.458, .820 OPS, 17 2B, 12 HR
Andrew Susac remained out of action last week. He's missed all of August with a shoulder impingement, per Jon Laaser of Richmond's Sports Radio 910 AM.
Before the shoulder issue, Susac spent time on the disabled list with a hand injury. He also missed time with a broken hamate bone during his final season at Oregon State.
Injuries have derailed what had been an outstanding season for Susac. He hit .256/.362/.458 with 12 home runs and 17 doubles before going down with the shoulder injury.
Last Week: Did not play.
2013 Stats at Low-A Augusta: 17 GS, 8-3, 1.97 ERA, 40 BB, 103 K, 86.2 IP
Martin Agosta struggled with his control during his latest start. He walked five and allowed four hits in four innings of work. However, he allowed only one of the nine baserunners to score.
The Giants used their second-round draft pick on Agosta last year. He's had a solid first full season in the minor leagues. The only thing that's held him back has been injuries. He started only two games from June 22 through August 13, battling a dead arm and recurring blister issues.
If not for the injury setbacks, Agosta could have been a candidate for a promotion this season. He'll likely move up to San Jose next year with Stratton and fellow rotation-mates Kendry Flores (9-6, 2.65 ERA) and Joan Gregorio (6-3, 4.19 ERA).
Last Week: 1 GS, 4 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 5 BB, 2 K
Hembree should be a September callup.
2013 Stats at Triple-A Fresno (through Saturday): 52 GP, 1-4, 4.22 ERA, 16 BB, 61 K, 50.2 IP, 30 Saves
Heath Hembree appeared ticketed for the big leagues after he notched his 30th save last week. He followed that up by allowing five hits and three runs over 1.2 innings in his next appearance four days later.
Before Hembree was hit hard last week, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area wrote:
The Giants will be selective when rosters expand Sept. 1. They’re not going to call up everyone on the 40-man roster.
But club officials say one pitcher is a near lock to be added: right-hander Heath Hembree.
Hembree has dazzled over the past two months as the closer for Triple-A Fresno. Although he struggled for a 7.84 ERA in June, he rebounded for a 1.50 ERA in 19 appearances since July 1. His scoreless streak was at nine games entering Thursday, and his 30 saves are a Grizzlies franchise record.
Hembree is still likely to be added in September, as the club will have to put him on the 40-man roster to avoid exposing him in the Rule 5 draft after the season. A few more solid appearances at Fresno would certainly help his case, however.
Last Week: 2 GP, 2.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 Save
2013 Stats at High-A San Jose: .289/.370/.504, .874 OPS, 30 2B, 2 3B, 24 HR
Mac Williamson is on fire right now for San Jose. He went 13-for-27 with four home runs, three doubles and two walks last week. Over his last 10 games, he's hitting .400/.478/.825.
The Giants used a third-round pick on Williamson last year. The Wake Forest product has the most raw power in the system. He's blasted 24 home runs, 30 doubles and two triples in 494 at-bats this season.
San Francisco has had prospects dominate at San Jose only to falter at Double-A in recent years, however. Gary Brown saw his OPS drop from .925 at San Jose in 2010 to .731 the following year. Joe Panik's OPS dropped from .770 last year to .689 thus far in 2013. Roger Kieschnick's OPS dropped from .876 in San Jose to .673 at Double-A the following season.
Thus, the next test for Williamson will be a big one. If he can hit at Double-A, perhaps he'll join Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford as the next homegrown product to become a success story in the big leagues.
Last Week: 13-for-27, 4 HR, 3 2B, 2 BB
Christian Arroyo has had an excellent minor league debut.
2013 Stats in Arizona Rookie League (through Saturday): .314/.378/.488, .866 OPS, 17 2B, 5 3B, 1 HR
Christian Arroyo, the Giants' 2013 first-round pick, continued to swing the bat well last week. He went 5-for-16 with two more triples, giving him five in 172 at-bats thus far in rookie ball.
When the Giants selected Arroyo, Alex Pavlovic of the San Jose Mercury News wrote:
Giants vice president of scouting and international operations John Barr said the team has been following Arroyo since last year and watched him as he was the tournament MVP for USA Baseball's 18-under team. Arroyo was the highest player on the Giants' board when the 25th pick came around.
"He's an offensive middle infielder and someone we're really excited about being able to select," Barr said. "He is probably versatile enough to play other positions but we're looking at him as an up-the-middle, middle-of-the-infield type of player who is an offensive player."
Arroyo is hitting .421/.452/.684 over his last 10 games. The 18-year-old shortstop is off to an outstanding start to his professional career.
Last Week: 5-16, 2 3B, BB
Michael Kickham returned to San Francisco last week.
Here are some other notable prospects to keep an eye on:
Gary Brown is hitting .302/.333/.395 over his last 10 games, but he's just .235/.290/.387 on the season.
Ty Blach is 12-3 with a league-leading 2.79 ERA at San Jose. He's struck out 115 against only 16 walks.
Kendry Flores threw eight innings of one-run ball with 15 strikeouts for Augusta last week.
Adalberto Mejia struck out eight over five innings last week. He's posted a 3.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 73.1 innings for San Jose this year.
Eric Surkamp has allowed only seven runs over his last seven starts. His ERA is down to 2.75 for Fresno.
Michael Kickham allowed six runs over four innings during his return to the big leagues. He's posted a 10.72 ERA over 22.2 innings with the Giants.
2013 second-round pick Ryder Jones is hitting .321 through his first 34 games.
Third baseman Adam Duvall is hitting .259/.327/.472 with 15 home runs at Double-A Richmond.