Spring training is in full swing, which means many of the San Francisco Giants’ top prospects have left camp to make way for the more established players on the team.
With the Opening Day roster starting to take shape and most of the prospects reassigned or optioned to Triple-A, it’s time to reflect on how some of these players performed during their time with the big league club.
Some top prospects, like Adalberto Mejia, Christian Arroyo and Mac Williamson, won’t appear on this list because of a lack of playing time this spring.
Edwin Escobar, SP
On paper, Escobar didn’t have a great spring, finishing with a 5.19 ERA across 8.2 innings of work. However, his numbers are skewed by a tough final start; he surrendered only one run in six innings to begin the spring, which drew praise from manager Bruce Bochy.
“The kid, I thought he did a nice job with the fastball,” Bochy said following Escobar’s March 9 start against the Dodgers, per the San Jose Mercury News’ Alex Pavlovic. “He wasn’t as sharp with his command but he kept his poise out there. He’s close, he’s knocking on the door now.”
The Giants optioned Escobar to Triple-A on Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean the left-hander’s spring wasn’t successful. Bochy provided further comment about his young prospect in wake of the “demotion.”
“He’s got a little ways to go,” the Giants skipper said, via the San Francisco Chronicle’s Henry Schulman. “I like the progress he’s made. I’m very pleased with the way he handled himself. He kept his poise. He needs to improve his secondary pitches, but we have to like the way he’s pitching with the fastball.”
Escobar will need to hone his command a bit during his time in the minors, but it was clear that he has the stuff to perform in the majors. It might not be long before Giants fans see Escobar pitching with the big league club.
Andrew Susac, C
Susac might have the misfortune of being a catcher in an organization with a $167 million player at his position, but that didn’t stop the young prospect from putting up solid numbers in his short stint with the club this spring.
Susac hit .267 in his 15 at-bats, but more importantly, he showed good plate discipline, with four walks and just a pair of strikeouts.
One of Susac’s four hits included a long home run against the Rangers, demonstrating some of the power he showed in flashes in the minors last season. For a team with so many plate-discipline-related struggles, it was a bit of a relief to see a prospect who could combine power and a good eye at the plate this spring.
Susac has shown he can hit against high-level competition, thanks to his .360 average in 50 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League and his solid performance at the plate this spring.
Expect to see more of the Giants catching prospect at some point late in 2014 in the majors. He'd be a viable replacement for Hector Sanchez if San Francisco's current backup catcher struggles like he did last season.
Heath Hembree, RP
Hembree has a good chance of losing his "prospect" label this season, as he'll likely receive plenty of time with the big league club thanks to his impressive spring performance.
Assuming nothing drastic happens, Hembree has shown the Giants that he means business. The right-hander has surrendered just one hit in four innings this spring, picking up right where he left off last year when he struck out 12 batters in 7.2 scoreless innings during his cup of coffee in the majors.
The competition for the final bullpen spot is fierce, with Dan Runzler and George Kontos set to give Hembree a run for his money. However, given his dominance in the majors last year and this spring, combined with having much more overall upside than his competition, it wouldn't be surprising to see Hembree snag the final spot.
"This is going to be the toughest spring as far as picking the last couple of spots in the bullpen," Bochy said, via Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. "We have good options. The guys are throwing the ball well. We have some good arms. It's not going to be easy."
Assuming he does start the season in the majors, Hembree likely won't replicate his recent success in the majors. The numbers he posted in the minors (3.15 ERA in four seasons, including 4.34 in Triple-A) were unspectacular, but that won’t prevent Hembree from contributing as a solid middle-inning man—especially if he continues his spring training level of performance.
Gary Brown, OF
Just about everyone seems to have written Brown off following a down year in Triple-A, where the outfielder posted a disconcerting .286 on-base percentage with limited success on the basepaths (17 steals in 28 attempts).
In spring training this year, Brown appeared in 11 games before being optioned to Triple-A on March 12, but he had a .409 OBP and looked much more comfortable at the plate than he did at spring training last year.
Overall, it would have been nice for the Giants to see a bit more out of Brown this spring, but he nevertheless showed he could get on base reliably in a very limited amount of playing time. He also unleashed this throw:
If whoever makes the big league roster as the fifth outfielder struggles in 2014, Brown could earn himself a promotion if he redeems himself a bit at Triple-A. Spring training was a step in the right direction for the once-top prospect.
Kyle Crick, SP
The consensus No. 1 prospect in the Giants organization, it seemed appropriate to put Crick on the list despite a shortage of playing time.
Indeed, Crick didn’t get any official game time in spring training this year, but he pitched a couple times in “B” games against other prospects. The right-hander also earned the start in the Giants “Futures Game,” facing opposing pitcher Madison Bumgarner, but he got rocked, allowing five earned runs on four walks in two-thirds of an inning.
That’s too small of a sample size to go off, and from what we’ve seen recently, Crick appears to be the real deal. He’s justified his spot as the No. 32 prospect on MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list, showcasing his ever-improving repertoire in the minors and Arizona Fall League (24 K in 15.2 innings in 2013), including a pretty nasty slider and a lively fastball that sits in the mid-90s.
Crick also said he's gained plenty from his stay in spring training.
"Fantastic," he said of his experience via MLB.com's Chris Haft. "I've learned more in the two or three weeks I've been here than I have in my whole Minor League career."
Come 2015, Crick should be around to stay in the majors.