Stock Up, Stock Down for San Francisco Giants' Top 10 Prospects Entering Week 3
While right-hander Kyle Crick isn't expected to fall out of the No. 1 spot as top prospect for the San Francisco Giants before his eventual arrival in the majors within the next year or two, there probably isn't much separation between the next five or six pitching prospects in the organization.
And none did much to stand out during week two of the minor league season, which is why there wasn't a lot of movement among the top 10 and why one "under the radar" prospect was able to make a big jump all the way to the No. 7 spot.
A former first-round pick who has fallen off the radar after a rough 2013 season has also made his way into the rankings and might not be far from the big leagues thanks to his early season surge.
Here's the updated list and a look at how each player has fared through the first two weeks of the 2014 MLB season.
10. Gary Brown, OF
Preseason rank: Unranked Week 2 rank: Unranked
The 24th pick in the 2010 draft, Brown was expected to move quickly through the minors and was given an aggressive assignment in High-A for his first full season in 2011. He passed with flying colors, posting a .925 OPS with 14 homers, 34 doubles, 13 triples and 53 stolen bases in 131 games while proving to be a very capable defender in center field.
While his Double-A numbers in 2012 weren't terrible (.731 OPS, 7 HR, 33 SB), they were a drastic decline from his success in the hitter-friendly California League the previous season. After struggling in the also hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2013 (.660 OPS, 13 HR, 17 SB), however, his stock took an even bigger nose dive, and he appeared to fall out of the team's future plans.
But an impressive spring (7-for-20, 2B, 4 BB, 2 SB) reminded the Giants that he was still a talented player and the 25-year-old continues to get back his career back on track with a strong first 11 games in his return to Triple-A Fresno (15-for-48, HR, 3 2B, 2 3B, 3 BB, 2 SB).
Brown won't crack the Giants' starting lineup anytime soon, barring injury, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him get his first big league call-up with Juan Perez, the team's fifth outfielder, off to an 0-for-8 start.
9. Heath Hembree, RHP
Preseason rank: 8 Week 2 rank: 7
Hembree still hasn't been scored upon in 2014, having pitched 1.2 scoreless innings this week and recording his second save of the season for Triple-A Fresno. Right-handed batters are 0-for-9 against the 25-year-old. He's probably next in line should the Giants seek some relief help.
But at this point, they just don't need any help. The Giants' bullpen has a 1.99 ERA in 40.2 innings pitched and veteran lefty Jeremy Affeldt is expected back from the disabled list in the near future (per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle).
8. Ty Blach, LHP
Preseason rank: 9 Week 2 rank: 9
As is the case with an arsenal of pitches that isn't overpowering, there isn't much room for error in these rankings for Blach, who profiles, at best, as a No. 4 starter. He made the cut for another week, though.
He stayed put in the No. 9 spot last week after a decent Double-A debut (5 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 3 K) and the 23-year-old lefty now jumps a spot after tossing six shutout innings in his second start.
Blach out-dueled Baltimore Orioles farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez, the 61st-ranked prospect in the game, according to Baseball Prospectus, although he walked his first batter of the season and failed to strike out a batter.
7. Joan Gregorio, RHP
Preseason rank: Unranked Week 2 rank: Unranked
Standing at 6'7", it's hard for the 22-year-old Gregorio to go unnoticed for too long. Succeeding in a hitter-friendly atmosphere like the High-A California League can also contribute to a young prospect emerging from the shadows and rising to the top of an organization's prospect rankings.
While his 4.00 ERA in 69.2 innings for Low-A Augusta wasn't all that impressive, his 17 walks to 84 strikeouts and occasional dominant performance—he tossed seven no-hit innings with 10 strikeouts on July 18—is what makes Gregorio one to watch.
And he hasn't disappointed in his first two starts for High-A San Jose, allowing just one earned run in nine innings with three walks and 11 strikeouts.
6. Clayton Blackburn, RHP
Preseason rank: 6 Week 2 rank: 5
The final result of Blackburn's second start of the season wasn't as good as his Double-A debut last week—he allowed two earned runs and six hits in four innings on April 10; he allowed one earned run and five hits in five innings on April 4—but he struck out six batters, doubling his game one total, and didn't allow a walk against a talented Altoona (Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate) lineup.
His one walk to nine strikeouts through nine innings is impressive, but the .297 batting average against him is a bit concerning early in his first stint in the upper minors. The 21-year-old held High-A hitters to a .224 batting average last season.
5. Adalberto Mejia, LHP
Preseason rank: 4 Week 2 rank: 4
Looking to build on a solid debut with Double-A Richmond (5 IP, 3 ER, 3 H, BB, 5 K), Mejia's second start, a much-anticipated match-up against Pirates prospect Nick Kingham, was cut short after Altoona second baseman Gift Ngoepe lined a base hit off of his shin. He stayed in the game temporarily, allowing an RBI double to Stetson Allie before retiring the next two batters to finish the inning.
The 21-year-old lefty didn't return to the game, although Tom Pearrell of the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported that Mejia was on schedule to make his next start.
4. Christian Arroyo, 2B/SS
Preseason rank: 5 Week 2 rank: 6
The 18-year-old Arroyo is starting to heat up with the bat after a 2-for-23 start for Low-A Augusta. Over his last four games, the converted shortstop, who has played nine of his 10 games at second base, is 6-for-17 with a double, two walks and four runs batted in.
While he is very young for the level, it's imperative that Arroyo has a strong season at the plate as his bat appears to be his calling card, as indicated by the organization's quick decision to move him off of shortstop, where there were questions about his ability to handle the position defensively.
3. Chris Stratton, RHP
Preseason rank: 3 Week 2 rank: 2
Start two in the High-A California League wasn't as smooth as the first (5 IP, ER, H, 2 BB, 4 K) for Stratton, who was knocked around by a talented Lancaster lineup, although the three best hitting prospects—Carlos Correa, Teoscar Hernandez and Rio Ruiz—only combined to go 2-for-9.
The rest of the team had seven hits during the 23-year-old Stratton's five-inning stint, including a solo homer by first baseman Brandon Meredith to account for one of the four runs allowed.
Stratton gets his first home start later today against Inland Empire (Los Angeles Angels affiliate).
2. Edwin Escobar, LHP
Preseason rank: 2 Week 2 rank: 3
Escobar's second Triple-A start was much better than his first, but he still has a ways to go to position himself for a big league call-up should Ryan Vogelsong (9 IP, 8 ER, 14 H) continue to struggle.
After allowing four earned runs and 10 hits in 4.2 innings at Las Vegas (New York Mets affiliate) last week, the 21-year-old lefty cut the number of hits allowed in half at Salt Lake City (Los Angeles Angels affiliate), although he still allowed three earned runs and five hits in four innings.
It's not easy containing hitters in the Pacific Coast League's hitter-friendly venues and Escobar's three walks to 11 strikeouts is strong, but he's unlikely to be given much consideration for a promotion anytime soon when opposing hitters have a .395 batting average against him.
1. Kyle Crick, RHP
Preseason rank: 1 Week 2 rank: 1
After missing most of 2013 with an oblique injury, the Giants will be very careful with their top prospect's workload. So on a day when he's not very efficient, Crick is just not going to last very long in a start.
The 21-year-old, who allowed only one earned run in five innings during his Double-A debut last week, didn't make it out of the third inning against Altoona in start two.
Crick was removed after 74 pitches, 41 of which were strikes. He allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks. Five of the eight outs recorded were strikeouts, which gives him 10 on the season in 7.2 innings pitched.
The Giants, as they should, will continue to handle Crick like a prized possession, which makes it unlikely that he reaches San Francisco in 2014.