Zach Wheeler headlines San Francisco's starting pitching prospects.
The 2009 first round pick is currently 2-1 with a 4.00 ERA for the San Jose Giants. He also has a solid 1.04 WHIP and an impressive 34:9 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Wheeler's command is even more impressive considering last season he posted a 5.8 BB/9 last year in Low-A Augusta. It is good to see a young player overcome adversity so thoroughly this early in his career.
With a repertoire including a mid-to-high-90s fastball, a curveball and change-up, Wheeler is projected as a front-end of the rotation starting pitcher.
Eric Surkamp, another top pitching prospect, is currently throwing for Double-A Richmond. He's logged a 1.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and .205 AVG against in a team-high 32.2 IP over six starts.
The 23-year-old looks to be eyeing a midseason jump to Triple-A Fresno, and could possibly be used in relief for the big league team in September.
Ryan Verdugo, another Richmond Flying Squirrel, has started 2011 well, with a 2.16 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his 25 innings pitched.
A reliever in 2010 for Augusta and San Jose, Verdugo posted a 1.87 ERA in 62.2 IP over 44 games.
Did I mention he recorded 94 strikeouts? That's an absurd 13.5 K/9. Verdugo is not often ranked as a top prospect, but is doing his best to prove scouts wrong.
Mike Kickham was a sixth round pick out of Missouri St. in 2010, and made High-A San Jose this year, but has been sidelined by a finger injury so far this year. We'll keep track of his progress once he starts pitching.
Trade Potential: Possible
As of now, it is safe to assume the Giants would consider Wheeler off-limits to trades.
But even if he himself won't be traded, the possibility of any trade involving starting pitchers hinges almost entirely on Wheeler and his progression.
The Giants currently see Wheeler as the fifth and final piece to their rotation, since his arrival to the majors is projected to be around the time Zito's contract expires.
Should Wheeler appear on the track to major league stardom, the Giants may feel free to deal other starters in their system.
Until that point, look for the Giants to hang on to upper level starters like Surkamp or Verdugo as insurance.