Continuing the Postseason Grades series, let’s talk about Heath Hembree. Hembree also gets a grade of Incomplete – throwing only 7.2 innings in the majors will do that – but I wanted to spin him off into his own post because he should be a major part of the bullpen next year and for years to come.
Hembree was drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of College of Charleston, and since then has been perhaps the best relief prospect in the Giants system, ranking #3 in Baseball America’s top 10 Giants prospects list before the 2012 season and #7 on the same list before the 2013 season. He was invited to spring training this March and was expected to compete for a spot in the bullpen, but he wasn’t as good as advertised in Arizona and so was sent to Fresno to start the year. At the beginning of the year, lowered velocity and a poor slider led to a tough first couple months in AAA. On July 1st, he found himself with a 5.08 ERA and 16 saves in 33.2 IP.
That’s when Hembree turned it all around. He regained some of that lost velocity and worked hard to improve his slider, and from July 1st until his call-up he had a 2.45 ERA in 22.0 IP with 15 saves, breaking the Fresno Grizzlies team saves record along the way. On other thing that changed in that time period – his luck. From the beginning of the season to July 1st, his BABIP was .340. From July 1st onward, it was .273.
Hembree repertoire includes a four-seam fastball that sits 92-94 mph and touches 95 with good arm-side run, which is to say the ball tails inward to a right-handed batter. He also throws the aforementioned mid-80s slider as well as a mid-80s changeup. The effectiveness of that slider-changeup combination will dictate how successful Hembree can be against lefties and righties. For example, George Kontos throws primarily just a fastball and a slider, and while Kontos is effective against righties he has struggled against lefties without an effective changeup. So while Hembree’s development of an effective slider is important and encouraging, he’ll need to use his changeup as well in order to be a true shutdown reliever and not a specialist.
In the past, Hembree was marketing as a “future closer” type, once groomed to take over for Brian Wilson, now the same for Sergio Romo. With the struggles of the Giants bullpen this year – Sergio Romo is the only pitcher I would call truly solid, and your mileage on Santiago Casilla may vary – Hembree could find himself in a high-leverage role pretty early next season. I expect him to start out in a 6th/7th inning role next year, but don’t be surprised to see him shutting down the eighth inning before long.
Full-season minor league teams play about 140 games each season, and the teams just passed the halfway point – 70 games – last week, so I thought it’d be good to check in with each team and see how the season is going, both in terms of wins and losses and player development. We’re only talking full-season affiliates here, so short season Salem-Keizer and rookie-level Arizona won’t be discussed.
All stats and records through Sunday, June 24th. Continue reading
Today is Opening Day for all of the Giants’ full-season minor league affiliates, so I wanted to run through the rosters of each of the teams and highlight a few players to watch on each team. The four full-season affiliates are: AAA Fresno Grizzlies, AA Richmond Flying Squirrels, high-A San Jose Giants, A Augusta Greenjackets. We’ll start with Fresno.
Last year’s record: 74-70, 3rd in South Division
Manager: Bob Mariano
Roster: Click here.
Players to watch: P Chris Heston, P Mike Kickham, P Heath Hembree, OF Gary Brown, OF Francisco Peguero, OF Roger Kieschnick Continue reading
A week ago, I tackled the hitters. Now it’s the pitchers’ turn. For the pitching staff I’ll be guessing whether they’ll be UNDER or OVER their projected ERA+.
Matt Cain: 125 ERA+ in 2012, projected 121 ERA+ in 2013. What is there to say about Matt Cain? He’s the rock of the staff, the unquestioned team ace. He’s the Opening Day starter. He’s gotten better each of the last three seasons, and in 2012 posted a career high in strikeouts and a career low in walks. He’s never made fewer than 31 starts in any full season, or thrown less than 190 innings. I’ll confidently predict the OVER on his projection. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Giants announced the full list of non-roster invitees (NRIs) to major league training camp. NRIs are players who aren’t on the 40-man roster who nevertheless will start spring training with the major league squad.
Spring Training at Scottsdale Stadium
This may not sound like big news, and it isn’t, for the most part. However, every year one of these guys sneaks on to the roster and ends up contributing in a big way. Continue reading
January is a slow baseball month. Last January, the Giants signed Brian Burres, Todd Linden, Wilmin Rodriguez, and Gregor Blanco. Obviously the Blanco signing turned out to be pretty important in regards to how the season went, but the point is that the major signings are over. Sorry folks, the Giants aren’t trading for Justin Upton or Giancarlo Stanton and they are going to sign Michael Bourn. The time for major roster moves has come and gone.
As I laid out in a series of posts last week, the Giants have up to three roster spots still available. There’s a spot in the bullpen, a spot for a sixth infielder, and a fifth outfielder available. Let’s run down the candidates for each spot. Continue reading
So. This happened.
I can’t say this news was expected. I also can’t say that I’m not confused by it, mainly because, as Grant at McCovey Chronicles mentioned, “If whatever he was taking was performance-enhancing, I sure as hell hope he saved the receipt.”
Of course, this means that the Giants don’t really have a long reliever at the moment and they’re down to 11 pitchers. It’s possible they’ll just use this space to activate Aubrey Huff from the DL today, but I wouldn’t put all my money on it.
There are three options in Fresno who are on the 40-man roster: Dan Otero, George Kontos, and Eric Hacker.
Otero and Hacker have already seen big league time this season and both are definitely reasonable to have in the bullpen. Kontos’ numbers, though, are solid bullpen numbers. 6.14 K/9, 1.84 BB/9, 0.61 HR/9, 3.34 FIP in AAA this season. And in a hitter’s league like the PCL, those are very reasonable.
I’m not saying that Kontos will become bullpen hero or anything, but if he can get those numbers to translate in the big leagues, it’s a good option to have available if Zito is Zitonian.
This isn’t a situation I’d like to see Heath Hembree called up in. He’s a late inning guy and the late inning roles are already covered by Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla. As much as I would love to see Hembree in the bigs, it’s not worth it to rush him and have him be a middle of the game guy or do some long relief. And with Otero, Kontos, and Hacker being options to fill in the long relief role, no need to even consider Hembree right now.
Andrew Baggarly reports that closer Brian Wilson is experiencing some arm soreness.
The Giants adjusted the pitching schedule for Brian Wilson due to some mild soreness in his right arm, manager Bruce Bochy said.
Bubble wrap, you guys! Use it!
Alex Pavlovic tweets that Heath Hembree has been reassigned.
Heath Hembree was just reassigned to minor league camp. Had a great month with the big league club.
Pavlovic also blogs that Nate Schierholtz was a late scratch yesterday due to a strain.
Nate Schierholtz was a late scratch from the lineup because of what he called “a light strain” in his right forearm. Schierholtz first felt the strain a little more than a week ago, and said swinging the bat has been problematic at times.
Again, bubble wrap.
The Giants are currently 2-2 in Cactus League play, so feel free to be pleased or horrified by that as you see fit. No one has blown up yet, so I’m calling it a success so far. More importantly, they beat the Dodgers today, and I don’t care if it’s a meaningless Spring Training game or not, that always feels good.
A few tidbits from that victory over the Dodgers from this afternoon:
In other news, Dan Runzler apparently got reassuring news from Dr. James Andrews. Runzler will likely not be ready until sometime the second half of April, but will not require surgery to repair the re-aggravated injury to his left lat.
And, because no news update would be complete without Buster Posey, San Francisco’s most beloved son was running the bases today, at about 60-70% of normal, including touching the bases and taking the curves going first to third and second to home. Progress, if nothing else, is always a good sign.