So…I’m just going to leave the sweep by the Dodgers alone…but let’s talk about these new acquisitions.
I don’t think Jake Peavy is going to save this team, but the trade wasn’t a bad trade, because of the cost. The last few years, the Giants have done a good job of understanding which of their prospects were disappointing. With the obvious exception of Zack Wheeler (who was traded for Carlos Beltran, also unique in being a star player targeted), none of the recent Giants trades have resulted in young players doing well elsewhere. This trade will be no different.
Edwin Escobar was ranked by some as the Giants’ number two prospect behind Kyle Crick. This was really the result of three things: his age (he turned 22 in April), a spectacular two season performance that culminated with ten good games in AA Richmond, and a lack of depth among other Giants prospects. What I saw, however, was a bit of a mirage. In those two years, Escobar spent 32 games in pitcher-friendly leagues and parks, and only 16 in the hitter-friendly California League. I also saw Jonathan Sanchez.
Sanchez, who I hope most Giants fans remember, was the ultimate example of a lack of consistency. When he was good, he was dominant. He came a Juan Uribe error away from throwing a perfect game. But when he was not…well, he wasn’t just bad, he was awful. Escobar holds one of the most prominent traits that Sanchez had: a slipping arm slot. The lower the arm slot, the worse the off speed pitches get (maybe even tipped), and the effectiveness goes down. And, at some point, if a player can’t keep it on himself to keep the right arm slot, it just becomes too much work (and too much frustration) to stay on him to do that.
And, in the end, Escobar doesn’t have nearly the blazing stuff that Sanchez had.
Now, truthfully, development-wise the Giants did Escobar no favors by putting him in AAA this year, when he probably needed to be in AA. But when it came to who to rush to have as a backup, for better or worse, they chose Escobar…and Escobar wasn’t up to the challenge. Maybe he could develop into something, but I believe at best he’ll be hot and cold, and that’s something I doubt Giants management will want to deal with.
The other traded prospect was Heath Hembree. Hembree has stuff, there’s no doubt. But he doesn’t have off-speed stuff. A lot of people have waited for Hembree to be the closer of the future, including myself. But he’s in his third full season at AAA. I could point out that his ERA (3.89) is the lowest of any of his three seasons at Fresno, but ERA isn’t the best stat for relievers. His SO/9IP is at 10.5, the best it’s been (by a very small margin, it was 10.2 last year). But his BB/9IP increased from last year (3.0), and his batting average against (.263) is also at its highest in AAA.
Why? Simply put, off-speed pitches. He doesn’t have a very consistent one he can use against left-handed pitchers. In Fresno, he has a .349 average against left-handers, with 11 of his 13 walks against them and all five home runs. Ask Romo how it goes when you can’t use that change up effectively against lefties as a right-handed pitcher.
Sure, Hembree could be an effective righty-only reliever. And maybe he’ll find that pitch that he needs one day. But he’s been searching for it in AAA for three years, and a team can only wait so long. It’s hard to blame the Giants for deciding it’d be long enough. The emergence of the (now-injured) Derek Law helps, and there’s the possibility of Chris Stratton, occasionally struggling starter in San Jose, could go to relief. Stratton worked an inning of relief on Sunday, strictly because of bullpen depth issues, but struck out the side.
To a degree, this trade reminds me of the trading away of Tommy Joseph. While Joseph was sent away for a much better player (Pence), Joseph was a player with a tantalizing skill (home runs) but not much consistency otherwise. (It also helped that, as a catcher, he was kind of blocked.) Joseph was injured much of 2013, and has hit only .276 this season with only five home runs, mostly in AA. Again, maybe he’ll make it to the bigs, but I doubt it’d be as much more than a role player.
Unfortunately, a lack of depth is an ongoing issue with the weekend’s other newcomer, Dan Uggla.
Let it be known that Uggla wasn’t planned to be in this Dodgers series. He had a clause to opt out on Augusta 1st if he didn’t make the majors, which should have given up a little more than a week to prove himself. But then, Marco Scutaro’s back flared up again. Joe Panik rolled his ankle. And Adrianza hurt his hamstring. The Giants didn’t have many options.
But Uggla isn’t the answer, and his performance against the Dodgers was a perfect reason why. At least Brandon Hicks played good defense. Uggla helped sour Peavy’s arrival and couldn’t redeem himself at the plate.
Truthfully, I feel a little bad for Uggla. It sounds like he’s going through some real bad times, and he’s not going to get the support that Giants fans extend to most other players who wear the uniform. But he needs to get himself in order, somehow, and he’s not going to do it in the middle of a pennant race. This isn’t the spot for him. Hopefully Panik can come back soon, but I have a feeling I’ll have to be doing another of these articles about a new second baseman within the next four days.
Maybe there will be some wins in those four days? I can hope?