#7 – Keury Mella – RHP, 21 years old.  Last Level – Low-A/Short-A

Mella has been in the middle of a lot of prospect lists this spring for the Giants.  Consistently in the 4-6 range just about everywhere, and peaking at #3, the young right hander has become a hot topic among prospect fans.

Mella’s highlight is a fastball that rides up to 96 MPH, and a pretty good curveball going as well.  He still needs to find his changeup, still, and he could use a slider as well.  Mella also impresses with his intelligence on the mound, one of the things that both scouts and the Giants really like about him.

On the downside, Mella’s delivery isn’t perfect, which is neither smooth nor solid.  And that becomes important because Mella missed over a month due to rotator cuff issues.  He was having a decent year in Augusta to the tune of a  3.95 ERA, and posting his first 10-strikeout game just before being shut down, but he was getting hit pretty hard.  He lost that 10-strikeout game.  When he came back, he was working reduced innings down in Salem-Keizer.  However, at the lower level, he was very successful with a 1.86 ERA in six appearances and 19.1 innings.

The question, and the reason I have Mella lower than most, is questions about his shoulder’s health.  The Giants will be trying to push him to San Jose, most likely, and see what he can do with a full-season workload.  He’s got the ability to be a middle of the rotation starter, but if he can’t handle the workload, there’s not a bad floor for him as a long or middle reliever.

#6 – Ty Blach – LHP, 24 years old.  Last Level – AA

Whereas a couple of previously listed pitchers sunk due to injury concerns, Ty Blach gets pushed a little bit because he is healthy and reliable.  Blach was consistent in college, worked past the fifth inning in 22 of 25 starts (and a rain delay affected one of the other three).  It also helps that he’s been consistently effective.

Blach was a 5th round pick from 2012, who started his pro career in San Jose last year, and was spectacular with a 2.90 ERA.  He followed it up with a 3.13 ERA in Richmond, with an increased workload.  He mixes fastballs, with a four-seamer that is around 89-92 MPH, and a two-seamer with movement.  He has a solid changeup and a couple of decent breaking pitches, though neither are great out pitches.

He may need to sharpen those breaking pitches, however.  He lives on his control, walking only 18 in 130.1 inning in San Jose.  He walked 39 in Richmond, however, in 141 innings.  That’s because advanced hitters let him nibble more and that led to more walks.  But with just 91 strikeouts, Blach has a potential to get hit hard and will rely on his defense.

The minors are paved with the careers of control specialists, and that keeps expectations low on Blach.  But he’s got the durability to make it as a starter, and a precise pitcher is not a bad thing so long as the control is there.  Likely to be in Sacramento this year, Blach could be the next pitching prospect to get a chance in San Francisco.

#5 – Steven Okert – LHP, 23 years old.  Last Level – AA

In 2013, a fast-rising reliever with exciting numbers had an amazing Arizona Fall League, and made a lot of Top 10 lists.  Derek Law’s fortunes fell due to Tommy John surgery, but a similar performance by Stephen Okert has catapulted Okert into a similar spot.

Okert’s ceiling may be low, looking at being a reliever and maybe, if stretched, a closer, but Okert has been good at all he’s done.  Okert was spectacular in San Jose with a 1.53 ERA, then had a 2.73 ERA in Richmond.  After a 0.75 ERA in 12 innings in the AFL, striking out 17 and walking just one, Okert’s on the radar.

Okert throws hard as a left-hander, living in the mid-90’s and reaching 97, and pairs it with a hard slider.  If he can harness his slider, he’ll increase his effectiveness against right-handed batters, and only increase his role.

In the meantime, Okert could be in either Richmond or Sacramento.  He looks like a Javier Lopez type of reliever, and that sounds real good.  He’ll be an outside shot to make the bullpen out of Spring Training, and remain a call-up candidate all year.  Only injuries should stop him from being with the team in 2016.

#4 – Clayton Blackburn – RHP, 22 years old.  Last Level – AA

Clayton Blackburn was a nice pick by the Giants, a 16th rounder who most people was locked into going to college, but the Giants lured him to the pros.  Blackburn debuted with huge seasons in Arizona and Augusta, and has worked up the system.  He posted a 3.29 ERA in Richmond, and looks like not much is going to slow him down.

The control specialist has been even more effective than Blach, and walked only 20 in 98 innings in 2014.  The only thing that was truly limiting him was an oblique injurie that sidelined him in May and June.  He came back from the injury strong, and except for a couple of games where he got hit hard, finished strong.  He’s a big guy, and whether or not that had a role in his injury is to be seen.

Where Blackburn truly excels is in his intelligence.  All reports indicate that he knows how to pitch, how to set up hitters.  Plus, he knows how to take velocity on and off his fastballs.  His four-seam fastball gets into the low-90’s, his two-seam fastball goes down to the mid-80’s.  He also has a plus changeup and curveball.  While he doesn’t have a lot of raw projectibility, his intelligence and uncanny control makes him an intriguing prospect.

With Clayton, other than an awesome name, Blackburn has an intriguing future with the Giants.  He’s not a guy who should be a top pitcher, but his advanced feel for the role could truly make him a surprising kind of guy.  He’ll be in Sacramento next season, and while the Giants are going to make sure he’s healthy before pushing him to San Francisco.