Thursday, December 27, 2012

DrB's 2013 Giants Top 50 Prospects #9: Heath Hembree

Heath Hembree, RHP.  DOB:  1/13/1989.  6'4", 210 lbs.  B-R, T-R.

High A:  0-0, 0.00, 5 IP, 1 BB, 7 K's.
AAA:     1-1, 4.74, 38 IP, 20 BB, 36 K's, 15 Saves.
AFL:      0-0, 3.00, 9 IP, 3 BB, 12 K's, 2 Saves.

The Giants drafted Hembree in the 5'th round out of College of Charleston in 2010, and quickly served notice by ringing up 22 K's against 0 BB's in just 11 IP in what was left of that season.  He was put on the closer track and blew through two levels, high A and AA in 2012 while racking up 78 K's in 53.1 IP while collecting 38 Saves.  He ran into a bit of a headwind in AAA in 2012 as his walk rate crept up and his K rate took a hit.  He missed part of the season with a forearm strain.  Those can sometimes be harbingers of TJ surgery, but he came back fairly strong at the end of the season and had a successful AFL campaign.

Hembree is a big rawboned dude. More rangy big than stocky big with a long, loose arm.  I saw him pitch early in the 2011 season for SJ.  He relieved Zack Wheeler who had an absolutely dominating fastball that day and Hembree's was noticeably harder.  The Stadium gun had him at 95-96.  I didn't see more than one offspeed pitch from him that day.  I had read some rumors of a loss of velocity before he hit the DL last year, and have not seen anything since he came back.  I have the feeling he was throwing hard again.  He is reputed to have a plus slider as a secondary offering.

It appears the Giants are setting him up to go back to Fresno to start the 2013 season.  Whether he gets called up midseason would depend on team needs and his continued health and success at AAA.  As I have said many times, I am not particularly a fan of the closer track for future closers unless there is an immediate need at the MLB level that you need to fast track a guy for.  I just don't think closers face enough batters to polish their game, develop secondary stuff and improve command.  I mean, has hard as he threw, even Brian Wilson needed both command and secondary stuff to be successful at the MLB level.  I will say that over the last several years, Giants pitchers have been very good at developing new stuff on the fly while competing at the MLB level, so maybe it's a non-issue.


  1. Good to read that he's got a plus slider (reputedly) to go with that plus, plus fastball.

    He may be closer than many least, one hopes (that's all we can do in the depth of winter).

    1. Correction on the plus slider thing. I got that from Marc Hulett's writeup on Fangraphs and it should read a POTENTIALLY plus slider. Also, a "fringy" changeup.

    2. By the way, Heath is a good baseball and Hembree is also good.

    3. Agree, Heath Hembree is a great baseball name.

  2. Wilson age 24 split time, 29 IP in Fresno/SJ in 2006, 30 IP with the big club, where he had a less than stellar WHIP, with over 9 H/9 and 6BB/9. 37 IP in Fresno/SJ in 2007, with 23 IP with the big club, the walks got under control. 2008 he was in it to win it. I suspect the Giants will take a very similar tact with Hembree. He will have to learn how to use his offspeed to keep hitters off balance, but that plus plus fastball is a serious weapon. I think we get greedy sometimes, spoiled by the amazing success of Timmy/MadBum/Posey and forget that things take time. That is why the Gints signed up Casilla/Affeldt and are most likely keeping an iron hot for scorned Beard: a proven arm who can pitch in high leverage is a very valuable weapon. That doesn't show up in the accountant eyeshade's WAR totals, because relievers pitch 50-70 IP.

    I think it speaks well of our system's depth that Hembree dropped back a bit. I think there is nothing wrong with having a lights out closer type as a prospect, but you do want your full time starters and SP's ahead of them if you can help it. Hope the arm fatigue and learn the secondary pitches were just a little hickup for young Heath. He is definitely an electric arm, and somebody who should generate a lot of excitement if he can make it. But a little emphasis on that "if" part. We all love our bright shiny prospects, but there is a gigantic leap to get to proven status on the MLB level. Penciling in a guy for the Wilson roll is presuming a lot. But he could definitely get there.

    1. Sabermetrics does not understand or account for "guts". If it is not measurable, then it don't exist.

      The problem is that they think that they are as advanced as String Theory in understanding baseball when they are probably closer to Newton than they are to Einstein, as long as they don't really understand the impact of pitching, fielding, and the intangibles.

      Good point about Hembree's drop. That's good scouting and free agent pickups. Also great point about "if". Just remember how close Runzler appeared to be when he came up, that's good enough and close enough of an example to understand. Or bring up AFW.