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The Giants have a lot more invested in Crick than just the $900,000 he received as the 49th overall pick in 2011. He has the highest ceiling among a wave of pitching prospects the Giants must rely upon to create a foundation for future success in the National League West. Crick has a low-mileage arm because he mostly played first base in high school and didn't concentrate on pitching until he hit 94 mph on the showcase circuit. The Giants loved his size, competitiveness, arm speed and the life on his pitches, and weren't concerned that his mechanics needed to be cleaned up. He has made the transition from a short-arm delivery to smoother, more repeatable mechanics, but his progress was interrupted when he strained an oblique in his third start of the season for high Class A San Jose in 2013 and missed two months. When he got healthy, he more than made up for lost time. In his first start back on June 21, the 20-year-old struck out 10 in four shutout innings and kept on pumping his power stuff the rest of the season and into the Arizona Fall League. Crick's fastball is a 70 pitch that is as lively as it is hard. He draws natural comparisons with Matt Cain from coaches who saw the Giants ace when he was a teenager. Crick ran his fastball up to 98 mph at times, but it's his ability to maintain mid-90s velocity past 80 pitches that sets him apart from so many other live arms. Crick's strong and athletic build reminds some coaches of 1999 first-rounder Kurt Ainsworth. He drops his arms as he starts from the windup and separates his hands late, making up for it with tremendous arm speed. That gives him a bit of deception to go along with power stuff that seemingly explodes out of his hand. Crick threw a slider in high school, but his curveball became a better breaking pitch. Managers in the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2012 voted it best breaking pitch, even though he basically used it as a show-me offering while learning to throw it dependably for strikes. Crick didn't throw the curve nearly as often as coaches would have preferred, because his fastball was too overpowering. Scouts project him to have a solid-average changeup. His stuff is so live, he's unlikely to ever have great command, but scouts project him to have average control as he gains experience. Cain reached the big leagues before his 21st birthday, but it's difficult to imagine Crick being ready so soon--especially after the oblique injury limited him to just 69 innings at San Jose. He has only 187 professional innings under his belt and has issued 5.5 walks per nine innings, so Crick has to work on throwing quality strikes and trusting his offspeed pitches. The Giants sent him to the AFL to log additional innings, and after initial struggles, he struck out 24 in 16 innings. He's ready to move up to Double-A Richmond in 2014.
Escobar has multiple cousins and relatives in professional baseball, from Kelvim and Alcides Escobar to Yankees farmhand Jose Campos. The Giants tried to sign Escobar as a teenager out of Venezuela, but his family had connections to the Rangers and he signed with them. The Giants finally got Escobar when the Rangers picked Giants lefty Ben Snyder in the Rule 5 draft, then traded Escobar to the Giants to keep Snyder in the spring of 2010. He was the only member of high Class A San Jose's prospect-laden rotation to earn a promotion to Double-A Richmond in 2013, and his numbers only got better from there. Escobar always had size and strength, but he got himself in better condition and made an adjustment to raise his elbow in his delivery, allowing him to locate his 92-93 mph fastball, and for the first time, throw a dependable breaking ball. He gained confidence in his slider and it's a plus offering at times that he can throw early in the count or as a put-away pitch. His changeup also ranges from average to plus, and he held righthanded hitters to a .222 average. Escobar has a durable arm and likes to throw a lot between starts, so a bullpen role isn't out of the question. He was pitching in that role in the Venezuelan League, but his three-pitch mix offers too much potential as a starter. He figures to start 2014 at Triple-A Fresno.
The Giants had their eye on two college pitchers as their 21st overall selection neared in the 2012 draft. Stratton was one. Michael Wacha, who went 19th overall to the Cardinals, was the other. While Wacha was winning NLCS MVP honors, Stratton was resting up following his first full professional season at low Class A Augusta, a year after sustaining a concussion when he was struck by a line drive during batting practice at short-season Salem-Keizer. Stratton's fastball ranges anywhere from 89-93 mph and he has the ability to touch 95, but it's the downward movement of his two-seamer that makes him effective. He used a short slider as a strikeout pitch in college--he fanned 17 Louisiana State batters on the day Giants scouting director John Barr saw him--and it's gotten better as he had plenty of righthanded hitters lunging at it in the South Atlantic League. Stratton is a good athlete who doesn't have a lot of effort in his delivery. His curve and changeup will be priorities to improve as he advances. Stratton's combination of stuff and ability to pitch probably merited him a higher assignment, but the high Class A San Jose rotation was loaded, and Stratton didn't blow the doors off the SAL anyway. He'll start 2014 at San Jose to see if he can be a bit more consistently crisp with his stuff.
The Giants have to like what their $350,000 investment in Mejia could bring them. Not only was he the youngest member of high Class A San Jose's prospect-studded rotation, but at 19, he ranked as the youngest starter in the Cal League. He added 2-3 mph to his fastball--something club officials thought he could do as he matured into his body--but it's his ability to pitch that most excites them. Mejia has a loose arm and shows the ability to throw three plus pitches for strikes. He'll pitch to contact with his two-seamer, his slider has plus tilt and depth and he effectively sells his changeup. His fastball, which reaches 92-93 mph, has natural cut that sometimes causes it to veer over the plate, leaving him a bit homer-prone. Mejia improved his delivery in 2013 but at times spins off and misses arm-side. The San Jose pitching staff led the Cal League in ERA for the eighth time in 10 seasons even though the Giants lost Mejia (lat strain) and Kyle Crick (oblique) in the first week of May. They rehabbed together and pitched together in the Arizona Fall League as well. They should' form a right-left complement again at Double-A Richmond, but Mejia's advanced command and feel could allow him to reach the big leagues first.
Williamson easily had the most impressive season of any Giants hitting prospect at a full-season affiliate, leading the organization in home runs (25) and RBIs (89). He started his banner year by blasting three homers in a spring training scrimmage and kept making hard contact while tying for third in the Cal League in bombs. A prep catcher and pitcher who had labrum surgery as a college freshman, Williamson is making up for lost time with a max-effort approach, desire and a good work ethic. Williamson's righthanded power is his best tool, but he's shown an improved approach, leading high Class A San Jose in walks. Breaking balls can still vex him, but he has the strength to hit his pitch out of the park to all fields. Williamson combines imposing size with solid athleticism. He's an above-average athlete who runs average underway, and he was caught stealing only once in 11 attempts. His range is average and his arm is strong enough for right field, if not always accurate. His pitch recognition skills will be tested as he moves up to face more advanced competition in the pitching-rich Double-A Eastern League.
Arroyo hit .341 to win MVP honors for USA Baseball's 18-and-under team that won the World Championships in South Korea in 2012, and the Giants went off most experts' draft boards to take him in the first round in 2013. A smart competitor who was salutatorian of his high school class and lists AP Calculus as his favorite subject, Arroyo put up some advanced numbers in the Rookie-level Arizona League, leading the circuit in doubles (18), RBIs (39) and slugging (.511) to add another MVP award to his collection. Some scouts had Arroyo pegged as a catcher because he's an average athlete and below-average runner. But the Giants fell in love with his pure hitting ability, and for now he'll continue to develop as a shortstop. He faces a likely move to second base in the future because of his average range and speed, though he probably has enough arm strength to play third. Arroyo profiles to be a gap hitter with occasional power, but many scouts said the same thing about Buster Posey. Arroyo generates plenty of bat speed and doesn't get beaten by quality fastballs. The Giants will have an interesting decision to make this spring. They could be justified in skipping Arroyo one level to high Class A San Jose. More likely, he'll start out at low Class A Augusta, along with second-round pick Ryder Jones.
Expected to be the club's closer of the future, Hembree wasn't ready for any relief role when the Giants badly needed help in May and June. Instead, he gave up 17 runs in 21 innings to Triple-A Pacific Coast League hitters. Though Hembree had recovered from the forearm strain that bothered him a year earlier, his lack of a dependable secondary pitch kept him at Fresno. He improved in the second half and kept it up into September, when he was unscored upon in nine big league appearances. A seldom-used college closer, Hembree vaulted up the prospect rankings because of his 98 mph fastball and power slider. He pitched more effectively in the 92-94 mph range in 2013, but has addressed past issues of wildness within the strike zone and shows more ability to dial back and locate. Hembree's slider was the key to his second-half turnaround. He developed the ability to shape it to steal strikes or sweep it when he wants a strikeout. Hembree saved 31 games for Fresno and will be given every opportunity to win a job in the Giants bullpen this spring as a set-up man. Even if he never gets back that 98 mph heat, his size and stuff compare well with former Giant Bob Howry, who had a long career in late relief.
A Colorado high school product, Blach spent three years in Creighton's rotation, shouldering a heavy load in 2012 when he led the nation with 21 starts and ranked 12th with 120 innings pitched. The Giants signed him for $224,500, then gave him the rest of the year off. He jumped to high Class A San Jose for his pro debut and led the California League in ERA en route to pitcher of the year honors. Blach has a true four-pitch mix and is a perfectionist when it comes to location, often expressing dissatisfaction with a pitch even when he gets a good result. He led the Cal League with 1.2 walks per nine innings and profiles as a command lefty. He can spot both sides of the plate with both his two-seamer as well as a four-seamer that sits at 89-90 mph and tops out at 94. He likes to throw his backfoot slider to righthanded hitters and can bury a solid-average curve with two strikes, but his changeup is his best offspeed pitch. It has some fade and his herky-jerky motion adds deception. Blach was the oldest and least heralded of the five prospects who began the season in the rotation at San Jose but quickly became the ace. He doesn't profile as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but his combination of smarts and command should work at higher levels, starting at Double-A Richmond in 2014.
An all-Big East Conference shortstop at St. John's, Panik hit .341 in his pro debut and was the short-season Northwest League MVP in 2011. He hasn't quite been able to replicate his early success, however. He injured his hamstring to spoil his first invitation to big league spring training, and the injury continued to affect him at Double-A Richmond, where he went through a horrific slump in June and July and struggled with his approach at times against lefthanders. Panik doesn't have standout tools, but he works deep counts, turns around quality fastballs and has some gap power. While he won't hit it over the fence, he's an unselfish hitter who has a knack for getting a runner home with less than two outs. He'll steal a base when you forget about him but is a fringe-average runner. Moving from shortstop to second base, he showed improved range and a better backhand. He has enough arm to turn double plays and solid infield actions. While some scouts think a Nick Punto-type utility role will be in his future, the Giants see a smart, contact-oriented No. 2 hitter in the mold of Marco Scutaro or Freddy Sanchez. Panik ought to get off to a cleaner start at Triple-A Fresno, and he could be in the big leagues in 2014 if the 38-year-old Scutaro needs relief.
The Giants bought Blackburn out of his commitment to Oklahoma for $150,000, then watched him pitch with the maturity and finesse of a college senior. He led the low Class A South Atlantic League in WHIP (1.02) and strikeouts (143) in 2012 but struggled to replicate his success at high Class A San Jose in 2013. In one nine-start stretch in May and June, he allowed 33 earned runs in 49 innings. Blackburn struggled with command for the first time, and several nagging injuries probably were to blame for inconsistent mechanics and pitches that rode up in the zone. He's a big-bodied presence on the mound in the mold of Rick Reuschel and when healthy, his command of four pitches draws comparisons with a young Joe Blanton. He's a better athlete than his size would indicate, though coaches have to stay on him about his conditioning work. Blackburn can pitch at 89-93 mph with his fastball but is more comfortable sitting 87-90 with the ability to throw his curve, changeup and slider for strikes in any count. His curveball has some power at up to 77 mph and earns some plus grades. Although Blackburn had some growing pains, he still had a near-4.0 SO/BB ratio and finished strong, particularly after taking a perfect game into the seventh inning on July 25 at Lancaster. He profiles as a rotation workhorse and heads to Double-A in 2014.
A hamate fracture in his wrist ended Susac's college career a month before the 2011 draft and probably caused him to slide to the second round. The Giants were excited to take him, signing for an over-slot $1.1 million bonus, feeling that his bat would be ready long before his receiving skills were. It turned out Susac was challenged in both areas in a humbling debut at high Class A San Jose in 2012. He got back on track at Double-A Richmond in 2013 before a thumb injury took him out of action. Susac has above-average raw power, and his natural stroke gives him more power to right-center field than anywhere else. He made adjustments to keep his swing from getting too long, and he made harder, more consistent contact. Susac still is learning to pull the ball with authority as he gains experience, and his patient approach helps. He led the Arizona Fall League with a .507 on-base percentage. He also earned plaudits for the progress he made with game-calling. Susac has all the tools to be an above-average defensive catcher, including a quick release and strong arm. He threw out 40 percent of Eastern League basestealers in 2013. Scouts, however, point out that Susac still has plenty of work to do when it comes to receiving and blocking. His bat remains his ticket to the big leagues and his AFL performance opened eyes. Susac will begin 2014 at Triple-A Fresno, and one day he might move Buster Posey to a less-stressful position.
Law's father Joe pitched nine seasons in the Athletics system and once spent four days on Oakland's major league roster, but he never appeared in the majors. The junior Law certainly doesn't have the textbook delivery that would suggest baseball bloodlines, perhaps explaining how a power arm was able to slide in the draft both out of high school (28th-round pick by the Rangers in 2009) and out of junior college (ninth round, Giants, 2011). Law turns his back to the hitter, stabs with his takeaway arm action and throws over the top, giving him deception along with perhaps the best breaking ball in the Giants system. It's a hard curve that breaks sharply down, and his fastball has good downward plane as well. Law boosted his velocity, threw consistently in the low 90s and was a dynamic force after being promoted to high Class A San Jose, where he posted an unreal 45-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28 innings. The Giants sent Law to the Arizona Fall League for some additional exposure, and he was among the most dominant relievers on the circuit with a 16/6 SO/BB ratio. His electric stuff and ability to neutralize righthanders could allow him to move rapidly through the system.
It's always a big deal when a Giants pitcher can shut down the Dodgers with a season on the line, even if it's only the championship game in the Rookie-level Arizona League. Mella was the right man for the assignment, holding the Dodgers scoreless over five innings to cap a season in which he emerged as a staff ace and one of the most promising arms in the system. Signed for $275,000 in 2011, Mella throws a heavy, above-average fastball that sits 93-95 mph with sinking action. He is learning to harness a power curve that has plus movement, and his changeup is functional even if he throws it infrequently. He goes to his fastball when he's in trouble and is better at climbing the ladder than throwing to both sides of the plate. Mella has a strong body and big, strong hands. His stuff would play up in relief, but the Giants expect to continue developing him as a starter. A high-energy personality, Mella is a favorite with teammates because he wants the ball and clearly enjoys being on the mound--especially in a big situation. Expect him to begin 2014 in low Class A Augusta's rotation.
Flores was well regarded as a hard-throwing teenager but wasn't able to maintain his velocity. His stuff didn't miss bats in two years at short-season Salem-Keizer and few thought he'd be much better at low Class A Augusta in 2013, his fifth pro season. But Flores turned out to be the biggest surprise in the system, posting an unreal 8.1 SO/BB ratio that topped all minor league ERA qualifiers. In an Aug. 21 start at Lexington he struck out 15 (with no walks), and he consistently outperformed 2012 first-rounder Chris Stratton atop Augusta's rotation. Flores never had a problem throwing strikes from a deliberate delivery. Getting his unremarkable, 87-90 mph fastball past hitters was the bigger issue. He doesn't have much projection, but he reliably hits the outside corner and has excellent feel for his changeup. For that reason, he actually was more effective against lefthanders. His curveball has the makings of a plus pitch but it isn't consistent. Flores still has youth on his side and coaches noted he carried himself with more confidence as he strung together one good starter after another. Even if he doesn't add any velocity, Flores will need to get more movement on his two-seamer since his flyball tendencies might not translate so well to the high Class A Cal League in 2104.
The son of Appalachian State baseball coach Billy Jones, Ryder must possess more than baseball smarts. He was committed to Stanford, but the Giants had a good read on his signability and the Cardinal ended up losing their first recruit since 2007. Every scout the Giants sent to watch Jones came away impressed with his contact skills and projectable power. A two-way star in high school who threw 92 mph off the mound, Jones moved from shortstop to third base and had a solid debut alongside fellow 2013 draftee Christian Arroyo in the Rookie-level Arizona League. In fact, he and Arroyo collected their first pro home runs by going back to back on July 19. Jones is solidly built, a below-average runner likely destined for an infield corner. He struggled at times while learning third base, and those sun-scorched, concrete-hard infields in the AZL didn't help. He's a pure hitter with an upright stance who has excellent barrel accuracy, a good feel for the strike zone and the chance to get stronger. Figure on Jones and Arroyo continuing to move up the ranks together, possibly at low Class A Augusta in 2014.
The list of Giants' No. 1 prospects from 2006-11 includes Matt Cain, Tm Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey and Brandon Belt. It also includes Villalona, who held more promise than anyone in the organization in 2008. Then came the murder charge in the Dominican Republic, nearly a year of house arrest, a lawsuit alleging the Giants with breach of contract and a two-year saga to reestablish his U.S. work visa. The Giants still aren't sure what to make of Villalona, who has some major deficiencies in his game as well as ongoing weight issues. But there's no denying his power is for real. Despite hitting just .229/.278/.433 at high Class A San Jose through June, the Giants swapped him with Double-A first baseman Ricky Oropesa in July. Villalona wasn't overmatched at Richmond and hit 22 homers combined, but his overall .276 on-base percentage was an issue. Villalona has smooth actions at first base, even if he isn't a good athlete. The Giants still hope he can put the rest of his game together, allowing his power to play in the big leagues.
Gregorio could be Ubaldo Jimenez's mirror image. They're both tall, impossibly skinny and all of those long levers in their delivery seldom appear under control. Gregorio might not have the 99 mph fastball that Jimenez brought to the big leagues, but his power arm has few peers in the Giants system. After a couple of rough years in short-season ball when he struggled to maintain consistent mechanics, Gregorio showed enough flashes at low Class A Augusta in 2013 to firm up his prospect status. Limited to 14 games because of an oblique injury and a recurring blister issue, he nevertheless struck out 84 and walked just 17 in 70 innings for the GreenJackets. Despite pitching from different arm slots, he managed to stay around the strike zone with a 92-94 mph fastball and show good feel for a changeup.His sweeping slider is his best offspeed pitch and is particularly uncomfortable for righthanders. Gregorio gives you a unique look, and he's not an easy at-bat.Combine that with his health issues and he's a better bet to contribute as a reliever in the big leagues.
Adrianza has been one of the Giants' more intriguing prospects for the better part of a decade because of his smooth hands, quick actions and Gold Glove ability at shortstop. But it wasn't his glove that a sold-out crowd noticed at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 22. A September callup in his eighth professional season, he hit his first home run off Andy Pettitte in the lefthander's final start in the Bronx. While the longball isn't often part of Adrianza's game, its rare appearance is another hint at the he made offensive strides he took after a midseason promotion to Triple-A Fresno in 2013. He ended the year in San Francisco with a 7-for-17 stretch that included two triples. Always a decent hitter from his natural right side, Adrianza has worked with coaches to make adjustments to his lefthanded swing. Now his bat stays in the zone a little longer, improving his contact rate. He should make the Giants' Opening Day roster in a utility role, since he'll be out of minor league options.
A gifted athlete with premium speed, Brown was an apparent lock to become the club's future center fielder after he tore up the high Class A California League in 2011 and set a San Jose franchise record with 188 hits. But scouts had concerns about his unorthodox swing, in which he pins his hands to his chest as he begins to load. Sure enough, Brown had myriad issues against righthanders at Double-A Richmond in 2012 and his struggles became acute at Triple-A Fresno last year, when he hit .231/.286/.375 and struck out 135 times in 137 games. Brown is not a lost cause, though. He still has bat speed and all the physical tools to succeed if he is willing to overhaul his approach. Though the Giants drafted him as a future leadoff hitter, he doesn't draw walks and is woefully inefficient on the bases, having succeeded on 68 percent of steal attempts over four seasons, including 61 percent at Fresno. A favorite with teammates because of his upbeat and quirky personality, Brown should at least have a better idea of what awaits him when he returns to the Pacific Coast League in 2014.
When they won the World Series in 2012, the Giants had five pitchers start 160 of their 162 regular-season games. They weren't blessed with the same health or effectiveness last year, but they figured that Kickham would provide a solid alternative. It didn't turn out that way, as he got hit hard in three starts and ended up with a 10.16 ERA. The block appeared to be more mental than anything, because Kickham's stuff has few peers in the system. He has a plus fastball that touches 95 mph, and he has shown a knack for making his breaking ball harder or tighter as the situation warrants. But he is not pitch-efficient. His walk totals have been higher than desired at every minor league stop, and he'll find it tougher to be "effectively wild" against big league hitters. In each of his three big league starts, Kickham turned in a perfect first inning before struggling--perhaps a clue that he could be more effective in relief. He isn't expected to compete for a big league rotation spot at the outset of 2014, but the Giants hope he'll be ready the next time they need to call upon him.
Agosta's solid numbers at low Class A Augusta in 2013--including a 2.06 ERA and 10.7 strikeouts per nine innings--obscured what otherwise was a difficult season in which he battled a dead arm and dealt with a blister issue. Worn down at the end of his first full season, he competed well despite a fastball that dipped to the upper 80s. But a few weeks of rest did him good and he was throwing crisper again during instructional league. Agosta's fatigue issues lend credence to scouts who pegged him as a reliever out of St. Mary's. His fastball and plus slider were enough to succeed against South Atlantic League hitters, but he'll need better command of his low-90s heat. He'll also need to find a changeup grip to his liking if he wants to continue developing as a starter. He has tried using a cutter grip to change speeds, but the blister forced him to tinker most of the season. Agosta, who threw to Giants Double-A catcher Andrew Susac when both attended Sacramento's Jesuit High, figures to open 2014 in the high Class A San Jose rotation.
The Giants had a mostly forgettable 2013 season, but Perez's defense was a sight to behold. His first big league chance was a wall-crashing catch in center field in Phoenix, and the Bronx native kept making plays from there. In fact, he led Giants outfielders with eight assists despite playing just 218 innings. Undrafted out of high school, Perez worked for his father as a plumber's apprentice and played in the Bronx's El Caribe men's league before winding up at Western Oklahoma State JC, where he set a junior-college home run record. He's a plus-plus runner with surprising power, but he gets overmatched at times and probably strikes out too often to profile as an everyday player. Perez lived a dream when the Giants spent a week in New York in September, getting three hits at Citi Field one day and two at Yankee Stadium the next. Given the importance of outfield defense at AT&T Park, there's a good chance he sticks with the Giants as a fifth outfielder to open the 2014 season.
Osich will forever be remembered by Oregon State fans for the no-hitter he threw in 2011 to beat Trevor Bauer and UCLA. Health has been the issue for Osich, who signed for second-round money despite a Tommy John surgery in his past and arm soreness in the weeks leading up to the 2011 draft. He worked to lower his arm angle while logging 32 innings over 27 appearances at high Class A San Jose in 2012, and the changes appeared to help, as he combined to throw 70 innings over 56 appearances at high Class A San Jose and Double-A Richmond in 2013. Osich has a big league arm when healthy, touching 98 mph with a solid-average slider and a functional changeup. He has a big, strong body and generates a ton of late life on his fastball. He struggled against lefthanders early, and his first experience in big league spring training didn't go well, but he moved to the other side of the rubber and that helped him locate the fastball away. Though Osich has the potential to start, the Giants plan to build his innings incrementally.
The Giants considered assigning Okert to high Class A San Jose to begin the 2013 season, or perhaps using him as the closer at low Class A Augusta. But his fastball wasn't impressive in the spring and he ended up pitching mostly middle relief out of what turned out to be a surprisingly stout GreenJackets bullpen. Okert began to throw harder toward the end of the year, showing the low-90s fastball and hard slider that encouraged the Brewers to draft him twice out of Grayson County (Texas) CC, before the Giants signed him in 2012 after he transferred to Oklahoma. The Giants have challenged Okert to improve his conditioning. He's athletic enough to repeat his delivery despite stepping over his front leg and throwing crossfire to the plate. A good competitor who wants the ball, he's capable of throwing multiple innings, but short stints and effectiveness against lefties are his likely tickets to the big leagues. Okert could move quickly if he can fill up the strike zone.
Johnson wasn't used much as a Cal Poly junior in 2013, when he struggled early in the year with control issues and ended up logging just 17 innings over 10 appearances, mostly in low-leverage situations. The Giants had strong reports on him from his sophomore year and loved his arm strength, however, so he ended up being the first pitcher they took in the 2013 draft. Johnson has hit 97 mph but pitches with little effort at 92-94. He's flashed an average changeup at times and has some feel for a curveball, but he doesn't yet have a dependable secondary pitch. His mechanics are robotic and he isn't particularly athletic or agile, but the arm strength is genuine. Johnson pitched exclusively from the stretch in college, but the Giants want him to gain comfort using a windup because they want to try him as a starting pitcher. After three relief appearances in the Rookie-level Arizona League, he logged a 4.17 ERA in 10 starts at short-season Salem-Keizer. The Giants just hope to get him a healthy amount of innings at low Class A Augusta in 2014.
The Giants claimed DePaula on waivers in November when the Padres designated him for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster. He spent all of 2012 on the restricted list when a background investigation during spring training revealed that he was one year older than San Diego had previously believed. He resolved the issues in time to play in 2013, cruising through 14 starts at Double-A San Antonio prior to coming down with shoulder tendinitis that sidelined him from mid-June through the end of the year. DePaula works at 90-91 mph with an easy arm action and plenty of late tailing, sinking action, topping out near 95. Control never has been an issue, and scouts regard his secondary pitches as average to a tick above. He throws a mid-70s curveball with plus rotation and big vertical break. He has gained feel for his changeup in recent years, and the mid-80s pitch shows enough fade to be effective. DePaula may not out-stuff his competition for the rotation, but he has good feel and a low boiling point, which could work in any number of roles. In terms of upside, he could be a back-end starter. If healthy he probably will head to Triple-A Fresno in 2014.
Hall has compiled some incredible statistics in two-plus professional seasons, including a combined 1.80 ERA and 0.78 WHIP between high Class A San Jose and Double-A Richmond in 2013, but the Giants never know quite what they'll get from him. That was never more evident than Aug. 29, when he threw the first pitch of an intentional walk over the head of Richmond catcher Tyler LaTorre for a walkoff wild pitch against Reading. Hall has prototype closer stuff and mentality. He's physically imposing with aggressive body language on the mound, and his fastball ranges anywhere from 92-97 mph. But he didn't play baseball in high school and barely had any formal pitching instruction before arriving at Southern in 2010. He doesn't have much consistency with his slider and he's still learning his delivery. He tends to muscle up in big situations, and thus far he's had enough fastball to escape most of them. The Giants made some changes to Hall's mechanics before sending him to the Arizona Fall League, where he worked on establishing a better breaking ball and a more consistent release point. He probably return to Richmond to open the season.
Johnson is as filthy as any reliever in the Giants system, and he rallied back from shoulder soreness to strike out 71 in 52 innings while working in a set-up role at low Class A Augusta in 2013. Widely regarded as the best college draft prospect outside NCAA Division I in 2012, Johnson is a late bloomer who didn't make his Colorado high school varsity team until his senior year. He recovered from a partially torn elbow ligament to flash 100 mph velocity while striking out 63 in 36 innings and holding opponents to a .131 average as a junior in 2011. Johnson throws a power curve that acts more like a slider and was a plus-plus pitch against South Atlantic League hitters. He isn't efficient, which limits his ability to pitch on consecutive days and might continue to be an issue because of irregular mechanics in which he stabs as he loads. Johnson and Derek Law give the Giants two power righthanders with plenty of funk, but Johnson has a long way to go to approach Law's control and consistency. Johnson could get a look as a starter, but health will play a key role in that decision.
Kieschnick was the last to reach the majors among a celebrated 2008 Giants draft quartet of college bats that also included Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Conor Gillaspie. It's safe to say the Giants haven't seen the best of Kieschnick, though. He looked bewildered by major league pitchers in 2013 while hitting a soft .202 following a July 31 call-up. Worse still, he connected for only one extra-base hit, a triple--not what the Giants expected from a strapping outfielder for whom they had projected 30 home runs a season. Kieschnick also failed to make a good impression in the spring, spoiling chances of making the Opening Day roster. He's a good athlete whose arm plays in right field, but he often finds himself in-between pitches and battles a swing that gets long at times. At least he managed to stay healthy after missing chunks of development time with a recurring back issue, followed by a stress fracture in his shoulder when he collided with a wall in 2012. He'll have to be more confident and aggressive whenever he gets another recall from Triple-A Fresno.
It's not often that a club hands a major league contract to a minor league free agent with no big league service time. But Cordier drew sufficient interest from multiple clubs, and the Giants liked his upside and power stuff enough to carve out space on the 40-man roster. He is on his fourth organization after failing to stay healthy with the Royals, Braves and Pirates. He missed all of 2005 with a knee injury, lost 2007 to Tommy John surgery, then had another elbow operation prior to the 2011 season to remove a bone spur. He transitioned to relief in 2013 for the Pirates' Triple-A club and was inconsistent, but he also struck out 65 in 53 innings with a lively, two-seam fastball that played up at 96-99 mph. His slider has plenty of break from his three-quarters arm slot and rates as a plus pitch. He showed a fringy changeup as a starter, but its development won't be as important in late relief, which is how the Giants intend to use him. Cordier has one minor league option remaining, so he's expected to begin in the bullpen at Triple-A Fresno.