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ORLANDO – The Giants brought a smaller group to the Winter Meetings, mostly because they already held two rounds of multi-day sessions with their scouts and advisors to list targets and assess their own personnel.
“We’re meeting-ed out,” GM Brian Sabean said.
But the talks continue, and while the first day of baseball’s annual swapfest yielded nothing in the way of trades, it did bring some peace of mind to the Giants’ front-office cabal.
That’s because it wasn’t the same minor league pitcher or two that other clubs asked about.
“(Kyle) Crick isn’t the only big prospect we have,” Sabean said. “Our list is far deeper than Crick as far as our pitching.”
Crick, who turned 21 on Nov. 30, is widely seen as the Giants’ top prospect because of his upper-90s fastball, his durable frame and his ability to throw harder as he logs pitches over the course of a game. The right-hander was an easy selection for me at No.1 when I compiled the annual top-30 rankings for the Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Crick also has averaged 5.5 walks per nine innings over his career, he lost a couple months with an oblique strain last season and he hasn’t thrown 200 professional innings. So he’s not going to be ready for the big leagues nearly as quickly as Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were.
But the Giants believe left-hander Edwin Escobar could be in position to help at some point this coming season. He was another easy choice at No.2 behind Crick on the list given his combination of stats, size, stuff and scouting reports. One scout likened his pitch mix to Odalis Perez, who was a solid No.2 starter for a few years.
Escobar, who turns 22 in April, began the season at Single-A San Jose and ended it at Double-A Richmond, pitching just as successfully if not better against more advanced hitters.
Another lefty, No.4 prospect Adalberto Mejia, was even younger for his league. He’s 6-foot-3 and pushing 200 pounds, and kept adding velocity as his season continued at San Jose. He was just 19 when last season began – the youngest starting pitcher in the Cal League.
One scout called San Jose’s rotation last season the best he could recall seeing on any minor league club in more than a decade.
No.8 Ty Blach was the least heralded prospect of the bunch to begin last season and he had no professional experience. The Giants took it easy on him after snagging him in the fifth round of the 2012 draft out of Creighton, since he finished near the top of the NCAA leaderboard in innings.
But Blach became San Jose’s ace, and while the left-hander is known more for command of his sinker-slider-change mix, he showed more than just finesses stuff to scouts to had multiple looks at him. When I asked one scout for a comp, he said Tom Glavine. When I ran that past another scout from an AL club who had seen Blach, he didn’t burst out laughing. In fact, he threw in a comp to Jimmy Key.
Chris Stratton, the No.3 prospect in my rankings for Baseball America, ordinarily would have taken more of a tumble after he merely treaded water in a Low-A South Atlantic League he should have dominated. He might be the most likely of the bunch to be traded, too. But he also was set back by a brutal concussion he sustained the previous year when he was struck on the head by a line drive in batting practice, and he was behind to begin this season as a result.
And we haven’t even gotten to Clayton Blackburn, who struggled with a few minor injuries but still has an advanced feel for four pitches as a high school draftee and profiles as a solid innings guy at the back of a big league rotation.
The Giants have more relievers on the come than No.7 prospect Heath Hembree, too. Derek Law is the shooting star of the group, having blanked the Arizona Fall League in 16 appearances. His slider might be the best in the system. Left-hander Josh Osich could move quickly, too.
Based on the trade discussions, the Giants aren’t the only team aware of them.