SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants added eight pitchers to their 40-man roster on Friday, protecting them from the Rule 5 Draft that will be held on the final day of the Winter Meetings next month in Nashville. Friday was the deadline to add and protect high school and international prospects signed in 2011 and college players signed in 2012.
Right-handers Clayton Blackburn, Kyle Crick, Ian Gardeck, Jake Smith and Chris Stratton got the call, along with lefties Ty Blach, Adalberto Mejia and Steven Okert.
Blackburn, 22, could make his MLB debut as early as next summer. The right-hander led the Pacific Coast League with a 2.85 ERA and impressed Giants coaches and executives with his maturity and approach on the mound. It’s likely that Blackburn will start the 2016 season back in Triple-A, but the Giants view him as an intriguing rotation option going forward. If the Giants fail to land two free agent starters, Chris Heston and Blackburn will be the top two internal choices to fill out the rotation.
Like Blackburn, Crick has spent time in big league camp. Few players in the minors have better raw stuff than the 22-year-old righty, but Crick has struggled to throw strikes and he was moved to the bullpen in July. Crick has the upper 90s fastball to be a dominant reliever, but he needs to improve his command. He struck out 73 batters in 63 innings in 2015 but also issued 66 walks.
Stratton, the first-round pick in 2012, was in big league camp last year and made real strides during the season. He was bumped from Double-A to Triple-A and went 5-10 with a 3.95 ERA across the two levels.
Gardeck, a 24-year-old from Illinois, had a 3.54 ERA for the San Jose Giants, striking out 104 in 86 1/3 innings. Smith, 25, also pitched for San Jose, posting a 2.35 ERA and 16 saves. He had 118 strikeouts in 84 1/3 innings.
Blach was the left-handed complement to Blackburn in Sacramento, and he too is close to being a big league option. The 25-year-old was 11-12 with a 4.46 ERA in 27 starts and led the PCL with 165 1/3 innings pitched. Blach has a 3.57 ERA in 74 minor league appearances.
Mejia, 22, was one of the organization’s best prospects before getting hit with a 50-game suspension last year. He had a 2.45 ERA in 12 appearances after joining Double-A Richmond and he currently has a 3.48 ERA in the Arizona Fall League.
Okert was in big league camp last spring and then went 5-3 with a 3.82 ERA out of Sacramento’s bullpen. He has a 2.84 ERA in four minor league seasons.
The Giants now have 40 players on their 40-man roster.