*Note: Update at bottom of page*
The San Francisco Giants traded two of their top-10 pitching prospects Saturday morning to the Boston Red Sox for former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy.
Edwin Escobar, who the Giants received from the Texas Rangers in 2010's Rule 5 Draft, is just 22 and was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the system heading into the season. He has struggled with control issues in 2014 in his first year in Triple-A, allowing an average of 10 hits and three walks per nine innings pitched. His 5.11 earned run average was highest among Fresno Grizzlies' starting pitchers.
Heath Hembree, 25, was a 2010 fifth-round pick in the middle of his third stint with the Grizzlies and was on pace for another seemingly subpar season. The late-inning reliever owns a career earned run average in Triple-A of 4.21 while averaging almost 1.3 walks and hits per inning pitched.
The move leaves Fresno with just three starting pitchers on the roster. Jose De Paula was designated for assignment on Friday along with infielder Nick Noonan to make room for Tony Abreu and recently acquired Dan Uggla, which brought the total down to four. De Paula had moved permanently into the rotation when right-hander Mitch Lively opted out of his contract with the Giants and signed with the Washington Nationals. With Escobar being shipped to Boston, the Grizzlies are left with Mike Kickham, Chris Heston, and Jason Berken as the only starters on the roster so moves are assuredly taking place to complete the Giants' Triple-A rotation.
Escobar was scheduled to pitch Saturday's night's game in El Paso and none of the three remaining starters would be ready to pitch except Berken, who's spot in the rotation is Sunday. Brett Bochy, who has made spot starts in the past, has not pitched in the last two days so he would be fresh. A combination of Berken and Bochy will likely receive the bulk of the innings on Saturday for Fresno, unless they make an immediate move.
Still, even if Bochy moves into the rotation for a bit, Fresno will still have two roster spots to fill. Recently acquired right-hander Mitchell Boggs was assigned to the Giants' rookie team in Arizona, and was likely only there until the Grizzlies' had a roster spot available, so this would seem like the time to move him into that spot. Boggs doesn't have a ton of experience as a closer, so he wouldn't be a complete replacement for Hembree. But since Hembree had been sharing closing duties with flame-throwing Erik Cordier, Boggs, who does have experience in the seventh and eighth inning, could be a good fit.
Another possibility is that De Paula clears waivers after ten days. If so, it's likely he would return to Fresno. But considering Bochy is not a long-term option as a starter, there will certainly need to be one starting pitcher added to the roster. The most likely candidate seems to be left-hander Ty Blach. An All-Star in the Eastern League this season, the 23-year-old Blach has posted a 2.92 earned run average through 228 professional innings. At age 21 when the Giants selected him in the fifth round in 2012, the team showed their confidence in him to move through the system quickly by assigning him directly to High-A ball, San Jose, for the 2013 season.
Young arms Kyle Crick and Clayton Blackburn would be out of the question for the call-up, but two other possibilities could be one of two older minor leagues — Jack Snodgrass (26) and Austin Fleet (27). Both arms have sub-three ERAs in the Eastern League with the Richmond Flying Squirrels this season and Snodgrass, most notably, is repeating at the level.
If the Giants aren't ready to move Boggs back into Triple-A, a level he has experience at since 2008, one of a few talented relief arms in Richmond might see a promotion. Cody Hall and Hunter Strickland have been the two most reliable bullpen pitchers for the Flying Squirrels and Hall, like Snodgrass, is repeating at Double-A despite having a career 2.90 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 9.7 strikeouts per nine inning ratio in 71.1 Eastern League innings.
With how depleted and seemingly below-average the Giants' farm system is rated to be, one would think giving up the team's No. 2 and 11 ranked prospects would be a huge blow to the construct. However, though both Escobar and Hembree will surely see major league innings, the Giants managed to send two of their more disappointing prospects to the east coast for a veteran pitcher who will be reunited with his former manager of five years. No doubt the Bochy/Peavy relationship played a huge role in Saturday morning's deal.
UPDATE: According to Fresno Grizzlies media relations coordinator Ryan Young, three transactions have been made this morning, including adding left-hander Ryan Bradley who will spot-start for the Grizzlies tonight in El Paso, leaving Jason Berken to make his regularly scheduled start on Sunday. Right-handed reliever Jorge Bucardo, who has been moved up and down from San Jose to Fresno multiple times in the 2014 season, will return to Fresno, along with infielder Ydwin Villegas.
The next hole in the Grizzlies rotation will need to be filled on Monday, with Mike Kickham and Chris Heston making their scheduled starts on Tuesday and Wednesday at home against Reno. Monday's spot was slated for Jose De Paula, who was designated for assignment on Friday and will not be eligible to return to Fresno until the first week in August, should he clear waivers.