Prospect spotlight: Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree
Feb 28, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Edwin Escobar throws to the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of their spring training baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
The main reason that the Red Sox traded Jake Peavy was to make room for their own young talent. In addition to clearing a rotation space in Boston, however, the Red Sox also netted a solid prospect return from the San Francisco Giants. Boston acquired both Edwin Escobar and Heath Hembree, a pair of pitchers who ranked second and seventh, respectively, in the Giants’ farm system on Baseball America’s pre-season list. Let’s take an in-depth look at the two newest members of the Boston Red Sox organization.
Escobar vaulted up prospect lists last season when he posted a 2.80 ERA along with a 10.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, making for an excellent 4.87 K/BB, between High-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond as a 21 year old. Entering the 2014 season, Escobar was ranked as the 56th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America and while he has not been as impressive this season–his ERA has ballooned to 5.11 to go with a less impressive 7.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9– he is still an intriguing prospect and it’s important to take note that he is just 22 years old and pitching in Triple-A.
Escobar does not have front-line stuff, but he does have good movement on his fastball, which sits in the low 90’s. A 6’1″, 185 pound southpaw, Escobar has also done a good job of developing his curve and change and has three average-to-above Major League pitches. He profiles as a mid-to-back rotation starter but, with his three solid pitches, he has a pretty good chance of reaching that ceiling before too long.
Hembree, on the other hand, is a more volatile prospect but he still has a good chance of contributing soon. Currently the closer for Triple-A Fresno, Hembree has had a solid season to date, posting a 3.89 ERA, 10.5 K/9, and 3.0 BB/9 as a 25 year old. Always a hard-thrower, Hembree has harnessed his control over the past two seasons and actually made a very successful cup of coffee for the Giants last season, tossing 7.2 shutout innings while fanning twelve batters and walking just two.
However, for all of the progress that Hembree has made with his control, he still likely won’t live up to his initial billing as a future closer. Hembree has sacrificed some velocity for his increased control and now throws in the 92-95 range rather than the high 90’s that he once regularly reached. His fastball is still a good pitch, as he achieves good sink and movement, but he has not had much success in developing secondary offerings. He does throw a hard slider but it isn’t more than an average Major League offering and he doesn’t even throw a third pitch. Still, even if Hembree never becomes the Red Sox’ closer, middle relievers and setup men are valuable and Hembree should be able to join the Red Sox bullpen before long.
Considering that Jake Peavy is an average rental at best for the Giants, the Red Sox netted an excellent prospect return in this trade. Escobar will likely slot into the top ten prospects in the Red Sox’ already-strong farm system and Hembree, while not an elite prospect, should provide a Major League impact relatively quickly. And that’s not even mentioning that Peavy’s departure clears a spot for either Brandon Workman or Allen Webster to fit into Boston’s rotation on a full-time basis. Overall, it’s hard to fathom the Red Sox making an objectively better trade to begin the selling process.