Originally written June 22, 2012 on Seed Spitters:
Between worrying about Tim Lincecum‘s performances, the recovery of a “heavier” Pablo Sandoval, the joys of watching Matt Cain pitch perfectly or Melky Cabrera move into third in the National League for starting outfielder in this summer’s All-Star game, I’ve decided to shed some light on the future of the Giants organization. Before this season, I was excited about the developments of Joe Panik, Gary Brown, and Heath Hembree. Now almost two months into it, my excitement has somewhat diminished. Sure, I am excited to have a future all-star center fielder with “all the tools” in Brown, but after a rough two months, his development might take a little longer than I initially anticipated. Brown, 23, so far has been okay. Not great, not terrible. Okay. The only problem with that is the Giants didn’t draft him to be “okay,” they drafted him to become the future all-star talent of the San Francisco Giants. Here is what he has done so far:
 Gary Brown #14 Center Field .242/.316/.306 (ouch, that line hurts my spleen) 2 HR, 21 RBI, 38 R, 18/29 SB, 10 2B, 1 3B, .623 OPS in 70 games
So out of the five tools, Gary has only shown his speed, defense (only one error thus far) and I’m assuming his arm is still the same (I have yet to see it in person). His power is down from the 14 homers he hit last season in only 131 games, and his overall hitting has been mediocre at best. I still believe Brown can turn his season around, as the AA level is known to be the hardest on hitters. He hit .336/.407/.519 last year in single-A San Jose, so I think things could be worse for the young outfielder. One positive note on his stats: his speed. Sure he has been caught stealing 11 times, but he is aggressive on the base paths and has already swiped 18 bags in 70 games. Again, last year he performed better in this aspect, stealing 53 bags in just 72 attempts, but the speed is still there. Joe Panik, 22, can also be put in this boat, as he has had a disappointing year in San Jose playing in his first full year of professional baseball. Last year, he appeared in the last half of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes season hitting .341/.401/.467 in 68 games. He was picked 29th overall for the Giants in last year’s draft out of St. John’s University. He was not scouted for his power, or his blazing speed, but he was projected to become a decent contact hitter and above-average defense man. This year in San Jose, Panik has hit like this:
Joe Panik #29 Shortstop .257/.337/.366 2 HR, 30 RBI, 37 R, 3/6 SB, 17 2B, 3 3B, .702 OPS in 66 games
So the lack of power is there, as is the lack of speed. What is worrisome is the low batting average, average on-base percentage and the 11 errors made already this season. Again, this isn’t the end of the world, just a little disappointing thus far for the young prospect. It’s his first full season with a professional team. I say we give him some room, let him breathe and the good numbers will come. Heath Hembree, on the other hand, is having the most surprising seasons I would not have expected. At 23 years old, Hembree is looking to become the next flame-throwing, high-strikeout-rate closer the Giants will look for once Brian Wilson calls it quits (or is traded…). He has reached the 100 mph milestone on occasion, and held a remarkable 1.86 ERA with 38 saves in 53.1 innings last season with San Jose and AA Richmond. This season, after a promotion to AAA Fresno before the season, Hembree has shown us pretty below-average closer appearances. Hembree has already earned more runs in under 27 innings this season (13) than he did in 53 innings all of last season (11). His fastball was ranked the best out of the entire Giants organization before the 2012 season by Baseball America and was named the Giants third best prospect before this season by MLB.com. So far, he has put up these numbers:
Heath Hembree #46 Relief Pitcher/Closing Pitcher 4.44 ERA, 26.1 IP, 13 ER, 17 H 12 Saves, 2 HR, 12 BB, 20 K, .181 BA
Aside from the ERA, the one number that stands out to me is the strikeout-to-walk ratio. Last season he had 78 strikeouts and only 25 walks for a 3.12 K:BB ratio. This year, that number has dropped drastically to 1.67 – almost half. Much like Panik and Brown, the reason the Giants have these young players in the minors is to help them develop. Who cares if they have one bad season in AA? I sure don’t. I don’t expect them to dominate all levels of their game until they retire, nobody should. Matt Cain, who just pitched a perfect game against a major league team named the Houston Astros, held a 4.39 ERA in 26 starts in Fresno in 2005 before he made it to the big leagues. He put up the worst K:BB ratio and WHIP he ever had, and boom. Now look at him. The main point is that these guys are developing and I am still confident we will one day see them play on a team together at AT&T Park. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a very close eye on how Panik stacks up in San Jose, how Brown recovers in Richmond, and how Hembree fairs in Fresno.
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