In scouting, it is wise to evaluate the quality of a pitcher's arm and mechanics, as opposed to evaluating counting statistics like wins and losses.
San Francisco Giants right-handed pitching prospect Heath Hembree has the type of quality arm worthy of serious consideration. However, lately this season, his statistical results contradict his upside.
I first saw Hembree pitch in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He was recovering from a strained flexor tendon he suffered during his season in Triple-A Fresno.
The Arizona Fall League is a tough place for pitchers. Hitters are locked in as the air is light and the ball flies. Pitchers are tired. But Hembree threw well; he recorded nine very solid innings, pitching to a 3.00 ERA. He was 2-for-2 in saves and struck out 12.
The Giants have identified Hembree as a potential back-of-the-bullpen pitcher, and MLB.com has ranked him as the fifth-best prospect in the Giants organization.
At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, the 24-year-old Hembree is a big, strong presence on the mound. He has a combination of velocity and pitch repertoire that make him intriguing.
Hembree has little trouble bringing the fastball between 93 and 96 mph. If needed, he can increase that velocity to three digits. However, he has his mechanics, and that may help him from overthrowing.
Hembree's secondary pitches include a mid-80s slider and an occasional change-up that remains a work in progress. The fastball is his bread and butter.
Selected by San Francisco in the fifth round of the 2010 First Year Player Draft out of the College of Charleston, Hembree has pitched at every level of the Giants organization.
Now, in only his fourth season, Hembree has thrown 138 innings of Minor League baseball. His issue has been yielding bases on balls -- too many of them, to be sure. Hembree has walked 56, or almost four per game. He must improve his wildness to continue his path to the Major League roster.
This season was rolling along nicely for Hembree, until his two most recent outings. He had a couple of rough patches along the way, but his June 17th appearance against Salt Lake City at home -- at Triple-A Fresno -- was the first of two consecutive tough games. He only threw one-third of an inning, giving up three hits, five earned runs and two walks. Was it a bad day or a bad sign?
In his most recent appearance, the trouble continued. He threw one inning, giving up two hits and three earned runs.
It is imperative to mention that the Pacific Coast League is very hitter friendly. Wind and overall weather conditions are tough on pitchers.
Based upon what I have seen of Hembree -- if he is healthy -- his arm strength is a tremendous asset. I believe he will find his command and be an eventual presence in the Giants' bullpen.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.