SAN FRANCISCO -- As last season ended, Giants general manager Brian Sabean declared, "We have as much pitching talent in the lower Minor Leagues as anybody in baseball."
MLB.com's list of Top 100 prospects legitimized Sabean's remark.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
The Giants have eagerly followed Crick's development since they selected him 49th overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Sherman (Texas) High School. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he immediately prompted inevitable comparisons with another hard-throwing right-hander whom the Giants plucked from the prep ranks -- three-time National League All-Star Matt Cain.
Crick strained an oblique muscle early last season, which prevented him from increasing his workload and hastening his march to the Majors. He accumulated 84 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced San Jose and with Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League, down from 111 1/3 with Class A Augusta in 2012. Ideally, aspiring starting pitchers hike their innings totals by 30 to 40 each year, the better to build experience and arm strength. But the Giants aren't overly concerned about Crick, given the excellence the 21-year-old displayed when healthy.
Crick finished 3-1 with a 1.57 ERA in 14 starts for San Jose. He limited hitters to a .201 batting average while striking out 95 in 68 2/3 innings. Crick sustained his momentum in the AFL by yielding just nine hits in 15 2/3 innings spanning seven outings (opponents' batting average: .161). Next month, Crick will appear in his first big league camp when he joins the club's contingent of non-roster invitees at Spring Training.
As Sabean said, "Crick isn't the only big prospect we have." There's also Escobar, who unlike Crick compiled the desired increase in innings. Escobar accumulated 154 2/3 innings in the regular season and winter ball in Venezuela, up from 130 2/3 in 2012. Sabean hinted that Escobar, who divided the 2013 season between San Jose and Double-A Richmond, could be summoned to the Majors if the Giants' rotation needs reinforcement.
"He has the most innings built up [among the organization's prospects] to make a move," Sabean said.
Escobar, 21, isn't a soft-tossing lefty. His fastball has reached 94 mph on occasion. The Venezuelan demonstrated his savvy as well as his talent last year by improving statistically as he rose a classification. He recorded a 2.67 ERA at Richmond, down from 2.89 at San Jose. Double-A opponents hit .219 off him, compared with .234 in Class A.
Already on the Giants' 40-man roster, Escobar will participate in Spring Training for the second consecutive year.