The San Francisco Giants have discovered this season that if a team does not have quality pitching depth spread throughout their organization, it can be a big problem when someone goes down.
Fortunately, that shouldn’t be a problem in the next few years to come, as they have a massive influx of starting pitching prospects on their two Class-A teams. While much of the publicity thus far has gone to pitchers such as Kyle Crick, Clayton Blackburn and Edwin Escobar, 21-year-old Dominican right-hander Joan Gregorio has the potential to be just as good as the rest of them.
Gregorio, who is currently ranked the Giants’ no. 18 prospect by MLB.com, has endured plenty of ups and downs during his professional career. When he made his American debut in 2011, he was absolutely dominant. Pitching for the Giants’ rookie team, he put up a 2.32 ERA and limited hitters to a .235 average over 50.1 innings.
The distinguishing factor for the 6-foot-7, 180-pound Gregorio is that he is still very raw. It would be ideal for him to put some more weight on in order for him to optimize his pitching ability. He also has an odd, almost sidearm delivery. It appears that the team has tinkered with his motion to keep him under control.
Due to him being unseasoned, the Giants decided to keep him in extended spring training last season and assign him to their short-season team in June. Perhaps due to the adjustments that were being made with him, Gregorio struggled significantly. Though he got steadily better in each month, Gregorio finished the season with a 5.54 ERA and a 1.41 WHIP.
However, the Giants have made a breakthrough with the lanky righthander this season, as he came out firing and has turned into more of a power pitcher overall while playing for the Low-A Augusta GreenJackets.
He was fantastic over his first three starts, giving up only 12 hits, one walk, 23 strikeouts and one earned run over 17.1 innings. Unfortunately, he suffered an oblique strain on April 25 and was out of action for the entire month of May. He hit a bit of a rough patch after coming off the DL, but rebounded for most of the month of July, most notably in his July 18 start, where he threw 7.1 no-hit innings while striking out 10 and walking one.
One thing the Giants will have to be wary of with Gregorio is making sure that he avoids injuries. He has been nagged by a blister recently, and it definitely showed during his July 26 start, where gave up 11 hits and eight earned runs over just two innings. Though his form was better in his last start on August 1, he gave up four walks in four innings after only issuing 13 in his first 70 innings.
He’s since been placed back on the disabled list, and considering how the Giants have generally treated their top pitching prospects, the logical assumption would be that they will let him rest until he is completely recovered.
Although his overall numbers do not look spectacular this year, sample size must be considered. He has a 4.18 ERA, but his 17-to-80 walk-to-strikeout ratio is simply amazing. When he has been knocked around, he’s really been hit hard, so his numbers are a bit out of whack. Seven of his 13 starts have been those of the quality variety, and he had another five-inning appearance where he gave up one run.
Three appearances in which he has given up five earned runs or more have inflated his ERA. These starts have come when Gregorio was dealing with injuries, so there shouldn’t be too much concern about his pure ability.
Gregorio’s repertoire will need to be further developed as he continues to move up the ladder. His key pitch is a fastball that moves in the low 90s. His other key pitch is his slider, but he relies primarily on those two pitches to get outs. It would be nice if he could develop a better third offering.
Gregorio if going to be in a tough competition for a spot in the rotation over the next few years, but if he keeps up the performance he’s delivered over the majority of his professional career, he’ll make a good case for a spot.