From the moment Heath Hembree was taken in the fifth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, the right-handed reliever was labeled as the man who would one day take over Brian Wilson‘s job as the bullpen’s closer.
Tuesday, he was called up to the big leagues and — ironically enough — was given Wilson’s old No. 38 jersey number by clubhouse manager Mike Murphy. This comes less than two weeks after Wilson made his debut with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The storylines are aligning for the kid to fill the shoes of the bearded man who helped give the Giants their first title in the city’s history.
There are other similarities between Wilson and Hembree. They are both burly gentleman — Hembree stands at 6-foot-4-inches tall — and they throw with effective velocity. Hembree got the call up after a 31-save season with the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate Fresno Grizzlies. Although Hembree will not be used in the closer role just yet, these big-league innings will be valuable to the start of his career.
There is another similarity between Wilson and Hembree, too. The phrase “Giants Baseball: Torture” came from Wilson’s uncanny ability to record saves despite allowing the tying or winning runs to reach the plate. Hembree might have the same problem, as he blew five saves this season in Fresno.
The blown saves, however, can be ironed out and are not of concern at this point. Hembree needs to use this opportunity to get used to facing big-league hitting. If he adapts well, he could be a vital piece to the Giants’ bullpen next season. He could, in a sense, challenge Sergio Romo for the closer role sooner than people think.
Hembree is one of the most exciting pitching prospects the Giants have. The decision to call him up this September will benefit the organization, sooner or later.