Among all the players in the San Francisco Giants‘ system, there probably wasn’t anyone who moved up the prospect rankings in 2013 more than right-handed reliever Derek Law, and it’s looking more and more like the 23 year old will be on the fast track to the big leagues. In an interview on the Giants’ website on Thursday night, vice president of baseball operations Bobby Evans said that Law will come into spring training projected to start the year in Triple-A, but the front office is hoping for him to make his major league debut at some point in 2014.
This will be a big jump for Law, who topped out at High-A San Jose last season. However, he made some significant strides last year too, so it shouldn’t be a huge adjustment. Law, who was a ninth-rounder in 2011, began the season at Low-A Augusta, where he had posted a 2.91 ERA over 32 appearances in 2012. He was very impressive there, putting up a 2.31 ERA over 19 appearances. Though he went on to suffer an ankle injury which resulted in him having to spend a significant amount of time rehabbing in Arizona, he was promoted to High-A when he was deemed ready and finished the season on fire. After quickly being thrust into the team’s closer role, he had a 2.10 ERA over 25.2 innings, while giving up just 20 hits, striking out 45, and walking just one. He also racked up 11 saves.
Law’s most impressive showing, however, came in this year’s Arizona Fall League. More than 11 appearances spanning 12.1 innings, Law allowed eight hits and no earned runs. While his control wasn’t as great — he walked six batters — he still struck out 16 of the batters that he faced.
If he can make it up to San Francisco this year, he’ll add a power element to the Giants’ bullpen that has been severely lacking in recent years. Excluding a few late-season appearances from rookie Heath Hembree, the only reliever the Giants had who was consistently capable of touching the mid-90′s was Chad Gaudin, who was forced to start for most of the year due to a lack of rotation depth.
In contrast, Law has a fastball that sits between 92 and 96 MPH. As if his exceptional velocity wasn’t challenging enough for hitters, his delivery makes things even more difficult. He winds up, pauses and turns his torso towards second base, and then unleashes the ball at an unusually high angle.
Moving from High-A to Triple-A will already be a big jump for Law, so it will tell us a lot about how great he is if he is good enough to pitch in the major leagues by mid-season. While you never want to see relievers go down and be forced to tap into your minor-league bullpen depth, it should be interesting to see if Law can rise to the challenge if called upon this year.