The San Francisco Giants could use some help on their pitching staff, with Jake Peavy and Matt Cain adding to the bullpen's workload throughout this season and the recent wave of extra-inning games, which includes two 13 inning affairs in the past six days. The Giants decided to add to their depth on Thursday, calling up their fourth-ranked pitching prospect, Clayton Blackburn.
With the solid starts that Peavy and Cain provided for the club this week, Blackburn is isn't expected to be added to the rotation just yet, but instead should become an extra arm in the bullpen since he is taking the spot of a position player (Jarrett Parker) and if he were to start out of the gate, the Giants would have waited until it was his day to pitch to officially add him to the roster. It's likely that he will be making his major-league debut in the hitter's paradise that it Chase Field this weekend with home run prone Jeff Samardzija, Peavy and Cain taking their turns this weekend.
Blackburn, 23, was drafted in the 16th round of the 2011 draft out of high school at the age of 18. Coming into this season, Blackburn offered very solid numbers over his five minor league seasons before spending all of last season with Triple A Sacramento. This year has been a bit rougher for the right-hander, as the table below shows.
While the numbers from 2011 to 2015 include his stats from the lower level of the minors, they do show that he has been fairly dominant in his time as a pro. His numbers from last season include a 3.37 ERA, 1.293 WHIP and a 7.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and as you can see each of those have trended in the wrong direction in the early going of 2016.
According to Baseball America's Prospect Handbook, Blackburn lacks a true plus pitch, but is around the zone with all of his offerings. His fastball runs in the low-90s, but he has the ability to cut and sink it, which allows it to play up, especially with his location, while his secondary pitch is a tight slider with late movement. He'll also mix in an average changeup and an average cutter. Before the season, BA said that he was likely ready to compete for a rotation spot, and would fit in nicely as a number four starter. While his ceiling isn't as high as a frontline starter, the Giants don't necessarily need another top dog with Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija already on board.
The reason the Giants likely called him up to debut in Arizona is because he keeps the ball in the park, allowing just six homers last season in the Pacific Coast League, and he held a groundout to fly-out ratio of 1.60 which should come in handy in a park where the ball tends to have some extra get-up.
The stint with the Giants may be a short one, as the bench is now short a man (two if you add in an ailing Angel Pagan), and reliever George Kontos is expected to return from the disabled list some time next week if his rehab appearances in Sacramento go well, per CBS Sports.