The Giants were busy making moves on Saturday, activated reliever Santiago Casilla from the disabled list and promoting outfielder Jeff Franceour from Triple-A Fresno.
The Giants sent infielder Nick Noonan and reliever Jean Machi to Fresno to make room for Casilla and Francoeur.
But in order to activate Francoeur, the Giants needed to create room on their 40-man roster. They did that by designating pitcher Chris Heston for assignment.
The move was surprising because Heston came into spring training as the No. 1 option in the farm system should one of the Giants’ five starting pitchers get injured.
Heston was drafted in the 12th round by the Giants in the 2009 draft out of East Carolina University. This season was his fifth in the Giants’ organization, and he seemed to be getting better as he moved through the system.
- 2009, he was 1-5 with 4.11 and 1.143 WHIP for the Giants Arizona Rookie League team
- 2010, he was 5-13 with 3.75 ERA and 1.305 WHIP for Class A Augusta
- 2011, he was 12-4 with 3.16 ERA and 1.219 WHIP for Class A San Jose
- 2012, he was 7-6 with 2.24 ERA and 1.103 WHIP for Double-A Richmond.
He was a Giants organization All-Star in 2011 and 2012. He was the Eastern League pitcher of the year in 2012, beating out, among others, former Giants prospect Zach Wheeler.
Last November, he was added to the Giants’ 40-man roster to protected from the Rule 5 draft, along with Noonan, outfielder Juan Perez and pitchers Edwin Escobar and Jake Dunning.
But then things went poorly for Heston. He went 0-1 with 9.28 ERA and 1.69 WHIP in four outings during spring training. For Triple-A Fresno, he was 7-6 with 5.80 ERA and 1.610 WHIP.
Even though PCL hitters were hitting .301 against Heston, the decision to DFA him seemed odd for a team so lean on starting pitching in the system. Both CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly and The Chronicle Henry Schulman speculated the Giants may be looking to trade Heston. They have 10 days to trade, release or put Heston on waivers.
Here’s a breakdown on the other players on the Giants’ 40-man roster who have not appeared in a game with the Giants in 2013.
P Edwin Escobar — Signed as an international free agent from Venezuela at age 17, Escobar, 21, is in his fifth year in the organization. A reliever, Escobar is 3-4 with 2.89 ERA, 92 strikeouts, 17 walks, 1.138 WHIP in 74.2 innings for Class A San Jose.
P Dan Runzler — Runzler, 28, was a ninth-round draft pick in 2007 by the Giants. He made his big-league debut in 2009 and he’s believed to be the only player in Giants’ history to pitch for the big club after pitching for four different levels of the minor leagues. After going 3-0 with 3.03 ERA for the Giants in 2010, his career got derailed a bit by injuries. He worked himself by into shape and was thought to be a leading contender to make the club out of spring training this season, but was optioned instead to Triple-A Fresno, where his has gone 3-3 with 5.08 ERA in 39 innings. But he is left-handed.
P Hunter Strickland — A career minor leaguer, Strickland, 24, was claimed off waivers from the Pirates prior to the start of the 2013 season, added to the 40-man roster, and optioned to Class A San Jose. Strickland has never pitched above Double-A in six minor-league seasons. He’s been very good at San Jose this season, going 1-0 with nine saves, a 0.86 ERA and 0.714 WHIP in 21 innings.
P Eric Surkamp — The former sixth-round pick in 2008, Surkamp was the Giants’ top-rated pitcher in the system in 2011 after they dealt Zach Wheeler to the Mets. Surkamp was promoted from Double-A Richmond and went 2-2 with 5.74 ERA in six starts for the Giants at the tail end of the 2011 season. But he developed elbow problems and required Tommy John surgery last season. During his rehab this year, he made five starts for Class A San Jose, going 0-0 with a 2.93 ERA. After being optioned to Triple-A Fresno, he is 2-0 with 2.81 ERA in three starts. He could be an option to start for the Giants in August.
IF Ehire Adrianza — Adrianza has the reputation as having a great glove, but lacks offense. His best offensive season was 2011 when he hit .273 with .352 OBP between low-A Augusta and high-A San Jose. He hit .220 for Double-A Richmond in 2012 and was hitting .242 with .334 OBP for Richmond in 2013 before getting promoted to Triple-A Fresno last week.
OF Roger Kieschnick — The left-handed hitting Kieschnick looked to be headed to the big leagues last season when he hit .306 with 15 HRs and 40 RBI in 55 games for Triple-A Fresno. But he injured his shoulder running into the outfield wall, which effectively ended his season. In 2013, he hasn’t been the same, hitting .265 with 11 HR and 51 RBI in 90 games.
At the top of the list on concerns for the San Francisco Giants heading into the 2013 season was the organizational depth at starting pitching.
Should something go awry with one of the Giants’ five starting pitcher, there are questions on who would be able to step in and fill the void.
At the top of that list in right-hander Chris Heston. Heston was the Double-A Eastern League pitcher of the year in 2012, which is worth noting because former Giants prospect Zach Wheeler also pitched well in the Eastern League last year.
In his first two starts at Triple-A, Heston is learning the difference from pitching in the pitcher-friendly Eastern League and the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. Continue reading