The San Francisco Giants are known for drafting and developing All-Star caliber pitchers.
Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain were all drafted by the Giants and continue to dominate at the major league level. With Erik Surkamp on the disabled list with elbow issues, the Giants have very little depth within the organization when it comes to starting pitchers. The club even signed former Detroit Tigers starter Brad Penny as a backup plan just in case someone were to get injured or Lincecum needed to skip a start to reboot.
Look no further Giants fans; right-handed pitcher Chris Heston is absolutely destroying Eastern League hitters for Double-A Richmond this season.
It was announced Tuesday that Heston was named Eastern League Player of the Week for the week of May 27th. In that week, Heston made two starts for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, striking out 20 batters while allowing just one run to score in 14 innings of work. On Sunday, he struck out a career-high 11 batters in just six innings of work. It is always an honor to get anything like that, Heston said. There are a lot of good pitchers out here in this league so to know you are taken into consideration for a weekly honor like that is always good.
The 24-year old currently has the lowest ERA in all of Minor League Baseball with a 0.70 earned run average. He has allowed just nine runs to score in 64.2 innings of work. He is holding opponents to a pathetic .194 batting average and has struck out 59 batters while only walking 15. He is 5-2 in ten Double-A starts and hasnt allowed more than two runs to score in a game this season.
The right-hander works with four pitches - a sinker, a slider, a change-up and a curve ball. I have given the team a chance to win every time I go out and that is kind of what you are going for, Heston said. I feel like I am where I want to be right now.
The Florida native was drafted by the Giants in the 12th round of the 2009 first year player draft out of East Carolina University. He made his professional debut with the AZL Giants that same year, going 1-5 with a 4.11 ERA in 11 games. In 2010, he was promoted to Low-A Augusta, where he encountered some trouble. In his first full season, he went 5-13 with 3.75 ERA in 26 games.
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Despite a rough start to his career, Heston turned a new leaf in 2011, going 12-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 24 games for High-A San Jose. Heston said that learning how to throw a sinker and adapting to the demanding schedule of being a professional baseball player helped him settle in after struggling in his first full season. He went on to be named a mid-season All-Star and was awarded California League Pitcher of the Week for the week of May 16th, 2011. He struck 131 batters and only issued 40 walks in 151.1 innings.
If he continues to dominate the Eastern League and whittle his ERA down to nothing he could find himself in Triple-A Fresno this season or better yet AT&T Park. Heston feels like he is ready to compete at the major league level right now.
I feel like you have to have that mindset regardless of what is going on, Heston said. That is really why we are all playing the game right now anyways. I could definitely compete at that major league level.
Until that day comes, he is working on staying sharp, focused and hitting his spots in Double-A Richmond. Heston is scheduled to make his next start for the Richmond Flying Squirrels on Friday, June 1st against the Detroit Tigers Double-A affiliate, the Erie SeaWolves. I try not to look to far into what level I am at, Heston said. I just go out there and try to do the same thing, control the strike zone and try not to let them make contact.
Ellen Ward is a Fresno Grizzlies contributor for CSN Bay Area. Follow the @FresnoForecast on Twitter for updates.