Escobar throws seven one-hit innings

Giants' No. 11 prospect continues stellar start in Double-A

By Jake Seiner / | August 3, 2013 6:44 PM

For Richmond pitching coach Ross Grimsley, the funny thing about Edwin Escobar is how easy he is to overlook.

"He's quiet, professional and he works hard," Grimsley said. "Those are three things you really want in a guy. You'd never know he was around.

"Then he takes the mound and you know he's there."

Double-A hitters are starting to get Grimsley's meaning.

Stellar in five starts since he was promoted to the Eastern League last month, the Giants' No. 11 prospect held New Hampshire to one hit over seven innings Saturday night as Richmond posted a 5-0 victory.

Escobar (3-2) retired his first five batters before Kevin Nolan grounded a single to center in the second. The 21-year-old left-hander didn't allow another baserunner, retiring the final 16 Fisher Cats he faced. He recorded six strikeouts without issuing a walk and threw 62 of 90 pitches for strikes.

The shutout was Richmond's 12th this season, tying Harrisburg for the league lead.

Escobar was promoted from Class A Advanced San Jose in early July and has been excellent since. Bowie roughed him up for four earned runs on six hits over four innings in his July 13 debut, but he's allowed only four earned runs in his last four starts. His scoreless outing Saturday trimmed his ERA to 2.32 and he's got 32 strikeouts against five walks without serving up a home run in 31 innings.

To Grimsley, who's been a Minor League pitching coach for San Francisco since 1999, the hurler's polish at such a young age is reminiscent of another youngster he coached.

"He's way ahead of schedule, from what I've seen," Grimsley said. "I know we had [Madison] Bumgarner here several years ago and I can kind of compare them. He's like a mini-Bumgarner to me.

The Giants acquired Escobar from Texas in 2010. The Rangers selected San Francisco's Ben Snyder in that year's Rule 5 Draft and, after deciding they couldn't keep Snyder on their active roster, dealt Escobar for Snyder's rights.

Snyder has yet to advance beyond Triple-A, while Escobar has surged as a prospect over the past two seasons. He broke out with Class A Augusta last year, going 7-8 with a 2.96 ERA in 22 starts. He struck out 122, walked 32 and held opponents to a .241 average over 130 2/3 innings.

The Giants bumped the Venezuela native to San Jose to begin this season, and the California League did little to slow his progress. In 16 appearances, including 14 starts, he went 3-4 with a 2.89 ERA, 92 strikeouts and 17 walks over 74 2/3 innings.

The hurler -- a relative of Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar and former Major League right-hander Kelvim Escobar -- has a promising mix of polish and unfulfilled potential, according to Grimsley. On the polished end, it's Escobar's strong fastball command that's made his initial success at Double-A possible.

"He's a guy that has come in throwing. Velocity-wise, he's in the low- to mid-90s at times, but the big thing is he keeps the ball down," Grimsley said. "At that velocity with some movement, he keeps the ball at the knees. When he does go up, he gets swings and misses. They'll chase balls out of the zone. He's just been fantastic commanding his fastball."

Where Escobar can still grow and improve is in the utility of his off-speed pitches. He throws a breaking ball -- Grimsley referred to it as a slurve -- and has a changeup. Grimsley believes both pitches have the potential to become quality offerings but thinks there are a few mechanical adjustments that need to be made for that to happen.

"There are some little odds and ends, things he can do to make him even better and more consistent, which would be fantastic," Grimsley said. "His delivery is good, but it could be better. That will affect his changeup and his breaking ball, help those more.

"He slows down on some of his off-speed pitches. I think when he gets the same delivery all the time, he will be even better and will be better against better hitting players. He slows his delivery down at times with the change and the breaking ball, and that's something you don't want to do."

Grimsley is confident those tweaks will be made with time and projects Escobar to become an "outstanding big league pitcher," in large part because he couples his athleticism and ability with a quality work ethic.

"Just talking to him and having him here and seeing how his work ethic is and how he goes about stuff, he goes about it as a veteran guy," Grimsley said. "He's very consistent about his [side sessions], works hard off the field in his running program and with the weights.

"He doesn't say anything. He goes out and does what he's supposed to do. He watches the game, tries to learn. He does everything you would want a player and a pitcher to do."

Adam Duvall delivered an RBI double in the Flying Squirrels' four-run third inning, then walked and scored on Ryan Lollis' single in the eighth.

Jake Seiner is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Seiner. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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