With every pitcher besides Madison Bumgarner either hurt or suffering from TMB (Too Many Birthdays), the San Francisco Giants have called up rookie right-hander Chris Heston, who will make his second career start on Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Heston, a twelfth-round pick (357th overall) in the 2009 amateur draft out of East Carolina University, offers five pitches: a two- and four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup, none of which are above average.
He relies mostly on his two-seamer, which sits at 89-90 MPH and tops out at 91-92. It has good sink and tail action and he controls it well, but his command is often spotty due to his crossover delivery. When he gets the two-seamer up, it is very hittable. But when his command his on, he pounds the lower half of the zone and gets hitters to drive the ball into the ground, as his 49.3% career minor league GB rate suggests.
His offspeed offerings are fringy at best, with the curveball and changeup being closest to average big league pitches. His curveball ranges anywhere from 73-78 MPH, and the movement ranges from a sharp drop to a Sergio Romo-like frisbee action. Unlike Romo’s slider, however, Heston’s curveball doesn’t garner many whiffs. The changeup (which ranges from 82-84 MPH) is a weapon because it has very similar movement to his two-seamer, and he repeats his arm action well enough to allow for deception. His changeup will likely be his best put-away pitch at the big league level.
Heston also throws a soft slider, but it is the pitch that he throws least often. It generally sits at 77 MPH, a very similar—and sometimes identical—speed to his curveball. The slider also has a frisbee action to it, and the break isn’t very sharp. Heston mostly uses the pitch to sneak in a strike, as the low velocity and lack of sharp movement don’t allow for many swing-throughs.
Overall, Heston is a No. 5 starter at best. He doesn’t have any plus pitches, and his command eludes him frequently. In a league that crushes mistake pitches, Heston will struggle to keep the ball in the yard. His curveball will hang too frequently, and his fastball won’t be able to miss bats. On a good day he will get enough ground balls and called strikes to be effective, but those days will be the outliers more so than the norm.
Given that his start today is coming in Arizona against the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo, Giants fans (and management) will likely already be looking down the line for the next starting pitcher (Ty Blach) before the game is over.
Follow Matt Foster on Twitter @MattFosterPP