PHOENIX, Ariz. — With a 59-74 record, the San Francisco Giants are ready to turn the page to 2014, a process that will begin next week.
Manager Bruce Bochy said he expects to add five or six players after rosters expand Sept. 1, and the mix will be one featuring familiar names and intriguing prospects. All will have a chance to prove their worth to a front office that needs to upgrade the starting rotation, outfield and bullpen heading into next season.
The biggest name of the bunch will be Heath Hembree, a right-handed reliever who is expected to finally make his big league debut after pitching in major league camp each of the last two springs. Hembree can light up the radar gun with a mid-90s fastball but struggled in May and June and was bypassed by several other right-handers when the Giants needed bullpen help. The 24-year-old turned his season around in July and has posted a 2.75 ERA in his past 20 appearances in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, with 22 strikeouts.
The turnaround has come thanks to improved consistency with his slider and changeup, according to scouts who have seen Hembree recently, and with 30 saves for the Fresno Grizzlies, Hembree has shown the pedigree to be the Giants' closer of the future. First, he could join Santiago Casilla in giving Bochy two hard-throwing right-handers in front of All-Star closer Sergio Romo.
Two right-handers who helped get the ball to Romo earlier this season-George Kontos and Jake Dunning-are also on track to return to the big leagues. Kontos was a revelation last year but struggled to replicate that success this season. Dunning was this year's bullpen surprise, holding the opposing team scoreless in 17 of his 20 big league appearances. Bochy was effusive in his praise of Dunning when the 25-year-old was sent down in July to make room for Joaquin Arias.
"He did, really, a terrific job," Bochy said. "This young kid came up ahead of schedule, and I loved the way he handled himself."
Nick Noonan has worn down the roads between Fresno and San Francisco this season and should be added to provide depth behind second baseman Marco Scutaro, who has been limited at times by back pain. The Giants also plan to promote Ehire Adrianza, a shortstop who has long been deemed major league-ready defensively but has developed slowly at the plate. Adrianza had a .599 OPS at Double-A a year ago but has been hot since joining Fresno in July, posting an OPS of .819.
In the outfield, Bochy plans to vary the September playing time, with right fielder Hunter Pence being the lone exception.
Juan Perez, who excelled defensively in a midseason cameo but struck out too often. Roger Kieschnick and Francisco Peguero are already in the big leagues, but the outfield crowd is more notable for the name it doesn't include. Gary Brown, the organization's 2010 first-round pick, is not currently in line for a September cup of coffee.
Brown was by all accounts one of the Giants' top two position player prospects heading into the season (along with Double-A infielder Joe Panik) but has been unable to find any consistency. Brown has cooled off after hitting .278 with eight homers and eight doubles in July, batting just .221 over the past two months with two homers. For the season at Fresno, Brown has a .666 OPS and has been caught stealing on 11 of 27 attempts.