Today is likely to be the biggest cut day in San Francisco Giants spring camp, and the list includes former Augusta GreenJackets who will continue their climb at higher levels this season.
A notable arm that was in Augusta just last season is left-hander Edwin Escobar, who didn't appear in a spring training game despite being in camp. Escobar had a 2.96 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 130.2 innings for the GreenJackets last season, resulting in a No. 14 ranking in the Giants system by Baseball America this winter.
Baseball America noted Escobar's "cleaner mechanics and better conditioning" as reasons for his vast improvement from a 5.09 ERA and only 42 strikeouts in 46 innings in the Arizona League in 2011. Escobar hit 92-93 with the fastball and threw a better changeup to complement a developing breaking ball.
Former GreenJackets Brett Bochy, Mike Kickham, Mitch Lively, Adam Duvall, Brock Bond, Ehire Adrianza, Nick Noonan, Chris Heston and Dan Otero were also cut from camp today. Among these, Adrianza, Noonan, Heston and Otero were optioned to Triple-A Fresno. The others were reassigned to minor league camp with the exception of Escobar, who was optioned to Single-A Advanced San Jose.
Duvall went 1 for 11 with a home run in 12 spring plate appearances. His next stop will likely be Double-A Richmond in 2013.
Kickham gave up one run in three innings this spring, recording one walk and one strikeout in the two appearances. The left-hander is knocking on San Francisco's door, as he will open the season at Triple-A Fresno.
Bochy was put into pressure situations right away in his first spring camp, receiving tests from father and Giants manager Bruce Bochy. The younger Bochy allowed two runs on four hits in 2.2 innings, walking two and striking out one. The reliever will pitch out of Fresno's bullpen this season.
Reports of Noonan's defense this spring were positive, which has been the case since the Giants picked him in the first round in 2007. While his bat rebounded at Fresno last season, he managed just six hits in 35 plate appearances this spring, and was optioned perhaps quicker than some expected. Noonan should see time in San Francisco at some point this year.
Heston, who will be 25 years old this season, has been a steady performer throughout his time in the Giants system, and should reach San Francisco soon. He had a rough spring, allowing five earned runs on eight hits in 2.2 innings against mostly major league competition, but the Giants know what they have in the right-hander, throwing a steady high-80s fastball and strong curveball. Perhaps Heston's greatest tool is his pitchability, as he takes full advantage of his stuff and command, and sets hitters up well. Expect him to start at Fresno.