Derek Law hasn’t shown up on many San Francisco Giants top ten lists, but he could be one of the most important members of the bullpen this season. Despite a low profile and limited experience, he might be on the MLB roster as early as Opening Day. He’s combined a funky, deceptive delivery with major-league-caliber stuff to utterly dominate hitters in the low minors, and his dominance continued in the Arizona Fall League, where he didn’t allow a run in twelve and a third innings.
Law was drafted in the 28th round in 2009 by the Texas Rangers, but opted to head to community college instead of signing. Law dominated at Miami Dade JC, featuring a K:BB ratio of 121:16 in 92 innings his sophomore year. His rough delivery and arm action scared off scouts, however, and he was drafted by the Giants in the ninth round. After a solid if unspectacular year in low-A Augusta in 2012, Law returned to the level the following year. He upped his strikeout rate and lowered his walk rate in half a season, but the fireworks were just getting started. After his promotion to San Jose on July 8th, Law posted a 2.20 ERA and 11 saves in 25.2 innings pitched – as well as a 45:1 K/BB ratio. That’s not a typo. Derek Law struck out 45 batters in 25.2 innings, and walked 1.
In case you’re wondering, the walk came in his fifth-to-last appearance of the season. So in Law’s first 19.2 innings pitched at San Jose, he struck out 34 batters and didn’t walk a single one.
A stat line like that is going to draw attention, but Law has legitimate stuff. His fastball averaged 94 mph in the AFL according to Trackman data, maxing out at 97, and he’s got a plus curveball as well. A slider and a changeup round out his arsenal, and he can throw both of them for strikes. His delivery is unusual – he turns his back completely before coming to the plate, and his release point is extremely over-the-top – but he hides the ball very well and generates a ton of ground balls.
The owner of 25.2 career innings in San Jose, Law could see the majors much earlier than previously expected. His performance in the Arizona Fall League helped that. After 12.1 scoreless innings in the October showcase league, Giants GM Brian Sabean said “He’s a name that we hope can carry over his Fall League performance and actually try to make our ballclub. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s in contention based on what we saw,” according to Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle.
There are three spots up for grabs in the Giants’ bullpen this spring, with only Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Santiago Casilla, and Javier Lopez guaranteed to break camp with the team barring an injury. Law has a decent chance at grabbing on of those spots. He’d need to really impress during spring training, but that’s quite achievable after the year he had in 2013. Even if he doesn’t make the team on Opening Day, he’d figure to head to Fresno, where he’d be one of the first call-ups in case of injury or ineffectiveness. With a great spring, and a little luck, Law will be up early this spring, and he could assert himself as the first of a new wave of relief talent in San Francisco.