After just one week and two appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket, recently acquired Red Sox right-hander Heath Hembree has been promoted to the major leagues. He will join the Boston bullpen for Tuesday night’s contest in St. Louis, according to a report by Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe.
Hembree, 25, was brought over with Edwin Escobar, in the trade that sent veteran starter Jake Peavy to San Francisco in July. He was 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA and 19 saves in 43 games for Fresno, the Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, and he struck out four over 1.2 shutout innings in his brief time with Pawtucket.
Next to Escobar, the Giants’ 2nd overall prospect per Baseball America, Hembree, who came in at #7, may have been the lesser prospect in the deal, but he will have the opportunity to make a much more immediate impact in Boston. A fifth round pick out of Charleston in 2011, he appeared to be tottering on the majors as early as April of 2012, when he first reached Triple-A. But a combination of small injuries and bursts of ineffectiveness have held him back.
Not that Hembree can be blamed for all of his struggles in the minors. Fresno is part of the Pacific Coast League, a notoriously hitter-friendly circuit, and South Carolinan’s peripherals tell a much more promising story than his counting or shallow rate stats. Just this season, he has a 3.0 BB/9 and 10.5 SO/9 with Fresno, a testament to his improved command – he was walking more than 4 batters per nine earlier in his professional career – and swing and miss stuff.
Most of those swings and misses come off of his fastball, which he used 70% of the time in his 7.2 inning cup of coffee with the Giants last September. And its a good one, sitting at 93-96 with the ability to touch triple digits and heavy sink. Its a small sample size, but he yielded a ground ball rate of 53.3% during his brief big league tenure. MLB average is 44%.
His primary off-speed is a mid-80’s slider with average break. He also mixes in a change-up that, as of the middle of last season, was “a work in progress,” according to MLB.com scouting analyst Bernie Pleskoff.
For now, Koji Uehara has the closer role nailed down for Boston. He’s a free agent at the end of the year, though, and if Boston is unable to sign him, Hembree could be on deck. He finished 177 games in the minors, earning 106 saves.
In a corresponding roster move, the team will option knuckleballing right-hander Steven Wright back to Triple-A.
Update: According to WEEI’s Joon Lee, the Red Sox will also promote 28 year old outfielder Corey Brown. The former Athletics and Nationals prospect had been hitting for power in Triple-A, if little else, with a .226/.294/.452 slash line and 16 home runs in 292 at bats. In parts of three season for Washington, Brown hit .175/.250/.400 across 45 plate appearances. Signed by Boston as a minor league free agent this offseason, Brown is not a member of the 40 man roster, though a spot remains open after the events of Thursday’s non-waiver trade deadline.