“True Sleeper”: Why The Giants’ Chris Heston Needs To Be On Your Radar

Sleeper is a term that is thrown around a lot, but how can someone be a sleeper if everyone is talking about them?  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?  Well, we here at Rotoprofessor are going to do the best we can to actually uncover a few players that no one else has on their radars.  Consider this series our “True” Sleeper series.

The Giants are obviously one of the elite organizations in developing starting pitchers.  How many teams can trade a starter of Zack Wheeler’s caliber, yet not bat an eye?  They just seem to churn out starters and their rotation is as good as any in the league, at least from a potential standpoint.

That said, if you look at their group there is a good chance that they need help at some point in 2013.  Can they really trust Barry Zito?  Will Tim Lincecum return to form or need to be ticketed to the bullpen?  Can Ryan Vogelsong continue to produce?

The Giants top pitching prospects like Kyle Crick or Chris Stratton arestill at least a year away, but Chris Heston should be ready to make his debut.  He spent the entire season at Double-A in ’12, posting impressive numbers.

In 25 starts (148.2 IP) he posted a 2.24 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 135 K and 40 BB.  He has shown good strikeout ability (7.88 K/9) and very good control (2.29 BB/9) ever since being drafted in the 12th round in 2009.  Just as important, he posted a 1.63 GO/AO last season.  According to Minor League Central he sported a 49.3% groundball rate, a year after posting a 54.7% mark.

So, we have:

  • Strikeout ability
  • Pinpoint control
  • The ability to generate groundballs

Put that in a pitcher’s park?  It’s a perfect makeup for success.

Granted, he may not have the stuff of other prospects, but that has only helped him fly under-the-radar.  John Sickels of Minor League Ball recently said (click here for his Top 20 Giants prospects list):

“Throw the radar gun away with this guy. As Michael Fiers and Tom Milone show, you don’t have to have a blazing fastball to get people out, if you know what you’re doing. Heston knows what he is doing.”

MLB.com, who ranked him as the team’s eighth best prospect, gave the following description of his repertoire:

“Command type right-handers often struggle when they make the move up to Double-A. Heston clearly didn’t get that memo as he used his average stuff and excellent feel for pitching to lead the organization in ERA. His sinking fastball may top out at around 92 mph, but he uses a good downhill plane and gets a lot of groundball outs with it. His big curve often has good bite and rotation and thanks to good arm speed, his changeup is effective and deceptive. He commands all of his pitches well, getting ahead of hitters regularly. His ceiling might be limited, but it’s looking like his floor is too”

Fantasy owners need to like the comparison to Milone, who posted a 3.74 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in ’12.  Of course Heston may bring a little bit more on his fastball (Milone averaged 87.7 mph last season) and also more groundballs (Milone was at 38.1% last season).  Throw in pitching in the NL, and he really has the makings of a sneaky option once he gets an opportunity.

Don’t mistake him for a future ace, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t hold value.  He has all the makings of a successful under-the-radar option, and one that needs to be on your radar.  Let the rest of your league mates ignore him or not know his name.  It just puts you at a big advantage.

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  1. Nick Tenaglia says:

    Guys like this are tough (mid-level / organizational prospects) because they could become very good (see Milone), or this guy could be the next Eric Surkamp…

    In my Dynasty League, I try to implement a strategy with these lower level prospects whereby a draft them while they are still on their uptick, and trade them before they decline. Yes I run the risk of “losing value” because these guys could keep climbing the rankings, but its a much safer bet that they fall flat and end up becoming nothing worthy for a fantasy team…

    But keep up the good work with finding these deep sleepers

  2. RollTideTaylor says:

    Thanks for this post ~ solid analysis.

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