Prospect of the Day: Eric Surkamp, LHP, San Francisco Giants
San Francisco Giants southpaw Eric Surkamp made his major league debut against the Houston Astros on Saturday, throwing six strong innings. What does the future hold for him?
Surkamp was drafted by the Giants in the sixth round in 2008, from North Carolina State University. He was in the starting rotation for the Wolfpack for three years, although he struggled at times his junior season (4.89 ERA, 86/40 K/BB in 74 innings) which cost him a round or two in the draft. He performed very well in the South Atlantic League in 2009, with a 3.30 ERA and a 169/39 K/BB in 131 innings, but as a college pitcher in Low-A, he still had to prove himself at higher levels. A hip injury limited him to 17 starts and 101 innings for High-A San Jose last year, but he remained very effective (3.11 ERA, 108/22 K/BB).
Promoted to Double-A Richmond this year, Surkamp has been dominant against Double-A competition, going 10-4, 2.02 with a 165/44 K/BB in 142 innings, allowing 110 hits. Although he has no Triple-A experience, the decision to give him a spot start in the majors was a reasonable one given his performance. He went six innings against the Astros, giving up six hits, one run, walking three, and fanning four.
Surkamp is a 6-4, 190 pound lefty, born July 16, 1987. Although he racked up large numbers of strikeouts in the minors, he is not a hard-thrower, working in the mid-to-upper 80s with his fastball. However, the pitch plays up due to the contrast with his above-average curveball, above-average changeup, and cutter. His control is strong and, like the classic finesse lefty, he has a good feel for his craft, changing speeds and deceiving hitters. He had no problems at all making the transition to Double-A. His home park at Richmond is a friendly environment and he posted a 1.73 ERA with 106/27 K/BB in 89 innings, 62 hits, there, but he was also effective on the road (2.52 ERA, 59/17 K/BB in 54 innings, 48 hits).
Aside from the hip problem last year, Surkamp has been durable and has taken all of his turns since he was a college freshman. The hip injury was a dislocation caused when he tried to field a ground ball, so it was a fluke and not an indication of durability troubles.
Given his lack of plus velocity, Surkamp doesn't have a huge margin for error and most scouts aren't comfortable projecting him as more than a number three or four starter. However, his ability to eat innings and throw strikes stands out. He doesn't throw 90+, but he whiffs hitters at power-pitcher rates, and that makes him a good bet for future success in my view.