The San Francisco Giants must really need some relief. Will Smith — the owner of a career 3.94 ERA and 16 blown saves — is heading to the Bay as San Francisco sends their current top prospect — right hander Phil Bickford — and their former top prospect — catcher Andrew Susac — to Milwaukee.
While Susac still has potential, Bickford is the prize of this trade. The 6-foot-4, 200 pound right hander had a nice freshman campaign at Cal State Fullerton in 2014 and would transfer to JUCO so he could be drafted in 2015. He absolutely dominated the JUCO circuit, posting a 1.45 ERA striking out 166 and walking 21 in just 86.2 innings pitched. The move paid off as the Giants made him the 18th overall selection in last season’s draft.
Bickford made a nice 10 game 2015 debut in the Arizona League and his success has continued over into this season. He has already been promoted from the Sally to the California League and has combined for a 2.71 ERA with 105 strikeouts and 27 walks in 93 innings over both levels. His normally solid command has been a bit erratic of late, as he has walked eight batters in his last two games.
This is a bit of a concern because many felt that his mechanics would one day lead to command issues once he reached higher levels against advanced hitting. That being said, he still has some nice offerings, backed by a fastball that he throws as a high-90s four-seamer or a low-90s sinking two-seamer. His slider is a plus offering and his changeup improved greatly from last season.
Due to his funky mechanics, some have suggested that Bickford may be destined for a closer’s role, but he will still get his chances to be a starter for the time being. He has been in the spotlight, pitching a scoreless, two strikeout inning in San Diego at the MLB Futures Game and freshly 21-years old, the Brewers have time to feel out where they feel Bickford will work best.
Susac was the heir apparent to Buster Posey and considered the No. 1 prospect in the Giants system as late as last season. After being drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft, Susac jumped on the fast track and rode the train to The Show in just two seasons, making his big league debut in 2014. It was a nice 35 game stint, that saw him slash .273/.326/.466 while smacking three home runs and eight doubles in 88 at bats.
He was known for his solid defense, one that saw him post a career .988 fielding percentage behind the plate while throwing out 33 percent of attempted base thieves over his brief minor league tenure. He was not so successful at the big league level, throwing out just 23 percent of the runners.
He’s been awfully hot of late with the Sacramento River Cats, hitting in eight of his last ten games. He went 16-for-35 (.457) belting three home runs in three consecutive days.
His past two seasons have been plagued by injury, but Susac could still maintain an everyday big league job if he can get back to his old form. Just 26, there is no reason to think he wouldn’t be able to. His defense is solid, he can hit .250 to .270 and hit double-digit home runs. He strikes out a bit, but he also shows patience and can draw some walks. It’s quite possible the Brewers see him as an immediate platoon player with Martin Maldonado should Lucroy finally agree on a trade partner.
Will Smith will slide right into the Giants bullpen. The 27-year old lefty’s numbers are down from last year, seeing an increased walk rate at the hands of a reduced strikeout rate, resulting in a 3.68 ERA. Should he find his groove from last year — when he struck out 91 over 63.1 innings — the Giants got themselves a good late inning lefty.