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San Francisco Giants Prospect to Watch: Kyle Crick

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COMMENTARY | The San Francisco Giants have had tremendous success drafting and developing starting pitchers over the past decade. Their track record has been stellar: The Giants have won two of the last three World Series on the strength of their pitching, and each World Series-winning rotation has included four starting pitchers drafted by the team.

Because of that success, it's natural to look to the Giants' minor-league system to find the next big name who'll eventually step on the mound at AT&T Park. There are a number of quality arms in the Giants' system, many of them at the lower levels of the minor leagues and a few years away from being ready for the majors.

One name, however, stands out as a pitcher who could move through the minors quickly and force his way into the big leagues sooner rather than later: Kyle Crick.

Crick, a first-round pick of the Giants in 2011, is a 6-foot-4-inch, 220-pound right-handed pitcher whom the Giants drafted out of high school. Recently rated as the team's top overall prospect by Baseball America, Crick is an overpowering pitcher with a fastball that can reach the high-90s. Though his secondary pitches need work, Crick still managed to strike out 128 batters in 111 1/3 innings last season at Class-A Augusta while walking just 67. That's tremendous control for a pitcher Crick's age, especially considering he lacks a dominant pitch besides his fastball.

Crick will likely start the season at Class-A Advanced San Jose, but you can bet the Giants won't hesitate to promote him to a higher level if he performs well there. The Giants will want to see how far Crick has come in his second full professional season and decide whether or not he might be able to contribute to the big-league club in 2014.

The Giants are faced with the possibility of losing both Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito after 2013 and need to know if any of their young pitchers are capable of stepping into the rotation if need be. And while Crick may be very young (he's 20 years old), he could definitely put himself in the conversation with a strong season.

It wouldn't be unheard of if the Giants deem Crick ready to join the rotation as early as next year. Matt Cain, also a high school draft pick, made his major-league debut when he was 20. Madison Bumgarner, another high school pitcher, blew through the Giants' minor-league system and made his major-league debut at age 19. While Crick may not be as advanced of a pitcher as Cain and Bumgarner were at the same age, he doesn't have very far to go. He made a big leap in skill from his debut professional season in 2011 to last year, so it's not unreasonable to think the same kind of leap could happen again.

In a minor-league system that's lacking in major league-ready prospects, Crick stands out as the name to watch. The Giants' rotation is staring at a big makeover after this year, and with the team likely hesitant to hand out gigantic contracts to free-agent pitchers from outside of the organization (call it the Zito Effect), solutions need to be found from within. While other pitchers in the Giants' system may be closer to the majors, none of them have as much potential as Crick. He's an electric pitcher who'll hopefully only get better, and it's not a stretch to imagine him in a rotation with Cain and Bumgarner sooner rather than later.

If you're a Giants fan living in the Bay Area, take my advice: Make the trip to San Jose this year to see Kyle Crick pitch. But hurry, because he won't stay there very long.

Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer who has written about the Giants for the better part of a decade. His work has appeared on numerous sports websites, including Yahoo Sports' Big League Stew. You can follow him on Twitter @gggiants.

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