HEATH HEMBREE, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: January 15, 1989
Drafted: 5th Round, 168th overall pick, 2010 (Giants)
How Acquired: Free Agent
College: College of Charleston (SC)
Agent: Ballengee Group
WTM’s PLAYER PROFILE
|Hembree was something of a mystery when drafted, as he threw only about 30 innings in college. San Francisco chose him in the fifth round on the strength of a mid- to upper-90s fastball. As a major leaguer, he’s generally been in the mid-90s. He relies heavily on a slider, throwing it nearly half the time in 2021. Early in his career, he occasionally threw a change that wasn’t very successful. More recently he’s thrown an occasional curve. Hembree’s had high K rates at times and has had some trouble with walks off and on. He’s a flyball pitcher and his biggest problem in the majors has been gopher balls. His platoon splits have been highly variable. The Pirates signed Hembree as a free agent for 2022.
In 11 relief outings, Hembree obviously overmatched rookie league hitters. After the season, Baseball America rated him the Giants’ 19th best prospect.
The Giants jumped Hembree up to High-A, where he dominated in the high-scoring California League. After a mid-season promotion, he continued pitching well in AA. On the season, he led the minors in saves. BA ranked him third in the Giants’ system.
Hembree didn’t do as well in the high-offense environment of the Pacific Coast League as he had in the California League. He had more trouble with walks and didn’t miss nearly as many bats. A strained flexor tendon cost him most of July and part of August. BA rated him seventh in the system.
Hembree went back to AAA and had a better season, with much better walk and K rates. The Giants called him up in September and he made nine scoreless appearances.
The Giants sent Hembree back to AAA, where he pitched about the same as the previous year. Near the deadline, he was traded to Boston for Jake Peavy. Hembree split his time after the trade between AAA and the majors.
Hembree shuttled back and forth between Boston and AAA several times before spending the season’s last six weeks in the majors. He also missed about five weeks around mid-season with right shoulder inflammation. He pitched well in AAA and was solid in the majors, but with a very low K rate and a home run allowed every five innings.
Hembree again bounced back and forth between Boston and AAA, but this time he spent most of the season in Boston. He was reasonably effective there, although he had a lot of trouble with left-handed batters. They had an .890 OPS against him, while he held right-handed batters to .591.
Hembree spent the entire season with the Red Sox. He had good walk and K rates, but opponents hit well against him, with a 289/337/466 line against him. He gave up ten gopher balls in 62 innings, and had no platoon split.
In another full season in the majors, Hembree gave up fewer hits but walked more. He also allowed exactly the same number of home runs in nearly the same number of innings as the previous season. This time he had a huge reverse platoon split.
Hembree missed much of the second half with an elbow strain, but still got into 45 games for Boston. He generally pitched well, but home runs continued to be a problem, with one every five and a half innings.
Despite the ERA, Hembree pitched reasonably well for Boston for the first month of the pandemic season. In late August, the Red Sox sent him to Philadelphia and he obviously had serious trouble there, including seven gopher balls in just over nine innings. After the season, the Phillies outrighted him and he elected free agency.
Cleveland signed Hembree to a minor league deal in the off-season, but released him early in spring training. He caught on with the Reds and was called up early in the season. Hembree ended up serving as closer for part of his time in Cincinnati, with the team having a serious bullpen breakdown. In most areas he pitched well, but he was done in by the gopher ball. He again allowed ten, nearly one every four innings. He was also beset by a low strand rate; his xFIP for the full season was a solid 3.84. The Reds designated him for assignment in mid-August and the Mets claimed him. He was more effective in New York. Hembree became a free agent after the season.
The Statcast data shows that Hembree gave up a lot of very hard contact in 2020-21. He’ll be in the Pirates’ bullpen in 2022 and they’ll be hoping he can approximate his 2021 xFIP.
UPDATE: Hembree pitched badly for the Pirates, running into serious problems with walks and homers. Derek Shelton kept using him in close games anyway, but the team finally designated him for assignment to clear roster space in late June.
|Signing Bonus: $185,000
MiLB Debut: 2010
MLB Debut: 9/3/2013
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2022
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/2/2013
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2014, 2015, 2016)
MLB Service Time: 6.096
|June 8, 2010: Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the 5th round, 168th overall pick; signed on July 3.
September 2, 2013: Contract purchased by the San Francisco Giants.
July 26, 2014: Traded by the San Francisco Giants with Edwin Escobar to the Boston Red Sox for Jake Peavy and cash considerations.
August 21, 2020: Traded by the Boston Red Sox with Brandon Workman and $815,000 to the Philadelphia Phillies for Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold.
October 29, 2020: Outrighted to AAA by the Philadelphia Phillies; refused assignment on October 30 and became a free agent.
February 3, 2021: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Cleveland Indians.
March 20, 2021: Released by the Cleveland Indians.
March 22, 2021: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Cincinnati Reds.
April 23, 2021: Called up by the Cincinnati Reds.
August 17, 2021: Designated for assignment by the Cincinnati Reds.
August 20, 2021: Claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds by the New York Mets.
November 3, 2021: Became a free agent.
March 15, 2022: Signed as a free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 22, 2022: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.