As the preparation for Spring Training (at least the minor league version, with MLB still in a lockout) rolls on, so does the SF Giants' practice of signing intriguing arms this offseason. Just a few days after picking up previous top prospects from other organizations, a new deal trickled onto the MLB.com transactions page.
The newest addition to the Giants system is right-handed pitcher Raynel Espinal, a 6'3", 215-pound 30 year old from the Dominican Republic. Never mentioned in Baseball America top prospect lists, even just the team top-30, Espinal nevertheless has had success between the white lines and progressed to the Major Leagues.
Espinal was signed by the New York Yankees as an international free agent in 2012, and his professional debut came at the age of 21 in 2013. He appeared in 37 games in relief between 2013 and 2014 in the Dominican Summer League, then missed the 2015 campaign altogether (as a low-end organizational type of pitcher at the time, there doesn't appear to have been any reporting as to why he missed that year).
Beginning in 2016, Espinal's career took on a different trajectory. He pitched at four levels that year: the DSL, complex ball in the Gulf Coast League, rookie-level with Pulaski in the Appalachian League, and Short-Season Single-A with Staten Island in the New York-Penn League.
Espinal dominated his way to Double-A in 2017, mostly out of the bullpen. With Low-A Charleston, he had a 1.16 ERA in 10 games, striking out 44 and walking just four in 38 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate rose in 16 innings (21 whiffs) with High-A Tampa, and with Double-A Trenton he allowed just one earned run in 19 2/3 innings for a 0.46 ERA while striking out 28 and walking eight.
The Triple-A level humbled the righty some in 2018 and 2019. Espinal made 41 appearances (three starts) in 2018 with a 3.09 ERA with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then started 12 games among 18 outings with a 4.32 ERA in 2019.
After the 2019 season, Espinal was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft. With Triple-A Worcester in 2021, he went 11-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 23 games (21 starts). He also was called up for his MLB debut on August 30, giving up two hits and two runs in two innings of relief.
Espinal could be a good option for a sixth starter for the SF Giants in 2022
Not an overpowering pitcher, Espinal reportedly has good control of a low-90s fastball and solid changeup. He should offer solid depth with Sacramento in case the Giants need an emergency arm in 2022, and with his track record it's not out of the question that he might be able to hold his own against Major League hitters in longer exposure to the league.