You know, Chris Heston was actually a decent prospect. He's not some Sadowski-come-lately strolling out of a burning house, only to realize he it's kinda cold outside and he'd rather go back in. Heston legitimately had a minor league pedigree that suggested a lot of major league skills.
Back before his awful 2013 season, Heston got a lot of "Here's a guy to look out for!" press in Giants circles. The points made were always the same: fastball not fast enough, great ground ball rate, excellent command, good secondary pitches. He'd made All-Star teams in both San Jose and Richmond, and in fact he'd gotten better with the jump to AA, which is something that was easy to take for granted, since it was a pitcher's park in a pitcher's league and we hadn't yet seen how badly that dominant 2013 San Jose Giants rotation would fare there (proud of you, Ty!). But before 2013, the thinking was that Heston could be a fringy rotation candidate, in a fierce competition with Mike Kickham to be the first guy up from Fresno should a starter go down.
Things, of course, didn't work out that way. Heston had an awful year in AAA, rocking a 5.80 ERA and getting DFA'd to make room for Jeff Francoeur. Now, that might not have been the whole story – later that year, he ended up in Extended Spring Training, which is where guys get sent after they've been injured – but it certainly didn't help his perception around here. A bad year in the high minors tends to set off Eddy Martinez-Esteve alarms, and once they start blaring, we can't hear anything else.
But Heston rebounded last year to have a very nice year. He wasn't as dominant as in his 2012 season, when he was Eastern League Pitcher of the Year, but he was among the league leaders in ERA, was able to limit walks and keep the ball on the ground – what he always did before 2013 – and eventually earned a September call-up. This year, he was inserted into the rotation due to injury, and thrived, with a faster fastball receiving a lot of the credit for his improvement. Since Heston added a lot of weight over the offseason (I've heard anywhere from 10-25 pounds) in an effort to bulk up, it's entirely possible this is what's caused his fastball to goodify, though Josh Shepardson at Fangraphs has some strange news about that.
Is Heston's major league success going to continue? Of course, and anyone who disagrees is a HERETIC who DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH and should be BURNED AT THE STAKE. This is the penalty when you are not a real fan. However, it could be argued that Heston's .246 BABIP and 81.6% LOB rate are both unsustainable, so even if he continues to pitch as well as he has in his first three starts, the luck will probably even out a bit and he'll give up a few more runs. This is not to say he'll be a bad pitcher (Fangraphs currently has his FIP at 2.94 and xFIP at 3.25), but you might want to take the over on that 0.87 ERA.
Chris Heston's first three starts have been shockingly good, but really, they'd have been shockingly good for anyone. And while this has been unexpected, based on his minor league record, if you treat 2013 as more of a fluke than an indicator of his true talent level, it makes a lot more sense. And if there's one thing baseball should always do, it's make sense.
Also, when Heston has a terrible start against the Rockies on Friday, you can now totally blame me.