Harvesting Opinion is a regular feature on Seedlings to Stars. Each week, a handful of FanSided’s MLB sites send S2S a question relating to their team’s minor league system, and we answer them in this space–each question gets one article devoted to answering it. In this way, we make sure we regularly get to discuss hot-button issues relating to the systems of every team, as we cover the teams in a regular, recurring cycle.
In this edition, we tackle a question sent to us from our Arizona Diamondbacks site Venom Strikes:
The Dbacks have made some great picks in past few drafts to stockpile their pitching over the coming years. What are your projections on guys like Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker, and Tyler Skaggs in making the Dbacks starting rotation over the next couple of years? It looks like the Dbacks will pass on Bauer and Parker this season and wait till at least next season to give them a look.
I’m very impressed with Arizona’s crop of young arms—it’s easily one of the ten best in the game, and could even be top 5.
I’ll start with Skaggs, because he’s my absolute favorite of the bunch. The guy turned 20 in late July, and he was absolutely dominant in Double-A after a midseason promotion. Just to put that in perspective: at his age and with his stuff, he could’ve put those numbers up in short-season ball and still been considered a top prospect. He’s one of the very best pitching prospects in baseball, and should be a formidable MLB pitcher within a couple of years.
His teammate, Parker, is a guy I’m less than enthused about, and I’ve always been more pessimistic on him than most. That doesn’t mean I’m right; I tend to have a 50/50ish record with pessimism on top prospects. For all the supposed plus stuff, he isn’t getting a ton of strikeouts, his control isn’t perfect, and he’s nearly three years older than Skaggs and pitching at the same level. With his small frame and big fastball, I wonder if Parker would be best utilized as a power setup guy or even a closer; since Arizona has so many young arms to pick from, that might be the logical route to take.
Bauer’s right behind Skaggs as one of the top arms in the minor leagues; the only thing that keeps him from being right at Skaggs’ level is that, as a 2011 draftee, he obviously doesn’t have much of an extensive pro track record. But there aren’t a lot of 20-year-olds who can go basically straight from college to Double-A and start putting up 13 K/9, and as the third overall pick this season, he obviously has stuff to match those numbers.
Two other names that should be on every Arizona fan’s radar are Patrick Corbin and David Holmberg. Corbin was acquired along with Skaggs in the Dan Haren trade, and he’s had a very solid year in Double-A. He’s nearly a year younger than Parker, but he had a 142/40 K/BB to Parker’s 112/55. He’s sort of a lefthanded version of Dan Hudson—a guy whose average stuff made most scouts give him the “4/5 starter” tag in spite of excellent results. Like Hudson, he may ultimately prove the doubters wrong.
Speaking of Hudson, Holmberg was acquired along with him in last year’s Edwin Jackson trade. Born the same week as Skaggs, he pitched a level behind Skaggs this season, getting a midseason callup to High-A after simply obliterating the Midwest League. He’s a huge, durable lefty with a bigtime curveball who struck out over a batter per inning across the two levels.
Jarrod Parker and Tyler Skaggs entered the 2011 season as Arizona’s #1 and #2 prospects according to Baseball America. It was the 3rd year in a row that Jarrod held down the organization’s top spot and did so despite missing all of 2010 recovering from Tommy John surgery. With Trevor Bauer added into the mix they have 3 top echelon pitching prospects in their system before looking any further.
Bauer wasn’t the only big pitching prize from this year’s draft since Arizona also nabbed 18-year old righty Archie Bradley with the 7th overall pick. He only pitched 2.0 innings in the Pioneer League after signing at the deadline, but they were an impressive 2 innings. He allowed just 1 hit, no walks and struck out 4. He will almost assuredly be joining the other three in the team’s top-10 heading into 2012.
Before I start adding more names to the pile of pitching prospects, it’s probably best to stop and give my thoughts on the five guys Nathaniel touched on first.
When it comes to Tyler Skaggs you’d have to be dead inside to not be excited about his future. He made 17 starts Visalia (A+) and had a 3.22 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 3.0 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 100.2 IP. Those are wonderful numbers for a 20-year old at pretty much any level but he did it in the California League of all places. For what it’s worth, he didn’t turn 20 until after he made his last start for the Rawhide. After he was promoted to Mobile (AA) Skaggs put up a 2.50 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 2.3 BB/9 and 11.4 SO/9 in 57.2 IP. Heading into 2011 Baseball America stated that he profiled as a solid #3 starter, but he had the potential to develop into a frontline guy. After his performance this season he’s definitely heading down that development road as a potential staff ace.
When it comes to Jarrod Parker any evaluation of him needs to acknowledge that he missed all of 2010 recovering from surgery. Not only did the injury steal away some of his development time, it also is going to take him a while to round back into form. In short, we have to keep his 2011 performance in context. His SO/9 was down from where it was in previous years but that’s to be expected in his first season back after such a long layoff. What matters most of all to me is that he stayed healthy in 2011 and set a career high in starts (26) and innings (130.2). Beyond all that Parker made his major league debut on September 27th and threw 5.2 scoreless innings allowing just 4 hits and 1 walk. 50 of his 73 pitches went for strikes and while he only whiffed 1, the rest of the start was very encouraging. I can’t argue the fact that Skaggs has passed him, but I don’t think Parker is too far behind. Together they should form a nice 1-2 punch for many years.
After signing Trevor Bauer made quick work of the Cal league needing just 3 starts and 9.0 IP before being promoted to Mobile. In his first 3 starts with the BayBears he threw 15 innings with 12 H, 4 ER, 5 BB and 23 SO. His final start was a 1.2 inning, 10 ER disaster, but that shouldn’t taint anyone’s impression of him as a prospect. 25.2 minor league innings is a small sample size, but I didn’t see anything in those innings that lead me to believe he’s anything but a legit from of the rotation arm.
Nathaniel touched on both Pat Corbin and David Holmberg who ranked 9th and 22nd among Diamondback prospects heading into this season. But there were a number of other starting prospects that were in the team’s Baseball America top-30.
RHP Eric Smith came in at #14 and was projected to be a middle or back-of-the-rotation guy. However, his 2011 season was a bit of a disaster. He spent the entire year in the Cal League with Visalia after throwing 50.1 innings there in 2010. As a 22-year old he put up a 6.35 ERA, 1.89 WHIP, 5.1 BB/9 and 6.2 SO/9 in 150.1 IP. Aside from a very slight improvement in his walk rate Smith got worse across the board compared to his Cal League numbers last season. His stock is definitely down and he may be facing a move to the bullpen if he can’t improve his secondary stuff and control.
Like Smith, LHP Mike Belfiore (#15) spent the entire 2011 season in High-A and had his share of struggles. However, this was Belfiore’s first time pitching in the Cal League. His 5.92 ERA, and 1.81 WHIP aren’t going to grab anyone’s attention – at least not in a positive way – but some of that can be attributed to the offensive environment. The jump in his HR/9 from 0.4 to 1.9 is evidence of that. His BB/9 also increased sharply – from 3.0 in 2010 to 6.5 in 2011, but he did post the best SO/9 (9.0) in his brief 3 year career. It would appear that Belfiore has passed Smith in terms of their respective futures with the former continuing on as a viable back of the rotation prospect.
Tyler Green was the team’s 8th round pick in the 2010 draft. He signed late for $750,000 and didn’t throw a pitch as a professional until this spring. As a result he was ranked 20th in the system without the benefit of any data. Green spent the entire 2011 season pitching for South Bend (A) at the age of 19. He finished the year with a 4.97 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 3.9 BB/9 and 6.2 SO/9 in 114.0 innings. It was his first year in the minors and also the first year he was able to focus on pitching, the initial results weren’t great but he fared “okay” and should not be dismissed too quickly.
Rounding out the rest of the rotation prospects in the 2011 Top-30 are RHP Robby Rowland (#21) who had a dreadful season while taking a 2nd shot at the Pioneer League. RHP J.R. Bradley (#23) who pitched in the Midwest League this season and showed some improvement over his work in the Pioneer League last year.
Next we come to RHP Charles Brewer (#24) who turned in 11 very successful starts for Mobile and just might be the biggest sleeper pitching prospect in the system. A lot of folks figured he would struggle against more advanced competition but that turned out to not be the case. He has been assigned to the Arizona Fall League and is definitely an intriguing guy to keep tabs on.
Finally, in addition to Bauer and Bradley, the Diamondbacks have 2 other rotation prospects that were taken early on in the 2011 draft. LHP Andrew Chafin was selected 43rd overall and only pitched 1.0 inning for the AZL Diamondbacks. RHP Anthony Meo was taken in the 2nd round and pitched 3.0 scoreless innings in Rookie Ball.
For more on the Diamondbacks, check out Venom Strikes
Topics: Andrew Chafin, Anthony Meo, Archie Bradley, Arizona Diamondbacks, Charles Brewer, David Holmberg, Eric Smith, J.R. Bradley, Jarrod Parker, Mike Belfiore, Patrick Corbin, Robby Rowland, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Green, Tyler Skaggs