The minor league baseball season is winding down and all across America aspiring major leaguers have done one of two things. Either they have taken a step towards achieving their dreams of reaching the big leagues or they have done the opposite. It’s just that simple. You either move forward or you run the risk of disappearing amongst the influx of new talent. For many they will have to wait until next spring to chase the dream, but for a select few an opportunity arises to keep taking strides towards the ultimate prize and that’s where the Arizona Fall League comes into play. Each major league team has the opportunity to assign only a handful of guys to the prestigious Arizona Fall League and take an extended look at some of the players they deem worthy.
Since the Arizona Fall League is comprised of hybrid teams made up of combinations of multiple major league prospects and players of varying ages and minor league levels it gives off the feeling of an All-Star type roster but at the same time it’s not. If I had to explain it to someone who had never heard if the Arizona Fall League I would say it’s closer to a “players of interest” team rather than an All-Star team. It’s a good thing that the Arizona Diamondbacks are one of the first teams on this list since their roster of invitees embodies the term “players of interest” perfectly. Barring any changes you aren’t going to see Trevor Bauer or Archie Bradley. Instead you will see a collection of talented players who tend to be less hyped and in some cases occupy the “Others” section of prospect lists. So without further ado let’s breakdown who the D-Backs have invited to party!
The 24 year old right-handed starting pitcher out of The University of Oklahoma was a ninth round selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Anderson is widely regarded for his excellent command and plus change-up. He profiles as a back of the rotation arm, maybe a 4th starter at best, with the possibility of being moved to the bullpen due to the lack of velocity on his fastball which tops out in the low 90’s.
The 6’1, 175 lb Anderson signed quickly enough to work 45 1/3 innings in the Pioneer Rookie League in 2009 where he accumulated a 2.38 ERA with a 48:13 K/BB ratio. He earned himself a promotion to Class-A South Bend of the Midwest League in 2010 where over 38 1/3 where he pitched to a 2.82 ERA and a 31:9 K/BB. That performance earned him a mid-season promotion to Visalia of the California League where he would go on to pitch an additional 70 innings and log a 3.60 ERA with an impressive 83:16 K/BB ratio. 2011 was a lost season for Anderson as he was only able to pitch 13 1/3 innings for Visalia before being shutdown due to arm trouble. Fortunately he did not require surgery and was able to bounce back for the 2012 season. The D-Backs decided to start Anderson at Double-A Mobile and the results have been great. Over 98 innings he has posted a 2.66 ERA and 92:25 K/BB ratio.
Personally I find guys like Anderson extremely difficult to project because throughout his minor league career his numbers have outperformed his scouting reports. What I can say is that he doesn’t walk a lot of batters and he has an outstanding change-up which draws quite a bit of praise from talent evaluators. Having one plus pitch can sometimes be enough to find success, especially when you have good control. The jury is still out on Anderson but I think he will be able to reach his potential and contribute to a rotation as early as 2014.
The 22 year old right-handed reliever out of Kansas State University was a fourth round draft pick in the 2011 MLB draft.
Marshall was an effective college reliever and that success has carried over to his professional career. He mainly uses a fastball and slider combination and profiles to move quickly through the minors.
The 6’2, 200 lb Marshall signed early enough to pitch 31 innings over 27 appearances between the Diamondbacks Low-A, High-A, and Double-A affiliates. In those 31 innings he accumulated a 1.16 ERA and a very strong 31:7 K/BB ratio while picking up six saves. He pitched all of 2012 at Double-A with mixed results. While he was able to convert 16 saves for the Mobile BayBears of the Southern League he saw his ERA jump to 3.47, his walks also increased, and his strikeouts decreased. His 27:15 K/BB ratio over 46 2/3 innings has been less than inspiring but a big reason for his struggles in 2012 can be attributed to the huge fluctuation in his H/9 ratio which has risen by 2.7 between 2011 and 2012. Its also worth mentioning that his BABIP is hovering around the .321 range which is quite a bit higher than his 2011 BABIP which was around the .280 range and with a little luck Marshall should see his numbers level out a bit.
In the end I see Marshall as a late inning bullpen option who has a shot at closing games but more realistically looks like a 7th or 8th inning guy as he has been a bit too hittable and doesn’t posses the electric stuff that easily profiles for closer duties.
The 23 year old right-handed closer out of James Madison University was a fourth round pick in the 2010 MLB draft.
Similar to Evan Marshall, the bullpen has always been Munson’s destiny. It has become pretty clear that the Diamondbacks have both Marshall and Munson on the fast track to the big leagues. Munson works with a fastball that he can dial up to 95 mph and complements his fastball with a sharp slider. That two pitch combo is often the calling card for closers and Munson is no exception.
The 6’1 215 lb Munson signed quickly in 2010 and worked 17 innings across two levels. He had a 1.59 ERA and a 17:7 K/BB ratio to go along with three saves in 2010 and finished at Class-A Advanced Visalia of the CAL League. He started 2011 back with Visalia and eventually pitched himself into a promotion to Double-A over the course of the season. He finished 2011 with a 3.81 ERA over 56 2/3 innings and an outstanding 78 strikeouts. Unfortunately he also allowed 42 walks and his 78:42 K/BB ratio is just flat out unacceptable. Nevertheless he spent all of 2012 at Double-A Mobile of the Southern League and the results have been mixed. While his 6.06 ERA is way too high he has shown improved ability to limit the free passes. Thus far he has a decent 64:27 K/BB over 52 innings but he has allowed a career high 9.2 H/9 which is one of the reasons his ERA is hovering in the stratosphere.
Munson has shown better strikeout stuff than Marshall but his command is lagging behind. He still has the potential to close if he can refine that aspect of his game but realistically I think he settles into a set up role where is command will not have to be as fine.
The 23 year old right handed pitcher out of the University of Rhode Island was a second round selection of the Diamondbacks in 2009 and signed for a $605,000 bonus.
Smith’s performances have been up and down throughout his minor league career and it looks like the Diamondbacks have begun to transition him into a bullpen role in 2012.
The 6’3 220lb Smith signed early in 2009 and was able to pitch 42 innings between the Pioneer Rookie League and the Midwest League where he accumulated a decent 3.64 ERA and a less than flattering 31:22 K/BB ratio. In hindsight the issues with Smith have been clear from the start. He has underwhelming strikeout stuff and his command is a huge issue. He started the 2010 season in the Midwest League and actually was a member of the Midwest League All-Star team in 2010 and eventually earned himself a promotion to the California League by seasons end. He posted a tolerable 4.06 ERA over 137 1/3 innings but a recurring theme of weak command still persisted as he had a 101:62 K/BB ratio. The DBacks felt like he needed more time to refine his command and they kept him in the CAL League for the entire 2011 season and the results were disastrous. He posted a 6.35 ERA over 150 1/3 innings and not only did he post an awful 103:85 K/BB ratio he also allowed the third most hits in the entire CAL League with 199 and a league leading 22 wild pitches. Apparently the DBacks had seen enough of Smith as a starter and decided to try him in the bullpen. He opened the 2012 season working from the bullpen and the results were improved but still nothing special. Eventually the DBacks decided to promote him to Double-A and it seems the progress that he made in High-A was all but lost. Thus far he has posted a 3.71 ERA and a paltry 39:36 K/BB ratio over 60 2/3 innings and has actually walked more batters than he has struck out at Double-A (23:26 K/BB).
Personally I think that unless Smith does a complete 180 and figures out how to throw strikes he will flame out and never reach the majors. If by some miracle he does get a team to take a chance on him it will be in an unspectacular and limited role. He has not shown the kind of command or ability to get hitters out that would merit a spot on any team’s 25-man roster and I am genuinely worried about what his stats would look like in the PCL as thus far he has regressed badly at each level. I am not really sure as to the reasoning behind the D-Backs inclusion of him in the Arizona Fall League (perhaps they want to give him an extended look in the bullpen or perhaps Smith has some less than flattering photos of Kevin Towers).
The 25 year old right-handed hitting infielder was drafted in the 16th round of the 2009 MLB draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He was acquired by the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to this seasons trade deadline in exchange for Ryan “Tatman” Roberts.
Bortnick is a bit older than most prospects but he is also more polished and he has shown his ability to contribute both at the plate and in the field. He predominantly plays the middle infield having seen time early in his minor league career at shortstop and more recently at second base. He doesn’t have a lot of home run power but he drives the ball to the gaps and he makes solid contact for the most part as evidence by his career .283 BA. Another thing that Bortnick has shown as a strength from the get go is his ability to get on base as he has an outstanding .389 OBP over almost 1600 at-bats.
The 5’11 185 lb Bortnick started his professional career in the NY-Penn League and appeared in 65 games and logged 255 plate appearances. While a member of the Renegades he lead his team in almost every offensive category including runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, OBP, and OPS. Additionally he tacked on 24 stolen bases, second most on his team. He also posted a strong .952 fielding percentage at shortstop. He also was selected to the NY-Penn League All-Star team. He was promoted in 2010 to Class-A Bowling Green of the Midwest League and again posted strong numbers and eventually got promoted for a brief stint (12 games) at Class-A Advanced Charlotte of the Florida State League to finish the 2010 season. In total he finished 2010 batting .295/.400/.445 and led Bowling Green in runs, hits, doubles, batting average, OBP, SLG, and (obviously) OPS. He also transitioned to second base and posted a solid .968 FLd% on his way to being selected as an MiLB Organization All-Star. His strong 2010 earned him an extended stay in the Florida State league for the 2011 season and he posted a .306/.428/.432 slash line and again led his team several meaningful offensive categories. He earned and FSL All-Star selection and an FSL Post-Season All-Star selection. He was promoted to Double-A Montgomery of the Southern League for the 2012 season and struggled a bit hitting only .253/.352/.385 but maintained a solid OBP and stole 23 bases over 95 games before being traded to Arizona. The Diamondbacks promoted him to Triple-A Reno and he has continued to struggle while a member of the Ace’s to the tune of a .210/.293/.311 over 35 games.
Look for Bortnick to return to Triple-A for the 2013 season and reestablish himself as a good contact hitter whit a solid approach at the plate and good stolen base numbers. At this point he has the potential to be more than just a utility guy, which was his early career projections, but his ability to stick in the middle infield looks a lot brighter and I think he will get an extended look at the MLB level as early as September 2013 or the beginning of 2014 once he has some more time to adjust to the pitching in the upper minors.
The 21 year old right-handed hitting corner infielder was drafted out of the California High School Prep ranks in the first round (#35 overall) in the 2009 MLB draft.
Davidson has seen extended time at both first and third base throughout his minor league career and looks to be able to stick at the hot corner moving forward. He made Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list prior to the 2011 and 2012 seasons (#99 in 2011 and #97 in 2012). He flashes plus power at the plate and thus far in his career his only weakness seems to be his tendency to strikeout too often. A common problem for power hitting prospects.
The 6’2 225lb Davidson started his professional career at the age of 18 in 2009 playing in 72 games in the Northwest League. While a member of the Yakima Bears he hit a pedestrian .241/.312/.319 which had a few folks worried as his bat was supposed to be his best tool and he only mustard two long balls. He was promoted to Class-A South Bend of the Midwest League and began showing the power and the contact that he was lauded for prior to the draft. Between the Midwest League and his late seasn promotion to Visalia of the California League, Davidson was able to put together a much more impressive .272/.360/.469 slash line along with 18 home runs and 90 RBI’s in his age 19 season. The only concern about Davidson was his K-rate as he averaged exactly one strikeout per game (134 total) over the 2010 season. Davidson’s performance in 2010 earned him an extended stay in the CAL League in 2011 and while strikeouts still remained a problem the rest of his game was excellent. Davidson posted a .277/.348/.465 slash line with 20 home runs and 106 RBI’s. The 2012 season saw Davidson promoted to Double-A Mobile of the Southern League and through 130 games the 21 year old has posted a .258/.366/.462 line with 22 home runs and 71 RBI’s. He has also improved eye as he has drawn 67 walks against 121 strikeouts. He also earned a Southern League All-Star selection for his efforts.
Davidson profiles as a stereotypical power hitting third baseman with the ability to drive the ball to all fields with power. He will have to show continued patience at the plate as superior pitching will take advantage of his aggressiveness. As far as projection goes I would assume Davidson spends quite a bit of time in Triple-A Reno and if he keeps crushing the ball he will have an opportunity to see MLB action in late 2013. Considering the revolving door that the hot corner has become in Arizona the DBacks will give him every opportunity to succeed and I personally think he can produce a .260/.340/.470 line with 25 home runs routinely in his peak.
The recently turned 21 year old right-handed hitting shortstop was drafted in the first round (#41 overall) in the 2009 MLB draft out of the South Carolina prep ranks.
Owings has shown the ability to hit for average at pretty much every stop thus far in his minor league career which is a testament to his ability to make great contact. His one glaring weakness is his inability to take a walk. To put his plate discipline in perspective he makes Matt Davidson look like the next Kevin Youkilis (insert Greek God of Walks joke here). To date Owings has coaxed only 51 walks against 333 strikeouts in almost 1500 plate appearances. That being said he has also been able to post a career .274/.303/.424 slash line despite his obvious flaws.
The 5’10 180lb Owings started his professional career in 2009 at the tender age of 17 in the Pioneer Rookie League. That season he hit .306/.324/.426 over a small 24 game sample. He was promoted to the Midwest League and spent all of 2010 in Class-A where he hit .298/.323/.447 over 62 games. He only walked nine times that season while striking out 50 times. The Diamondbacks felt like he had proven enough as they promoted him to the California League for the 2011 season. While at Visalia he had his first hiccup as a prospect as his inability to show plate discipline came back to bite him. He posted what has been a career low .246/.274/.388 with 130 strikeouts and only 15 walks. While his OBP suffered he was still able to be effective when he did get on base by swiping 10 bags and hitting 11 home runs and driving in 50 RBI’s. While is plate discipline was and continues to be a huge problem it is important to keep in mind that he was only 19 years old and has time on his side. The DBacks decided to keep Owings in the CAL League to open the 2012 season and the results have been great. In what looks to be a breakout season Owings has shown his ability to make contact is one of his best tools and he has also added more power to his game. He has split time this season between the CAL League and Double-A Mobike of the Southern League and has compiled a .284/.319/.448 line with 17 home runs and 12 steals. He has also improved his plate discipline albeit by a small margin by drawing 24 walks and striking out 128 times over 123 games.
Owings who is just 21 years old still has a long way to go in terms of plate discipline and pitch recognition but it is clear that he has the talent and ability to move quickly if he ever figures out how to take a walk. It is very difficult to project a guy like him because while he is very talented and has a high ceiling he also has a rather low floor. Of all of the players the DBacks are sending to the Arizona Fall League he is the one I am most interested in seeing progress as his 2012 season highlights his strengths and his weaknesses perfectly and he embodies the classic “boom or bust” player.
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