As IHSB gets into the meat of his prospect round-up tomorrow, thought it would be useful to have a bonus round-table to introduce some of the names you'll be hearing more about in the coming weeks. So, here's a special edition, in which we chew over the past year in the D-backs farm system, and also look forward to 2011.
We're delighted to have had a special guest in this installment, with John Sickels from the well-respected Minor League Ball SB Nation site providing some external perspective on our prospects. Thanks to him for his input. After the jump, you'll find our nominees for hitter and pitcher of the minor-league year; we also discuss the surprises, good as well as bad, and who might have an impact in 2011.
For your information, here are links to stats of each Diamondbacks’ 2010 affiliate on Baseball-Reference.
- AAA Reno Aces
- AA Mobile BayBears
- Hi-A Visalia Rawhide
- Low-A South Bend SilverHawks
- Short-Season A Yakima Bears
- Rookie-level Missoula Osprey
- DSL Diamondbacks
Who do you think is the D-backs’ Minor League hitter of the year?
Zephon: Paul Goldschmidt, hands down. In 525 at bats, he absolutely destroyed the California League’s pitching, hitting .314/.384/.606 with 42 doubles, 3 triples, and 35 homers. He was named the California League’s MVP and Rookie of the Year, after leading the league in HRs, doubles, total bases, slugging, and OPS.
IHSB: Gotta agree with Zephon here, it is Goldschmidt. Though I must say that Brandon Allen deserves a mention, as he did post a wOBA over .400 at Triple-A - that’s a heck of a player. Also, Matt Davidson would have likely been hitter of the year in a few other systems, just not in ours.
Jim: I’m steadily growing less and less impressed by Reno numbers. This year, as well as Allen, we saw John Hester hit .370 with an OPS over 1.100 in 37 games, but nothing close to that in the majors. Really, if you don’t have an OPS above nine hundred for the Aces, you probably shouldn’t be there.
John Sickels: I wouldn’t argue with any of that. Goldschmidt had a terrific season, although we do have to see if he can maintain it as he moves up to Double-A next year. There is always statistical inflation in the California League, and while scouts respect Goldschmidt’s power, his very high strikeout rate is a caution flag for the future, at least for me. At the least, I don't expect him to hit for a high average in Double-A, although I think the power will stick. Davidson and Allen also deserve notice, as does Goldschmidt’s teammate Marc Krauss.
Jim. Take my presence on the Goldschmidt bandwagon as read! I was also impressed by the very solid numbers posted by left-handed outfielder Adam Eaton for Missoula. In 68 games, he hit .385 and only struck out 44 times, with 35 walks. His OBP was .500, the best of any minor-league player with 100 AB, while his OPS of 1.075 was actually better than Goldschmidt’s, albeit in about half the PA’s and at a lower level. Still, Eaton’s only 21, so we’ll see what happens next season.
DbacksSkins: I’ll be going with Goldschmidt as well. He may project as a .260 BA, .340 OBP guy in the majors, but you can’t deny that the power’s for real. The dude’s done this now two years in a row -- although the real test WILL be next year in the Southern League. Not bad for a guy who was a 7th round draft pick a year ago.
Who do you think is the D-backs’ Minor League pitcher of the year?
IHSB: You could make the argument for some of those Opening Day guys in South Bend, like Charles Brewer or Chase Anderson, and Josh Collmenter has a legitimate claim to this award as well. Brewer got the best results all year long, Anderson had the highest strikeout rates amongst our starters, and Collmenter pitched at three levels. Heck, Matt Torra may have even entered the discussion as the token We’ll-Give-the-Award-to-the-Best-Arm-at-Triple-A guy if he hadn’t ended the season by giving up 17 earned runs in his final 16 2/3 innings of work.
However, I’m going to go with Wade Miley for resurrecting his prospect status by brutalizing two levels this year. The plus slider has always been there, his fastball velocity spiked at the end of the year, and his results started to match the stuff. Less than a 2:1 K:BB ratio may concern some, but Miley’s rates were brilliant after his velocity jump, striking out 16 and walking nobody in his final two starts (10 innings). After all, prospects are in the system to improve, right?
He’s a legitimate starting pitching prospect, and I’d argue that he was the only one on the D-backs’ upper-level affiliates - above A-ball - in 2010 (who, y’know, actually threw professional innings). The final point that gave Miley the award for me was his absolutely absurd ground-ball rate, which hovered around 60% all year long. That kind of ability to make divots in the infield grass will play extremely well at Chase Field.
Zephon: I’m not sure if I agree with IHSB on Miley being the Minor League Pitcher of the year. I mean, he was quite good, posting a 2.65 ERA with a 65:113 K:BB ratio across two levels.Yes, He’s resurrected his prospect status, but was he the best pitcher in the Dbacks farm system? I think we should take a look at some of the other candidates as well.
As IHSB noted, you can definitely make an argument for Charles Brewer, who had a 2.45 ERA with a 35:153 BB:K ratio. Chase Anderson is another guy who you could make an arguement for, with his 3.32 ERA and 25:115 BB:K ratio. Josh Collmenter was excellent as well, considering he pitched with three teams and posted a 3.38 ERA with a 51:133 BB:K ratio.
After looking at the numbers, I’m going to have go with Charles Brewer. Out of the four pitchers, he has the best ERA and best strikeout to walk ratio.
Sickels: Well, having the "best season" isn’t necessarily the same thing as being the best prospect, of course. I’m going to have to agree with Zephon here, I think Brewer had the best season statistically, although I think Miley is more likely to have a major league impact in the long run.
IHSB: I suppose I judge "best season" as "who most improved their prospect status." Neither guy came into the season on many people’s radar (I believe Keith Law was still high on Miley, but many were down on him), and I think Miley’s a better prospect at this point.
Jim: Brewer’s numbers certainly stand out: 2.45 ERA in over 150 innings, with better than a strikeout per IP too. I also want to give a hat-tip to a reliever who posted crazy numbers this season: Eury De La Rosa, a 20-year old lefty pitching for Yakima. In 45 innings of work there, he gave up only five earned runs - that’s a 1.00 ERA - with 56 strikeouts. A bit wild, hitting eight batters this season, but we’ll see what happens. Probably needs to fill out a bit, since he’s listed at a mere 150 pounds!
IHSB: While you’re mentioning Yakima relievers, Jim, check out the numbers on Kable Hogben and Jake Hale. Both are older, I believe (I know that Hale is much older), but sub-1 ERA’s are always impressive.
DbacksSkins: Without having the knowledge of Wes or Dan, obviously, I’m going to go with Collmenter. Not only did the dude impress at multiple levels, but he was Pitcher of the Week for two straight weeks IIRC -- in two different levels, and the whole "getting the win for the opposing team in the ASG while pitching against your teammates" added a little flavor to a colorful year. I certainly don’t think that he’s ready for the majors, as he was battered in Reno this year, but he had a very memorable season.
Which prospect(s) are you most excited about going into next year?
Zephon: There’s a lot of prospects to be excited about. I’m excited about what Jarrod Parker can do in the big leagues. I’m excited to see what Goldschmidt and Marc Krauss can do at the AA level. Matt Davidson and Bobby Borchering in HI-A should be an great story to watch, as both are young and talented third base prospects who are at the same level of the minor leagues. I also can not wait to see what a healthy A.J. Pollock can do in Visalia (I assume that’s where he’ll be playing next year).
There’s a ton of good, young starting pitching in the Dbacks farm system now that I’m very excited about; Young good teenage pitching prospects like David Holmberg, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Schuster, Scottie Allen, J.R. Bradley, Robbie Rowland, Tyler Green that I’m quite enthusiastic about. Then of course there’s the guys in their early 20’s like Chase Anderson, Charles Brewer, Eric Smith, Patrick Corbin, and Michael Belfiore who are making the jump from Hi-A to AA.
IHSB: Obviously, Parker is going to be a big story, but I’m excited to see if Wade Miley’s velocity jump carries over into 2011. If so he could be Jaime Garcia 2.0 - tons of ground balls, and enough strikeouts to compensate for his walks. I’m less excited about Krauss (not a fan), but I think Goldschmidt at Double-A will be a) successful and b) just downright interesting to follow.
Other than Miley and the obvious candidates, I’m extremely interested to see David Holmberg make the move to full-season ball. Also, I’ll keep an eye on how the organization handles Josh Collmenter. Do they move him to the ‘pen to preserve his arm and make him a fastball/change-up reliever in light of his Triple-A struggles? Do they believe he can be a #4 starter and elect to keep him in the rotation? A nice debate there.
Zephon: Wade Miley is an interesting prospect. It’s not often you have a left handed starter who can throw in the mid-90’s who can get a ton of groundballs. Definitely a player to be excited about, IHSB. As to Krauss, I’m pretty sure he can’t succeed unless he makes some adjustments to his hitting. That will be interesting to watch.
Sickels: Parker is the main guy that I’m excited about. Reports on his recovery are very positive, and if the command is there, he could get to the majors next season a lot faster than people who aren’t overly familiar with the Diamondbacks system may expect. The transitions of Krauss and Goldschmidt to Double-A will also be very interesting. I’m concerned about Goldschmidt’s strikeout issue, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see Krauss have an easier transition. You guys seem more skeptical about Krauss than I am. What have you heard that I haven’t?
IHSB: As far as Krauss is concerned, it’s hard to be a slow, doughey, glove-deprived power hitter while sporting a ground-ball rate near 50% and a 12.1% line drive rate (minorleaguesplits.com). His BABIP was .370, and unless you’re hitting line drives at least a fifth of the time you’re making contact, that’s going to be extremely unsustainable.
Sickels: Both Borchering and Davidson could put up much better surface numbers in the Cal League compared to the Midwest League, and I’m also interested to see how their positional futures shake out….I have doubts about both of them as third basemen long-term. Zephon laid out the pitching prospects very nicely. J.R. Bradley and Robbie Rowland look like particularly interesting arms to me and take some of the sting away from the Barret Loux situation.
IHSB: With Borchering and Davidson, not only am I interested to see them try to stick at third, but how often they get to play at third while still both being at the same level. Also, this year’s Rawhide barely ever used a DH - the other position that BB/MD manned on a nightly basis for the SilverHawks. Do they split 3B and 1B for these two? If so, how do they divide the proportion of the games at third/first? What about Ramon Castillo, who put up some pretty good numbers (though I imagine he’s less of a concern than two of their top five prospects)? Questions abound for these two kids.
One final note I almost forgot: I’ll be extremely interested to see who starts the year in the rotation for South Bend. David Holmberg and Kevin Eichhorn seem like locks in the Opening Day 2011 rotation, Pat Schuster is a pretty safe bet, tons of high school arms from the ‘10 draft could get a shot (a la Scottie Allen from the 2010), Enrique Burgos still oozes projectability, Miguel Pena has ridiculous ground-ball rates, college guys like Cody Wheeler and Jeffrey Shields from the ‘10 draft college arm crop are possibilities,
Sprankton: I’m going to pipe in and say that Parker is the clear front-runner over here in Spranktonland. The other prospects discussed above me are obviously worthy of discussion, but Parker has been ogled for quite some time now and to finally see it come to fruition is more exciting than anything else.
Jim: I am looking to see the draft-class of 2009 begin to come toward fruition. We had five of the first 45 picks, though of the four position players, the top OPS in the minors to date is Chris Owings’ .764. That said, they’re mostly young: along with Owings, Bobby Borchering and Matthew Davidson are both still only 19, so early struggles are perhaps to be expected. A.J. Pollock missed all of this year with an elbow problem, so hopefully he can get back on track next year.
DbacksSkins: I’m excited to see both AJ Pollock and Jarrod Parker return to playing pro baseball. One of Pollock’s upsides was supposed to be that he was a pretty polished player and would be reaching the majors more quickly than Borchering and some of our other young guys, but an entire year lost has derailed that. Parker is still as exciting a prospect as we’ve got in the system, and I’m expecting that after a perfunctory few weeks in the minors next year, we’ll see him called up to the Dbacks for much of the 2011 season.
Most pleasant surprise? Biggest Disappointment?
Zephon: The most pleasant surprise to me has been the performance of some of our pitching prospects. Barry Enright was a huge surprise, considering the impact he made at the major league level. Wade Miley’s breakout in particular really surprised me, I had completely written him off this time last year. It seems like we went from having almost no real minor league pitching prospects to having about 20 over night.
Biggest disappointment? There were a few. First to come to mind is probably Ryan Wheeler. He had a fantastic debut season, where he had a .999 OPS with more walks than strikeouts, and obviously expectations were high. So when he put up a 744 OPS in Visalia, I was very disappointed. I still think he’s a good prospect, but there’s some real questions now.
David Nick and Matt Helm were big disappointments this year as well, and I had expected both to do better than they did. A.J. Pollock’s slow recovery from a fractured elbow was disappointing as well.
IHSB: The most pleasant surprise for me was the performance of Scottie Allen in full-season ball at 19 years young - nobody could have expected him to strike out a batter per inning when those batters were often a full two or three years older than him. A remarkable season from Allen.
A few other lesser surprises: David Holmberg’s dominance for Missoula, everything that is Paul Goldschmidt, Collin Cowgill’s OPS rising after making the Hi-A-to-Double-A jump, the ridiculous K-Rates of Josh Collmenter, Chase Anderson and Charles Brewer putting together the best full-season debuts from college pitchers taken in the ‘09 draft, and, for a bit of a more obscure twist, the encouraging pro debut of Zachary Walters in Short-Season A-ball.
The biggest disappointments for me were the slow recoveries from injury that a few of our top prospects of ours went through. A.J. Pollock missed the entire season with an injury that he was originally supposed to return from in July. Chris Owings’ season was ended in June by freaking plantar fasciitis. Sean Coughlin struggling to find his power after a series of hand injuries. Who knows when or if we’ll hear from Trevor Harden again.
As far as simply disappointing performances go, the list for me is Pat McAnaney, the Opening Day Triple-A rotation (Kris Benson, Cesar Valdez, Billy Buckner, Kevin Mulvey, and Bryan Augenstein... yuck - we could feasibly wind up retaining none of these players for next season, though I believe that at least Augenstein will get another chance), Enrique Burgos, Bobby Stone, Matt Helm, and Alfredo Marte.
SICKELS: Biggest surprise: I’d have to go with Barry Enright, because he made a major league impact. Biggest disappointment….I was a big Trevor Harden supporter, so it was tough to see him lose almost the whole season. Pollock was another injury disappointment. I thought Ryan Wheeler would do much more than he did.
IHSB: Well, I’d argue that Enright’s 84.9% strand rate and .251 BABIP made an impact, but I know what you’re saying. : ) SSS noted, I was pleasantly shocked by how much power Wheeler showed at Mobile as a consolation for his disappointing overall year.
DbacksSkins: Wheeler and Harden should have done better, and Bobby Borchering probably should have, as well, though he’s still young and had a good second half of the season. Augenstein, Valdez, and Mulvey completely disappeared. Enright obviously outpitched his projections once he hit the bigs, and that was a helluva pleasant surprise, although I wouldn’t expect him to be able to keep doing it. I didn’t expect Goldschmidt to hit this year like he did last year, so that was nice. Coughlin’s descent was unexpected.
Among guys we got in trades, both Pat Corbin and Holmberg pitched better than I expected, albeit in the low minors.
Who do you think is most likely to make an impact on the 2011 Major League team?
Zephon: Jarrod Parker is the obvious answer. Brandon Allen would be the other obvious answer, although at this point he no longer qualifies as a rookie, so he’s out of the discussion. Besides Parker and Allen, I’d think we could see Wade Miley at some point. Maybe Collin Cowgill in the outfield. Our bullpen is the one area where we could see a lot of our prospects given a chance to shine. We have guys like Josh Collmentor, Wes Roemer, and Bryan Shaw who could all see time in the bullpen next year.
IHSB: Zephon covered most of the names, though Kevin Munson, Matt Gorgen, and Bryan Woodall are another three guys who could be in the relief mix. Further, it isn’t just Roemer, but any of the fringey Triple-A starters - those being Kevin Mulvey, Bryan Augenstein, Cesar Valdez, and Matt Torra - could be put in the big-league ‘pen if their numbers warrant the promotion. However, this also requires them being brought back by the team, which is not an absolute certainty for Mulvey and/or Valdez.
SICKELS: Parker, I agree. He is the best bet. I don’t know why, but I keep thinking that Matt Torra might be able to do something unexpectedly good. He always seems to pitch well when I’ve seen him in Triple-A, and while his stuff is marginal and he doesn’t have the best statistical profile in the universe, he seems to know what he’s doing out there. I can’t prove it, there is little objective to back it up, but sometimes guys who throw strikes as readily as he does can come out of nowhere and have a good season or two if they have some luck and defensive support behind them. Torra, Brewer, and Collmenter could all "pull an Enright" next year.
IHSB: I spent a good portion of 2010 wondering why Torra wasn’t filling in in the back end of our rotation. I’d have certainly picked Torra over Enright. Unfortunately, though, his late-season collapse won’t bode well for him as a platform going into what might be his last opportunity to win a job in Spring Training.
That said, I’m interested - and of course excited - to see Brewer mentioned here already. Though if what you mean by "pull an Enright" is for Brewer to do in his first Double-A season what Enright did in his first Double-A season, I would a) understand this a bit more and b) be rather saddened. : P
Jim: This is where I go all fanboy and moist on Parker, though I imagine we’ll be holding him off the major-league roster at the start of the year, partly to gauge his return from Tommy John surgery, partly to avoid us getting Lincecum’d and having to pay him arbitration a year early. No hurry to start his service clock though, since we’re unlikely to be competing in 2011. We might see Torra at some point as a fill-in, depending how many starters we need during the year [the D-backs used an even dozen in 2010!]
IHSB: I find it fascinating that Torra wasn’t amongst that dozen in 2010, considering he was the best Triple-A arm for most of the season (though Valdez was better early in the year). The minors are weird.
DbacksSkins: Parker, obviously. We’ll see if Valdez can earn himself a bullpen spot in Spring Training, though. I wouldn’t be shocked to see two or three of Roemer, Miley, Collmenter, or Torra in the majors next year.