It's always about the future, my friends. Each Saturday, IHSB and I will present reports on the progress of our minor league prospects, young Baby 'Backs that will hopefully have long-term roles on the Dbacks roster for years to come. I will be covering Reno (AAA) and Visalia (High-A) for now, whereas IHSB will focus on Mobile (AA) and South Bend (Low-A).
Visalia, the land of the promised. This is the highly touted minor league team that holds the crown jewels of our farm system. Suffice it to say, the early goings to the season have been less than promising.
Adam Eaton - To be honest, I find it more than a little disappointing that the best performance on a Visalia team stacked with talent comes from a rather underrated prospect. Eaton isn't particularly young for High-A (he'll turn 23 in December) but isn't particularly old either. And age relative to league matters a lot, especially for hitters. Basically, that means be cautiously optimistic by his performance at this level, but take anything you see with a grain of salt. So far this season, Eaton has accumulated a triple slash of .382/.488/.588. Pretty absurd numbers, but scouts have always praised his baseball skills. Here's to hoping he continues to post more walks (7) than strikeouts (5), and continues to develop into a legitimate center field prospect.
Bobby Borchering - When I start talking about Bobby Borchering, please bear in mind that this is only the beginning of the season, and that Borchering had a fairly bad start to the season last year as well. Because otherwise, you're just going to cry. In 30 at bats to start the season, young Bobby has two hits. Two hits. Sure, one of them was for a home run. But two freaking hits? And ten strikeouts to one walk. Add it all up together and it amounts to a 288 OPS. Let's all pray for young Bobby's soul and our sanity. Because if he continues to hit like this, we're going to awfully upset we drafted him with our first round pick in 2009. I can't let go of the fact that Borchering was such a highly-touted player going into the draft. And that torrid second-half at South Bend last year. So there's still hope. But you're sure trying our patience early this year Mr. Borchering.
The rest of our top prospects have been decidedly unspectacular. Our top hitting prospects at Visalia include my man-crush (Matt Davidson), my pick for rebound candidate of the year (David Nick), and our only real legitimate SS prospect (Chris Owings), Unfortunately, none have been distinguishing so far. Davidson is batting a deceptively good .303 on the year. I say this because he's seemingly forgotten how to take a walk again (only 1 so far this year), and his strikeout rate is still a bit higher than I would like (7 K in 33 AB). And his amazing power has been non-existant so far this year, which is scary considering that, this is after all, the California League. Nick and Owings are both showing similar issues, in that they need to take more walks, and they both haven't shown demonstrably more power than last year despite hitting in a much friendlier league. The strikeout bug has also bitten Owings early this season. Davidson, Nick, and Owings currently have OPS of .676, .702, and .730.
Our pitching prospects are slightly more interesting. Chase Anderson has been dominating, even if his ERA hasn't shown it yet, and he's proven (at least to me) that there's no reason why he needs to be wasting his time in High-A. He's currently boasting 16 strikeouts and only 1 walk and no home runs in 10.1 innings pitched. Move the man. Tyler Skaggs, the farm's best pitching prospect not named Jarrod Parker, has had a wild start to the season. 13 strikeouts in only 9.2 innings is very impressive. On the other hand, seven walks and a HBP, not so much. And then there's Eric Smith, with his 24.16 ERA in 6.1 innings. And you guys thought Juan Gutierrez was bad.
Overall speaking, I think we have to admit that our Visalia prospects haven't yet lived up to their billing. The season is young yet, and I believe a lot of these prospects will be able to turn it around. Or at least I hope they do, otherwise I might end up suffering from severe depression. Again.
It's hard to take Reno numbers seriously sometimes. For instance, as of today, 5 of our everyday position players have OPS over 1.000, which is a joke. I'll take a shot anyway.
Son of the Godly Beast:
Konrad Schmidt: Okay, I chose him for a couple of reasons. One, he's a catcher, so he gets bonus points for position scarcity. Two, the other guys with OPS over 1.000 are: Wily Mo Pena (not a prospect), Cole Gillespie (this guy sucked in the majors), Josh Wilson (this guy sucked in the majors), and Tony Abreu (this guy....you get my point). Sure, the guy hasn't taken a walk yet this year. But who can blame him, if he's hitting .381? And he's hitting for power (what else is new in AAA) and he's not striking out (only 3 K in 21 at bats).
Unholy Demon-spawn Lieutenant:
Collin Cowgill: I admit I've never been terribly high on Cowgill, since he has very limited upside. But even I didn't think he'd be this bad to start off his AAA career. In 28 AB, his triple slash is .179/.233/.179. No that wasn't a typo, Mr. Cowgill has yet to get an extra-base hit this year. In Reno. Where extra-base hits happen when you don't even want them to happen. To be fair to Mr. Cowgill, John Hester actually has a much worse OPS (.154), but since I don't really see him as really having a shot at being part of our long-term future, Cowgill gets to take home the award.
Hopefully this is the last time Josh Collmenter will be mentioned by me in a Baby 'Backs Report, since it means he will have taken the majors by storm and the FO cannot afford to demote him. Prior to his promotion, Collmenter had one outing, where he went six innings, striking out seven and only walking two. Let us toast, to Collmenter's success as a member of the Dbacks bullpen.
Matt Torra has been toying with me again. Good opening start to his season, a 1.50 ERA derived from refusing to walk batters, though he's still not striking out anybody. Then there's Jordan Norberto. Ever enticing with his raw talent (holding opponents hitless and runless in 4.1 innings while striking out 6) but also with absolutely no control (4 walks already).
The only other hitter of note, is the one and only, Brandon Allen, he who must not be freed. And yet, in some ways, I'm beginning to see the concerns the FO has with his bat. His triple slash is sitting at .267/.353/.433. Downright pathetic, when you compare to the other massive OPS that are present in our AAA lineup. Great walk rates, as usual, but his power isn't really in the elite tier, and the fact that he's still striking out in a third of his at bats at the AAA level is extremely disconcerting. At the very least, it seems clear to me that Allen isn't quite the prospect that Paul Goldschmidt is, which IHSB will show next week.
All in all, Reno isn't very exciting this year, and won't be until Jarrod Parker makes his long-awaited entrance. Most of the intriguing arms may end up in the majors sometime this year, but none of the talents available at AAA have quite the same upside as our lower-level affiliates.