The Baby 'Backs Report: May 15

Some encouraging news from some of our more touted prospects, as it seems like they are finally starting to come around. Of course, it wouldn't be the Diamondbacks if everything was rosy, so there are still some problem prospects loitering around. We're now up to around the 150 PA range, which should represent about slightly less than one-fourth of a regular season of plate appearances.

High-A Visalia:

Batman:

Tyler Skaggs - It's time to give this kid some love. Just like the cape crusader, our boy beats up on batters and they never see it coming. After a dominating 7.0 innings pitched start this past week, with 8 K (7 swinging) and only 1 BB, his year to date is currently standing at 53 K and 18 BB in 39 IP. Disgustingly good. Basically in the minors, strikeouts are the best proxy we've got for measuring how good a pitcher's stuff is. And a 12.2 K/9 rate from a lefty is just downright scary. In a good way. And it's not just saber-love for this guy out there right now. The scouting community loves his stuff, and there are some prospect-followers who believe he's a top 50 prospect in baseball right now (granted, Jonathan Mayo isn't exactly the best prospect-follower out there, but there are others who think so as well). Granted, once all the dust is settled, the Dan Haren trade will probably look bad for us. But Skaggs has a ton of potential to make that trade look a lot better than it currently looks.

Robin:

Matthew Davidson - It's fitting that sidekick Davidson had his best outing this past month while Tyler Skaggs was on the mound, going 2-3 with a HR and a BB and no K. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm going to. Davidson has had a pretty dominating stretch since I listed him as the winner of the most disappointing award two weeks ago (and of course, we all know it's due to me that he's now hitting like this). He's had a .358/.407/.623 triple slash since May 1, with 14 K and 5 BB in 59 PA. Of course he's not going to keep that up, but he's showing more power, walking a little more, and striking out a little less. If he can maintain a 25% K rate, slightly under 10% BB rate, and an ISO close to 200 though, in Visalia at age 20, then he'll be quite a stellar prospect.

Two-Face:

Chris Owings - Hopefully just like Davidson, his mention on this list will kick-start him into a torrid May and June. After a disgusting (and unlike Skaggs, this disgusting is of the bad variety) past ten games, where he's hit .213/.213/.298, his season numbers are now down to a dismal 654 OPS. He's stopped taking walks recently. He's still striking out way more than you want your middle-infielders to strikeout. And he's not using his speed to any advantage on the base paths, with only 3 SB and 3 CS. The power isn't terrible, and he's got to be one of the youngest players on the circuit at age 19. However, if this continues, it's likely that we will need to let Owings remain another year at Visalia to develop.

The Alfred Pennyworths:

Keon Broxton, unsurprisingly, is struggling mightily. 20 K in 53 AB is not going to cut it. He's still taking a lot of walks, but the power has temporarily disappeared as well. On the other hand, Bobby Borchering is quietly starting to pick it up as well. He hasn't had a particularly dominating stretch yet, but he's moved his season line up to .264/.316/.414. The reason why he's a bit more worrisome than Matt Davidson at this point though, is because the strikeout rate is still incredibly high (52 K in 140 AB). Adam Eaton is solidifying his spot as a top 20 prospect in our system, with a continuing outstanding Visalia campaign. He shows great patience at the plate (18 BB), and reasonable contact ability (only 19 K in 98 AB). The power isn't really there, but if he can stick defensively at CF, then it's not going to matter as much. In similar manner, Rossmel Perez continues to impress in relation to patience at the plate and insane contact ability (6 K in 93 AB). He can definitely be a backup catcher in the majors, but if somehow someway, he ends up developing 100+ ISO power, then he could be a starting catcher.

On a worrisome note, I can't find any mention of Chase Anderson in news, and don't know why he hasn't been pitching. His last start was on May 3, and he only went 3 innings. Before that his previous start was April 14. Something is up there, and if anyone has media contacts with the Dbacks I'd really like to know what happened to Chase Anderson.

 

Top Prospects:

Superman:

Brandon Allen - Gotta give credit for where it's due. In the past ten days, Superman has hit a Goldy-esque .344/.463/.719. Not everything is sunshine and flowers though. The walks are picking up again. But the overall power numbers aren't anything to boast home about (212 ISO in the PCL isn't terribly special). And the K rate has not fallen at all. When he came up from the minors we all saw how many holes existed in his swing, and he was taken advantage of by major league pitching. The current AAA K-rate implies he hasn't done much to change his swing at all. I know people are clamoring for Allen to come up to the majors to replace our vortex of suck at 1B, and while I do think he's likely to be a small upgrade to just have on our bench as a late-inning option, as opposed to our current bench, I hesitate to think he'll be a major upgrade, if at all, over Juan Miranda at first or Gerardo Parra in LF as a starter.

Team Bizarro:

The entire Reno rotation - The lack of talent in our Reno rotation is becoming downright pathetic. None of our guys really miss bats. A lot of them enjoy golf practice while pitching. And even more of them don't really have a semblance of control. In fairness, Micah Owings has not been too bad. An ERA slightly under four, that stems from decent control (only 7 BB in 34 innings) and the closest thing to a strikeout artist we have at AAA (26 K so far). He's probably separated himself enough to be our default option as the "next emergency starting pitcher".

The Jimmy Olsens:

Collin Cowgill has cooled down tremendously. After a horrendous couple of weeks, his season now sits at "only" .307/.397/.504. The impressive thing to me though, is that despite his terrible week, he was able to maintain a stellar K:BB ratio during that time. He's got a great eye at the plate, and his contact rate remains very strong. He's not a guy that you can expect to hit more than 15 or so home runs in the majors, but depending on how good defensively he is in CF (I haven't read much about his range there, but he's got a good arm), he could actually be a better prospect than AJ Pollock. Scouts are convinced he can be a solid 4th outfielder in the majors, the question is does he have the ability to be an averagish CF starter. My personal opinion is that the further emergence of Cowgill and Eaton this year has made Pollock very expendable, and if we need to package Pollock in a trade to make our team better this year I'd be more than willing to do that. It may be prudent to trade Pollock away while his stock is still high as a 1st round draft pick putting up decent (albeit not stellar) numbers as a CF in AA. However, IHSB may have a different opinion of Pollock, and I look forward to his take next week.

As for the rest of our bats at AAA, Jim has already detailed plenty of their success previously. Cole Gillespie and Wily Mo Pena all should be considered for callups, though again I have low expectations for their ability to outplay the current starters. Our bench, though, heavily lacks options against elite lefty pitchers late in the game (watching Xavier Nady go up to pinch hit just sends a sinking feeling to my stomach) and substituting in Gillespie or Pena instead would probably be an upgrade.

 

Conclusion:

When evaluating young prospects like Davidson, Borchering, Owings, etc. a key thing to consider is their ability to improve over a season. Are they working on improving their plate discipline? Are they improving their swing to remove holes? In other words, how susceptible are they to coaching, and how capable are they of adapting? Prospects who can demonstrate that improvement have great potential because those skills are translatable at the major league level, and help players maintain their overall ability against a very very talented league that is constantly changing and adapting to scouting reports. In this sense, it's encouraging to see Davidson improve (he has a great reputation for coachability), and hopefully we will continue to see our other young prospects continue to develop in like manner.

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