Diamondbacks Minor Leaguers in Review: South Bend Starting Pitchers

Norm Hall

Obviously there's one great big name that jumps out at us when we delve into the South Bend starting staff and that's Archie Bradley. Bradley ranks anywhere from #1 to #3 on all Diamondback Top Prospect Lists. He ranks #3 on mine simply because he's farther away from "making it" than Bauer and Skaggs.

The rest of the South Bend starting staff was all over the board with more shaky performances than outstanding ones. There's Tyler Green who has some upside, and there's Jesse Darrah and J.R. Bradley who seem to be going to wrong way. The club utilized a lot of different starters in an attempt to find some consistency but couldn't hit on anything that worked which ultimately led to South Bend's poor overall record. Let's take a look at what South Bend had on the starting pitcher front.

RHP Archie Bradley, 20, 136 IP, 3.84 ERA, 152 K, 82 BB
Plus Stat: .182 BAA Minus Stat: 82 BB
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 1st Round
2012 represented Bradley's first full season of professional baseball after signing late in 2011. All-in-all it was a successful first season for Bradley but considering he was being talked about in the same breath as Dylan Bundy who was taken a few picks ahead of him in the 2011 draft, Bradley didn't perform anywhere close to Bundy who made it all the way to the Major Leagues in his first season. One thing Bradley was was unhittable. Opponents hit just .181 off him as he allowed just 87 hits in 136 innings. The problem was he gave up nearly as many walks. Now this isn't unusual for a young pitcher getting his first taste of professional baseball, but the problem was borderline anemic at times and completely erased any notion of an early promotion for the power pitcher. And it's not like he got better as the season wore on. He walked just as many in the second half as the first half. So if Bradley wants to be a truly fast riser he'll need to get the walks somewhat under control. But his stuff is electric and his ceiling remains as high as ever and the expectation is he should improve in that area in 2013. But he is not a serious candidate to pitch in the Majors for at least a couple of years.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: Major League

RHP Tyler Green, 20, 126 IP, 3.78 ERA, 75 K, 60 BB
Plus Stat: 2.07 GO/AO Minus Stat: 1.25 K/BB
Acquired: 2010 Draft - 8th Round
Green was drafted out of high school in 2010 and given a fairly aggressive assignment of South Bend for his first full season, and while he wasn't great in 2011 he wasn't terrible either. He was given the chance to repeat the level in 2012 and made some improvements. The problem is the improvements weren't as much as one would hope, in order to lable Green as a legitimate top of the line prospect. His ERA was better by a full point but his K and BB rates were nearly identical as was his BAA. A 1.25 K/BB ratio does not scream top prospect. He's still young having not yet turned 21 so there's still hope. But if he doesn't start striking out more batters and walking less he's going to have a problem advancing through the higher levels. For me the only number that jumps out at me is his sterling GO/AO ratio of more than 2.00 suggesting he's an effective ground ball pitcher. Plenty of pitchers have made a career out of inducing ground balls but it's a much tougher road. Still worth keeping an eye on at this point.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: AAA

RHP J.R. Bradley, 20, 117 IP, 5.98 ERA, 60 K, 45 BB
Plus Stat: None Minus Stat: .310 BAA
Acquired: 2010 Draft - 2nd Round
The "other" Bradley is looking like a miss from the 2010 draft as he continues to regress. He wasn't very good in 2011 and he was much worse in 2012. He was eventually pulled from the rotation late in the season when he just couldn't get anybody out and I get the sense the organization knows he's nearing the end of the road. He can't strike anybody out, he walks more than he should and he gives up plenty of gopher balls. I really don't know where he goes from here. Maybe they'll try him as a reliever but his stuff plays even worse in that role. I fear the end of the line for this once promising prospect.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: High A

RHP Jesse Darrah, 22, 120 IP, 4.65 ERA, 87 K, 40 BB
Plus Stat: .258 BAA Minus Stat: 0.83 GO/AO
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 8th Round
Darrah was a college pitcher when drafted in 2011 so he's older than some of the other kids on the South Bend staff, but he didn't fare much better than some of the others. He was another who was eventually removed from the rotation due to inconsistencies. He had his moments from time to time but every time you thought he was turning the corner he'd get rocked again. His biggest problem is when he gets hit he gets hit hard. He doesn't induce enough ground balls and he had a real problem keeping the ball in the ballpark at times. They turned him into the long reliever where he actually performed better, but hardly anything to get excited about. Darrah will take the ball regularly and he can get guys out at times, but his overall inconsistency ultimately leaves him short of qualifying as an upside prospect.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: AA

LHP John Pedrotty, 22, 90 IP, 6.28 ERA, 62 K, 40 BB
Plus Stat: 1.43 GO/AO Minus Stat: .288 BAA
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 11th Round
Pedrotty had a solid 2011 campaign in Yakima and he was expected to be a solid piece of the 2012 South Bend rotation. But he was obviously pitching injured most of the year as he got hit hard and often before eventually being shut down in June with a shoulder injury and didn't pitch the rest of the year. I don't have any details on his injury so I can't say when he'll be back but hopefully we'll see him in 2013. He's got a nice build for a left-handed pitcher so it would be a shame to see him not get a chance to realize his potential. It's impossible to judge his 2012 results so for now we'll categorize him as a lefty with unknown potential until he returns from the shoulder problem.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: AAA

LHP Keith Hessler, 90 IP, 3.20 ERA, 75 K, 40 BB
Plus Stat: 1.53 GO/AO Minus Stat: 1.70 K/BB
Acquired: 2010 Draft - 28th Round
Hessler spent the bulk of his first two seasons in pro ball as a reliever where he performed quite well. The club finally decided to give him chance as a starter with four late-season starts with mixed results. He had two really good outings, one so-so outing, and one really bad outing. But overall Hessler had a pretty good season and he should move up a level based on that effort. Whether he remains as a starter or they move him back to the bullpen is unknown. But he'll probably move faster as a reliever than a starter. Does he have enough stuff to go all the way? That's probably a long-shot but never impossible as a lefty reliever if he continues to get guys out. His numbers against lefties were much better across the board except for BAA which might just be an unlucky BABIP based on a small sample size. So we'll keep an eye on this 6-4 left-hander for another possible step forward next year.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: Major League

LHP Andrew Barbosa, 24, 74 IP, 3.51 ERA, 88 K, 36 BB
Plus Stat: 10.7 K/9 Minus Stat: 4.82 ERA in SB
Acquired: 2012 Draft - 36th Round
Barbosa was a pretty old professional rookie having missed two full seasons in college to injury. He started out in Missoula, where he was borderline unhittable, and he was quickly promoted to South Bend where he demonstrated more human-like pitching qualities. He had some good outings and he kept up a pretty high K rate, so he has some ability. But he was also inconsistent and he was one of the older pitchers in the league. But at a towering 6-8 Barbosa remains an intriguing prospect. Can he put it all together and become a true prospect? He better hurry it up at his age. 2013 will be a make-or-break year in determining that. He almost has to be considered for the Visalia rotation so he will be challenged with advanced hitters in hitting parks, and we'll know before long if he's the real deal. I suspect at his age that he's not, but once again being a lefty with a power repertoire he might just have a chance as a reliever in the not-too-distant future.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: Major League

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