Diamondbacks Minor Leaguers in Review: Visalia Starting Pitchers

RHP Anthony Meo will be knocking on the Major League door before you know it.

Visalia had some very live arms in their rotation and it's not a group without significant potential. One always has to be careful about over-analyzing the results from pitching in the California League because it's such a hitter's league with a bunch of hitter's parks thrown in. But there were still some noteworthy performances.

There are at least two solid Major League prospects on this list in Anthony Meo and Andrew Chafin. Whether they get there as starters or relievers (or at all) is still a topic of discussion as there are opinions on both sides.

RHP Anthony Meo, 22, 140 IP, 4.11 ERA, 153 K, 71 BB
Plus Stat: 140 IP Minus Stat: 71 BB
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 2nd Round
As a 2011 draftee who signed late 2012 was Meo's first real season of professional baseball and it was a very good one. He doesn't get talked about a lot because of the depth of our minor league pitching, but he's a good one. He did everything asked of him in 2012 logging 140 innings, striking out 153, posting a solid 1.30 GO/AO and holding batters to a very good .251 BA. He'll be headed to Mobile next year to anchor that rotation and there's nothing to suggest he won't shine there as he gets away from the tough hitter's parks of the Cal League. If he wants to get to the majors faster he might be a candidate for the bullpen just because there are so many other starter arms ahead of him. But that's not necessarily his long-term future. It would not be unreasonable to think he has a chance to make the Major League roster in 2014, or at worst arrive that as a bullpen arm with a chance to compete for a rotation slot in 2015. If you want to get nitpicky about Meo you'd like to see the walks a little lower. Top shelf pitching prospects usually post K/BB rates in the 3-4+ range and Meo's was a little over 2.0. But again, that's nitpicking with him pitching in the Cal League which might cause some pitcher's to shy away from the plate more often than they should.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

LHP Andrew Chafin, 22, 122 IP, 4.93 ERA, 150 K, 69 BB
Plus Stat: 2.07 GO/AO Minus Stat: 5.1 BB/9
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 1st Round
Taken just ahead of Meo in the 2011 draft 2012 was also Chafin's first true professional season. His was more of a roller-coaster than Meo's, but at the end of the day, he did enough to show why he was drafted so high and that he still has a very bright future. His season started out on fire when he was almost unhittable through his first 4-5 starts. Then the wildness came and he really struggled to find the plate, followed by finding the plate and getting hit hard. He still made the Cal League All Star team and then was given a short break followed by a move to the bullpen. At the time I thought they were perhaps making a permanent move there but after sparkling out of the pen, he was moved back to the rotation and finished the season on a very strong run of 3-4 starts. Chafin is a hard thrower with the classic fastball/slider combination, and when he's on he's as good as they come. He has struggled to develop a functional third pitch that would elevate his prospects of remaining a starter, but he's only been in professional ball for one year, so there's still time. He definitely has the "stuff" to be a Major League pitcher and it's more a question of when and how than if. Some think he's a back-of-the-bullpen type who can also close at some point. The only lingering question is if he can remove some of the wildness (and thus the inconsistency) from his game. But he's another very good one who has the chance to arrive as early as 2014 depending on how things go in Mobile next year.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

RHP Raymond Hernandez, 24, 134 IP, 5.76 ERA, 137 K, 46 BB
Plus Stat: 2.97 K/BB Minus Stat: 27 HR
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 48th Round
Raymond is the younger brother of the Dbacks' David Hernandez. he was a fine college pitcher at Cal State Fullerton and he posted a solid first season in Missoula in 2011. he skipped over South Bend to spend the year in Visalia where he started to get exposed as lacking enough quality stuff to excel. He did some good things, logging 134 innings and compiling an impressive 3.0 K/BB. But he got hit fairly hard when he was in the zone allowing 10.8 H/9 and 27 home runs. I wouldn't say his career is dead in the water but 2012 revealed that he probably has a ceiling that does not include the Major Leagues. He'll probably be a useful arm in AA and perhaps AAA but that's probably as far as he can go.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: AAA

RHP Bradin Hagens, 23, 106 IP, 3.89 ERA, 87 K, 51 BB
Plus Stat: .237 BAA Minus Stat: 51 BB
Acquired: 2009 Draft - 6th Round
Hagens is proving to be a solid minor league pitcher but he's simply not doing enough to suggest he's got a very high ceiling. He has advanced steadily up the system but every year he seems to just barely earn the promotion as opposed to flashing unique talent that gets you excited. He actually finished the year in Mobile getting two starts there in which he actually performed okay. And he stands a good chance of going there in 2013 and working out of the bullpen. He spent the first half of 2012 in the Visalia bullpen and was promoted to the rotation where he pitched pretty well. There are way too many arms in the system for him to pass to suggest he's anyone we'll be watching all that closely. But maybe I'm under-appreciating his solid record and he'll break out in Mobile next year.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: AAA

LHP Taylor Siemens, 23, 126 IP, 4.63 ERA, 117 K, 44 BB
Plus Stat: 2.65 K/BB Minus Stat: 10.2 H/9
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 18th Round
Siemens is another solid minor leaguer that needs to have some kind of breakout soon if he's going to be considered a major prospect. he's done some good things and he's a big, tall lefty which is always good. He does have pretty good control and he's gone from Missoula to South Bend to Visalia in two years. So he's going all the right things. But his K rate is less than you'd want and his H/9 rate is higher than you want, suggesting he's just not quite good enough to go all the way. Visalia can be a tough place to pitch so I don't want to write him off yet as I want to see if he can progress in a more pitcher-friendly environment. Whether he did enough in Visalia to earn that jump to Mobile is doubtful, unless they decide to put him in the bullpen because he probably doesn't deserve a Mobile rotation spot. I think they'll leave him in Visalia to start 2013 and take it from there.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: AAA

RHP Willy Paredes, 23, 95 IP, 4.70 ERA, 69 K, 28 BB
Plus Stat: .203 BAA in SB Minus Stat: .304 BAA in Visalia
Acquired: 2011 Minor League Free Agent
Paredes is an interesting prospect. He was pretty old to be signing as a Dominican free agent in 2011 but he did well in the DSL and then came up to Yakima and pitched well there also. He started 2012 in the South Bend bullpen where he was outstanding. he was then promoted straight into the Visalia rotation, which was a tall order. he actually posted a handful out really good starts, but he really got hit hard his last 3-4 starts which ruined his season stats. But somebody likes something about him and he probably just ran out of gas at the end of last year. So expect to see him back in the Visalia rotation with a chance to have a breakout season. Whether he can remains to be seen but he'll get his chance. I'm not going to assign him a top ceiling yet because I just don't know enough about him yet.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: Unknown

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