A couple of surprises, including no Keon Broxton who is currently on the DL on the Reno roster, and no Andrew Chafin who is starting the year repeating at High A Visalia. I also thought Chris Owings might start the year in Mobile but he got posted in Reno and may have to play some second base if Didi Gregorius also lands there once he comes off the DL. The Bay Bears have won the last two Southern League championships and following is a preview of each member of the 2013 roster who will be working to make it a three-peat.
Derek Eitel, RHP, 25
Eitel had a solid though unspectacular season last year with Mobile. The K/9 is too low and the H/9 is too high. He's starting to creep up there in age so the concern is that he's near or at his ceiling. He'll need a significant jump in performance to keep moving forward, though he can and should be a solid member of the rotation.
Bradin Hagens, RHP, 23
Hagens is right on the fringe of being an interesting prospect. He had a nice season last year in High A Visalia but it falls a tad short of getting anyone too excited about his future. His K/9 of 7.8 was respectable as was his H/9 of 7.9. But a 1.75 K/BB doesn't do enough to get you noticed. Still, he's pretty good for a 4th or 5th starter in a AA rotation and he's only 23 so there's still time.
David Holmberg, LHP, 21 (#6 prospect)
You don't see a lot of 20-year-old pitchers in AA and Holmberg held his own there last year after getting promoted mid-season from Visalia where he was dominating. He boasted an impressive 6.14 K/BB in Visalia and while he did get hit around a little bit in Mobile following the promotion he still managed a 2.91 K/BB. Holmberg is an extreme control pitcher with a variety of good pitches, though he's not a flamethrower. He's firmly planted near the top of the club's prospect list and I can see him vying for a Major League rotation spot in 2015, if not sooner.
Anthony Meo, RHP, 23 (#10 prospect)
2012 was Meo's first real season as a professional after being drafted in 2011 and signing late. He was given an aggressive placement in High A Visalia and he more than held his own with an impressive 9.8 K/9. He did experience some wildness which limited his K/BB to 2.15. Improvement there and he certainly has a chance to be a very good one. Tons of upside for Meo.
Zeke Spruill, RHP, 23 (#18 prospect)
One of the players who came from Atlanta in the Justin Upton trade, Spruill is a sinkerball pitcher who has had a pretty productive minor league career to date. The K/9 numbers are not anything that get anyone excited but he does have excellent control and he relies on good pitch movement to get batters out. Most scouts project him to be a reliable 4-5 starter in the not-too-distant future. History has not always been kind though to pitchers who post minor league K rates in the 5s.
Blake Cooper, RHP, 25
Took a good step forward last year repeating at High A and posted an excellent K/9 of 9.5 and a solid K/BB of 2.81. The problem is he's already 25 and just now getting to AA. There are a fair number of relievers in our system ahead of Cooper. Should be a solid arm for Mobile this year but he's getting close to his ceiling.
Dan Cortes, RHP, 26
Cortes got his chance in the majors in 2011 with Seattle and couldn't quite get the job done. Diamondbacks signed him as a free agent this off-season and he should be a darned good arm for AA. He is a big, hard-throwing right hander and he adds good depth to the system. But it's unlikely he'll get another chance at the majors with the Dbacks short of a rash of injuries and serious progression.
Steve Garrison, LHP, 26
Signed in the off-season as a free agent, Garrison has been bouncing around several minor league systems before landing with the Dbacks. Great control pitcher but doesn't miss many bats. Posted a 5.13 ERA in AA and AAA combined last year. Looks like a lefty specialist for now.
Alexis Lara, RHP, 26
Spent the last six years in the Padres system before getting released and signed by the Dbacks. Has had his moments over the years but never enough and rarely with consistency. Should be a reliable arm in the Mobile bullpen, but at 26 that might be his ceiling.
Brett Lorin, RHP, 26
Following an outstanding season in 2011 at High A Bradenton in the Pirates system, he couldn't sustain that at the AA level for Mobile. A 1.58 WHIP and 6.40 ERA in 29 games was not very good. He gets another go around at AA and he'll need to do a lot better than that if he wants to stick around for long.
Kevin Munson, RHP, 24
There has been plenty of love within the organization regarding Munson and what they think his potential is. But to date his results have not been very encouraging. He continues to post somewhat gaudy K/9 numbers of 10+, but he just hasn't been able to get his control squared away which is seriously hindering his development. Is this the year? He's still just 24 so he's not at the end of the line yet, but people are wondering.
Eric Smith, RHP, 24
Another pitcher the organization seems enamored with who hasn't lived up to the billing yet. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League and now repeats at Mobile after a so-so season last year. Doesn't have the power repertoire of Munson and his K/BB rates have been pretty poor to date. It's time for him to show something more if he wants to keep going forward.
Bryan Woodall, RHP, 26
Got hit pretty hard in Reno last year. His time in Mobile was more productive with interesting peripherals of 3.73 K/BB and 8.8 K/9, though his H/9 of 10.9 and an ERA of 5.10 are a little worrisome. He's already 26 and he needs to find some consistency. His failure at AAA suggests he's already at the proverbial wall.
Humberto Cota, C, 34
Spent the last four seasons playing in the Mexican League where he had respectable results. Whether that will translate to AA for a 34-year-old catcher remains to be seen. Probably slated for back-up duty.
Rossmel Perez, C, 23
Solid system catcher since signing as a 16-year-old from Venezuela, but simply doesn't hit enough to be considered a legitimate prospect. Will get run over soon by the wealth of catchers coming up through the system. Should hold his own at AA but that's about it.
Nick Ahmed, SS/2B, 23 (#15 prospect)
One of the pieces in the Justin Upton trade Ahmed is a legitimate SS prospect. Played at High A last year where he posted a .728 OPS and stole 40 bases. Good size for a SS at 6-3 and even added a decent collection of extra-base hits with 34 doubles, 4 triples and 6 home runs. Finds himself behind Pennington, Gregorius and Owings now so this season at AA is an important one to see if he can turn some heads his way.
Nick Evans, 1B, 25
Missed most of 2012 to injury and signed as a free agent a few weeks ago. Can also play OF in a pinch and provides a little extra depth there. Has some ability and was once considered a fringe prospect in the Mets system. Was given some playing time with the Mets in 2011 when injuries opened a spot, but didn't hit enough for a first baseman, though he wasn't horrible. Might have to perform well to earn playing time ahead of others.
Michael Freeman, SS/2B, 25 (#32 prospect)
Solid season at High A Visalia last year leading the league in hits. Good all-around infielder who might be just a tad short of having enough to go all the way. No real power to speak of though good bat control and doesn't strike out a lot. Should be a productive infielder for Mobile this year.
Jonathan Griffin, 1B, 23 (#20 prospect)
Goldschmidt light has just hit and hit since being drafted in the 21st round of the 2011 draft. Posted high .800 OPS in both 2011 and 2012 with 18 and 28 home runs respectfully. Now gets the big jump in pitching quality of the Southern League and if he does more of the same he's going to get labeled a legitimate future Major Leaguer. Very interested to see what he does this year.
Dan Kaczrowski, INF, 25
Jack of all trades back-up who can fill in almost anywhere on the diamond. Gritty ballplayer who fills a critical role on every team he's played on. Not a real future prospect but an important minor league cog.
Garrett Webber, 3B, 24 (#55 prospect)
Steadily moving up the system with two good seasons under his belt. Put up an .802 OPS last year in Visalia. Can play all four infield positions but probably best suited for 3B where he will mostly play this year. Hasn't been an electric player yet but still very good. Worth watching.
Brent Clevlen, OF, 29
Career minor leaguer has gotten a few cups of coffee in the big leagues. Had a very solid combined season last year in AA and AAA with an .886 OPS and 14 home runs. Very reliable player that should hit in the middle of the Mobile order somewhere.
Justin Greene, OF, 27
Reliable minor league outfielder put up a decent season in White Sox minor league system last year. Acquired by Dbacks in the off-season via trade of minor leaguers. Probably not an upside legitimate Major League prospect but will hold his own at AA and AAA level.
David Nick, OF, 23 (#38 prospect)
Has been playing 2B since being drafted in 2009. Has steadily been creeping up the organization while playing solidly but not exceptionally. Being moved to OF this season as he has to be a tad concerned there's too many middle infielders in front of him now, thus the move to outfield. Good all-around player that doesn't have one exceptional skill to make him stand out.
Ryan Stovall, OF, 26
Former Kansas City farmhand played in Independent League last year, signed by Dbacks in the off-season. Decent minor league player hasn't been able to mount any break-out seasons to date.