Here we go with phase two of a look at the lesser known Diamondbacks who you may see in spring-training. Having filled out the back end of the 40-man roster in the previous installment, this time we look at the seventeen non-roster invitees who got an invite to enjoy spring in Tucson - at least for the next couple of weeks. These are a combination of players from the low minors, who didn't yet need to be added to the 40-man roster, and independent free agents. Odds against anyone here making the Opening Day squad, we're mostly looking at the free agents with the intent of using them to fill out the
Sidewinders, oops, make that the Reno Aces Triple-A roster.
I note one name not on the list. Jarrod Parker, one of only two from Arizona to make Kevin Goldstein's top hundred prospects at Baseball Prospectus last week [Parker was #32 and Daniel Schlereth #89. MLB.com rated him even higher, at #18 in their recent survey] He was our first-round pick, ninth overall, in 2007 and posted a 3.44 ERA at South Bend in his first full pro season - and that figure was after the pitching staff forced Parker to work on his secondary pitches, in particular, his change-up. With a 97 mph fastball and control of four pitches [he walked only 2.52/9 IP, while striking out almost a batter per inning], it's a little surprising he didn't get an invite, especially since he was there last year. Some reckon he'll be in the majors as soon as 2010, and he has drawn comparisons to a young Lincecum. We can but hope. Anyway, here are the rest: no numbers for these guys as yet, details after the jump.
Hector Ambriz. One of the starters for Mobile (Double-A) this year, Ambriz had a 5-13 record, and saw his ERA rise to 4.89. His HR rate almost doubled, though that may partly be due to park factors - Mobile rated a monstrous 1.21 for homers, and 14 of the 22 he allowed were at home there. He also allowed eight homers and a .358 BA in the first inning, so seems he needs to warm up more.
Tony Barnette. Another member of the Mobile rotation, Barnette was the only one to have a winning record (11-7) and posted a decent 3.87 ERA, holding opposing hitters to a .246 average. While similarly hurt by the park, allowing only four home-runs on the road, he had a good K:BB ratio, of better than 3:1. Like Dan Schlereth, he was born in Anchorage.
Brooks Brown. Not to be confused with the Columbine killers' pal [Google is not your friend], Brown struggled later on in the season, and on into the Arizona Fall League. He's a sinkerballer - only one home-run on 75.1 road innings in 2008 - though his ground/fly rate has been going the wrong way in recent years. He is only 23, and if he can find a change-up to go with his fastball and slider, he could still make the rotation.
Seth Etherton. A former first-round pick in 1998, he has appeared in the majors in four seasons since 2000, with four different teams, and also in Korea. He missed most of 2008 after Tommy John surgery, and his only work last year was two games in August for the indy Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League. On first glance, would appear to be prime roster filler for the Reno Aces.
Reid Mahon. He started off as the closer in Mobile, being perfect in 18 save chances there, which got him a promotion up to Tucson. He added six more saves there down the stretch, though his ERA ended up at 5.25. Likely he'll start 2009 off in the same role for Reno, and could be one of those in line for a potential call-up if the bullpen needs some fresh arms.
Daniel Schlereth.After being drafted by the Diamondbacks in the first round last June, it took him a month to sign, so there wasn't much time for him to make a mark in the minor-leagues. He threw just three innings in Missoula before getting sent up to South Bend, for another brief stint. "I only threw 12 innings, but they were pretty good innings," he said. Double-A ball is likely in Schlereth's immediate future, and he might find himself stretched out over multiple innings there.
Luke Carlin. Made his major-leage debut last May for San Diego, and it was a memorable one, as he caught Greg Maddux's 350th win. However, he hit only .149 in 36 games for the Padres, and is generally regarded as someone whose strengths are much more on the defensive side. Will probably act as the backup to Russell Martin on the Canadian squad for the WBC.
Ed Easley. Also a non-roster invitee last season, Easley struggled somewhat at Visalia in 2008. He started well enough, hitting .313 in April but ended with an OPS of just .649. Given his offense is generally regarded as being superior to his defense [and, in particular, his arm], that has to be seen as a disappointment, even if he only turned 23 in December.
John Hester. The regular catcher in Mobile, he didn't get as much help from the park there as you'd think - indeed, his OPS was 121 points better on the road, at a very respectable .833. Could do with some more walks though, his K:BB a swingtastic 78:16. He nailed 30% of base-stealers this season.
Ryan Roberts. May be the ultimate utility guy - during 2007, he played eight positions including the DH, for Triple-A Syracuse. Mostly a second-baseman, he produced a home-run for his first major-league at bat in 2006, but has only one more hit in 26 subsequent ABs. He's got over 30 tattoos, so can trade ink tips with Jon Rauch this spring, and had seven RBI in an inning on July 27, homering twice off Josh Towers.
Rusty Ryal. Could he be our second-baseman in 2010? Solid enough performance for Mobile this year, batting .274 with 16 homers. He also had only eight errors over 97 games at 2B, in his first year playing mostly at that position [he was originally a 3B and occasional SS]. Perhaps a little old for his level - he'll be 26 next month - but we don't really have many other internal options at this point.
Josh Wilson. Likely signed to help shore up the infield defense of the Aces, he was a minor part of the trade that sent Manny to the Dodgers, but the D-backs will be his seventh organization. He played 90 games for the Rays in 2007, mostly at shortstop, hitting .251, but also pitched an inning of relief against the Marlins in a blowout loss. A scoreless inning. Mark Grace, eat your heart out...
Evan Frey. Almost as many walks as strikeouts (76:84) for Frey in 2008, who ended up with an OBP for the year of .400. He has virtually no power as yet, with three homers in 784 career at-bats, but is being projected as a potential AZ lead-off hitter for 2011 or sooner, though Chris Young appears to have a solid hold on CF at the moment. Zephon will be pleased to hear that when you Google our prospect's name, his piece is the first hit, so refer to that for more info on Frey.
Trent Oeltjen. A good season for our Australian, who hit .317 in Tucson. He'd be the third Olympic medal on the current AZ roster, a 2004 silver joining Augie Ojeda's 1996 bronze and Jon Rauch's 2000 gold, and is likely to make the Oz roster for his second WBC appearance. Spent the winter at home, playing for the NSW Patriots, who reached the finals of their baseball competition, before losing, Oeltjen-less, as he'd already left for Arizona.
Gerardo Parra. Still only 21, Parra is already at Double-A, having been promoted after batting .301 for Visalia. He took a step back at the higher level, but restored his stock in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he batted .329/.404/.504, including one game where he had four of his team's six hits. He should see Triple-A this season, and then be knocking on the door of the major-leagues in spring 2010.
Chris Roberson. His father, Rick, was an NBA player including a spell alongside Wilt Chamberlain on the Lakers. This year should see his 3,000th minor-league AB, compared to just 69 ML ones for the 29-year old. In shades of The Natural, he got to make his Phillies debut in 2007 after Aaron Rowand crashed into the wall, but never quite lived up to his ranking, two years earlier, among baseball's top 25 prospects.
Brandon Watson. Had a 43-game hitting streak in 2007, and played alongside Travis Blackley on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs last season, where he batted .305, right on his career average in the minors. Not exactly a slugger - only 14 homers in ten seasons there and 4,000+ at-bats - but he does seem to have a MySpace page. Another one who'll likely be stashed down in Reno, in case of severe emergency.