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SnakePit Hatchlings Report - AFL Edition

JDub already posted this in the sweep recap, but I figured I’d start off this minor league report with the news of the D-backs’ AFL participants for this fall.  There are some surprises on the list, and I’m not entirely convinced that there won’t be some last-minute tweaking.

As it stands now, the list includes one player from Hi-A Visalia, one player who has not played in 2010 and spent 2009 split between college (at ND!) and Low-A South Bend, five players from Double-A Mobile, and zero players from Triple-A Reno.  That tells you just how strong that Reno squad is, eh?...

I’ll rundown who is going, as well as a few names in the upper levels who are not going, just for kicks.  So, without any further ado:

Headed for the AFL:

RHP Dan Stange – Highest level: MLB – Current level: Double-A – We all witnessed Dan Stange make his major-league debut earlier this year after being the best reliever at Reno for the first month or so of the season.  Unfortunately, Stange absolutely crashed to earth just as he joined the D-backs, totally losing his control and being sent back to Reno despite the beleaguered D-backs bullpen.  He couldn’t find his control at Reno, either, and was subsequently sent down again, to Mobile.  He has been much better at Mobile in terms of results, with a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, though he still has just a 14:11 K:BB ratio for the BayBears.

RHP Josh Collmenter – Highest level: Triple-A – Current level: Double-A – Collmenter has been the breakout pitcher of the year for the D-backs, pitching at three different levels with a lot of encouraging results.  Combined in three starts at Visalia, 11 at Mobile, and 10 at Reno, Collmenter has a 3.37 ERA in 147 innings of work, with a 128:50 K:BB ratio and 13 home runs allowed.  He is and always will be a fly-ball pitcher, but he has a plus change-up and funky, deceptive delivery that will allow him to thrive in a relief role in the majors if he can’t crack it as a back-end starter.

RHP Bryan Shaw – Highest level: Double-A – Current level: Double-A – If I had to name a D-backs prospect who wasn’t talked about nearly as much as he ought to be, it would probably be Bryan Shaw.  He is a 22-year-old reliever who is already thriving at the Double-A level with a fastball/slider combo, and, in my opinion, will be in the big leagues before his 24th birthday.  Shaw has a 70:41 K:BB ratio in 102 innings of work, but the real key to success is his ability to induce ground balls, as he is currently sporting a 55.0% ground-ball rate.  That has led to a lack of home runs allowed – just 4 all year – and an FIP just a tick over 3.5.  Shaw is a top-25 guy in the organization, IMO.

RHP Bryan Woodall – Highest level: Double-A – Current level: Double-A – Only one word can be used to describe Woodall’s 2010 minor league season: dominant, at both Visalia and Mobile.  Before his promotion, he had a 51:10 K:BB ratio and 63.4% GB%.  Since the promotion, he has had a 21:3 K:BB ratio with a 58.6% GO%.  A curveball specialist, Woodall has fooled everybody this year, and has been phenomenal in all three aspects of the FIP formula, and could surprise everybody by claiming a bullpen spot on the 2011 D-backs Opening Day roster, especially if he dominates in the AFL.

C Konrad Schmidt – Highest level: Triple-A (for five games in ’09) – Current level: Double-A – The most consistent bat in the BayBears’ lineup in 2010, Schmidt has the potential to be a solid backup catcher in the major leagues despite his age (26).  He has earned rave reviews from Double-A pitchers as excellent at framing pitches as strikes, and is generally considered solid behind the plate.  Schmidt really only has John Hester to compete with for that backup spot now that Chris Snyder has been sent packing, and Hester hasn’t done much to stake his claim on the spot.  Schmidt will now get a chance to begin making his case in the AFL, and it will likely come down to a Spring Training battle.

OF Marc Krauss – Highest level: Hi-A – Current level: Hi-A – Krauss is a quick-rising bat-only prospect who the team wants to see against more advanced pitching.  Unfortunately, despite Krauss’ impressive season overall at Visalia, there are plenty of reasons to be concerned, particularly his LD%, which stands at a mere 12.1%.  For someone trying to sustain a BABIP well-north of .350, he’s going to have to square up the ball a lot more often.  2011 at Mobile will likely be a big test for Krauss, who will have to see if he can continue to leave the park as often as he has in the hitter-friendly Cal League while trying to fend of BABIP regression.

OF A.J. Pollock – Highest level: Low-A – Current level: Missed all of 2010 with Shoulder Injury – Pollock is headed to the AFL for the same reason that Cesar Valdez was sent in 2009: to make up for time lost due to injury.  Pollock was supposed to be out three months after sustaining a shoulder injury on a freak play in the last game of minor league Spring Training, but instead has yet to play a game in 2010.  So he’ll be headed to the AFL to try to prove himself worthy of an aggressive assignment to Double-A to begin 2011, keeping himself on a quick path through the minors.  The team is still very high on Pollock as a potential starting outfielder, and don’t feel that the shoulder injury will affect him long-term, so long as he can get the minor league at-bats necessary to develop.

Not headed for the AFL:

RHP Jarrod Parker – Highest level: Double-A – Current level: Missed all of 2010 with Tommy John Ligament Replacement Surgery – Jarrod Parker is, in fact, not headed to the AFL… yet.  It’s entirely possible that the team is waiting to decide on Parker until he nears a full recovery, though with the amount he has been throwing already, it may also be possible that they just want to hold back their future ace until 2011.

1B Paul Goldschmidt – Highest level: Hi-A – Current level: Hi-A – The D-backs’ breakout bat of the year has been vying for the minor league home run crown, currently sitting at 34 on the year.  Goldschmidt is one of the two main cogs of the Rawhide offense, the other being Marc Krauss, who is headed to the AFL.  And despite the fact that I am personally more skeptical of Krauss’ success than Goldschmidt’s, there is reason to think the opposite.  Krauss was more highly regarded out of college, taken by the D-backs in the second round, and is better defensively than Goldschmidt (though this is like saying that a turtle is faster than a slug).  Further, Goldschmidt’s only tool is his power, which has been significantly boosted by the friendliness of the Cal League, whereas Krauss is considered to have a solid hit tool.

OF Collin Cowgill – Highest level: Double-A – Current level: Double-A – Cowgill went to the AFL last year, though it may have been partly because of the fact that he had missed a lot of time at the end of 2009 with a broken hand and the team wanted to get him some at-bats.  This year, Cowgill hasn’t missed any time for the BayBears, and the team may be giving him a break after playing the longest season of his career.  But make no mistake, Cowgill is one of this team’s best prospects, and will start 2011 at Reno, possibly debuting with the D-backs around mid-season if he can set the world on fire.

LHP Wade Miley – Highest level: Double-A – Current level: Double-A – After underwhelming in 2009, Miley performed up to the expectations that the team had for him when they picked him in the Sandwich Round in the 2008 draft with his stellar 2010 campaign.  The D-backs’ best starting pitching prospect outside of A-ball not named Jarrod Parker, Miley specializes in keeping the ball on the ground and limiting walks, working with a plus slider to occasionally miss a bat.  The perfect-world scenario is a Mark Buehrle type, though he’ll likely settle for a career between Buehrle’s and Glendon Rusch’s.

3B Matt Davidson – Highest level: Hi-A – Current level: Hi-A – Yeah, it’s a little early, I know.  But I’ve got to find someone to fill this space, right?  Davidson is, in my opinion, the best prospect of the heralded ’09 draft crop (though there are arguments to be made for Chris Owings or Tyler Skaggs – if he qualifies since he was picked by the Angels – for that honor), and laid waste to the Midwest League as a 19-year-old.  Now in Visalia, he is struggling, but has still demonstrated his pop by hitting a pair of home runs in his 16 games there, and his BABIP has been lagging.  A likely candidate for the 2011 AFL as a 20-year-old – still darn impressive.

2009 AFL Participants (LF/1B Brandon Allen, RHP Bryan Augenstein, INF Pedro Ciriaco, Cowgill, OF Cole Gillespie, LHP Tommy Layne, LHP Scott Maine, RHP Cesar Valdez) – Arizona has nobody returning for their second straight AFL, though there are reasons that aren’t too difficult to find.  Ciriaco and Maine, of course, have been traded.  Allen is now in the big leagues and hopes to stick there.  Augenstein’s star has been on a free-fall since the start of the year due to a season that included an injury, a demotion, and a lot of hits.  Cowgill and Valdez mostly were sent to the AFL to make up for lost time due to injuries they sustained in ’09.  Gillespie arrived in the majors and completely collapsed, and doesn’t have anything he could prove to the team in the AFL.  Finally, Layne has been solid for Mobile, though unspectacular, and likely projects as a LOOGY, whereas the other pitcher participants could be higher-impact relievers.

Any Triple-A Player (Augenstein, Gillespie, INF Mark Hallberg, LHP Zachary Kroenke, RHP Kevin Mulvey, LHP Leyson Septimo, RHP Matt Torra, Valdez, RHP Wes Roemer) – Hallberg and Roemer were probably the only people on this list who were really candidates to go to the AFL.  Kroenke and Torra are getting up there in years and it’s a matter of “he is what he is” at this point for both of ‘em – there’s nothing to learn or test by throwing them at the AFL.  Mulvey is a similar case, except for the fact that he has already been a bit of a train wreck in his limited big-league exposure.


And, now, for your regularly scheduled minor league report.

Triple-A Reno:

INF Tony Abreu – August 31 – 2-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R.

LHP Zach Kroenke – August 31 – 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R (1 ER), 6:2 K:BB, 0 HR, 11/2 GO/FO.

While Brandon Allen was the biggest star on the big-league stage in the first game after September call-ups, Abreu was the one who left Reno on the brightest note.  Facing a piggyback combo of the rehabbing Chris Young and big-league washout Josh Geer, Abreu whacked just his second Triple-A homer of the year, and finished his Reno stint with a line of .351/.386/.511.  Plenty of contact and power, but still no walks… a bit discouraging, really.

Kroenke, however, continues to shine as a starter for the Aces.  He missed more bats than typical for him, and continued to limit the number of free passes he handed out.  Add in a solid number of groundouts, and Kroenke appears more and more likely a candidate to eat some innings in the big leagues this year – perhaps joining the likes of Kevin Mulvey as spot starters to ease the workloads of Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and/or Barry Enright.  The one thing that is concerning is Kroenke’s 22.3% LD-Against rate – if that is legitimately how often he is going to get squared up in the upper ranks of pro ball, he won’t be long for the majors.

Double-A Mobile:

LHP Wade Miley – August 31 – 5 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 8:0 K:BB, 6/0 GO/FO.

RHP Ryan Cook – September 2 – 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6:3 K:BB, 13/1 GO/FO.

That’s about as dominant as someone can be in five innings of work (being limited by the org).  Miley missed a bunch of bats, didn’t give anybody first base (okay, that’s a lie, he hit a batter), and got a bunch of groundouts, including a GIDP, lowering his ERA at Mobile to 2.13.  After throwing 128 2/3 innings in 2009, he has worked 148 innings in 2010 between Visalia and Mobile, likely with one more five-inning start remaining before the end of the minor league season to give him a conservative 25-inning increase.  This sets him up to have a ceiling of approximately 178 innings in 2011, then slightly over 200 in 2012, when he’ll almost assuredly be a cog in the Arizona rotation.

As for Cook, that is not a typo.  In just his third start at the Double-A level, Cook demonstrated why the D-backs chose to swap him with Pat McAnaney in the BayBears’ rotation by forcing a fairly impressive Chattanooga lineup to repeatedly pound the ball into the ground with his power sinker.  The outing dropped Cook’s ERA in those starts to 2.89, though he has just a 12:10 K:BB ratio.  Nonetheless, the 23-year-old Cook profiles well as a Chad Qualls-type (the successful version) reliever who can come in, get three ground balls, and be done with an inning.

Hi-A Visalia:

1B Paul Goldschmidt – August 31 – 2-3, 1 HR (#34), 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB.

There isn’t anything new to say here, really.  Goldschmidt has 34 home runs for the Rawhide this year and was named the Cal League MVP.  Also, it’s particularly delightful to see a game in which Goldschmidt didn’t strike out, as he now has an absurd 157 K’s in 134 games/511 at-bats – that’s a 30.72% K-Rate.  Goldschmidt makes huge leaps in the organizational rankings, but let’s not crown him a top-10 prospect just yet.

Low-A South Bend:

RHP’s Scottie Allen & Diogenes Rosario – August 31 – 8 IP (4 each), 5 H (Allen 1, Rosario 4), 1 R (Allen 0, Rosario 1) (0 ER), 8:0 K:BB (Allen 5:0, Rosario 3:0), 0 HR, 4/10 GO/FO (Allen 2/4, Rosario 2/6).

OF Chris Jarrett & The SilverHawks Lineup – September 1 – Jarrett: 3-5, 1 2B, 2 3B, 2 RBI, 3 R.  Overall: 16-41, 2 2B, 5 3B, 11 RBI, 12 R, 7:1 K:BB, 1 HBP.

Allen and Rosario combined to absolutely dominate Lake County on Tuesday, continuing both of their impressive seasons.  Allen, who turned 19 in early July, now has a 73:22 K:BB ratio and four home runs allowed in 73 innings of work – a 2.88 FIP.  For the hubbub about how Tyler Skaggs is dominating the MWL at 19, take a peek at Allen and try not to be incredibly impressed.

Rosario now sports a 91:39 K:BB ratio of his own in 99 1/3 innings, though his age, having just turned 22 on Wednesday, means that he’ll have to start rocketing up the system in a hurry.  Rosario, who gave his pitching coach, Wellington Cepeda, a high-five when he was told he was going back to the bullpen, sports a 2.53 ERA and 40:11 K:BB ratio in relief, much better than his 5.40 ERA and 51:28 K:BB ratio as a starter.

However, despite both of those astounding pitching efforts and allowing no earned runs, the SilverHawks lost this game, due to a futile four-hit performance with just one extra-base hit, a double by Keon Broxton.

So, naturally, the same SilverHawks offense would stick it to the Fort Wayne TinCaps the next day by scoring 12 runs and whacking 16 hits, seven of which went for extra bases.  They were led by Jarrett, the short and rail-thin (listed at 5’10”, 175 lbs.) outfielder who was taken by the team in the 42nd round of the 2010 draft.  Jarrett first spent 46 games playing for Missoula, and put up a lackluster .228/.326/.380 BA/OBP/SLG line.  But he was then promoted to South Bend to give the SilverHawks an extra outfielder, and, strangely, caught fire.  In 15 games there, his line is now .339/.382/.532, and while there is plenty of BABIP help (.391 prior to Wednesday’s game), it’s hard to argue that kind of power and the occasional walk.

Short-Season-A Yakima:

OF Roberto Ortiz – September 2 – 2-3, 2 2B, 1 R.

First things first: Roberto Ortiz is not much of a prospect.  He doesn’t have home-run power (just 1 HR in 221 at-bats in 2010), and is surviving, if a .752 OPS can be considered surviving, on BABIP (.385 @ Yakima).  He’s 21 years old and has spent time in 2010 in the DSL.  But I couldn’t justify giving Enrique Burgos the formal mention here even though he struck out seven in six innings of work because he walked four guys and hit a batter, and has a walk rate over 7 per nine innings.  So, how about that Yakima bullpen, eh?

Rookie-level Missoula:

3B Matt Helm – September 1 – 2-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 2 K.

In a game in which Missoula managed to collect 17 hits and 15 singles (five of them from outfielder Javan Williams), I figured that I’d hi-light one of the guys who flashed some power.  Helm was overwhelmed by the Midwest League, but has had his moments for the Osprey, with six doubles, five homers, and a .434 slugging percentage.  On the downside, his OBP is just .291, but he just turned 20 years old on Wednesday and has some time to develop.

                Others of note:

·         Remember Cesar Valdez?  He’s a mess.  His ERA at Triple-A has spiked up to 6.12 after his most recent shellacking on Wednesday: 7 runs (5 earned) in 5 1/3 innings.  He walked four, gave up a homer, and struck out just two.


·         Eric Groff made an unprecedented jump on Wednesday, going straight from Rookie-level Missoula to Triple-A Reno.  Now, don’t get overly-excited (ZOMGZ once-in-a-lifetime prospect!!!), as Groff is simply being used as filler for the rest of the season, but at least he has reached base once, drawing a walk on Thursday in his first start at the Triple-A level, playing second base.


·         In case anybody is wondering why catcher Konrad Schmidt is heading to the AFL: in his current nine-game hitting streak, Schmidt is hitting 14-33 with three doubles, two triples, a homer, 10 RBI, five runs, and a 6:4 K:BB.


·         Right-handed reliever Brian Budrow was assigned to Visalia for the rest of the year.


·         Visalia left-hander Pat McAnaney threw another six shutout innings on Tuesday, striking out 10 and walking just three.  His ERA for Visalia is now 1.88.


·         In Wednesday’s contest, the SilverHawks had two players record a pair of triples (Jarrett and Ender Inciarte), three players record three hits (Jarrett, Bobby Borchering, and David Narodowski), four players record a pair of RBI (Jarrett, Borchering, Inciarte, and Victor Estevez), and a pair of players record three runs scored (Jarrett and David Nick).  See why I made sure to mention Jarrett now?  And all of that after mustering four hits, one of which went for extra bases (and Broxton went 0-5 on Wednesday), the night before.  What a weird team.


·         Right-hander Kevin Eichhorn was sent to Yakima to join the Bears for the playoffs.


·         Seriously, how about that Yakima bullpen?  Jake Hale: 0.24 ERA, 42:7 K:BB.  Kable Hogben: 0.74 ERA, 42:6 K:BB.  Eury De La Rosa: 1.05 ERA, 53:14 K:BB.  Keith Cantwell: 3.02 ERA, 47:13 K:BB.  Corey Davisson: 3.06 ERA, 41:10 K:BB.  That’s an impressive bunch.


·         J.R. Bradley was solid for Missoula, giving up just one earned run in five innings of work for the Osprey, striking out four and walking two.