We're a few solid weeks into the 2012 season, and as a supplement to my daily Farm Round-Ups, I've decided to put together a quick write-up of the surprises and disappointments - or as much as a prospect can be either of those things through twenty games - in Arizona's system from the early part of the minor-league season. With as highly-touted as Arizona's farm system has been since around the end of last year's draft, it's of little surprise that several of Arizona's top prospects are lighting it up. But have any of Arizona's highly-regarded prospects started the year on a sour note?
I want to make one thing clear right up front: this is not me discussing who is rocketing up or plummeting down the D-backs' organization's prospect rankings. As the title makes perfectly clear, we're just about twenty games into the minor-league season, so we're still very much entrenched within small-sample-size territory. Declaring Matt Davidson a future star based on what he's done thus far for Double-A Mobile is absolutely not the intention of this post, and would be, frankly, ridiculous.
The goal of this post is more to highlight a few names to perhaps track a little more closely in the coming weeks and months, particularly for those who have been on the underwhelming side and may have not been featured as heavily in the round-ups, thus perhaps being a bit forgotten in spite of their potential big-league value. In short, consider this a minor league affiliate preview with a side order of early-season stats, rather than an early-season minor-league stats post.
Disclaimer out of the way, let's move on to the prospects!
[Note: minor-league stats updated through games of April 25]
The Aces have gotten off to a miserable start as a team, with a 6-14 record through their first twenty games, but the team has been far from devoid of bright spots. In fact, amid a roster of free agent filler and organizational soldiers, the higher-upside prospects to hone their craft for the Aces this year - more specifically, the two center fielders the team has employed - have actually fared pretty well. Unfortunately, the tier of hitters just behind those center fielders has been struggling, which is a surprise given the favorable conditions of the PCL.
Surprises: CF A.J. Pollock, CF Adam Eaton, RHP Barry Enright; Honorable Mention: 3B Cody Ransom
Pollock: 12 G, .340/.386/.453, 6 2B, 11:4 K:BB, 4-5 SB.
A.J.'s first few games at Reno were utterly absurd, reaching base in nine of his first ten plate appearances for the Aces before cooling off considerably. He received the call to the majors after Chris Young went down, notching a hit and a walk in 16 plate appearances for the D-backs thus far, though consistently putting the ball in play and playing a solid center field. I truly think that the hits will start coming in the big leagues, and I think that Pollock could provide Arizona with the type of ideal contact hitter that they want near the top of the lineup. He'll likely head back to Reno when CY returns, but it won't be the last we see of A.J. Pollock.
Eaton: 7 G, .393/.452/.500, 1 2B, 1 3B, 3:2 K:BB, 2-2 SB. At Double-A Mobile: 11 G, .300/.451/.325, 1 2B, 8:6 K:BB, 6-7 SB.
Quick comp for you all: Adam Eaton at 23 years old in 2012 is basically what Collin Cowgill was at 25 years old in 2011, minus the injury history. Sounds pretty nice, doesn't it? Eaton's one of those guys who has done nothing but hit at every stop in the minors he's been. He's batted above .300 and had both an OBP and SLG above .400 for each of the minor-league affiliates he's played for in his career (aggregating 2011 and 2012 time at Double-A), and is a combined 64-of-85 (75.3%) on stolen base attempts - including 8-for-9 to kick off 2012 - to boot.
He's also notorious for his ability to crowd the plate and lean into pitches for free HBP's, which a) strikes me as the type of thing Kirk Gibson will love, and b) means that D-backs fans get to enjoy one of the greatest catch-phrases around: "We got ice." Given his listed height of 5'8", Eaton can only generate so much power - even with good hands - and likely won't be a home run threat in the majors, but he'll run into walls, play with his hair on fire, take one for the team, and generally endear himself to fans.
Enright: 4 GS, 19.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 14 H, 10:9 K:BB, 0 HR.
I know, a 10:9 K:BB ratio isn't phenomenal - the walks are particularly high for someone like Enright who doesn't miss many bats - but there's something to be said for allowing less than a hit per inning in the PCL. Other Reno starters to pull off that feat thus far in 2012: (null). Enright will stick around 40-man rosters - whether in Arizona or elsewhere - for years as a high-makeup guy and Triple-A rotation filler, and perhaps has a chance to contribute some value in a long relief role should he see his velocity tick up a mile per hour or two in shorter two- or three-inning stints. Enright's a guy you love to see succeed simply because he seems like such a genuinely nice person, so to see him thriving in such a challenging league environment is heart-warming, at the very least.
Ransom: 10 G, .317/.400/.529, 2 2B, 2 HR, 14:6 K:BB. At Arizona: 4 G, .385/.500/.769, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2:2 K:BB.
Ransom hitting at Triple-A isn't the surprise here - heck, he's been doing that since 2006. The surprise with Ransom is that he's put together a nice little streak of hitting at the big-league level. Sure, his 1.269 OPS about 99.99% likely to be a sample size fluke, but even sample size flukes can be pleasant surprises. One thing is for certain: if Ransom starts to struggle after passing his final kidney stone (aside: +1000 gritty veteran points for playing baseball with a kidney stone), you just know we're going to have a SnakePit meme about the magical kidney stone that was the "Wonderboy" to Ransom's Roy Hobbs (from The Natural, naturally). The only question left is what to name it...
Disappointments: 3B/1B Ryan Wheeler, OF Cole Gillespie
Wheeler: 20 G, .263/.287/.463, 5 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 18:3 K:BB.
Ryan Wheeler is perfectly fine at the plate. After a terrible first week or so, he's hit .333/.333/.571 over his last ten games, and is going to crush the ball in the PCL throughout the year - I'm about as confident in this as I am that Ransom won't turn into uber-Albert Pujols at age 36. However, a) once again, just as sample size flukes can be surprises, they can also be disappointments, and b) there's a more significant issue that put Wheeler on this list for me.
After Ransom was called up to the major leagues, Arizona saw its third base depth as being so shallow as to necessitate a trade for Josh Bell, a player with nice physical skills yet one of the worst samples of 226 plate appearances seen from one player at the major-league level in recent history. Bell was sent to Triple-A, and has been manning third base for the Aces, pushing Wheeler across the diamond to first. Assuming that an Arizona pro scout didn't see something in Bell to suggest there was serious remaining upside in acquiring him, this begs the question: was Wheeler's glove so bad at third base as to necessitate a trade for Josh Bell? If Wheeler has a chance to play the position in the major leagues - even part-time - don't you push Bell to first instead? It's entirely possible, if not downright likely, that I'm over-analyzing this, but I felt it certainly worthy of mention.
Gillespie: 19 G, .194/.280/.278, 3 2B, 1 HR, 13:9 K:BB, 2-5 SB.
As with Wheeler, it's not that I'm concerned that Gillespie is going to be overwhelmed by the PCL. This is a guy, after all, who has OPS'ed awfully close to .900 at Triple-A ever since joining the organization in the Felipe Lopez trade. However, at 27 years old to start the season, and with a handful of quality outfield prospects creeping up on him from the lower levels, the start of the 2012 campaign was perhaps Gillespie's last opportunity to force himself onto the MLB roster. Chris Young's injury, in years past, would have likely meant the addition of Gillespie to the roster, but Gillespie's early-season struggles - and A.J. Pollock's solid hitting over the same stretch - combined to essentially spell the end of Gillespie's chances to have an impact on the D-backs outside of the occasional September call-up.
The BayBears were pegged as the team to watch going into the 2012 season, with a pitching staff featuring three of the top five pitching prospects in the Arizona system and the system's top position player. The team's record isn't phenomenal at 11-10, but the individual performances of some of Arizona's most promising youngsters has been tantalizing, to say the least. The starting pitching has been out of this world, and in between underwhelming performances from minor-league filler types, there have been impressive performances in the lineup, to boot. Little has changed since the start of the year: if you're going to follow just one minor-league affiliate of the D-backs this year, the BayBears should be that affiliate.
Surprises: 3B Matt Davidson, 2B David Nick, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Chase Anderson
Davidson: 21 G, .346/.452/.551, 7 2B, 3 HR, 16:14 K:BB, 1-2 SB.
Coming into the year, I was still of the mindset that Davidson was the best position player prospect in the system, even with a so-so .814 OPS at Hi-A Visalia last year. In a very short time with Double-A Mobile, Davidson has done nothing to suggest that my assessment was wrong. He obliterated the ball for two straight weeks to begin the season, and although he struggled in Mobile's recent four-game series against Jacksonville, we also need to make sure to stay conscious of the fact that this a kid that just turned 21 in February, yet raking in Double-A ball. Davidson is going to take his lumps from time at this level and age and will likely need to spend the entire year at Double-A (much as Arizona could use some stability at third base), but he's currently two-and-a-half years younger than 2011 Paul Goldschmidt was at the same level. There's a real chance that Davidson could be a star-level player, especially if he sticks at third base.
Nick: 12 G, .347/.373/.429, 4 2B, 9:2 K:BB, 3-4 SB.
Nick hasn't received much hype in a D-backs system that is very pitching-heavy, but he probably should. After hitting .300/.342/.449 for Visalia last year as a 21-year-old up-the-middle player, Nick hadn't missed a beat at Mobile prior to missing nine games with a concussion he sustained in an infield collision on April 15. Nick won't take many walks, but he sure can hit, and scouts seem to believe that there's power projection on the way as Nick ages and adds strength. Tall and lanky, the 6'2", 180-pound Nick (according to his listed measurements) has a chance to stay up-the-middle and could be an everyday player at second base, a position where Arizona has few other alternatives after Aaron Hill's current two-year contract expires following the 2013 season. Nick could be ready to assume Hill's position right around that time, should he continue his hit-friendly ways.
Corbin: 4 GS, 27 IP, 22 H, 1.67 ERA, 25:8 K:BB.
He's not the most talented pitcher on the farm for Arizona, but don't bother telling him that - as I see it, Corbin is out-pitching everyone in Arizona's minor league system right now. After his fantastic Spring Training in which he clearly endeared himself to D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, Corbin's ability to work deep into games, pitch efficiently, and throw strikes have helped him steamroll through the Southern League in his first four outings. With Trevor Bauer working through some control issues - not a long-term concern, but a short-term kink to smooth out a bit - Corbin is seizing the opportunity to put himself in a prime position to join Arizona's pitching staff should they choose to call on one of their arms from the minors. Whether Corbin can hang on to that position throughout the year if Arizona doesn't reach into the farm for a starter until perhaps June or July, however, is another question.
Anderson: 2 GS, 11 IP, 6 H, 0.82 ERA, 15:4 K:BB.
After missing most of the 2011 season with a major elbow injury, Anderson was a bit of a wild card heading into 2012. He made it back onto the mound for Double-A Mobile on April 18, and while he tired after just four innings in his first outing, Anderson dominated through seven innings in his second trip to the mound on the 23rd with seven shutout innings and ten strikeouts. The big question for Anderson as I see it is whether or not he can successfully build up innings - he broke down in 2011 after throwing just a touch over 100 innings in 2010 and worked as a reliever in college, so there's significant reason to be concerned about his ability to stay healthy for a full starter's workload. It goes without saying that Anderson would be more valuable as a starter, but he could make a very good fastball/changeup reliever.
Disappointments: RHP Trevor Bauer, 1B Yazy Arbelo
Bauer: 4 GS, 22.2 IP, 0.40 ERA, 12 H, 28:14 K:BB, 0 HR. (note: tldr at bottom, for those interested)
I can already hear the first sentence that you just spoke aloud to yourself: "Wait, Bauer? ERA... [::checks ERA::] is 0.40?What the... is Dan okay?" I can even hear the second sentence you spoke aloud to yourself, too: "Oh, gosh, is this because of that Twitter crap?" (Answer to #2: not at all.) Alright, everyone, lower the torches and pitchforks and let me explain myself. I love Trevor Bauer (well, as a baseball player). If Arizona is going to replace Josh Collmenter in the big-league rotation, I want Trevor Bauer to be the guy who takes his spot. The prospect of having this guy pitching for Arizona through 2018 is drool-inducing. However, it's also the case that there's a very legitimate discussion to be had about whether or not Bauer is the guy who should be promoted to replace Collmenter, should a replacement be sought.
Let me make this as clear as possible: This should not be the case.
Despite having more raw talent than any pitcher on the farm besides Archie Bradley and more polish than any pitcher on the farm other than Patrick Corbin, Bauer's early-season control and command issues - over five-and-a-half walks per nine innings - have opened the door for someone else to be next in line on the starting pitching depth chart (credit where it's due to Corbin: he's done everything imaginable on his end to take that position). I simply don't think that Bauer has performed as well I - or Bauer himself - expected him to in this regard, and that qualifies to me as a disappointment.
In complete fairness to Bauer, he had reportedly been dealing with a groin injury for his early outings that was throwing off his mechanics - again, this isn't a post to indict someone for their early-season numbers. It's simply to say that, regardless of what the reason may be (even an injury), it's disappointing that people have any real reason to be clamoring for anyone other than Trevor Bauer to join Arizona's rotation from the minors. Yet, if Arizona does ultimately turn to Bauer sometime soon, I (and Arizona, of course) would fully expect him to make them glad they did.
tldr: If you want to mentally replace "RHP Trevor Bauer" with "RHP Trevor Bauer's Groin Injury," you might not be missing the point. Bauer is going to be good in the big-leagues very soon, but has been slightly off in his four starts thus far this season. That's it.
Arbelo: 8 G, .077/.143/.077, 9:2 K:BB. At Hi-A Visalia: 11 G, .265/.432/.706, 1 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 11:9 K:BB.
After the controversial Bauer inclusion above, I thought I'd make the next one a bit more obvious... Arbelo can hit A-ball pitching just fine when they give him an inside fastball at the belt, but will he ever have the approach to make the jump up to Double-A ball successfully? He certainly hasn't been instilling optimism in the masses thus far.
The majority of the interesting talent headed to Hi-A Visalia this season was in players repeating the level, being full of promise but either hitting a snag in their development or needing a little more time at the level before making the big jump to Double-A. The results have been mixed thus far, though the good news is that the set of prospects at the most pressing areas of need in the organization - in the infield and behind home plate - are off to hot starts. This roster could start thinning out soon, as repeating prospects off to hot starts tend to find themselves promoted in short order, but for the time being there is plenty of talent to keep an eye on.
Surprises: SS Chris Owings, C Raywilly Gomez, LHP Andrew Chafin, LHP Mike Belfiore
Owings: 20 G, .325/.360/.518, 7 2B, 3 HR, 29:5 K:BB, 2-3 SB.
After hitting just .246/.274/.388 in 121 games for the Rawhide last year as a teenager, things are looking up for Owings in 2012 at age-20, with the hard-hitting shortstop off to a white-hot start. Not all is well, to be certain: after striking out 130 times in 121 games last year, Owings already has 29 whiffs in just 20 games this year. On the plus side, though, Owings is putting a real charge into the ball for the Rawhide with a near-.200 ISO, has already drawn five walks after walking just 15 times in 2011, and reports on his defense at shortstop remain encouraging. I think a reasonable comp for Owings is someone like Alex Gonzalez - sub-par average and on-base skills, but good pop and an ability to pick it at shortstop that makes for some incredibly valuable years. If he keeps hitting well for the Rawhide, he could very well find himself at Double-A by mid-season.
Gomez: 17 G, .321/.409/.393, 4 2B, 7:9 K:BB.
Gomez is an odd catching prospect. A former third baseman who couldn't throw accurately, Gomez moved behind the plate and showed promise, but bucks the trend of the low-contact, high-power catching mold, hitting at least .270 at each stop of his career while slugging under .400 at every stop he's been since he left the Dominican Summer League. However, his contact ability and patience at the plate has led to OBPs above .330 at every stop along the way, as well, with his .338 mark in the very pitcher-friendly Midwest League last year representing the worst mark of his career. Gomez looks like a backup catcher at best due to his lack of pop, but if he can slap a few singles and take a walk with passable defense, he could have a future.
Chafin: 4 GS, 20.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 15 H, 33:5 K:BB, 1 HR.
Selected in the Supplemental Round out of Kent State a year ago, Chafin has gone on an absolute strikeout binge for the Rawhide, his plus fastball/slider combo too much for the Cal League to cope with. Chafin is still working on a changeup, but his hot start to the season could, at the very least, lengthen the leash that Arizona is willing to give him as a starter. Chafin is a Tommy John survivor who needs to be more efficient on the mound if he's to be a rotation mainstay in the long-run - 20.2 innings across four starts is not enough - so he could always end up in the bullpen even if he does master a change. Outside of the top-three pitching prospects of the organization, though, nobody matches Chafin's upside.
Belfiore: 7 G, 12.1 IP, 2.92 ERA, 10 H, 18:3 K:BB, 2 HR.
In 2011, Belfiore's career was nearly completely derailed by arm issues that stemmed from overuse during his days as the closer for Boston College. After being transitioned from starting to relief, though, Belfiore's gotten healthy and has restored a good deal of prospect value, potentially giving Arizona another power lefty arm to plug into their bullpen in 2013 or 2014. The team's initial plans to start Belfiore are indicative of Belfiore's ability to get both right-handed and left-handed batters out, so he won't necessarily be limited to specialist work and could be a bona fide late-inning reliever. He doesn't have the pure stuff to close, but a left-handed version of Brandon Lyon or a left-handed poor man's Joakim Soria - a reliever with several quality offerings that succeeds by mixing pitches, even in short relief - is entirely possible. Don't be surprised if Belfiore finds himself at Double-A very soon.
Disappointments: LF Bobby Borchering, CF Keon Broxton, RHP Anthony Meo
Borchering: 20 G, .231/.282/.397, 5 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 24:6 K:BB.
While Owings has shown nice early returns from his repeat assignment at Visalia, Borchering has scuffled again, seeing his .267/.332/.469 line plummet through the first 20 games. I'm not worried that Borchering is this bad - after all, Borchering was actually on a tear through his first ten games or so before having a really rough stretch of late that tanked his overall line. We're very firmly entrenched in small sample size territory here. However, it certainly is the case that Borchering should improve upon that 2011 line by around June or July if he is to remain even a top-20 prospect in the organization.
With his move to left field, there is more stress than ever on his bat to produce, so Borchering has to start raking soon. Something to keep an eye on: the switch-hitting Borchering has just one hit - granted, it's a home run - and a pair of walks in 16 plate-apperances from the right side of the plate this year, for a .077/.188/.308 line against left-handed pitching. If this problem persists, Borchering might want to consider focusing on hitting left-handed and having just one swing to maintain.
Broxton: 18 G, .194/.286/.299, 4 2B, 1 HR, 29:7 K:BB, 2-4 SB.
Broxton, who turns 22 in less than two weeks, has followed up a good debut in 2009 with the Missoula Osprey (.776 OPS in 72 G) with seasons of .675 and .690 OPS figures at full-season affiliates, mostly Low-A South Bend. Broxton could click at almost any moment and begin to obliterate the minor leagues given the sheer volume of his raw tools, but we're twenty games into 2012 and he's already below the Euchre line and not showing many peripheral skills other than the occasional walk. Still, Broxton is exactly the kind of guy you hold on to through his full seven years of minor-league control - provided he shows a good makeup and work ethic - just to see if the whole package ever comes together, so this is far from the last we'll be seeing of Keon.
SSS quirk: despite being a right-handed hitter, Keon is hitting .000/.000/.000 against lefties this year in 11 at-bats, with six strikeouts. There's really no informative value in that trivia bit, but it's fun nonetheless.
Meo: 4 G (3 GS), 17.2 IP, 4.58 ERA, 14 H, 24:17 K:BB, 2 HR.
Don't get me wrong, I'm encouraged by the strikeouts Meo has racked up and his ability to keep hits in the hitter-friendly Cal League to a minimum. However, the disappointing thing for me with how Meo has started the 2012 season is the high volume of walks he's given up, which has resulted in startling inefficiency on the mound. Meo has yet to make it past the fifth inning in any of his outings this year, yet has also allowed no fewer than four walks in any of his outings. For a college product, the lacking control is bothersome, even with the difficult first full-season assignment to Hi-A. Still, I continue to believe that Meo could be a candidate to close for Arizona sometime in the next three years.
Low-A South Bend
When the full-season minor-league rosters were announced, the South Bend roster was by far the most lopsided in the system. At the top of the chain was Archie Bradley, the teenage phenom with the mid-90's velocity and hammer curveball, set to bring hellfire to the Midwest League. After Archie and a couple of other solid pitching prospects (J.R. Bradley, Tyler Green), though, things took a pretty steep drop. Despite being 21 years old and the team's $1.25MM investment in him, there was no Ty Linton to be found. Bradley and Green remained the only 2009 high-school arms to reach full-season ball, with Robby Rowland (pre-trade) and Blake Perry back in Extended Spring Training. Instead, the lineup was littered with repeat hitters and senior signs from the 2011 draft, making for a team with just the occasional player to get truly excited about.
Surprises: RHP Archie Bradley, RHP Willy Paredes, SS Josh Parr
Bradley: 4 GS, 21 IP, 1.71 ERA, 8 H, 26:11 K:BB.
If you've read any of my reports following the days Archie has pitched, you pretty much know what I'm going to say by now. How many teenagers out there do you think command their grade-70 curveball better than their low-to-mid-90's fastball? Archie is an elite talent who won't be in South Bend very long, but will haunt and abuse the hitters of the Midwest League until he is promoted. I hope it's a little while longer - maybe until, say, May 20th (the day I graduate) - because, frankly, it's fun to watch him pitch.
Perhaps the most impressive part about Archie's line so far is the mere eight hits he's allowed in his 21 innings of work for the Silver Hawks. Remember, folks: BABIP regresses to a standard mean in the major leagues because all pitchers who make it in the big-leagues have already developed a base level of competence in commanding the ball (this is an instance of selection bias - for example, if I were to take the mound in the major leagues and pitch, I couldn't throw a 60-mph slowball over the plate and have a BABIP of ~.300). In the minors, advanced command and elite stuff can combine to legitimately suppress BABIP, and Archie has shown just that - despite being just 19, he doesn't make many mistake pitches.
Paredes: 7 G, 8 IP, 1.13 ERA, 9:1 K:BB.
I don't have a ton of information on Paredes or his background, with all I "know" coming from anecdotes via Silver Hawks charters I've chatted with at their games this year (so, in other words, I'm not guaranteeing this to be true). Apparently, Paredes had initially signed with the Nationals a couple of years ago to a sizable bonus as a teenager, but had that money taken away and the contract nullified when it was revealed that he was actually into his 20's. He took a reduced bonus with Arizona, and has been throwing smoke ever since.
At the best I've seen him, Paredes works 93-94 with his fastball and pairs it with a vicious slider in the low-80's. His delivery is remarkably violent, with his entire body falling over to the first base side as he finishes his delivery and significant recoil in his upper body and neck, but the herky-jerky nature of this delivery also gives Paredes some additional deception and lets the ball get on hitters even faster. There's legitimate eighth-inning upside here, and Paredes has done a good job when I've watched him of controlling his offerings and keeping them low in the zone. With the violence in his delivery, high-caliber stuff, and potentially limited number of bullets in his arm, don't expect Paredes to remain in South Bend very long.
Parr: 15 G, .178/.283/.222, 2 2B, 14:1 K:BB, 1-4 SB.
For most of this write-up, I haven't had the liberty of seeing the player live and understanding how they go about their work, which is particularly frustrating due to the fact that it means I ignore almost all considerations of defensive quality. With the South Bend club, though, I have the opportunity to see these guys work in the field, and the one player that has stood out with the glove is Parr. A legitimate shortstop drafted out of out of the University of Illinois last year, Parr has average range at short, but excellent reliability, getting rid of the ball extremely quickly and equally capable of snagging grounders in all directions, be it in the hole, up the middle, or charging in on the grass.
Parr's throwing arm is probably a tick below-average, which leads to some difficulties getting the ball across the diamond from the hole, but his footwork is good and his transfer, as already mentioned, is quick enough to help compensate for his arm. He hasn't hit for the Silver Hawks thus far, but if can simply learn to put the ball in play and slap it around to all fields in a Willie Bloomquist-ian fashion, Parr could very well reach the majors as a defensive replacement/utility infield type. Even if he can't, he'll stick around organizations for years as a Triple-A defensive filler.
Disappointments: 3B Matt Helm, RHP Jesse Darrah, C Roidany Aguila
Helm: 19 G, .284/.341/.392, 6 2B, 1 3B, 22:6 K:BB, 1-2 SB.
Arizona sank a six-figure signing bonus into Helm after taking him in the seventh round of the 2009 draft out of high school in Queencreek, Arizona, thinking that he could turn into a big-league power bat. Helm was expected to go higher in the draft prior to his senior year of high school, but a hand injury limited him during that final season, and Arizona was taking the chance that he would return to his prior form in pro ball.
Unfortunately, Helm has yet to post a slugging percentage above .400 at any affiliate other than Missoula, and, well... that stint at Missoula doesn't say a lot. It's not that I don't think Helm is strong - he's well-built, listed at 6'1" and 210 pounds - but in watching him throughout the start of this year, he has shown difficulty in generating loft in the ball, beating pitch after pitch into the ground and squeaking out an extra-base hit or two every now and then when he manages to pull one down the third base line. If he can adjust his swing and begin generating that loft, he could truly take off, but this is now his third full-season in pro ball and he remains at Low-A - not an encouraging sign.
Darrah: 4 GS, 21 IP, 3.86 ERA, 23 H, 6:6 K:BB, 2 HR.
An eighth-round pick in the 2011 draft out of Fresno Pacific, Darrah posted solid peripherals in 2011 at Missoula and was hoped to follow in the footsteps of late-round picks before him like Michael Bolsinger, Chase Anderson, and Charles Brewer in dominating the Midwest League one year out of college. Unfortunately, after reportedly touching the mid-90's in college, Darrah has sat in the 80's all year for South Bend, showing little movement to boot. In all likelihood, it's simply a dead-arm period that Darrah is trying to pitch through, and it's hardly surprising to see this period of struggles crop up in the year after he left college baseball's abusive confines. Given his lack of movement, though, it's paramount that Darrah recovers his velocity if he's to have a shot at big-league value. Thankfully, recovering that missing velocity certainly is possible, especially as we're just four starts into the 2012 campaign.
Aguila: 15 G, .113/.145/.132, 1 2B, 16:1 K:BB.
If there is any threshold of performance under which a player can be judged reasonably after 53 at-bats, Aguila might be under it. I was interested to see Aguila could do in South Bend this year after hitting 12 home runs in the Pioneer League a year ago - catchers with power are always hot commodities, after all - but, well... once again. Unlike Helm, Aguila has loft in his swing, but he may actually have too much of it - he's hit into several infield pop-ups this year and his batting average on balls in play is hardly the result of bad luck. He's a decent receiver with a capable, but sporadic, arm behind the plate, so there's some raw ability to work with, but Aguila simply looks over-matched by Midwest League pitching.