Schugel was one of the players to be named later in the Trumbo trade, coming from the Anaheim Angels - he was #12 on their prospect list before the start of the 2013 campaign. However, after leading his league in ERA for 2012, AJ hit a big road-bump last year after his promotion to Triple-A, with an ERA over seven in 19 starts for Salt Lake. But given he's a converted infielder, who hadn't pitched before 2010, you'd expect some struggles on the way. Already in Phoenix, and seems to be a bit of a golfer.
Headed back to AZ today. On a side note, most likely will be qualifying for the Phoenix open before spring training starts.— AJ Schugel (@Schug_Knight) January 18, 2014
He was a 40th-round draft pick for us in 2011, so the mere fact Simmons is getting an invite is a success [he did appears in a couple of games early last spring, allowing a run on three hits over an inning of work, but wasn't on the "official" list of invitees]. He put up good numbers at Visalia last year, with a 2.44 ERA in 55 appearances out of the Rawhide bullpen, though he turned 25 years old in June, which is perilously old for that level. But his K rate has been hellacious good throughout his minor-league career: in three seasons, it's 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings, although Simmons has also walked 4.3 per nine IP.
Stites will be getting his first taste of major-league hitters as a D-back, having come over from the Padres in the Ian Kennedy trade. Labeled as a potential future closer, Matt's 2013 campaign was derailed by emergency appendix surgery, and to catch up he worked in the Arizona Fall League. His first couple of games there were wobbly, but Stites then posted nine straight scoreless innings, allowing four hits with a 7:2 K:BB ratio, and was selected as a participant in the AFL All-Star game. Looking at our bullpen, there's no obvious spot immediately, but a good showing in spring could put him close to the top of the list for an in-season call-up.
A former second-round pick by the Cardinals, Todd has been nomadic since, being traded to Cleveland as a PTBNL in the Mark DeRosa deal, also playing for the Yankees, back again to the Cardinals and then the Tigers before signing as a free-agent with us in November. Has some experience in the show - 25 games, most recently in July 2010 with Cleveland - but it hasn't gone well, with a 7.62 ERA [third-worst among all active players with that many major-league appearances]. On Twitter, goes by the intriguing name of Swamp_Donkey28: I sense there's a story there somewhere.
Moving on to the left-handers who have been invited to camp, Chafin spent most of the year as a starter with Double-A Mobile, and went 10-7 with a 2.85 ERA over his 21 starts there. However, his strikeout rate dropped significantly, from 10/7 per nine IP at High-A, all the way to 6.2. That'll need to improve, though Chafin is still a little young for that level, having only had his 23rd birthday in June [average pitching age in Mobile last year was 24.1]. He had Tommy John surgery in June 2009, but came back without apparent issues - and, indeed, added velocity on his fastball. Here he is, talking about that recovery and his 2013 success, from November.
Our second effort to ensnare the Antipodean market had his 30th birthday over the weekend - appropriately enough, it falls on Australia Day, the anniversary of Captain Cook's fleet arriving near Sydney. Last seen in the majors at the end of 2010, he spent last year with the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate, and seems unlucky not to have been called up, given his 1.55 ERA over 52.1 innings there. Our siblings over at Lookout Landing had a fascinating interview with Rowland-Smith in August: they said, "There's remarkable insight here into the life of a professional baseball player that you wouldn't otherwise know," and I tend to agree.
Next up, probably on Saturday, we'll start to look at the position players whom we'll see at Salt River Fields.