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Diamondbacks Minor League Season in review: Missoula Osprey

We move into the formal section of the system, with our first look at an actual franchise, the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League.

The Missoula Osprey won it all, defeating the Idaho Falls Chukars in the Pioneer League championship, to take the title for the fourth time in team history, despite an apparent piece of beaver sabotage.

  • Team record: 45-31 (1st of four)
  • Runs scored: 314 (4.13 per game)
  • Runs allowed: 292 (3.84 per game)
  • Age: 20.4 (league average: 20.8)
  • BA: .267 (.278)
  • OBP: .356 (.352)
  • SLG: .428 (.322)
  • OPS: .784 (.774)
  • SB/CS: 98/45 (102/43)

While hitting below league average, the Osprey made up for that with more walks than anyone else in the league (11.3% rate compared to 9.2%). They also showed excellent power, their 65 home-runs tied for most with Grand Junction, who play about 1,400 feet above Missoula. Despite this, the team went the entire season without once getting an intentional base on balls! They did strike out at an above-average rate, 22.6% compared to 20.4%, but worth noting that only the Helena Brewers were (fractionally) younger than the Osprey this season. Speed was a bit weak, and a stolen-base rate of 68.5% could have been better.

Leaders (min 100 PA for rate stats)
  • Runs: Austin Byler (59)
  • Hits: Isan Diaz (98)
  • 2B: Diaz (25)
  • 3B: Diaz (6)
  • HR: Byler (15)
  • RBI: Byler (57)
  • BB: Byler (50)
  • K: Byler (67)
  • BA: Diaz (.360)
  • OBP: Diaz (.436)
  • SLG: Diaz (.640)
  • OPS: Diaz (1.076)
  • SB: Matt McPhearson (30)

As you can guess from the numbers above, it was a story of two players as far as the offense was concerned: 1B Austin Byler and SS Isan Diaz. Byler was an 11th-round pick this June, having dropped from the 9th round in 2014. He's a Peoria native, but the season was marred by the recent news of a 50-game suspension for amphetamine abuse. We hope he has learned his lesson. Diaz, who turned 19 in May, was a revelation, after only a .619 OPS in the AZL the previous year, making a huge impression. While C/DH Luke Lowery (.858 OPS) and RF Jason Morozowski (.848) also made a good impression, the MVP for Missoula has to be Isan Diaz.

  • Age: 20.8 (21.3)
  • ERA: 4.27 (4.84)
  • WHIP: 1.369 (1.503)
  • K/9: 9.2 (8.2)
  • BB/9: 3.3 (3.7)
  • K/BB: 2.82 (2.22)

Above-average numbers in just about every area here, which is particular impressive when the Osprey's pitching staff was the youngest in the Pioneer League. The K numbers were particularly strong, with a K-rate 0.5 better than the next highest team, averaging better than a batter per inning, and posting the best figure by any team in the league since 2012. The walk rate was also good, with only one side allowing fewer bases on balls than Missoula. Finally, the defense did their part too, with a league low figure of 62 earned runs, sixteen below league average, again trailing just one team in overall fielding percentage. The 35.0% caught stealing rate was also ranked #1.

Pitching leaders (min 25 IP for rate stats)
  • Wins: Rodrigo Takahashi (8)
  • Losses: Anfernee Benitez (6)
  • ERA: Keegan Long (0.68)
  • Saves: Dan Savas (14)
  • K: Benitez (78)
  • BB: Takahashi (30)
  • WHIP: Long (0.788)
  • K/9: Cody Clark (14.6)
  • BB/9: Cameron Smith (1.2)
  • K/BB: Smith (8.86)

A lot of solid numbers here, from 18-year-old Brazilian Rodrigo Takahashi's 8-1 record, all the way through to Cody Clark striking out 48 batters in only 29.2 innings of work. A startling seven different Missoula pitchers throw 20 innings or more, with a K-rate of better than 10 strikeouts per nine IP - and, equally important, none of them had a walk rate of higher than 3.4 per nine IP. Long and Savas were rock-solid at the back of the bullpen, but the most impressive overall numbers and our award at this level go to Cameron Smith. While a bit old for the level, at 22, you can't complain about a K:BB ratio of 62:7 in 53.2 innings, or his 1.68 ERA. Keen to see what he does next year, against tougher opposition.