We have reached the midseason point of the minor league season and some of the prospects have established themselves as keepers and others not so much. With the draft recently completed and the Diamondbacks adding 40 more players in addition to the July 2nd international signing period. This midseason report will cover the rising prospects, the prospects potentially falling out of favor, and a new established midseason prospect list from yours truly. The list likely won’t be released until after the MLB signing period deadline for the MLB Draft on July 15.
LHP Anthony Banda: Banda was one of the better pitchers in the Cal League in 2015, leading the lead in strikeouts and a solid strikeout to walk ratio of 152 to 39. That earned him a promotion to AA Mobile, where he’s been spectacular. His strikeout rate has jumped from 24.3% to 25.9% and has kept the ball in the park with a 0.47 HR/9 innings mark. He’s currently 6-2 with a 2.12 ERA and a FIP of 2.86 and has made a strong run of solid pitching over the last 6 weeks. With AA proving to not be a challenge for him, the Diamondbacks should significant up the difficulty for him and promote him to AAA Reno soon. Banda is looking more and more like a guy that can be a reliable #4 starter in the future.
LHP Cody Reed: The 2014 2nd round pick had a phenomenal start to the season in Class A Kane County. In 7 starts, he posted a 5-2 record with a 1.82 ERA in 39 2/3 innings along with a 55 to 3 strikeout to walk ratio. That earned him a promotion to the hitter-friendly California League where he’s holding his own but looks like the appropriate level for him to develop since he’s not dominating there yet. Reed has top of the rotation stuff when on, the biggest issues for him are conditioning and durability along with a development of a change-up. The Cal League should force that development a bit with breaking balls having less of an effect in the dry air and elevation in a lot of those parks.
RHP Archie Bradley: Archie Bradley has made significant strides this year and dominated in AAA Reno before an injury gave him an extended opportunity. Bradley has since developed into a power pitcher that can overpower lineups with a plus fastball and plus curveball (both grade above 65 on the scouting scale). The command is still inconsistent at the major league level, but when it’s working he’s very fun to watch pitch. In his last few starts, Bradley has hit a mental wall in the 5th inning after cruising so it’s something he needs to overcome in order to continue his development as a top of the rotation type pitcher. At his current level, he’s a passable #4 type guy.
RHP Braden Shipley: After a strong 2nd half last season, Shipley has done a great job in AAA Reno. It seems that the elevation has affected his stuff, but it’s also forced him to improve his command. While his strikeout rate dropped from 17.8% to 16.3%, he’s cut his walk rate in half to a microscopic 3.3% (K/BB ratio just under 5.00). Shipley offers a plus curveball and a plus change-up to go with a fastball that currently is above average but could project to being a plus pitch in the future. I’m not bullish on him becoming a top of the rotation guy unless something drastic happens, but I’m very bullish on him being a productive starter for the Diamondbacks in the near future. Shipley looks like a potential September call-up and could compete for a rotation spot in 2017.
IF Dawel Lugo: The Diamondbacks got a nice return for Cliff Pennington, although solid numbers in the Cal League can prove to be a mirage at more advanced levels. Overall, Lugo is hitting .281/.320/.447 with 9 HR while moving from his primary SS position to 3B for most of 2016. Lugo isn’t a big strikeout hitter or walks a lot, but he’s got solid tools across the board and the experience at 3B helps his development as a potential utility guy in the future. I’d probably have Lugo finish out the year in Visalia, but his overall batting line is very solid for a 21-year-old as well.
OF Mitch Haniger: Haniger was once referred as the superior prospect in the Gerardo Parra deal at the 2014 deadline, but has been overshadowed by Anthony Banda. Haniger had a down year in 2015 due to lack of playing time and was sent down to Class A Advanced Visalia so he could get at-bats. For 2016, Haniger posted a .294/.407/.462 line in 236 plate appearances in AA with 5 HR, 4 SB, a walk rate of 12.7% and a BABIP of .340. That earned him a promotion to AAA Reno, where Haniger is just mashing the baseball. Through 11 games, Haniger is batting .410/.489/.821 with 5 HR. Obviously he’s hitting the ball at an unsustainable pace, but I think he’s earned a cup of coffee with the big league team as they try to sort their outfield mix in the future. Haniger profiles as a 4th outfielder that can play all 3 positions while also start against LHPs.
RHP Jimmie Sherfy: Sherfy’s career stalled the last two seasons in AA Mobile and caused him to get demoted to Visalia to start the year. Sherfy quickly rebounded and got back to AA this year and is having the best season of his career right now. Command has always been the issue since his days in Oregon, but when he’s right he features a mid 90s fastball with a lot of life and one of the most devastating sliders you’ll ever see. In AA Mobile this year, he’s sporting a 0.54 ERA (1.98 FIP) and a 26/4 K/BB ratio and is striking out more than 40% of AA hitters. Sherfy is looking like a promotion candidate at the All-Star break now and should be appropriately challenged in AAA Reno where his command needs to be sharper in order to thrive.