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Braden Shipley to be the Arizona Diamondbacks #5 starter?

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The Diamondbacks will need a fifth starter in Milwaukee. We still have don't know for sure who that will be, but by a process of elimination, it looks likely to be Braden Shipley.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Previous starting pitchers

The Diamondbacks have used eight starters so far this season, but it seems very unlikely like it will be one of those who joins the rotation on Tuesday. In descending order of starts, here are those eight pitchers:

  • Patrick Corbin - in rotation
  • Robbie Ray - in rotation
  • Zack Greinke - on DL (oblique strain). Threw 20 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday, so no timetable for his return.
  • Shelby Miller - optioned to minors, July 14. Has made just the one start there, and surely won't be considered "fixed" enough to be recalled.
  • Archie Bradley - in rotation
  • Rubby De La Rosa - on DL (elbow soreness). Said to have "made some good strides" on July 19, but nothing concrete to report.
  • Zack Godley - in rotation
  • Edwin Escobar - optioned to Reno on Sunday July 17. Except in the event of a DL move, players have to be in the minors for 10 days before being recalled, so it does not appear he would be eligible to be recalled on Tuesday, as that's nine days after going down.
Elsewhere on the 40-man roster

Alternatives elsewhere on the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster are limited, with many of the pitchers there being relievers (Burgos, Bracho, Clippard, Curtis, Hudson, Koch, Leone, Marshall) and/or injured. One potential candidate in the latter group is Tyler Wagner, who made three long-relief outings, including getting the win for five shutout innings on April 21. But he has been mysteriously absent from action since May 13, sitting on the minor-league DL. I've not been able to find out any specifics, or a timetable for his return.

I wouldn't be surprised if the team decided to go with Josh Collmenter, who seems almost to have been working on a starter's schedule this month. His last two outings were July 15 and July 20, so the deeper we go into this weekend's series in Cincinnati without seeing him, the more possible this could be. Josh hasn't exactly been stretched out - his season-high isn't even 40 pitches - but we know all about his rubber arm. If this was just to be a spot-start, it might make sense. But we'll need another fifth starter at the end of the week, in Los Angeles.

Beyond the 40-man roster

As the above Tweet suggests, this appears to be the route the Diamondbacks are going. There's certainly room to cull dead wood from the 40-man roster; the presence of Dominic Leone on it proves that. The Reno Aces roster would be the most obvious place to look, though the ranks there were recently thinned with the signing of Kyle Drabek by the Giants. Where he's apparently going to try and become a shortstop. This probably gives you a good idea of how good his career as a pitcher was going, so I don't feel any enormous sense of loss at his departure from the organization.

Two members of the current Aces rotation have already been covered, in Miller and Escobar, and can likely be eliminated. The other three candidates are career minor-leaguer Matt Buschmann, and a pair of Diamondbacks' prospects, in Braden Shipley and Anthony Banda. All three would need to be added to the 40-man roster, as well as the 25-man one. Or added back, in Buschmann's case, since he appeared in three relief outings for the D-backs in April - ironically, being designated for assignment, to make room for Escobar.

He made it through waivers, and started Thursday night, tossing 8.2 innings. He also offers disposability, in that he could likely be DFA'd when Greinke or De La Rosa are ready, without major impact. However, his numbers for the Aces have been nothing special, even if the pitcher's 5.03 ERA needs to be seen in the same exaggerated PCL light as Tuffy Gosewisch's .952 OPS for Reno. On the other hand, a strikeout rate of 6.2 per nine innings is unspectacular. However, he can be crossed off, if, as it appears, the team is looking at using the fifth man on Monday, to give Corbin an extra day of rest.

Left-hander Banda seems an unlikely candidate too, due mostly to age and experience. He's still only 22 (his birthday is August) and he has four games with Reno, since being promoted from Double-A last month. Which would appear to make Monday the beginning of the Braden Shipley era.  The team does appear to have been trying to avoid promoting Shipley this year - there's no obvious other reason why the likes of Wagner, Escobar and Godley made it into the rotation before him. But injuries and ineffectiveness appear to have forced the D-backs hand at this point, and it looks like Shipley will be in the rotation, for at least the next few weeks.

Shipley thoughts

He was our first-round pick (#15 overall) in the 2013 draft, and is generally regarded as the top prospect in our farm system. He was the only player we had listed in Baseball America's mid-season top 100 rankings, coming in at #63, and has been in the top 100 for all three rankings systems (BA, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus) for the past three years. His ranking did appear to drop this year, but his 2016 campaign has been solid, with easily the best numbers put up by any Reno pitcher with 50+ innings. His 3.70 ERA there compares well to the PCL average ERA of 4.54, even without allowing for Reno's particularly hitter-friendly aspect.

it will be interesting to see how the team handles things. Looking forward to 2017, with good health being presumed, we appear to have Greinke, De La Rosa, Bradley, Corbin, Ray and Shipley, competing for five spots in the rotation. That would mean one person left on the outside. Minor-league options will clearly play a part, and it's difficult to imagine any scenario where Greinke isn't part of the mix, but the other spots appear open. A decent series of performances by Shipley, in his first major-league stint, would go a long way to staking a claim for one of those rotation places next season.