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Arizona Diamondbacks Minor-league Review: Arizona Rookie League

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We come back to the continental US and start with the AZL, for whom a number of familiar faces appeared.

Baseball: Under Armour All-America Baseball Game David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

You could put out a decent line-up of players who appeared for the AZL D-backs this year while rehabbing. It’d be thin on the infield, but have a battery of Zack Greinke and Chris Herrmann, Chris Owings at shortstop, and an outfield of David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and Socrates Brito. That said, it hasn’t yet been a location through which many prospects pass; if you look at the 2011 or 2012 rosters, about the only names you’ll recognize are the rehabbees. This may simply be a function of youth: the team didn’t exist before 2011, and that year’s hitters had an average age of 18.7 (including 35-year-old Willie Bloomquist!), so even five years later, may still be in the minors.

Good examples are last year’s picks. AZL hitter, Jose Herrera moved up to Missoula, though was still a teenager for the entire 2016 campaign - even if everything goes well, it may well be 2020 or later before he sees a major-league roster. The switch-hitting catcher batted .277 for the Osprey, with a .789 OPS and a K:BB ratio of 27:15. Given the thinness of our prospects behind the plate, we’ll take it. 2015’s AZL pitcher, Emilio Vargas, split time between Low-A Kane County and High-A Visalia. The former went a lot better, with a 3.31 ERA and a K:BB ratio of 69:18 in 70.2 innings. For Visalia, the ERA was 7.80. However, he did still fan a batter per inning there, and won’t be old enough to drink until next August.

Hitting (min 100 PA)

  • Hits: Francis Martinez, 46
  • 2B: Paxton De La Garza, 12
  • 3B: Joey Rose, 4
  • HR: Juan Araujo, 7
  • RBI: Martinez, 30
  • SB: Gabriel Maciel, 11
  • BB: Myles Babitt, 16
  • SO: Araujo, 71
  • BA: De La Garza, 321
  • OBP: Babitt, .406
  • SLG: De La Garza, .477
  • OPS: De La Garza, .860

Paxton De La Garza was virtually an afterthought in the draft, going to Arizona in the 33rd round, with the 989th pick overall, out of Angelo State University in Texas - not exactly a draft powerhouse. But the middle infielder exploded on the pro scene, hitting so well in the AZL, he was promoted to Missoula - where he was even better, playing 25 games with a line of .394/.455/.636, and being named Arizona’s player of the month for August. However, as he played half of the AZL season, compared to only a third of the Osprey’s, we’ll honor him here. Keen to see what the middle-infielder does, presumably against a higher level of pitching, in 2017.

Elsewhere on the team, some other numbers stood out. Another late pick, 25th-rounder Myles Babbit showed good plate discipline, walking more times (16) than he struck out (14) in 109 PA. But there was a contrasting season for Andy Yerzy (above), the second player picked by the D-backs in this year’s draft. The young (he turned 18 in July) catcher started at Missoula, but was sent down to the AZL in July, after not drawing a walk in 18 games. Over his 27 subsequent AZL appearances, he batted below the Uecker Line, hitting .196 with a .475 OPS. He’ll have to improve to justify his $1.2 million contract, though speedy Brazilian prospect Gabriel Maciel was the only younger player on the D-backs roster.

Pitching (min. 20 IP)

  • Wins: Jay Muhammad, 5
  • Losses: Kai-Wei Lin, 5
  • ERA: Muhammad, 0.62
  • Sv: Muhammad, 4
  • K: Franklyn Soriano, 48
  • BB: Soriano, 27
  • WHIP: Muhammad, 1.138
  • K/9: Muhammad, 11.2
  • BB/9: Alex Gunn, 0.8
  • K/BB: Gunn, 10.5

The AZL D-backs didn’t get great pitching this year, with their collective ERA of 4.23 ranking them 11th in the 14-team Arizona Rookie League. Far and away the best ERA belongs to Jay Muhammad, so he gets the nod, even though a lot about his stats scream unsustainable. Allowing two earned runs in 29 innings of work, while fanning 36, is very good. But allowing 31 other base-runners who didn’t score is problematic, and in particular, he needs to get the walk-rate (6.2 per nine IP) significantly lower, if he’s to have sustained success.

Still, that ERA was less than one-fifth that of any other AZL D-backs pitcher with twenty innings of work. Best of the rest was starter Alex Gunn at 3.45, who does deserve credit for excellent control. In his 47 innings of work, he walked just four batters. Gunn was an independent ball pick-up, who had been with the Gary South Shore RailCats. His numbers here got him a late-season promotion to Kane County, where he made two starts, with a 3.00 ERA over 12 innings. He turned 25 earlier this month, so is "old for his age", and will need to keep moving up the ladder in 2017.