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Anthony Banda to make MLB debut for Arizona Diamondbacks tomorrow

It’s a spot start in place of the paternity-absent Taijuan Walker, but will hopefully be the first of many.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Taijuan Walker’s absence has thrown the D-backs’ starting pitching for a bit of a loop this week. Some of the slack could be managed thanks to Monday’s off-day, with Patrick Corbin bumped up a day, but still starting yesterday on his usual rest. The same goes for Zack Godley tonight. But it now looks like Walker won’t be returning tomorrow as hoped, so the team does need to find a fifth starter who can take the mound on a one-off basis.

Initially, it looked like the team might go with Matt Koch, who was called up from the minors to take Walker’s spot on the roster, and who had some success in a couple of spot starts last season. But it was just announced that tomorrow will instead be the debut of the Diamondbacks’ top pitching prospect, Anthony Banda. He was originally a D-backs draft pick in 2011, when the team took him in the 33rd round. But he didn’t sign for the team, and instead became a Brewer when Milwaukee selected him in the 10th round the following year. Arizona finally got their man at the 2014 trade deadline, getting him and Mitch Haniger from the Brewers for Gerardo Parra.

Since then. Banda has progressed nicely. He was the only Diamondbacks’ prospect to appear on any of the major top 100 prospect lists this year, coming in at #88 on Baseball America’s pre-season rankings. This season, he has made 18 starts in Triple-A for the Reno Aces, going 7-5 with a 5.08 ERA, and a K:BB ratio of 93:43 over 101 innings. His last start was on Monday against Salt Lake, and resulted in an ugly line of 15 hits and seven earned runs over five innings, though a .577 BABIP on the day, certainly did Banda no favors. Here’s what John Sickels of Minor League Ball had to say about Anthony before the season:

Smooth 6-2, 190 pound lefty with fastball at 90-94, peaks at 96; very good curveball out-pitch; change-up is mediocre; general control is ahead of his command to specific spots within the strike zone but he’s made progress and will be ready for a trial soon. Upside: number three starter.

We’ll see how it goes. He’ll be facing a stern task, in the shape of the division-leading Washington Nationals, for whom Tanner Roark will be taking the mound. But we’ve seen D-backs’ pitchers surpass all expectations in their major-league debut before. Although this case seems all but certain to be a one-and-down for Banda, a good performance, however, could improve his chances of being called up again should the need arise for future spot starts. And of course, there will be decisions to be made about the 2018 rotation along the road, particularly involving whether to retain the services of Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin.