As well as the entire 40-man roster, the Arizona Diamondbacks have invited twenty other players to spring training at Salt River Fields next month. These are a mixture of up and coming prospect and crafty veterans: some will be familiar, but others, not so much. Whle you should be aware of most names on the 40-man roster [though I’m still not sure what a Robbie Scott is, or why we have one...], we’ve had a regular feature as we approach spring of going through the non-roster invitees. Forewarned is forearmed, and this is that week, starting with some of the pitchers you’ll be seeing reporting to Scottsdale in little more than a fortnight.
One of our independent ball finds, Atkinson went undrafted in 2015 out of the University of Cincinnati, though given a 4.82 ERA in his senior year there, that isn’t too surprising. He then gave up professional ball entirely for a bit, working in their Medical Center as a patient services manager. However, the bug was merely dormant, and a year later he signed with the Evansville Otters of the Frontier League (the same league which also gave us Clay Zavada). His time there was short, striking out eight over 5.2 innings of one-hit ball before the Diamondbacks brought him back into the major-league pipeline.
It was his 2017 that got Ryan back on the radar, as he had 167 strikeouts over 141.2 IP at three levels, the most K’s by any D-backs prospect for the season. That got him his first spring invite, though his follow-up season proved rather rougher. In twenty starts for Double-A Jackson, Atkinson had a 5.25 ERA, and ended the season in the bullpen. The results there were better: a 1.38 ERA over 13 innings, though if he’s to progress further he needs to get the walk-rate down. Last year, Ryan walked 58 batters and hit eight more in 109 total innings, though the K’s were still there at 123. He turns 26 in May, so this season could well prove pivotal as to whether he follows Zavada all the way back to the majors.
Crichton’s path to spring training was rather more conventional, if injury plagued. Drafted by the Orioles in the 23rd round of the 2013 draft, he was sent to Arizona last April for cash considerations. He had a rough go in his major-league debut with the Orioles in 2017, his ERA being above eight. Crichton fared worse still out of the Aces’ bullpen last year, with a 10.13 ERA before going on the DL on May 19 with shoulder inflammation. He was eventually released in June, but was re-signed four days later, and eventually activated off the DL at the end of September. He’ll need to prove his health first. then try to live up to Mike Hazen’s comments at the time of his acquisition:
“He’s got a little power in his fastball -- mid 90s, got a little bit of a different look, a little lower [arm] slot. He’s got a good breaking ball. We’ve evaluated him for a while, and we like the contrast in styles and think he fits in depth-wise with what we’re trying to do.”
Rubby De La Rosa
I must confess, I’d almost forgotten about De La Rosa, given he last appeared at any level, pitching for Reno in August 2017. Rubby underwent his second Tommy John procedure on August 22nd that year (his first being back in 2011, when with the Dodgers), but was re-signed to a two-year minor league deal the following month. For 2019, that’s a heavily incentive-laden contract which gives him $750K if he makes the majors, plus up to $2.75 million in bonuses, as well as an early-season opt-out if he doesn’t make the roster. After two TJ procedures, it’s a longer shot, though even getting this invite suggests the recovery is going well enough to this point.
Fun fact. He led the Diamondbacks in wins for the 2015 season, with more victories (14) than Robbie Ray and Patrick Corbin combined for (11), over their 39 starts. Seems so long ago now...
Generally regarded as the team’s top prospect going into the 2018 season, he was the organization’s Pitcher of the Year for 2017, and made the top #100 overall lists for Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com. There was some thought he might make his major-league debut last year. but those hopes likely ended when Jon missed close to two months with right bicep tendinitis, extending an unfortunate history of arm issues (partly explaining why he dropped to the third round of the 2016 draft). That and a balky hamstring limited him to just 74 innings in 2018, though Duplantier got some of those back in the Arizona Fall League, where he threw 21.2 frames, with 32 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.32.
Jack watched the prospect there, and came away “very impressed,” though even at that point doubted Duplantier would be in the 2019 Opening Day rotation. The subsequent arrival of Merrill Kelly and Luke Weaver have likely pushed Jon down the depth chart, and the rise of Jazz Chisholm has knocked him of the #1 prospect throne. But if he stays fit, Duplantier should likely receive consideration when the team needs a replacement starter, as they almost inevitably will. As John Sickels wrote in August, “little question about his talent but durability still a significant question.”