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Young arms impress at Diamondbacks’ minor league camp

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Arizona has stockpiled pitchers, many of whom are developing in Scottsdale.

Photo taken by Jared Ravich

The Arizona Diamondbacks have stockpiled pitching prospects in recent years, and it’s starting to unfold at their alternate training site.

Blake Walston, Levi Kelly, Luis Frías, Corbin Martin, J.B. Bukauskas and Josh Green are just some of the notable names developing in Scottsdale this season. Arizona has targeted pitching in the draft and via trades, and it’s developed a deep farm system with depth on the mound.

“The amount of arms we have in the lower to mid levels is really impressive,” Diamondbacks farm director Josh Barfield said. “We’re excited to see how they grow and they’ve done a good job up to this point.”

Arizona used four of its five selections on pitching in the 2020 MLB Draft. The D-backs drafted Duke right-hander Bryce Jarvis No. 18 overall and picked Miami right-hander Slade Cecconi No. 33 overall in the Competitive Balance A Round. They followed it up with prep lefty Liam Norris No. 90 overall and right-hander Brandon Pfaadt in the fifth round.

The new rookies join a D-backs’ farm system highlighted by outfield and pitching depth. Barfield said the organization has kept an open eye on taking the best player available, which has translated to a bevy of young arms in the minors.

“You always need pitching and we’re just keeping our options open,” Barfield said. “We try to draft the best players available and those happen to be pitchers who turned out to be really good.”

The Diamondbacks’ young talent climbed up the minor league ranks last season. Walston, a first-round pick 2019, made three starts with Class A Single-Season Hillsboro in his first year. Kelly, 21, was thrusted to Low A Kane County and posted a 2.15 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 126 strikeouts in 22 starts.

As more pitching prospects make leaps in development, it adds more depth to the organization as a whole. Barfield is hopeful several of the D-backs’ prized arms can continue to grow on the hill.

“Having so many young guys like that, it’s crucial to take the time to have them develop out there,” he said. “Playing against older guys in a different environment like this can help.”

Time will tell if Arizona’s younger pitching prospects make their MLB debut. It is unlikely that most of the organization’s top prospects don the Sedona red this season, but the future looks for Walston, Kelly, Frías and others as they continue to polish their repertoire .

While younger prospects develop, several pitchers in the system can be major league contributors on the mound. Martin, 24, posted a 5.59 ERA in five starts with the Houston Astros last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He was one of four prospects dealt to the Diamondbacks in the Zack Grienke trade deadline acquisition last year.

Jon Duplantier made his MLB debut with Arizona last season, posting a 4.42 ERA in three starts and 15 total appearances. Duplantier, 24, was assigned to the D-backs’ alternate training site on July 19.

Green, 25, is another player who could make his big league debut in the near future. The right-hander finished 2019 with a 11-5 record and 2.71 ERA over 126.1 innings and 22 starts with High-A Visalia and Double-A Jackson.

With an even mix of intriguing pitching prospects, the D-backs’ farm system keeps growing by the year.

“It’s great to see it all come together here,” Barfield said. “We’ll just have to wait and see what we have in store as an organization.”