- Rating: 7.00
- 2022 stats: 4 G, 24.1 IP, 1.48 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 1.110 WHIP, 24:7 SO/BB, 276 ERA+, 1.3 bWAR
- Date of birth: August 17, 1997 (25 years old)
- 2022 earnings: League minimum
- 2023 status: On 40-man roster, pre-arbitration, and contract tendered.
2022 in review
I’m fairly certain two September call-ups in the top ten is unprecedented. We already discussed Ryne Nelson, but he wasn’t the latest or highest-ranked debutant. Jameson did not appear until September 15, in game #143. That he appears so late into this series, says all you need to know about the performance of Drey Jameson. There’s a fair amount of similarity between Nelson and Jameson, beginning in their selection with consecutive D-backs’ picks in the 2019 draft. Nelson went #34, the last of Arizona’s first-round picks, while Jameson was the second-rojnd pick, #56 overall. Both then started their pro careers in Low-A Hillsboro, though Drey had a tougher time of it, with a 6.17 ERA over eight games, walking nine in 11.2 innings.
Their parallel development continued in 2021, when minor-league baseball resumed after the season lost due to COVID. Drey split time between Hillsboro, now a High-A affiliate, and Double-A Amarillo, earning his promotion a momth after Ryne. The results for Jameson were much improved, with a 3.98 ERA, and he entered 2022 as a consensus. top ten pick in the Arizona farm system. Pre-season evaluations included “an explosive arm that fits in extremely well for the modern game” (ProspectsLive), and “his repertoire depth, athleticism, and demonstrated ability to sustain big velo under a 100-plus inning workload have convinced us to project him as a starter” (Fangraphs).
Though he started this year off in Amarillo again, Drey only made four starts there before moving up to Reno. Much like Nelson once more, the raw numbers in Triple-A wee far from noteworthy. Over 21 starts and one relief appearance, Jameson had an ugly 6.95 ERA - high even by the inflated standards of the Pacific Coast League. But it proved a valuable learning experience for Drey:
“Reno’s taught me a lot about pitching. You have to pitch. It’s kind of a park in my eyes for location guys. So you’ve got some guys that can rare back and throw it and they’re gonna get outs. And you have guys that are location guys that don’t throw hard but they know exactly where the ball is going, they’re just dotting. And I’m learning that I don’t necessarily need to dot, but I need to be in a certain area.”
— Drey Jameson
That did little to diminish his prospect status. Writing in August, Theo Mackie said Jameson “might just have the highest ceiling” of all the D-backs’ pitching prospects, and noted that despite the ERA, his swinging strike rate on both fastball and slider would rank “in the top echelon of major-league starters.” Pitching co-ordinator Dan Carlson said of Drey, “He has all the things that you can’t teach guys. You can help guys improve their skills, but I can’t teach everybody to throw 100. I can’t teach everybody to get super sink on their fastball or nasty slide to their slider.” Slightly over three weeks later, Jameson was called up, and made his major-league debut - like Nelson, against the San Diego Padres.
You will not be surprised to hear that the results were similar too - arguably, better. For Drey shutout San Diego for seven innings, allowing a mere two hits and a walk. He struck out five, including Juan Soto twice, one being Jameson’s first major-league strikeout. He said after the game, “That was awesome. I can’t really talk about it because I don’t really know what to say about it. It’s just an experience that not many people get to do and I’m going to cherish every moment of it... I was getting ahead of guys. That’s big. And when I did fall behind, I relied on the sinker to get a ground ball or soft contact, and it worked out well. Just commanding the zone and not getting behind guys helps a lot with letting other pitches feed off that.”
His three starts which followed were not much less impressive. He bear the Dodgers in Los Angeles, then faced the Giants twice, recording a no-decision despite throwing 5.1 shutout innings, and a win with a quality start. In each of his first four games, Drey has not allowed more than two runs, the first Arizona starter to manage such a feat (unless you count Jarrod Parker, who did it in his solitary appearance here, then four more games with Oakland). While we didn’t see the 100 mph velocity he has sometimes delivered, he touched 98.9 mph, the hardest pitch thrown by an Arizona starter in 2022. Jameson led all of them, both in average fastball velocity and in swinging strike percentage.
There’s no reason why Jameson and Nelson won’t continue their career twin-dom, and compete for a starting job on the Diamondbacks next year. Along with fellow prospect Brandon Pfaadt, it seems likely one of them won’t make the Opening Day roster, and (presuming good health) that decision is likely going to be made late into spring training. In a straight contest, I’d give the edge to Drew over Ryne, due to the former’s better “stuff”. How that compares to Pfaadt, I can’t say, but having a plethora of impressive prospects to choose from is a pleasant position for the team to be in. We’ll see all three in 2023, that’s for sure, and if two develop into average starters, it’ll put Arizona in a spot they’ve not been in for a while.
For the Diamondbacks have not had a pair of “home-grown” pitchers i.e. drafted or signed directly by them, make even 15+ starts in a season since 2014, when Wade Miley, Josh Collmenter and Chase Anderson combined to make most of the team’s starts that year. There’s a good chance that streak will end in 2023, and if so, I think Jameson should be in the center of the group to do it.