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Diamondbacks Farm System Review: Starting pitchers

Is this the team’s area of greatest need?

Syndication: Arizona Republic
Feb 21, 2022; Scottsdale, Ariz., U.S.; Diamondbacks minor league pitcher Blake Walston
Michael Chow/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Oh my God, you came back for part 4! Rando D-Backs fan thoughts is getting a following...

This week we will look at starting pitchers! I imagine this is the number one interest section for most SnakePitters as it’s what wins championships and has recently become a talking point for the system as a whole. Unlike infielders and outfielders, there’s a smaller disparity of talent here. Partially because we lack a true top-tier prospect in this area right now and because the low end of these 13 names are still relatively viable options.

Once again, I need to say that all my predictions are based on Mike Hazen still being GM in 2025. I am a believer in his methods and I hope Kendrick shows more patience in his twilight years than he has in the past.

Without further ado:

Blake Walston (20) – Lefty

  • ERA 3.76
  • PITCHES PER IP 16.12
  • WHIP 1.24
  • Ks 117
  • BBs 33
  • Top 100 Lists: Baseball America (93)

Bio/2021 Recap: Certainly less impressive than some other arms in the system, Walston’s 2021 wasn’t bad by any stretch. His WHIP and Innings Pitched leave a bit to be desired, but the K/BB ratio is good and the Pitches per Inning Pitched are in line with others’. He needs to start finding his velocity though. If that doesn’t happen in 2022, he could start slipping in ranking and expectation.

What does 2022 have in store? Walston will start 2022 at High A most likely. With only 52.1 IP and an ERA over 4 there, he needs some extra time to percolate. But a promotion to AA should occur just like it did for Nelson/Jameson last year. Ideally, he is only about a year behind them in development. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors with an emphasis on AA.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Best and fairest judgement here: Walston will develop slower than the college arms have. This will mean he is perhaps just breaking into the majors in 2024/2025. He needs to develop his strength to truly reach the next level as a starter. But if he can, he can become that ace we are lacking currently. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ young uppity arm vying for regular starts.

Brandon Pfaadt (23) – Righty

  • ERA 3.21
  • PITCHES PER IP 14.76
  • WHIP 1.01
  • Ks 160
  • BBs 28
  • Top 100 Lists: The Athletic (87)

Bio/2021 Recap: I don’t think anyone rose through as many levels as Pfaadt did in 2021. He went from Low A to AA pretty much dominating the entire time. He struggled more at AA than the other levels, but also spent the least time there and was much older than the lower levels’ hitters. My favorite stat about Pfaadt is his Pitches per Inning Pitched. If you assume an average of 15, that’s 105 pitches to get through 7 innings: practically a lost art in modern times. Yet Pfaadt was below 15 in 2021 and still struck out as many hitters as Nelson!

What does 2022 have in store? Pfaadt will likely still play in AA to start 2022, but if he can utilize his defense and strikeout ability more effectively, I could see him being the first of the pitchers to make the majors. Even if not, he might be the most likely to see Reno of “the big three” just to see what he can do there. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors – Better than 50/50 odds at MLB time

What role playing in 2024/2025? Pfaadt’s floor is higher than his ceiling, so I’m not sure he has another gear to kick it into. Even if not though, he looks like a very serviceable rotation piece. He could end up being of the last true workhorses baseball sees for a long while. PREDICTION: MLB work horse starter (think number 2 guy in my piggybacking scenario – no second starter necessary).

Bryce Jarvis (24) – Righty

  • ERA 4.42
  • PITCHES PER IP 15.85
  • WHIP 1.23
  • Ks 89
  • BBs 30
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Jarvis was the first round pick in 2020 for the team. He signed under value (always a plus in ownership’s mind) and that saved money went to other picks. He shot up draft boards, which isn’t always a bad thing, although the sustainability of his success is more questionable than a typical first round starter. With that in mind, his 2021 don’t light up the boards, but also aren’t so awful to start worrying. He technically saw three levels (ACL, A+, and AA), but he only pitched 3 innings at the ACL. Amarillo was easily his roughest stop for the year, but there is a consensus belief that the quality of players is much higher at AA, so give him some time.

What does 2022 have in store? Jarvis will start at AA. Certainly we should all be looking for an ERA in the 3-4 range, but for a 24-year-old, Pitches per IP might be more interesting along with WHIP and K/BB ratio. If he does well, the team might send him to Reno just to see what he has learned from struggling the last couple years. Technically an MLB preview is possible, but given the injury and ineffectiveness setbacks he’s had, he’d need a pretty excellent season to make that happen. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors with a small change of MLB time.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Ideally Jarvis hits his ceiling and he’ll be a rotation mainstay by 2024/2025. His absolute ceiling is that of a guy you trust to take the ball every five days and have a better than even chance at a win. That said, given his history in pro ball, he may end up a trade candidate to bolster the MLB team. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ 3-5th “PiggyBacking” starter (think number 4/5 guy or swingman)

Corbin Martin (26) – Righty

  • ERA 5.93
  • PITCHES PER IP 19.35
  • WHIP 1.83
  • Ks 30
  • BBs 19
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: If you are unfamiliar with Corbin Martin, I envy you. He was touted as the centerpiece of the Greinke to Houston trade. At the time he was a TJS tarnished top prospect. With Arizona he’s only experienced more injuries and ineffective innings. 2021 was not pretty no matter how you look at it. But thankfully, we know that it can take 3 full seasons for a young guy to blossom in the Big Leagues, and Martin has a grand total of 35.1 MLB innings.

What does 2022 have in store? Given Martin’s age, his ceiling is lower than it was just a year or two ago. If he comes out in Spring and plays well, he could be in the Arizona rotation to start the year. He would be fighting with Luke Weaver for that final spot. If he loses out, the Reno rotation is likely. But rest assured, health permitted, he’ll play in Arizona regularly. PLAYING IN 2022: MLB – Exhausts his prospect status in the rotation.

What role playing in 2024/2025? In a few years, Martin will need to have seen some health and effective growth as a pitcher to still be relevant given the depth that has surpassed him. But assuming good things, he could still be a rotation piece for the team. That said, he’s also a possible trade candidate. PREDICTION: I’m going to stick with the optimism because Houston had success with pitchers and we now have Stromm to help him out. I predict Martin gets traded around 2023/2024 as a controllable arm to either bolster a surprise contender or refill the middle-range of the farm system... I had to flip a coin between optimistic trade bait and pessimistic bust though.

Drey Jameson (24) – Righty

  • ERA 3.98
  • PITCHES PER IP 15.72
  • WHIP 1.21
  • Ks 145
  • BBs 36
  • Top 100 Lists: theAthletic (84)

Bio/2021 Recap: Jameson also had a pretty darn good first full season of pitching in 2021. He also ended the year with Amarillo, and his K/BB ratio is my favorite stat for the year. Sound familiar? He doesn’t quite of the velocity Nelson showed, but it’s so close its almost a crime to claim there is a difference.

What does 2022 have in store? Much like Nelson, Jameson’s 2022 could look less aggressive than 2021 did to protect his arm. Allowing him to develop as a starter but taste the majors as a reliever can add innings to the arm overall, without putting him through the hell that is Reno and still managing any effects of the lost 2020. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors – Better than 50/50 odds at MLB time.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Jameson needs only prove himself against more refined talent. He’s going to get that opportunity until he fails. He has every chance to become a number 2/3 guy you can reliably ask to take the mound every 5 days. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ 1.5 “PiggyBacking” Starter (number 3/4 guy)

Edwin Uceta (24) – Righty

  • ERA 4.55
  • PITCHES PER IP 18.00
  • WHIP 1.35
  • Ks 40
  • BBs 13
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Uceta played in the Dodgers’ system in 2021. Boo away my friends, boo away. But they designated him for assignment in October and we swooped in to grab him. He pitched poorly for the MLB affiliate in LA, but had ok-enough numbers at AAA Oklahoma City. Do not get me wrong: I’m not saying he’s going to become your new favorite player by any means. But he struggled with a lot of injuries and was one the bus to and from Los Angeles regularly throughout the system.

What does 2022 have in store? I feel confident Uceta will start 2022 in one of two spots: Reno’s rotation or Arizona’s Bull Pen. Hopefully he can learn from his 2021 experience, but I don’t know how hopeful I can be about that at this point. For his sake, I anticipate more stability being in his favor. PLAYING IN 2022: MLB – Exhausts his prospect status in the bullpen.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Honestly I don’t see him playing in Arizona a couple years down the line. Unless he has a total turnaround, there shouldn’t be room for him on the future roster. But he certainly has the stuff and experience to be a longman/swing man for an MLB team. PREDICTION: Playing for either a rebuilding club or a fringe contender as a bottom tier starter.

Humberto Mejia (24) – Righty

  • ERA 5.12
  • PITCHES PER IP 16.84
  • WHIP 1.42
  • Ks 100
  • BBs 37
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Poor Mejia has not had a good couple seasons. He got the emergency MLB call-up in Miami in 2020 before coming to Arizona in the Starling Marte trade. Then he had to pitch in Amarillo, Reno, and Arizona during 2021. Not an ideal situation for any guy. His numbers are therefore eye-opening in the wrong way. However, he has managed to learn from his MLB experiences thus far, and still has potential to be an innings eater or swingman.

What does 2022 have in store? Mejia may start in the MLB bullpen in 2022 unless the organization really likes him as a full-time starter. If he does start in Arizona, he could become a well-known name out of the arm barn. Otherwise he may just receive call ups when injuries happen. PLAYING IN 2022: MLB – Exhaust his prospect status in the bullpen.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Despite my prediction that Mejia is a reliever, for now, he’s presented as a starter in most prospect lists. I’m going to stick with my own thought process though and say by 2024/2025 Mejia is a mainstay bullpen guy similar to Randall Delgado. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ Arm Barn Regular

Joe Elbis (19) – Righty

  • ERA 3.52
  • WHIP 1.10
  • Ks 59
  • BBs 7
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Elbis is an international signee from Venezuela in 2019. He played 2021 at the ACL and Low A. He did fairly well at both locations. He is young and raw, but he has some great early showings. While his opponents have been just as raw as he is, his Pitches per Inning excite as does his K/BB ratio.

What does 2022 have in store? Elbis will likely start at Low A. But an early promotion to High A is feasible if he begins hot. And a late season upgrade to AA would be on the table as well in that scenario. Conversely, Elbis has a lot of risk as a 19-year-old and the team may take is slowly with him the way they have with Walston thus far. PLAYING IN 2022: No shot at MLB time, likely lower minors (low/high A).

What role playing in 2024/2025? In a couple seasons, we could be anticipating Elbis’ debut. Whether that’s as a true frontline arm/top prospect type is uncertain, but possible. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ depth starter or swingman who will be shuffled to and from Reno regularly.

Matt Tabor (23) – Righty

  • ERA 5.87
  • PITCHES PER IP 15.49
  • WHIP 1.32
  • Ks 96
  • BBs 39
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Tabor’s numbers don’t do his 2021 justice. These stats are heavily skewed toward his 32.1 innings at Reno, which were horrendous. But against less developed hitters he did quite well. Growing pains happen. The best pitchers experience them. Nonetheless, he is 23 years old and ended the year very down.

What does 2022 have in store? I don’t know what kind of stats the team uses to choose where a prospect plays in a year. But a drop back to Amarillo (AA) wouldn’t really surprise me to renew some confidence. But he should spend most of the year in Reno to prove he can continue to get advanced bats out. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors with an emphasis on AAA; small chance of an MLB debut.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Tabor can easily regain his lost stock and rise again to meet his newest challenges. He has the strike throwing ability to be a starter. Given the depth pieces that have surpassed him, he may not be super relevant at this point, but don’t rule him out. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ 6-8 “PiggyBacking” starter (think swingman/spot starter).

Ryne Nelson (24) – Righty

  • ERA 3.17
  • PITCHES PER IP 16.43
  • WHIP 1.09
  • Ks 163
  • BBs 40
  • Top 100 Lists: theAthletic (74) & Baseball America (96)

Bio/2021 Recap: Nelson had a good first full season in 2021. So good in fact, he’s put himself on the map of Top 100 lists and ended up on the top of the Diamondbacks’ pitching prospects (albeit by minimal margins). All of my chosen stats from pitchers are good for Nelson, but the K/BB ratio is most exciting personally.

What does 2022 have in store? He’s likely to start 2021 in AA, where he finished last season. I don’t know if the team will be as aggressive with him this year as they were last. And I don’t know if they will put him through the gauntlet of AAA Reno if he shines in Amarillo. Both are likely scenarios (he promotes to AAA early in the season), but there’s a chance he just does his thing in Amarillo and has a later promotion straight to Phoenix after the trade deadline. This could help him develop while not overloading the arm with extra innings. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors – Better than 50/50 odds at MLB time.

What role playing in 2024/2025? There’s a universe where Nelson is the heir apparent to Gallen as our number 1.5/2 starter. I don’t know how realistic that is to put on his shoulders after a single full season of ball, but man was it a season to dream on. Realistically I think a solid number 3 guy with spurts of excellence seems likely. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ top “PiggyBacking” Starter (number 3 guy)

Slade Cecconi (22) – Righty

  • ERA 4.12
  • PITCHES PER IP 15.98
  • WHIP 1.24
  • Ks 63
  • BBs 20
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: 2021 was not super kind to Cecconi. He struggled with injuries and failed to get hitters out too often. He still managed to strikeout more than a batter an inning and keep his Pitches per Inning Pitched under 16 (a mark of a 6 inning outing). Those are good signs that hopefully some health can help build on this year. He also played in the Arizona Fall League, but didn’t really shine there either.

What does 2022 have in store? Starting the season in High A is likely. It’s where he played all of 2021, but he needs more development there. A promotion to AA isn’t unlikely though. He and Walston will hopefully become a dynamic duo together playing on the same team. That type of buddy competition can be huge in development (see Tigers’ prospects Torkelson and Green). PLAYING IN 2022: Upper level of the minors with an emphasis on AA.

What role playing in 2024/2025? There’s a good chance Cecconi develops into a top of the line arm. He already has the velocity for it. All he needs is to put it all together. Remaining healthy should do a lot of the heavy lifting in this regard. Because he already has the speed, I think he develops a tad faster than Walston. PREDICTION: Budding ace of the Roaring 20s Baby Backs.

Tommy Henry (24) – Lefty

  • ERA 5.21
  • PITCHES PER IP 17.10
  • WHIP 1.46
  • Ks 135
  • BBs 53
  • Top 100 Lists: N/A

Bio/2021 Recap: Unfortunately for Henry, 2021 in AA was not as nice to him as it was to other pitchers in the rotation. He spent the entire season there (his first full season of pro ball). He did however strikeout a good amount of guys and his pitches per inning pitched aren’t outrageous at 17.10, but doesn’t leave a whole lot of leeway come better batting eyes.

What does 2022 have in store? Henry should begin 2022 back at AA. Provided he can walk fewer guys and prevent runs at a better rate, he’ll get promoted. Whether that’s to Reno or Arizona I’m not sure. Could go either way. And there’s no knowing how many young pitchers the front office is willing to give a taste of the majors to this year. PLAYING IN 2022: Upper levels of the minors with a small chance of MLB time.

What role playing in 2024/2025? Tommy Henry is the type of guy my piggybacking idea would really help. He probably has enough in the tank to go 4 innings on a regular basis, but the current system could make him a reliever if he can’t hit 5 regularly. I think he has it in him to be a starter. PREDICTION: Roaring 20s Baby Backs’ 4-6th “PiggyBacking” starter (think number 5 guy or swingman).