In one of the least surprising moves of the season so far, the D-backs have finally decided it’s time to promote top pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt, and he will make his major-league debut tomorrow afternoon against the Rangers in Texas. The Republic’s Nick Piecoro was the first to report the news, Tweeting “Diamondbacks prospect Brandon Pfaadt is here in Texas in advance of his major league debut tomorrow.” The move has been anticipated by fans, even since before Opening Day, when Pfaadt arguably had the best performance of any of the Arizona starting pitching prospects, yet was stashed away in the minor leagues in favor of Drew Jameson, Ryne Nelson and, later, Tommy Henry.
However, the unexpected success of the D-backs over the first month - they currently sit tied for first in the NL West - may have forced the team’s hand. I suspect the original plan, in the expected season of non-contention, was to do with Pfaadt what they did with Corbin Carroll. Which would be, keep his rookie status intact for the following season, in the hope of being able to cash in on the bonus draft picks now awarded for the top Rookie of the Year finishers. However, Zach Davies is injured, Madison Bumgarner has gone and the three young prospects are all underperforming. As Jack noted, everyone outside Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly has combined for a 7.05 ERA and 6.06 FIP over their 17 starts.
As the departure of Bumgarner shows, despite being owed $32 million, the team is demonstrating a zero-tolerance policy for poor performance this year. The arrival of Pfaadt shows this again, and that the team is now clearly in a “win now” mode, rather than being prepared to see how the young pitchers develop, at the expense of the season’s W-L record. Everything indicates Pfaadt will be an upgrade over what we’ve had in those 17 starts, not that an improvement is exactly difficult. The team will need to open up a 40-man roster spot for Pfaadt. How they’ll do so is uncertain. Depending on progress, moving Carson Kelly to the 60-day IL is possible or one of the back-end pitchers like Peter Solomon could be DFA’d.
What might we expect from Pfaadt? Over 15 starts for Triple-A Reno, he has had a stellar 3.00 ERA, with a K:BB of 104:20 across 87 innings of work. Considering the league average ERA in the Pacific Coast League is almost twice that of Pfaadt (5.88), then you can see why hopes are high that Pfaadt should be able to be at least a league average pitcher in the majors, even coming fresh off the bus from Reno. That would definitely help to stabilize the D-backs rotation for the next couple of weeks, until Davies returns, with the best of Henry, Jameson and Nelson then occupying the fifth and final spot in the rotation. It’s just a shame the team missed out on six starts from our top prospect... Still, hindsight is 20/20!