Every so often we’ll take a look at what’s happening down in the minors with the Arizona Diamondbacks. League-by-league, team-by-team, we’ll keep you in the loop on recent D’Backs minor league news and who’s hot at the moment. Before getting to the breakdown of each squad, here are some thoughts from a recent AZL game I took in over at Salt River Field on July 28th.
Starting Pitcher Dallas Newton came out of the gate firing. The 6’5” righty was selected in the 32nd round out of Pitt Community College (NC) in this year’s draft. Although his season totals are ugly, he was electric on the night I saw him, throwing his fastball and breaking ball for strikes, getting ahead of the hitters and then putting the righties away with the low-and-away slider. He flashed a changeup that was below average but with time could develop into a useful third pitch. He sat right around 90mph with the heater but the slider is what was devastating, racking up six strikeouts in just four innings, including striking out the side in the first.
Brad Keller, another right-hander, relieved Newton and was really the guy I had come to see. This was his first non-starting appearance of the season, but it didn’t seem to matter. His demeanor was that of a bulldog, attacking hitters with his 94mph heat from the first pitch. Keller is not a nibbler; he’d rather just challenge hitters straight up. An above-average changeup at 85mph kept hitters off balance while his slider is still a work in progress. It’s not often that a 18-year old pitcher develops the change before the breaking ball, but that’s just what Keller has done. I like this kid a lot as he has lots of “rig.”
On the field, second baseman Jamie Westbrook had a nice night, going 2-5 with a double, a triple and couple RBI. With a thick, powerful lower half, Westbrook rode a high fastball to the opposite 320ft. for a triple in a 2-2 count in the first. Despite being a two-strike count, he shortened up and went the other way, a very professional approach. Westbrook also turned a very quick double play up the middle in the fourth, showcasing a quick turn and strong arm. He’s a very good athlete with plenty of upside. I think there’s some power in there, too.
Outfielder Justin Williams was another player I came specifically to see. Arizona’s second-round pick in 2013, Williams is a big, powerful kid, standing 6’2” and he weighs in at 215. He’s a slow runner but has a powerful swing. It’s a little long and is leading to his nearly 25% strikeout rate. Professional coaching can change that, though, and he’s a player to keep an eye on as the bat speed and raw power potential are there. His HS pedigree was top-notch before he was selected. It’ll be all about the bat and how it develops as he is either a left fielder or first baseman down the line.
Now, enough with the AZL notes, let’s get to the rest of the organization’s minor leagues.
Reno Aces (46-71)
Hitter of the Week: Juan Rivera, OF
Yeah, that Juan Rivera. The one that used to play for the Angels. Apparently he’s been toiling down in Reno and doing so with relative success. In the last week he went 13 for 28 (.464) with a homer, two doubles and eight RBI. At this point, you know what you get in this guy and his status as a “prospect” is non-existent. His best bet is two Arizona outfielders get hurt and he gets another crack at the majors.
Runner Up: Tony Campana, OF
Similar to Rivera, Campana is a virtual non-prospect. He went 9 for 20 over the last week with a couple of doubles and four walks, three strikeouts and a steal. Again, he’s a fringy major leaguer at best, the kind of guy you can find all over Triple-A baseball.
Pitcher of the Week: Charlie Brewer, RHP
While taking his turn on the mound for the Aces last week, Brewer threw six scoreless innings, allowing only two hits. He walked two while registering six strikeouts for a dominating performance. His season has been very hit or miss as he’s rarely strung multiple good or bad outings together. He made a nice start for the Diamondbacks back in June and could be a back end starter down the road.
Runner Up: Joe Paterson, LHP
Paterson is basically stuck in purgatory. He can easily handle Triple-A hitters but has struggled each time he’s been called up to the bigs. Over three appearances last week he threw 3.2 innings and struck out three while only allowing two hits and a walk. His job was fully blocked when the D’Backs acquired Joe Thatcher. He may be in Reno to stay but is your prototypical quad-A player.
Mobile BayBears (61-51)
Hitter of the Week: Mike Freeman, 2B
Freeman was drafted out of college baseball powerhouse Clemson back in 2010 but has seen his stock steadily slip. He just turned 26 and is still in AA but put together a nice week, going 7 for 19 at the plate with a double, an RBI, two walks, one strikeout and a steal. Freeman is a future utility guy down the road who can run, if he makes the majors at all.
Runner Up: Ryan Court, 1B
First baseman Ryan Court also had a nice week, hitting 6 for 17 with two doubles, a home run, two RBI and five walks against five strikeouts. Although he’s 25, the former 23rd-round pick has been promoted twice already this year, from Single-A to High-A, then to AA where he is now. It’s been a nice campaign for him but he has a long ways to go and the clock is ticking. His best attribute is his on-base skills as he lacks the power you’d typically look for at first.
Pitcher of the Week: Archie Bradley, RHP
Bet you could have guessed that Bradley would be the pitcher of the week. On August 2nd, he threw a six-hit complete game without allowing an earned run. He struck out seven and walked only one, which was good to see given that he struggled with his command in the outing prior. There’s not much to say about the guy that hasn’t already been said. I’ll weigh in, though, and state that I hope he stays down for the rest of the year, as his command can still be an issue at times. That can be disastrous in the majors (e.g. Tyler Skaggs) and I’d rather see him polish his game down in Mobile and maybe even Reno.
Runner Up: Jake Barrett, RHP
This strong-armed righty has had a great year and notched three more saves last week. He didn’t allow a run over his three appearances (4 IP) and struck out four while walking only one. He’s generated fewer strikeouts since being promoted to AA, but continues to dominate. Look for him to see the majors sometime in 2014 if he continues to progress and the Arizona bullpen continues to struggle.
Visalia Rawhide (61-54)
Hitter of the Week: Jon Griffin, 1B
After struggling in Mobile, Griffin was sent back down to Visalia to regain his form. He did just that, going 5 for 13 with three home runs and eight RBI for the Rawhide in just four games. The 24-year old first baseman has seen his pop literally disappear this year, although if there were a place to find it, the California League would be the place. Look for him to get back with Mobile before the season’s over.
Runner Up: Tom Belza, LF
The 24-year old outfielder went 10 for 25 this week with a pair of doubles, six RBI, three walks and three strikeouts. Like Griffen, he’s old for his league and is in need of a promotion. Strikeouts have been a bit of a problem given his paltry power numbers and he may just be viewed as an organizational player at this point.
Pitcher of the Week: Andrew Barbosa, LHP
Up to his usual tricks, Barbosa limited opposing hitter to one hit and struck out seven over six innings on August 3rd. Oh, and he also walked five. It’s not often that you can walk five and not surrender a run, but that speaks to Barbosa’s stuff. It’s hard to hit but hard to throw for strikes. To me, that screams “reliever” down the road. At 25-years old, it may be time to make the conversion.
Runner Up: RJ Hively, RHP
Over three innings last week, Hively gave up three hits but struck out seven and only walked one. That’s efficient relief pitching. Hively was promoted from South Bend back in June and has been excellent all year. Like a lot of dominant relievers, he walks a few too many but strikeouts go a long way. He’s 24 and could see the majors as early as 2014 with 2015 more likely.
South Bend Silver Hawks (70-43)
Hitter of the Week: Socrates Brito, RF
You know the team is struggling at the plate when a guy who just went 5 for 20 gets hitter of the week honors. In that time, he’s racked up three doubles, three RBI, three walks and two steals. 21 next month, Brito’s best attribute is speed (23 steals) but he needs to speed up his development (you see what I did there?). Plate discipline appears the issue given his high strikeout rate and low walk rate.
Runner Up: Fidel Pena, 2B
Pena is another player who is still learning what a “walk” is. He’s 22 now but did go 7 for 25 over the last week with three doubles and three RBI. His 5/2 strikeout to walk ratio for the week actually reflects relative patience on his part. He’s trying to recapture his 2011 Pioneer League form as that was his best season to date. Time may be running out, though.
Pitcher of the Week: Brad Allen, RHP
Allen threw seven innings of shutout ball on July 30th, dominating Bowling Green hitters. He struck out five and walked one while scattering five hits. It’s been an up and down season for Allen who was signed out of independent ball over the winter. At 24, he needs to start putting together consistent outings or he may be a lost cause.
Runner Up: Henry Garcia, LHP
Making three appearances last week, Garcia pitched 5.1 innings and struck out seven while allowing only four hits. He’s had a nice season in the Midwest League after playing independent league ball last year. His control is incredible, as he’s walked only four batters over 5o innings this year. He’s 23 and could move quick if he keeps it up.
Hillsboro Hops (17-34)
Hitter of the Week: George Roberts, 1B
It’s been a rough year for Hops hitters as the offense has struggled mightily. Roberts got top honors after a 7 for 25 week in which he hit two doubles and accumulated four RBI. He struck out four times and didn’t walk. It’s been an unimpressive campaign thus far for Roberts despite his relatively “hot” week. At 23, he needs to be dominating this league or at least holding his own, which is not exactly the case.
Runner Up: Ryan Gebhardt, SS
Gebhardt put together a five-hit week, going 5 for 22 at the dish with a couple of RBI and four walks. He also struck out five times as 2013 has not been an easy transition for the Louisiana Tech alum. With virtually no pop and only one steal from a traditionally fast position on the field, the best I can say is that he doesn’t strike out much.
Pitcher of the Week: Aaron Blair, RHP
Blair, the Diamondbacks’ supplemental round pick in 2013 (36th overall), put together a nice start on July 31st. He went six innings and allowed only one earned on three hits while walking two and striking out three. Blair has been very effective this year in the Hillsboro rotation but I wouldn’t classify him as dominant. He could develop into a back end starter down the road and while his ceiling isn’t the highest, he has a high floor and should be useful for the Diamondbacks long-term.
Runner Up: Jimmie Sherfy, RHP
A dominant reliever in college, Sherfy is destroying short season hitters. Last week he pitched twice and was dominant in his two innings, striking out three and allowing only one hit. His pro debut has been very successful as he’s yet to give up a run in his first six innings while striking out eleven. Sherfy could move very quickly as a late-inning relief arm.
AZL Diamondbacks (18-18)
Hitter of the Week: Sergio Alcantara, SS
Signed as an international prospect in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic, Alcantara had a nice week going 7 for 20 with two doubles, a walk and two strikeouts. He looked good at short defensively when I saw him but he’s struggling some with the bat. Although he lacks pop, he has a good understanding of the strikezone, evidenced by his 24/27 strikeout to walk ratio.
Runner Up: Justin Williams, LF
Williams had a slow week by his standards, going 5 for 22 with a double, three RBI and three walks. He struck out six times, which appears to be the issue with him. The bat is real and it’s just going to be a matter of making some adjustments before he realizes his potential. High ceiling bat right here.
Pitcher of the Week: Dallas Newton, RHP
Don’t let Newton’s season line fool you, he’s been very good as of late, including the start I referenced above. He threw five scoreless on August 2nd and struck out six while surrendering three hits and a walk. At 6’5″ and 215-pounds, he’s a big kid who may add velocity down the line as he gets stronger. If he doesn’t stick as a starter, he can shift to the pen with his fastball/slider combo.
Runner Up: Tyler Toyfair, RHP
Toyfair pitched two perfect innings this week, striking out three, allowing no hits and walking none. That’s about all you can ask for from your relievers. Drafted in the 35th-round, Toyfair appears to be a steal at this point with 19 strikeouts in 15 innings and he’s only walked one all season. He’s another reliever to keep an eye on. With his performance, he could even be converted to a starter to maximize his value.
DSL Diamondbacks (24-28)
Hitter of the Week: Raul Santana, 3B
Santana has been on fire, going 9 for 15 over the week with three doubles, two triples, a homer and three steals. The 19-year old has some room to fill out his frame, so the power could increase as he grows. He’s having a nice pro debut in the DSL and should make the transition to the states next year. Keep an eye on him.
Runner Up: Fernery Ozuna, 2B
Ozuna had a nice week, going 6 for 20 with a double, two RBI, a walk and three steals. The switch-hitter has plenty of speed but is still learning to steal bases efficiently. Power’s not his game, but there’s some pop in the bat and given that he’s just 17, the future is bright for the Dominican signee.
Pitcher of the Week: Anthony Basora, LHP
Basora’s had a great week, making two starts for the DSL Diamondbacks and throwing 14 innings without allowing an earned run over the two outings. He struck out 11 over this span and walked none while scattering 11 hits. The 6’4″ lefty has had a good season, showing strong command and an ability to generate ground balls. He’s another youngster to follow.
Runner Up: Alvaro Soto, RHP
Effectively wild might be the best way to describe Soto, a kid who can rack up the strikeouts but is also guilty of issuing a bevy of free passes. Over the last week, he made two appearances, striking out six and walking two over three innings with one earned run allowed. Soto was a touted arm that the Diamondbacks signed in 2012 and as he learns to command his pitches, his stock could really take off.
Missoula Osprey (19-25)
Hitter of the Week: Jose Queliz, C
Queliz probably receives hitter of the week honors for the whole system after what he did on July 31st when he hit for the cycle. That was just part of a big week for the soon-to-be 21-year old, as he went 12 for 23 with two doubles, a home run, two triples and eight RBI with three walks and only two strikeouts. After an unimpressive 2012 campaign in the Dominican Rookie League, Queliz is doing work against Pioneer League pitching. He’s a kid to keep an eye on.
Runner Up: Chuck Taylor, RF
The 19-year old switch hitter put together a nice week for the Osprey, going 7 for 21 with three doubles, a home run, three RBI and five walks against four strikeouts. He’s having a decent season with Missoula so far and appears to have good contact skills but is lacking in the power department. At 19 and with the ability to put the bat on the ball, coaches will work with him to drive the ball more and take a few more walks at the plate.
Pitcher of the Week: Carlos Hernandez, RHP
On August 2nd, Hernandez had arguably his best start of the season, tossing 6.1 innings of four-hit, one-run ball. He struck out nine over that span while walking only two. He was good last year in the DSL and is following it up with a nice performance in the Pioneer League. At this point, it’s all about Hernandez throwing strikes and limiting the walks, which is normal for young pitchers with his kind of stuff.
Runner Up: Geordy Parra, RHP
Parra made three appearances last week, allowing no runs, one hit and striking out five. He’s had a very good year and at 19, he should be ready for full-season ball in 2014. Parra is yet another dominant young relief arm that can rack up the strikeouts and is ready for the next challenge.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading and feel free to drop us a comment! Be sure to bookmark Inside the ‘Zona and follow me and Ryan on twitter! We’ll have another minor league recap up soon. Go D’Backs!
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