If you were with us last fall, you likely caught a few of these features and they’re back for the 2014 season. It’s never too early to look to the future, especially when you’re winning percentage is where it is for the Diamondbacks. So we’ll be checking in on the D’backs minor leagues all throughout the season, highlight the recent top performers at each level and passing along anything noteworthy. Without further ado, let’s dive right in!
The Silver Hawks are off to a solid start to the 2014 campaign. They’ve scored runs at a middle-of-the-pack rate but the pitching has been solid. There are plenty of high averages thus far, including those by Joe Munoz and Jamie Westbrook, two guys that made our top-30 prospects last winter. Andrew Velasquez has been hot of late and while he’s not regarded as guy expected to become a strong hitter, he’s doing what he can to turn that around.
Of note, converted outfielder Stryker Trahan is off to a tough start, hitting just .213/.231/.410 so far. Yes, it’s early and he’s learning to play the outfield, but the continued swing-and-miss in his game (22 K’s, 2 BB’s) is perhaps starting to appear troubling.
On the mound, Aaron Blair has been solid despite an ERA just over 4. He’s been fly ball prone in his last two starts, but it’s hardly anything to be concerned about just yet. He was recently joined by top pick from the 2013 draft Braden Shipley who was delayed by a minor shoulder issue. He was solid in his debut, pitching five scoreless with 4 K’s and a walk. The Silver Hawks’ bullpen has been particularly good with several pitchers yet to give up a run on the young season. Daniel Gibson, however, has struggled a little bit as he’s issued 5 BB’s in 6.2 innings while striking out nine.
All of the focus is on Blair and Shipley for this team from a prospect standpoint and it’s nice to see them off to solid starts. I would fully expect them to both see Visalia, if not Mobile at some point this season.
Visalia is hitting and pitching well to start the season and they’ve got the record to back it up. As you’d expect, the offensive numbers are somewhat gaudy across the board given the way the CAL league can inflate offense. The outfield combo of Marzilli and Brito has been excellent in their last ten games, balancing a bunch of hits with good plate discipline. Both are intriguing prospects worth following in a system that’s largely devoid of talented outfielders.
Highly-regarded prospect Brandon Drury is adjusting well to High-A as he leas the team in total bases. He’s tied for the team lead in homers with three and is tied for the league lead with seven doubles. After raking 50 (!) two-baggers last year, the power appears to be for real.
Just as the CAL league is great for hitters, it’s often tough for pitchers. Andrew Barbosa was assigned to the Rawhide to start the year after pitching there all of last season. Repeating the level isn’t encouraging for the older prospect, but his 28:6 K:BB rate suggests he’s hungry for AA. His call up is probably a matter of time even if he isn’t much of a prospect. Jimmie Sherfy has been electric as the team’s closer and appears to be just mowing down hitters. He should see AA relatively soon and should be a very fast riser.
Spencer Arroyo has been fantastic as of late and Brandon Sinnery has been good in the rotation. My favorite non-prospect on this team is Henry Garcia, who continues to be a very good lefty out of the bullpen. He’s probably an org player, but who knows?
Despite ranking third to last in runs scored and runs allowed in their division, the BayBears have a winning record. Regression would suggest that it won’t last for long, but a turnaround could start any day.
Offensively, the individual performances reflect the trouble scoring runs. There are few truly standout performances, but shortstop Sean Jamieson has been hot over his last ten games. He carries more of a defensive profile with him but his OPS has been solid lately. Top hitting prospect Jake Lamb has shown continued power after moving up to AA to start the season. Of his 12 hits on the season, seven have gone for extra bases including three home runs. Strikeouts will always be a part of his game and his 20 K’s lead the team on the young season. He needs to show a little more patience if he’s going to continue climbing the minor league ladder successfully.
On the mound, Chase Anderson has been excellent as the team’s top starter. In his last two starts, he’s taken two tough luck losses while striking out 13 and walking only two. His dominance is hardly a surprise, however, as he spent all of 2013 at AA and was sent down to begin the season. It’s likely a matter of time before he finds himself back in Reno. Relief pitcher Blake Cooper has been excellent, giving up only one run on 8.2 innings this season while generating a ton of ground balls. It’s a return trip to Mobile for him and he continues to show solid if not outstanding performance.
More well-known prospects Andrew Chafin, Jake Barrett and Matt Stites are in Mobile to being their 2014 campaigns. Chafin continues to struggle issuing walks as a starter, while Barrett and Stites are off to decent starts, but haven’t dominated opposing hitters thus far. We’ll keep an eye on this trio all season long.
Pitching has carried the Aces so far in 2014. They lead the league in run prevention but rank in the bottom third in the Pacific Division in runs scored. The team is top-heavy offensively with a handful of older prospects leading the way. Of particular note, former Diamondbacks shortstop Didi Gregorius is off to a great start and has shown some pop and solid plate discipline in his stint at Reno. I fully expected him to be in another uniform by now, but he’s doing a good job of keeping his stock up. Center field prospect Ender Inciarte has also gotten off to a nice start and he’s a guy that I think we see in Phoenix at some point, most likely as a fourth outfielder.
On the pitching side, there have been several solid performances. Bo Schultz began the season with the Diamondbacks in Australia but was sent down before the second series began to get stretched out as a starter. He appears to be doing just fine in that role. Randy Wolf, the man most recently signed by the Diamondbacks, has had two starts and the 38-year old hasn’t been super sharp just yet.
Archie Bradley is the man everyone wants to talk about, however, and he’s off to a solid start but hasn’t necessarily dominated. He’s failed to last five innings in his last two starts where he’s been very hittable. He’s not walking many, though, and the strikeouts are still present. Consistency is the name of the game for him right now and it’s not quite there yet.
I would remind the reader that the season is young and we’ll continue to track the performances of these prospects over the course of the year. Feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments below!
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