The Diamondbacks have turned things around to a degree as of late, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on the future of the franchise. With the struggles of the team, there’s been a bit of a vacuum effect leading to a series of promotions. When Mike Bolsinger was sent down, Chase Anderson and Evan Marshall were called up. This left space in the Reno bullpen for Matt Stites. Anderson’s departure from Mobile allowed Jimmie Sherfy to move up, and in his place came Aaron Blair to Visalia. It’s easy to think about the promotions in terms of opportunity for the players called up to the majors, but there’s a ripple effect down below of new opportunities as well.

Since being called up to High-A Visalia, Aaron Blair has made just one start, but he dominated in that outing. His seven innings of one-run ball (on a solo home run) were supported with nine strikeouts and only two walks while giving up only three hits. To say it was successful debut is an understatement. The only concern, if you can even call it that, is that he’s still not generating the frequency of ground balls that we may have expected to see. We’ll keep watching this all year long.

Out in Indiana, there are two items of note. First, highly-touted pitching prospect Jose Martinez has made his anticipated debut. After a shaky first outing, he was removed from his second after only one inning pitched. Placed on the team’s 7-day DL, there’s been no mention of the nature of his injury. The health of the young flamethrower is something we’ll continue investigating. His teammate Stryker Trahan, after being converted to the outfield to allow him to focus on his offense, hasn’t exactly excelled at the plate. Trahan’s .195/.245/.336 line is wildly underwhelming, but it might be the 44:9 strikeout to walk ratio might be the most troubling sign. He’ll be in the lineup every day and get every chance to make it work, but the dividends are not paying off right now.

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Along more encouraging lines, Joe Munoz, Arizona’s second-round pick from the 2012 draft, is hitting his stride for the Silver Hawks. Listed as a shortstop but projected as a third baseman, Munoz has been on fire lately and the power is starting show up in a big way. On the pitching side of things, the team has experienced a bit of drop off after Blair moved on, but left-handed relief prospect Daniel Gibson has put his tough start behind him. He’s only walked three batters over his last ten games after walking four in his first five games.

As noted above, Jose Martinez is injured and Trahan continues to scuffle, but the biggest name of all on this roster is easily Braden Shipley who has made five starts for the Silver Hawks after his debut was delayed coming off of a shoulder injury. After dazzling in his first two starts, he has given up four earned runs in each of his next three. He’s sporting a 22:6 strikeout to walk ratio over 27.1 innings and is generating ground ball outs, but he’s struggled against lefties so far. This is something to keep an eye on as his classmate Blair has already moved up. I’ve advised all along that it could be a comparatively slow climb for Shipley up the ladder and right now, that appears to be the case.

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2012 12th round pick Alex Glenn has been the hottest hitter of late for a Visalia team that has been very competitive so far in 2014. The left fielder has shown both pop (3 HR) and speed (4 SB) over his last ten games. After hitting 11 home runs over 106 games in South Bend last year, Glenn has already racked up 8 long balls in just 32 contests at Vasalia. How much of that is him growing into his power and how much of that is the California League? It’s hard to say, but I’d guess the park effects have a lot to do with it. Brandon Drury remains a consistent, productive force in the lineup and he’s managed his strikeouts well enough, but one would like to see him walk more. Perhaps the hitter-friendly confines of the California League have adjusted his approach somewhat.

Starting pitching has been a bonus for the Rawhide and both Brandon Sinnery and Spender Arroyo have been consistently solid if not consistently incredible. Sinnery pitched nearly 50 innings for the Rawhide last season after a promotion from South Bend. His ERA was ugly but his peripherals were solid and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him experience Mobile before the year is out. Arroyo was acquired from the White Sox right before the start of the season and he’s been consistently good despite some poor strikeout numbers. As mentioned in the open, Aaron Blair was promoted and has made just one start through Monday the 12th with his second likely falling on either Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Sean Jamieson continues to power the Mobile offense. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2011 draft (by Oakland), Jamieson has hit at every stop of the way since becoming part of the Diamondback organization, yet has never received any hype as top prospect. He’s been exceptionally good so far in 2014 as his .294/.372/.431 line would indicate and it appears that this isn’t all smoke and mirrors; he might really be able to hit. Jamieson’s approach remains solid at the plate and he has some speed. He could be a big-league utility guy down the road if things continue to click.

Mobile has struggled to find exceptional pitching, especially with the departure of Chase Anderson to the majors. That’s not to say that there haven’t been good starts from other pitchers, they just haven’t been churning them out with any kind of consistency. The bullpen has been decent, however, and has presumably been given plenty of opportunities to come in and rack up innings. Left-handed starter Andrew Chafin had been consistently stingy before getting hit around in his last start, although the strikeouts still aren’t where you’d like to see them. Reliever Jake Barrett, who many wanted to see make the team for Opening Day, has seen his ERA begin to fall for Mobile after a rough start tot he season. His strikeouts have been down since hitting AA and he appears to lose command on occasion. Needless to say, he has work to do before being considered as a piece of the major league bullpen.

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Over in Reno, Didi Gregorius continues to hit, albeit for little power. We already know that he can do it with the glove at a big time level, so the offense has to be a welcomed sign. On the year he’s sporting a .291/.390/.450 line over 40 games. That line isn’t comparable to what he’d produce in the majors, obviously, but it’s not inconceivable to think that he could hit .270/.350/.400 at that level, which is Erick Aybar-esque. I still can’t believe that no one has taken the Diamondbacks up on Didi and I’m starting to wonder just how hard they’re shopping him.

If a starter could get hot at Reno, there’s obviously room for advancement given the current state of the Diamondbacks rotation. Unfortunately, there’s no one who’s lighting the world on fire. Bo Schultz has been better than his ERA would indicate, but he’s been bitten by the home run and that’s obviously something that the big league club doesn’t want any part of (Addison Reed, I’m looking at you). Randy Wolf was pitching well before giving up four earned runs in each of his last two starts and Archie Bradley is on shelf with a flexor strain in his elbow. Will Harris, that of former Diamondbacks bullpen fame, has even struggled recently out of the ‘pen, resulting in no true “sexy” options for the major league club. As noted above, Matt Stites has found his way to Reno and has pitched well in his first three appearances. All in all, pitching depth, especially that of the impact variety, is an issue for the Diamondbacks to say the least.

So there you have it, another check-in of the Diamondbacks’ current minor league affiliates is in the books. The takeaways are that there have been some recent promotions and exciting performances while others are off to slow starts. There is opportunity in this system is someone wants to jump up the ladder and we’ll be monitoring the situation all year long.

2 Responses to Minor League Update: Blair Promoted, Martinez Debuts

  1. Puneet says:

    With a lot of these prospects not looking so hot, how much of it is poor talent evaluation and how much is poor player development? I know there isn’t a clear answer, but what’s your opinion on it? It still feels like prospects are a needle in a haystack – if it wasn’t, wouldn’t Mike Trout have gone first in his draft?

    Has there been any progress lately in analyzing prospects and predicting outcome?

  2. Jeff Wiser says:

    There are a couple of things at play here, and I’ve been more intentional about calling them out in the past. I’m hesitant to say guys aren’t starting out well because of the following factors:

    Altered run-scoring environments
    Inconsistent defenses
    Players working on specific things
    Players adjusting to new minor league levels, etc.

    The feeling around baseball is that Mike Bell (Director of Player Development), Ray Montgomery (Director of Scouting) and Brendan Domaracki (Assistant Director of Scouting) are very good at what they do. If we look at what this group has acquired in the last three drafts, the scouting side has been pretty solid. The player development side of things has been good in some respects, too as we’ve seen some mid-to-late round guys become real players for the organization since 2011.

    Part of the picture is that a lot of talent that was drafted and/or developed has been traded away before it could pay full dividends. That makes the situation seem more bleak than might really be the case. Otherwise, there are a lot of solid guys who are true big league players and even a few superstars, with others in the wings. I’d say they’ve done a reasonable job all things considered.

    Not every team can crank ’em out like the Cardinals, but considering where this team tends to pick in the draft (mid-round) and what they’ve had to work with, I feel like they’re at least doing an average job, maybe even a tick above depending on what some guys turn into.

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