The struggles of 2012 first-rounder Stryker Trahan have been well-documented. The bat has never stepped up as Arizona had hoped, and in an effort to relieve some pressure on the 20-year old, the organization moved him to the outfield prior to the start of the 2014 season. He’s always been rough around the edges defensively but the power is more than legitimate. Unfortunately, he’s never been able to overcome control the strike zone and was striking out at a nearly 36% rate this year in South Bend.
Despite the struggles, he was moved to Hillsboro where he’s facing older, but not necessarily better, competition. The biggest surprise, however, was that he was put back behind the plate. He recently shared some thoughts on his catching and hitting with Jake Garcia of Best Coast Ball in a post-game interview that’s worth a listen. The rationale, as far as I can figure, is that if the bat is never going to fully come around, it’s best that it lags at the catcher position where at least his defense, as long as it’s passable, makes him a viable major league option. If he’s going to hit .230 with big time power but strikeout issues, it’s best to at least reap some positive value defensively. Chris Iannetta is a good example of this, although his prowess behind the plate is likely better than what Trahan will accomplish. At just 20, the organization can continue to take a long term approach with Trahan and hope that he comes around behind the plate while hopefully learning to better recognize pitches or at least put himself in hitters’ counts more frequently.
Another storyline that I’ve covered in recent updates was the slow approach that Arizona has taken with 2013 second rounder Justin Williams. Despite a strong rookie campaign that saw him play at three different levels, the organization decided to start him in extended spring training, then deploy him to rookie ball again. He mashed to the tune of .386/.433/.471 although he didn’t show much power. The power is a part of Williams’ game that is going to take some time to develop, but he has the present size and strength to develop. After 46 games, he’s been promoted to full season ball in South Bend, presumably filling Trahan’s spot in left field now that he’s been moved as described above. He’s played just seven games for South Bend through August 11th, so it’s inconclusive as to how he’ll take to the new challenge, but it’s surely worth watching closely.
When the Diamondbacks traded Martin Prado to the Yankees for Peter O’Brien, I painted it as a pure salary dump. Make no mistake, O’Brien has tremendous raw power, but the potentially exciting part of the deal was that O’Brien was listed as a catcher. Although his offensive game is limited, the thought of a 30 home run bat behind the plate was exciting. After speaking to a number of sources who have seen him in person, however, it’s clear that catching will not be in his future. He’s seen some time behind the plate after coming over to Arizona, but also some time in right field. Unfortunately, those I spoke to said he likely cannot stick in right field either, limiting him to either a poor left field or first base. In short, it sounds like the Diamondbacks acquired Mark Trumbo 2.0, making the Prado trade seem even more like a transfer of funds. Unless the team thinks it can do something to shore up his defense, it’s likely that O’Brien turns into a power hitter without a position. If first base is his only reasonable option, he could become trade bait rather quickly.
Top Prospect Check-In
As noted in the past, minor league promotions have a ripple effect, and that is clearly evident when Jake Lamb was promoted. Andy Marte was DFA’d and accepted his assignment back to AAA Reno, but Mobile was without a third baseman. Promptly promoted into those shoes was Brandon Drury, who’s had a very nice 2014 campaign. The thing to watch with Brandon is how he adjusts to the Southern League, both in terms of facing tougher pitching at the AA level, but also as he adjusts to a less hitter-friendly environment. He’s slugged three homers in his first ten games, so the power appears legit and not some park-adjusted mirage, although the sample is admittedly small. He’s one to watch for sure and now becomes the organization’s top hitting prospect with Lamb in the majors.
Joining Drury in Mobile is 2013 top pick Braden Shipley who continues his successful climb up the ladder. After starting his season in South Bend, he was promoted to Visalia where he survived the California League. Now he’s in AA and has pitched well in two starts, yielding four earned runs and striking out ten in his first ten innings of work. It’s concievable that he’ll only make a handful of starts in Mobile as he’s racked up 116 innings in 2014 and the team may not want to over expose his arm. He did begin the season slowly with some shoulder trouble, although it was notably minor. Shipley’s moved a bit quicker than expected, which is surely a welcomed sign, and I’d fully expect him to begin 2015 back in AA, with a shot at reaching the majors in late 2015 or early 2016 with a number two or three starter profile.
Shipley joins top prospect Archie Bradley in Mobile, where Archie’s been solid although not necessarily consistently spectacular. The walks continue to plague him at times, but then he has starts like he did on the 10th where he went seven strong innings, striking out six and walking only one while giving up three earned. It’s been a hit-or-miss season for Bradley, and with just 73 innings pitched in 2014 thus far, it’s not far fetched to think we may see him in the Arizona Fall League. Then again, the team may be conservative with the young hurler and just let him finish the season with no extra innings accumulated. We’ll have to wait and see on that one.
Aaron Blair makes up the third leg of a very intimidating Mobile rotation, and the guy’s been pretty excellent in four starts, only having one forgettable appearance for the BayBears. In 23.1 innings of work, he’s struck out 25 and walked just seven. Like Shipley, he should pick up the 2015 campaign in AA and has a shot at the majors next season, with 2016 perhaps more likely. As the team’s second selection in last year’s draft, he’s progressed very well, although he’s still yielding plenty of fly balls, which gives me a little pause. With a durable frame, it’s not unlikely that Arizona will let him finish the season in AA despite throwing 131 innings so far in 2014.
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