As the first installment of the Inside the ‘Zona Minor League Seasons in Review feature, let’s take a look at the Missoula Osprey of the rookie level Pioneer League. As you’ll see below, the team had some ups and downs, but also had some notable prospects, including Touki Toussaint, Justin Williams, Sergio Alcantara and others. Here’s a brief review of what was a difficult season for the Osprey.
Osprey At a Glance
Pioneer League (R) Ranks (out of 8 total teams)
- Record: 36-40 (7th)
- Runs per game: 5.1 (7th)
- OPS: .759 (6th)
HR: 62 (4th)
- SB: 45 (7th)
- K: 601 (4th)
- BB: 236 (7th)
- Run allowed per game: 5.8 (6th)
- ERA: 5.15 (7th)
- WHIP: 1.49 (t-4th)
- HR: 79 (8th)
- K: 612 (3rd)
- BB: 254 (6th)
Despite some promising prospects (see below), the Osprey had a rough go of the rookie ball Pioneer League in 2014. The bulk of the team’s talent was young, really young, and it showed. Pioneer League squads are usually comprised of two types of players: late-round college draftees and 18 or 19-year olds being challenged after succeeding the the AZL and/or DSL. This team was no different, mixing in college bats like Trevor Mitsui and Taylor Ard with young prospects such as Sergio Alcantara and Fernery Ozuna. The Osprey never quite put it all together, finishing four games under .500 in the first half, then going 19-19 in the second half, finishing 3rd in the Pioneer League North and with the 7th best record in the league overall.
With that said, winning is surely nice certainly isn’t everything in minor league baseball. As performance goes, they were buoyed by a couple of heavy performances at the plate, but struggled on the mound as a whole. The team was routinely vicimized by the long ball, inflating their ERA. They did, however, rack up the 3rd most strikeouts, which is encouraging. Walks were another problem for the team’s pitching staff, leading to a poor WHIP and only adding to the total number of runs scored. Without any real “marquee” pitching prospects until later in the season when some recent draftees were called up, the team was a little short on talented arms.
At the dish, things weren’t a whole lot better. The team was average in terms of strikeouts, but didn’t walk much. As the major league clubs struggles to get on base, it would be nice to know whether there is an organizational deficit here from a tactical standpoint, or if it’s simply a coincident that the Osprey also failed to reach base with consistency. They did hit some home runs as two players tied with a dozen a piece. Missoula struggled overall offensively, though, posting the third-worst OPS in the Pioneer League. Between some talent issues on the mound and an inconsistent offense, the Osprey had a bit of a tough season.
Justin Williams, LF: the Diamondbacks’ second round selection in 2013, the advanced left fielder was held back from full season ball and was instead a regular fixture in the Missoula lineup until late in the year when he was promoted to Hillsboro. Williams continued to hit for average but the power is still coming around. His strikeout rate climbed and the walks weren’t great, but he played the bulk of the season at just 18-years old and there’s lots of time. Arizona continues to take it slow with him, but he should be a full-time regular in South Bend in 2015.
Sergio Alcantara, SS: Alcantara may be the best defensive shortstop in the Diamondbacks organization now that Nick Ahmed isn’t a prospect. He can pick it at short, but the offense leaves something to be desired. He’s not terrible at the plate, but the bat is surely light and while he’s young, he’s not projected to hit for any power and he isn’t much of a threat as a base-stealer. His best attribute may be his ability to get on base, walking nearly as often as he struck out. At just 18, he should join Williams in South Bend next year.
Fernery Ozuna, 2B: Ozuna earned the “sleeper” tag coming into the season and while he didn’t exactly break out in 2014, he showed he could hang with older, more advanced players. The short, wiry second baseman is known for being a high-energy player who can make all the plays in the field while being a tough out in the box. Jason Parks noted last season that he’s got a great feel for hitting, quick hands the kind of bat speed that should see him find success as he climbs the ladder. He’s one to keep an eye on and should move up with Williams and Alcantara.
Touki Toussaint, RHP: everybody knows Touki, the Diamondbacks’ first round selection in 2014. He scuffled a bit in his debut season, as was to be expected with the raw arm he possesses. Results aside, the scouting reports suggest he has room to clean up his mechanics to really maximize his stuff. The velocity was fine, touching the mid 90’s, and the curveball still holds promise as a true out pitch, although he’ll have to work to make it more consistent. No surprises here, Toussaint has work to do but the ceiling remains incredibly high. He’ll likely repeat this level in 2015, holding him back from full-season ball until 2016.
Brad Keller, RHP: you may remember Keller from his unique draft story out of the 8th round of the 2013 draft. He was solid in the AZL last season before struggling this year. His command betrayed him at times although he’s been more of a power pitcher since joining the Diamondbacks’ organization. He’ll either have to clean up the command or move to the bullpen. My guess is that the team will give him every chance to work out the issues in the rotation before making a decision, and all reports suggest that Keller is the kind of kid tough enough to stick it out. This is one to follow as he likely makes his way to South Bend in 2015.
Cody Reed, LHP: a second-round choice in 2014, Reed was simply dominant in the AZL before being promoted to the Pioneer League. He held his own there as well as he has excellent velocity from the left side. That said, he has physical work to do as some reports suggest that the mechanics will need a good deal of refinement. He’s a big body and will need to get more physically fit, as well. Reed might be rough around the edges, but a power pitcher from the left side is hard to find and he’ll be a toss-up for assignment next spring. He could conceivably head to South Bend or the org could be patient with him and return him to rookie ball. We’ll have to wait and see.
Position Players: the Osprey didn’t score runs at a great clip, but had a couple of standout performers, one of which was 2014 30th round pick Trevor Mitsui out of the Univeristy of Washington. The first baseman led all regular starters in OPS and tied for the team lead in home runs. The aforementioned Justin Williams was a hitting machine, going .386/.433/.471, albeit for little power. Stewart Ijames was signed out of independent ball, a bit of a trend for the Diamondbacks, and went on to have a very successful debut in the organization. Although old for the league, he performed very well, hitting for significant power, average and controlling the strikezone.
Pitchers: pitching was a sore spot for the Osprey all season. The Pioneer League isn’t the most pitcher-friendly league in the world, but the team underwhelmed on the whole. Will Landshelf had the most productive season in terms of performance in a decent-sized sample. The 36th round pick from 2014 did a nice job out of the Osprey bullpens. Gabriel Moya was fantastic as a starter, but had trouble keeing the ball in the yard at times, marring some decent peripherals, and at just 19, he had a solid showing as a full-time starter. 20-year old Carlos Hernandez was second on the team in innings pitched, but didn’t exactly dominate, walking too many and putting up pedestrian strikeout totals. It sounds odd, but these were the good performances.
Most Valuable Position Player: Trevor Mitsui, 1B
It was a surprising performance from the late-round pick, as he showed the ability to do a lot of things well at the plate. It’s hard to get excited about first basemen as prospects, but he did everything in his power to start his career on the right foot, leading the way for the Osprey at the dish.
Most Valuable Pitcher: Kevin Simmons, RHP
While it was tough to nominate an MVP on the mound, the award this year goes to Kevin Simmons, who acted as a long man out of the Osprey bullpen. His peripherals were mostly solid: he was hard to hit and struck out nearly four times as many batters as he walked. One small problem: he gave up a bunch of HR’s. Still, the 2014 16th-rounder did a nice job for Missoula
It was a tough year in Missoula, but the future upside remains higher than the win-loss record would indicate. Several young, talented position players showed that they can hang with older competition, something that will benefit them going forward. A handful of young pitchers got their feet wet, and while it wasn’t always pretty, it was a great sign to see them do their thing at a more advanced level after getting warmed up in the AZL. For the older prospects, a few had solid seasons, including Mitsui and fellow first basemen Taylor Ard and Kevin Cron. The pitching was mostly abysmal, but arms are always hard to come by. Several players will move to South Bend next year, some will move to Hillsboro and some will wash out. There are plenty of guys to follow from this group, however, so keep your eyes peeled.
Dominican Summer League (DSL) Diamondbacks, coming soon.
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