It was a tale of two seasons for the Mobile BayBears in 2014. They started the season with guys like Jake Lamb, David Peralta and Chase Anderson on the roster, but lost them to the majors as injuries decimated the Diamondbacks. In their wake came guys like Brandon Drury, Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley. There were plenty of other top prospects to watch as well, including Archie Bradley, Jimmie Sherfy and Jake Barrett. Overall, it was a successful season in Mobile although the names on the roster turned over throughout the year.
Mobile BayBears at a Glance
Southern League (AA) Ranks (out of 10 total teams)
- Record: 79-58 (3rd)
- Runs: 610 (2nd)
- OPS: .723 (3rd)
- HR: 97 (4th)
- SB: 56 (9th)
- K: 1064 (10th)
- BB: 456 (5th)
- Runs Allowed: 502 (1st)
- ERA: 3.30 (1st)
- WHIP: 1.31 (4th)
- K: 1020 (4th)
- BB: 497 (6th)
Offensively, Mobile had some firepower on the roster and they collectively found themselves in the top half of the league in most measures of output. They struck out a ton and didn’t steal many bases, but they did hit for some power and took an average number of walks. They were a different story on the mound. Benefitting from innings pitched by several of the Diamondbacks’ top prospects, they were at or near the top of the league in most statistical categories. The gap between runs scored (1st) and the team’s WHIP (4th) would suggest that the defense was excellent, too.
Archie Bradley, RHP: for the last two years, Bradley has stood atop the rankings as the Diamondbacks’ top prospect and, by now, you’re like aware of him. He sits firmly in the mid 90’s with the heat and has one of minor league baseball’s best curveballs. His third pitch, a change up, has been slow to come, but has developed nonetheless and should become an average big league offering. But here’s the problem: Archie’s yet to take a step forward in terms of command. The stuff is big and no one doubts it. That said, he is still learning how to utilize it and his progress has been relatively slow. In 2014, he dealt with injuries and expectations, ultimately finding himself back down in AA after flirting with the big league rotation in Spring Training and getting shelled in AAA. The walks were a constant problem but he was hard to hit and struck out plenty of batters. He’s making up innings in the Arizona Fall League as we speak, and we’ll report on that in more depth later. For now, we’re left to acknowledge that 2014 was a step backwards for Bradley and see what he can do next season where he should open the year in AAA and make another bid to see the majors, should his command improve.
Jake Lamb, 3B: what can we say? This was a great season for Jake Lamb, one in which he dominated the Southern League and took home the league MVP award. He posted a 162 wRC+ in 103 games, slashing .313/.399/.551 with 14 homers, 35 doubles and five triples while playing a solid defensive third base. After an incredibly brief promotion to AAA Reno (five games), Lamb moved onto the majors, filling the hole left by the departed Martin Prado. In his 37 games at the major league level, he scuffled, then improved, ultimately ending up with a .230/.263/.373 line. He did slug four homers and another four doubles but struggled to control the strike zone like he did in the minors. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, as he’d never seen anything higher than High-A prior to the start of the 2014 campaign and he was clearly in a little over his head. He’ll have every chance to win the job as the every day there baseman for the Diamondbacks in Spring Training where he has a chance to become an average major league player should he learn to cut down the strikeouts and make more consistent contact.
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP: a 10th-rounder out of the 2013 draft, Sherfy is a former collegiate closer turned dominant minor league reliever, showing a ton of funk in his delivery, one that leaves the viewer to ponder just how long his elbow lasts. Still, he has a fastball/slider combo that should play well against right-handed hitters, although his ability to get lefties out consistently is questionable. Improved command is what the Diamondbacks are looking for out of Sherfy as his walk rate was too high given the level and would likely escalate if he were to see further promotions without refining his abilities. He could open the year again in AA with a chance the majors a possibility if he really takes off. Watch the command as that’s really the missing ingredient right now.
Sean Jamieson, SS: a bit of a “fringy” prospect heading into the season, Jamieson raked all year long for the BayBears. It was his fourth professional season as an above-average hitter by wRC+, leaving one to wonder why he’s not on the radar as his .298/.352/.429 slash line (123 wRC+) would suggest. And here’s where birth dates become critical, because Jamieson just played a full season of AA at the age of 25, two to four years older than most of the high-promise competition. This relegates him to the “org-filler” category, but there’s potential value in that. With the bat producing, he may have an ability to become a infield utility player down the road. Granted, the shortstop/middle infield is clogged at the moment, but that could change this winter, or maybe it’s Jamieson moving on. We’ll have to wait and see, but for now, AAA Reno is where he’ll head for 2015.
Position Players: no one did it like Jake Lamb did it in 2014. He played every day and mashed everyone he faced all year before finding his way to the big leagues. This is the kind of season every minor leaguer dreams on as he simply never cooled off in the Southern League. 24-year old outfielder Tom Belza was very impressive, swinging from the left side and showing some defensive flexibility. Unfortunately, he lacks the power needed to take him to the next level (one HR in 123 games) given that he’s essentially relegated to a corner position. The aforementioned Jamieson deserves some attention as well, as does David Peralta before his call up to the majors.
Pitchers: the Mobile rotation was anchored by the durable and effective A.J. Schugel (147.2 IP, 3.00 FIP). Although a bit old for the level at 25, he was steady all year long and was backed up by some excellent relievers. Kaleb Fleck was lights out over 63.1 innings and is now making waves in the AFL. Seth Simmons and R.J. Hively were also good for the BayBears. On the pitching side, it was a bit of a team effort as they lost Chase Anderson after only two months, Andrew Chafin after about three and a half, then picked up Blair and Shipley. When it was all said and done, most players were simply passing through.
Most Valuable Position Player: Jake Lamb, 3B
Lamb was the SOU MVP and just blew the doors off the league. He’s an obvious selection here as his wRC+ was nearly 40-points higher than the next best Mobile hitter. Opposing pitchers had no answer all year long and Lamb hit for average, power and controlled the strike zone well. There’s nothing left to say. We’re just to sit back and watch as he hopefully acclimates well to the majors.
Most Valuable Pitcher: A.J. Schugel, RHP
The rotation was in a state of flux all year long, but one constant remained, and that was A.J. Schugel. Not only did he make consistent starts for the BayBears and lead them in starts and innings pitched, he was solid while doing it. At 25, he needed a solid campaign and while he isn’t a strikeout pitcher, he does a nice job of keeping his walks at a manageable level while proving tough enough to hit that batters can’t get in a groove. He kept the ball in the park and did everything asked of him, including leading the BayBears to the playoffs. This was a really good year for Schugel and he’ll start in AAA in 2015 with a shot at the majors next season where his fringy stuff may or may not play. Stay tuned.
More success for the Diamondbacks in the minors as Mobile succeeded as a team and had some fantastic individual performances. While there were some really great signs, Archie Bradley struggled and several of the BayBears’ top performers were older players who aren’t exactly regarded as top prospects. Still, the organization has some nice depth and potential trade chips on its hands. Oh, and another winning affiliate is nice to see as winning never gets old.
Reno Aces of the Pacific Coast League
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