Only weirdos refresh minor league roster pages every twenty minutes. That officially makes me (and hopefully a couple of others) a weirdo. Minor league rosters started taking shape about a week and half ago and can reveal certain clues about how the team feels about its prospects. Best of all, we get to see which players will be facing new challenges in 2016, then see how they respond. With this said, let’s take a quick pass through two of the full season affiliates for the Diamondbacks, the Reno Aces (AAA, Pacific Coast League) and Mobile BayBears (AA, Southern League) identifying who we should keep our eyes on. Pro Tip: you can bookmark and follow any minor leaguer(s), all year long at MLBfarm.com.
Who to Watch
Archie Bradley, RHP: although he didn’t look especially good this spring, Bradley’s first start of the year with the Aces was ace-like: 6-innings pitched, two hits, no runs, seven strikeouts, three walks. It’s not a matter of “if,” but a matter of “when” he returns to Sedona Red, and in what capacity.
Braden Shipley, RHP: after struggling in the first half, Shipley put some elbow soreness and subsequent wildness behind him by cleaning up his delivery en route to a strong close to his 2015 campaign in AA. The organization has somewhat aggressively assigned him to Reno, where the ball notably flies. Should he thrive, Shipley could reach the majors this fall.
Enrique Burgos, RHP: after a strong spring, Burgos lost out on a roster spot but should see the majors at some point in 2016. He’s added a split-finger to his strong fastball/slider profile and if the command improves even just a little, he could be very effective in the majors this season.
Tyler Wagner, RHP: what you see is what you get with Wagner. He’s a 6’3″ righty with a heavy sinking fastball that has a long track record of registering ground balls. His slider can be effective and he made some impressive starts with the big league club this spring. He’s likely to get another shot at the majors at some point in 2016.
Kaleb Fleck, RHP: 27-year old relievers have a way of really stretch the definition of the word “prospect.” Fleck, however, remains relevant as he’s right on the cusp of the majors. With a good fastball/slider combo and a steady, if not stellar, track record in the minors, Fleck is just waiting for the call.
Jack Reinheimer, SS: after an impressive AA campaign for Reinheimer last year, he’ll get a full shot at the PCL in 2016. He can play both middle infield spots but should spend most of his time at short. He’s got a chance at a late-season call up with the D-backs and a future as a strong utility option
Evan Marzilli, CF: although he reached AAA last year, Marzilli’s campaign was cut short due to injury. He showed well in Spring Training and is on the short list of replacements in the outfield, especially now that A.J. Pollock is going to miss most or all of the 2016 season.
Peter O’Brien, LF/1B: it came down to the wire for O’Brien, but the D-backs decided to keep him off the Opening Day Roster for the club. He’s back in Reno where we should all expect him to mash. There is new-found needs in the outfield, but he’s just not much of an outfielder to date. O’Brien is basically stuck at this point.
Zach Borenstein, OF: like O’Brien, some solid spring performances kept Borenstein around in camp longer than most would have anticipated. He’s a better defender than O’Brien with a bit less power, but it’s still plus. He should see the majors at some point this year.
The others: while not originally assigned to the minors, Silvino Bracho finds himself there now as he works back from a groin injury that’s had him off track to start the season. Dominic Leone and Cody Hall are both potential big league relievers who are waiting for a chance with Arizona. Tuffy Gosewisch would do well to hit the ball with some authority in Reno as we’re not sold that Chris Herrmann is the best option behind Welington Castillo.
Who to Watch
Anthony Banda, LHP: a strong spring with some increased velocity has me hopeful for Banda’s continued rise up the ranks. He managed Visalia’s extreme hitter’s environment well last season and has earned his shot at AA. The durable lefty could see a late season call-up if he continues to throw the ball well in Mobile.
Daniel Gibson, LHP: Gibson got his first taste of AA last year after destroying CAL hitters in the first half. While most of the relieves on the cusp throw right-handed, Gibson provides a strong lefty option with a good fastball/slider combination.
Yoan Lopez, RHP: a challenging 2015 left Lopez in a strange spot. The team opted to send him back to AA where he belongs for now and he’ll get another crack at the Southern League. The fastball is still plus and his curve has improved a bit, but command is the real issue here.
Jamie Westbrook, 2B: it’s not often that 5’9″ second baseman are part of an organization’s best prospects (outside of Yoan Moncada), but Arizona’s system is down while Westbrook continues to rake. The tools aren’t the loudest, but he continues to maximize them while playing the game at 100pmh all the time. Should he keep hitting, Westbrook could make the middle infield conundrum for the D-backs even messier next season.
Gabby Guerrero, OF: defensively, Guerrero is fine in either corner but it’s his bat that his career relies on. The power is there and he’s an average runner, but his ability to show a good approach could help mitigate his issues making quality contact. Plate discipline is the key here.
The others: Zack Godley struggled this spring and finds himself now in AA as a fringy arm to keep an eye on. Keith Hessler, Adam Miller, Will Locante and Matt Stites are all guys on the relief bubble for the big league club. Kevin Cron has big time raw power but has no position outside of first base where Paul Goldschmidt, Peter O’Brien, Phil Gosselin and others are all ahead of him. Mith Hanniger looks to get his career back as he was demoted last season and is nearly a non-prospect at this point but good enter back into the discussion with a good season for the BayBears.
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