With the American League in the rear view mirror for now, next up is a system which may very well have the best pitching overall, both at the top and in terms of depth. I'm hoping to finish up the last of these posts prior to the end of Spring Training. The goal with each team I look at is to discuss a few players who are likely to have an impact in the Majors in 2012, a few who could be ready by the start of 2014, and a few more who are a long ways away, but could be interesting as well. You can find links to the previous teams below:
NL East: Atlanta Braves | Miami Marlins | New York Mets | Philadelphia Phillies | Washington Nationals
Ready in 2012
The #3 overall pick in last year's draft, Bauer signed fairly quickly and was able to make his professional debut last year as a result. The team started him at High-A in the California League, where he was dominant (17 K/4 BB in 9 IP), so he was moved up to AA for the remainder of the season. His final numbers there don't tell the full story, as his last start there he got hit around to the tune of 10 earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings. He did still finish with 26 strikeouts to 8 walks there in just 16 2/3 innings pitched. There was speculation that he might receive a late-season call up from the team since he is already on the 40-man roster, but that didn't end up happening. However, the concerns about Bauer appear to be with his workout regimen. Here's what John Sickels had to say about Bauer back in August:
Some teams were concerned pre-draft about Bauer's extreme college workload and unusual training regime, but he's stayed healthy and it is impossible to argue with the results. I'm a big fan of Bauer, rate him as a pure Grade A prospect, and expect him to become a number one or two starter at the major league level.
Bauer looks like the real deal, and it sounds like the team understands his training regimen, and aren't forcing him to adapt according to Nick Piecoro:
[Bauer] said the only change the Dbacks have made to his routine to ask him not to wear his headphones out onto the field when he's warming up.
Realistically, he might be one of the team's 5 best starters right now. That said, unless his competition for a starting job fall completely on their faces, Bauer seems likely to head to AA to start the year. He will likely move quickly though, and could be in Arizona to stay before the All-Star break. Once he's there, you're looking at the potential for a top 20 starting pitcher. The strikeout rate, combined with solid groundball rates thus far (44% and 47%, per Statcorner) lead me to believe he has the potential to be a fantasy rotation anchor long-term. He may not be that in 2012, but it seems likely to be soon, possibly in 2013.
The main prospect acquired in the Dan Haren trade, Skaggs had a very solid season in 2010, but really vaulted to the top of prospect lists with his 2011 performance. He started the season in High-A Visalia in the California League, making 17 starts and striking out 125 batters in just over 100 innings. This earned him a midseason promotion to AA, where he threw another 57 innings and struck out 73 batters. Oh, and he didn't turn 20 until July. Nathaniel Stoltz over at Seedlings to Stars ranked him as his #5 prospect overall, and had this to say about Skaggs:
Skaggs has a prototypical pitcher's frame and a clean, easy delivery. He works in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball and also throws a plus curveball and above-average changeup. His frame, mechanics, and arsenal bring Jon Lester to mind, and he may end up even better if things break right.
Skaggs seems extremely likely to make Diamondbacks' fans forget all about Haren, as he could be in the Majors by the end of the 2012 season. Once he's there, he profiles as a strikeout-per-inning starting pitcher who could help carry a fantasy rotation at his peak, and seems likely as of right now to be a top 40 starting pitcher. He seems likely to start the season back at AA, but could be in AAA pretty quickly.
The other prospect acquired in the Dan Haren trade, Corbin spent the entire 2011 season with AA Mobile. He threw 160 innings there, striking out 142 but walking 40. Corbin's upside isn't as high as either Skaggs or Bauer, but he looks like he has the potential to be a solid starting pitcher. Here's what Nathaniel Stoltz had to say about Corbin as he ranked him #83 overall:
With his smooth transition to the upper minors, Corbin really eliminated much of the doubt surrounding his 2010 breakout. He may not become a star, but he does a lot of things well, is close to MLB-ready, and should be a durable and effective pitcher for many years. He's something of a "safe" pick, as most of the players around him in this tier have higher upside, but he's too-often overlooked in the discussion of Arizona's bevy of young arms.
He will likely start the season at AAA, and could be called up at some point during the 2012 season. He seems more likely to be an NL-only play if he does come up this year, and a deep league play long-term. He'll post a decent, but not amazing strike out rate, and if he could improve his walk rate his value for fantasy owners could go up quite a bit.
Could Be Ready in 2014
As if getting Daniel Hudson in return for Edwin Jackson wasn't enough, the Diamondbacks also received pitching prospect David Holmberg from the team. Holmberg finished the season last year in the California League, despite being 19 years old for most of the season. His stint there wasn't exactly amazing (4.67 ERA, 76 K/35 BB in 71+ innings), but there's still al ot of upside here. Here's a bit of what Kevin Goldstein had to say about Holmberg as a part of his top 11 list:
Once a strike-throwing, finesse arm, Holmberg took a big step forward with his fastball in 2011; the pitch now sits at 89-92 mph while touching 94, and he pounds the strike zone with it. He has both a curveball and a slider, and while both are solid, the slider has greater potential. His best pitch is a plus changeup with movement and plenty of deception. He has a frame that is designed to handle a heavy workload, and he carries his stuff deep into games.
Holmberg will likely start the season back in High-A, but if he can rein in his control issues from the second half, he could end up promoted by midseason again. To me, he seems like he has the potential to be a starting pitcher who would be towards the back end of a fantasy rotation or a streaming starter if he can't get his walks under control, If he does, I could see him being a #4 or #5 starter on a fantasy rotation at times.
Long-Term Prospects (Might Not Be Ready Until At Least 2015)
Taken at #7 overall, the Diamondbacks did not draft a player based on signability despite that pick being uprotected if they failed to sign him. And in Bradley, they may have found antoher ace in the making. Here's a brief scouting report from Marc Hulet of Fangraphs:
The right-handed Bradley has a devastating one-two punch with a mid-90s fastball and potentially-plus curveball. The development of a changeup will be important to his future. Like a lot of young pitchers he occasionally loses command of his offerings and will likely move methodically through the minor league system.
Hulet goes on to mention that Bradley could possibly be moved to low-A at some point during the 2012 season despite being drafted out of high school. In terms of fantasy production, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus noted that "his ceiling is as a first-round pick in any fantasy draft." Gotta love ace upside out of a prospect, although realistically he probably would be on a track to get to the Majors no sooner than 2015. You will have to be patient if you draft Bradley in a dynasty league, but the upside is such that you almost have to take the chance at a certain point in your drafts.
Others to Watch:
Matt Davidson - Davidson played both 1B and 3B down in High-A Visalia in 2011, and clubbed 20 home runs, 106 RBI, and hit .277 there. He also struck out 147 times in 135 games, and made 11 errors in 120 chances while playing 3B. He looks like he has the potential to be an interesting hitter, but it seems based on the scouting reports that it likely won't be at 3B. As a result, I will be interested to see if he can repeat his performance in AA, and what position he'll be playing when he does that.
Bobby Borchering - Borchering had a very similar season to Davidson. He also played in High-A, and split time between first and third. He hit 24 home runs, 92 RBI and a .267 average. He managed 162 strikeouts in 135 games, and 17 errors in 144 chances at 3B. I think he will move up wtih Davidson, and they may continue to split time between the two spots like they did last year. I'll be a lot more inclined to believe in the production if he can duplicate it in AA.
Anthony Meo - A 2nd round draft pick of the team last year, Meo threw a no-hitter in his college conference tournament prior to being drafted. That said, it seems like there is limited upside for him given that he was such a high pick. The impression I get from a couple of scouting reports on Meo is that he is probably better suited long-term to be a reliever, but I have to imagine that the Diamondbacks will give him an opportunity to continue starting.
Andrew Chafin - A 2011 draftee, Chafin was a college pitcher who missed a season during college due to Tommy John surgery. It sounds like he may be a bit of a health concern, but he will be someone to watch this year. I get the impression that he will either show that he can be a starting pitcher long-term, or prove to the team that he is a reliever at best.
A.J. Pollock - Pollock missed the entire 2010 season due to injury, and yet was moved up to AA in 2011 despite playing low-A in 2009. It doesn't appear to have phased him much, as he hit .307 with 8 home runs, 103 runs scored, 73 RBI, and 36 stolen bases. He played center field all last season, and could put up some ridiculous numbers in AAA Reno this season.
Ryan Wheeler - Wheeler repeated AA in 2011 after missing a majority of the season due to injuries. That said, he had a nice bounceback year there, hitting .294 with 16 homers and 94 RBI. Wheeler played primarily 3B last year, but if he gets to the bigs he may not have a lot of time to hold off Davidson. That said, it looks like he could be a decent fantasy play, but his strikeout to walk rate doesn't bode well for his long-term success.