On Sunday afternoon, ESPN broke the news that Braden Shipley would be making his Major League debut against the Brewers on Monday, July 25. This came less than an hour after Jeff Passan tweeted that “the Diamondbacks have let teams know Shelby Miller is available in a trade. Zack Greinke is still a week or so away from returning from the DL, and Rubby De La Rosa’s return will likely come in mid-August, so the team needs reinforcements in the rotation in the short-term. And Shipley is the most intriguing option available.
Here is what we had to say about the 24-year-old in our Diamondbacks top-ten prospect list:
Braden Shipley was drafted #15 overall in 2013 and like the other two big-time Diamondback pitching prospects, has moved up through the minors one level at a time, with generally solid results throughout. Shipley is similar to Blair, in that his likelihood of pitching in the majors effectively is reasonably high, but he is unlikely to top his #3 starter ceiling. Shipley is going to pitch in the majors. Just don't expect him to be a star, but he will have decent value (to both the Diamondbacks and your fantasy team) sooner rather than later.
Heading into 2015, Shipley was a borderline top-25 prospect, checking in at 22nd, 26th, and 39th on the pre-season lists of Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America, and MLB.com, respectively. He underwhelmed a bit last year, though, coupling a career-high walk rate with a career-low strikeout rate in his first full-season at Double-A. Shipley’s stock slipped a bit as a result, with only BP ranking him higher than 67th, but he was still clearly a rock-solid prospect with realistic mid-rotation upside.
This season has seen him take another step back in strikeouts (he currently sits at 5.8 K/9), but he has also posted the best control numbers of his career with a paltry 1.7 BB/9. Unfortunately, the trade-off of pitching to contact is a higher number of balls dropping in for hits (he has allowed 131 hits in 119.1 IP). To be fair, Triple-A Reno is one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the minors, so his 3.70 ERA is far better than it looks, and it wouldn’t be quite accurate to call this season a disappointment.
As is always the case with prospects, it is important to look at the process hand-in-hand with the results. With Shipley, he has traded in most of his mid-90s four-seamers for low-90s two-seamers, which has led to more groundball outs. Keeping the ball on the ground has helped to suppress his home run rate in a hitter’s haven, and should continue to help him do so in the Majors. More strikeouts would be better, both in terms of keeping hitters honest and his fantasy value, but his improved control has helped him stay out of trouble for the most part.
In the long-term - or, more accurately, the rest of the 2016 season - Shipley seems to be here for a spot start. The Diamondbacks are out of the playoff hunt, and it would behoove them to give him an extended look (and it won’t impact his service time all that much); so, if he impresses, I could see Shipley sticking around for the rest of the season. This organization is difficult to predict, though.