For those of you out there who actually read our weekly minor league report, you may have seen the focus being on the weekly results of each of the Diamondbacks’ minor league teams. Unfortunately, the feedback I have received during my time of writing for Venom Strikes is that the readers aren’t as interested in team results as they are about the performance of players who can eventually help out at the major league level.
This is most likely due to a combination of the popularity of the major league game (how many minor league games do you see televised? And did you see how poorly the futures game drew?), the hot world of fantasy sports, and of course the desire of fans to see the next big thing (Dansby Swanson manning shortstop in June next season is a bit more exciting that some combination of Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed isn’t it?).
Because of this, I’ll be giving the last week’s record for each minor league affiliate (except the Arizona League and Dominican Summer League D-backs, unless something crazy goes down), then I will give you the run down of what the top prospects did last week. You’ll notice that it won;t be statistically based, as it will be more of a summary of what the “news” is on each player. So, without any more ado, here is how last week went:
Remember, last week was All-Star week, so most of the teams played limited schedules.
Reno Aces (AAA): 0-4 last week (44-51 season, 3rd place)
For those who are unaware, Peter O’Brien and Jamie Romak represented the Aces in the AAA All-Star game. In fact, each of them were also in the AAA home run derby with O’Brien finishing second and Romak third. O’Brien continued having a great week when he won PCL MVP in the All-Star game after breaking a tie game in the 8th with a two-run homer.
When the Diamondbacks brought O’Brien over from the Yankees in a trade, know one really knew who he was. Now, everyone seems to know. His star has been rising at a rapid rate all season. Fans may be excited about Dansby Swanson, this year’s first overall pick in the draft. They are also pretty exited about the pitching prospects in the pipeline, but at the rate O’Brien has been hitting, he will most likely end up on most top prospects list in the off-season as the top Diamondbacks prospect.
In other news at AAA, Danny Dorn is now hitting .434 on the season in AAA. That’s high no matter what level you play. Since he is on the 40-man roster, if the need arises, expect him to be the first call up.
Mobile BayBears (AA): 4-1 last week (13-9 season/2nd half, 2nd place)
Braden Shipley seems to have turned his season around. After winning two games this week, he sits at 6-8 with a 4.31 ERA. It’s nice to see some good stuff from this kid. He was allegedly a can;t miss prospect at one point. After the struggles Archie Bradley has had in the majors, the Touki Toussaint trade, and the poor play of most of the major league rotation, it is of dire importance that the Diamondbacks hit on some of these pitching prospects. Unless you buy all your pitches from other teams, you can’t have sustainable success as a MLB team without a consistent influx of quality pitching.
One hot name in Mobile right now is Socrates Brito. Last week he participated in the Futures Game on the World roster. Since returning to Mobile, he has a home run, six runs, three stolen bases, all on 8-for-13 hitting. He’s someone to watch in the future.
Keep an eye on Silvino Bracho as well. The reliever is striking batters out at a 13.76/IP rate (53 in 34.2 IP). If the Diamondbacks need some help later in the year in the bullpen, it’s entirely possible this kid comes up.
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Visalia Rawhide (A): 5-1 last week (17-6 season/2nd half, 1st place)
Word on the street is that newly signed prospect Dansby Swanson is going to be reporting to Visalia in the very near future. He’ll join other top prospects JR Bradley, Anthony Banda, Stryker Trahan, Domingo Leyba, and Kevin Cron in the expedited pipeline. Why is expedited? Mainly because the Diamondbacks are on the verge of contention. They are hovering around .500 right now and that is with some of the least consistent play in the majors. The time to win will begin next season while they still can afford Paul Goldschmidt. Aaron Hill has one more year of eating up too much money for little-to-no value and Dansby is on the fast track.
If all works out, the Diamondbacks could be looking at starting 2017 with a rotation of Corbin, Bradley, the other Bradley, Blair, and Shipley (assuming no trades, free agent signings, and all four of those prospects hit soon, or at all) and a lineup consisting of Goldschmidt, Tomas, Lamb, Pollack, Swanson, and some combination of Drury, Guerrero, Leyba, Trahan, Brito. That’s not even including some of the youngest guys in the pipeline like Yoan Lopez and Oscar Hernandez. All of that is homegrown talent. Add in a couple of aging vets on friendly deals, a couple of late-20’s better than average guys and you have the making of a few year window of winning.
All of this is a big “if,” but the truth is, the Diamondbacks are stocked with players who are not all that far away. Visalia is where the Diamondbacks like to start guys who are expected to mature quickly. Swanson is the current guy.There’s a big pie in the sky and with some good management, the Diamondbacks look good for the future.
Kane County Cougars (A): 6-0 last week (21-3 season/2nd half, 1st place)
Until a few weeks ago, this was my favorite minor league affiliate. Of course it was, because of the athletic Touki Toussaint. Alas, he’s a Brave now so I have to find someone else to champion. This team has one of the best overall pitching staffs I have seen in years. They continue to win on the back of stingy pitching. Taiwanese starter Wei-Chieh Huang has been lights out this season. Markus Solbach has proven to be more capable than many believed at first.
These guys are good, but my new champion is Brad Keller. He was taken in the 8th round of the 2013 draft and has risen steadily since beginning in the Arizona League at age 17. He’s a big (6’5″, 230 lbs.) kid who has an uncanny ability to keep the ball low in the zone and induce ground balls. You know who else had that? Brandon Webb. I think Keller is going to continue to surprise people as he develops.
Hillsboro Hops (A): 4-2 last week (18-13 season/2nd half, 1st place)
Hillsboro has an impressive array of young pitchers similar to Kane County, so expect Kane County to continue pitching well into the immediate future, regardless of call ups. The big name here is Cody Reed. As of today, MLB.com has him ranked as the 17th best Diamondbacks prospect. That’s going to change soon. He was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft, after Touki Toussaint. He’s a 19-year-old lefty who has three legitimate pitchers that prospect well the majors. He’s big at 6’#” and 245 lbs., but he is a thick 245. Basically, that means he has some serious muscle on his frame. He retired the first 20 hitters he faced in his lone start last week; now he sits as a 1.31 ERA and 0.76 WHIP through 34.1 IP. He’ll be moved up soon.
Let me preface what I am about to share with “it is only a rumor I heard from a guy who knows a guy,” but many of us blogger types keep in contact and one of my close friends (who is one of those blogger types) informed me that the Braves asked about Reed in that salary dump trade a few weeks ago and that the Diamondbacks balked and send them the kid they picked before Reed (Toussaint) instead. This could all be bull-honky. But if in fact it is true, that tells you something about what the Diamondbacks think of this kid. Remember, the draft is a crap shoot more than anything. But, I am not a “reporter” and I don’t get paid. I simply share my thoughts and opinions.
Missoula Osprey (Rookie): 3-3 last week (17-12 season, 1st place)
When you get this far down in the ranks, it’s difficult to profile anyone because the news coming out of these leagues is slim and random. These are generally the unknown players and late round draft picks that were picked up for organizational depth. What you generally look for down here are the crazy good outliers that read as if they are playing a different game. For instance, Yefrey Ramirez, who is from the Dominican Republic and starter as a corner infielder in 2011, is not a 21-year-old pitcher who has 30 strikeouts and a 0.86 WHIP in 28 IP this season. He’s an outlier as he is dominating right now.