Perhaps the solution for the Arizona Diamondbacks and their search for quality in their starting rotation lies within the organization. The D-backs will certainly look to pursue a free agent or two but the ace may come from within. Archie Bradley is thought to have ace material while Aaron Blair has pitched like a number one starter at every level within the Minor League system. Another name to keep an eye on is right-handed pitcher Braden Shipley. Like Bradley and Blair, Shipley was also a first round pick. Will we see him in Arizona during the 2016 season?
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How he came to the organization: Shipley was taken with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 Draft from the University of Nevada-Reno. He played shortstop for most of his freshman season with the Wolf Pack and hit .344, 11th best in the Western Athletic Conference. He went exclusively to the mound as a sophomore and won WAC Pitcher of the Year honors, leading the conference in wins with nine, ERA at 2.20 and opposing batting average at .212. He also finished second in innings pitched with 98 1/3 and third in strikeouts with 88. As a Junior and with Nevada moving to the Mountain West conference, Shipley was named Co-Pitcher of the Year and once again led the school in wins with seven and ERA at 2.77. He recorded four double-digit strikeout games and his 102 strikeouts were second best in the conference. Shipley was drafted after his Junior year placing in the top ten in many school pitching categories as well as the highest draft pick in the history of Nevada athletics.
Minor League career: After being drafted, Shipley spent the rest of 2013 at two Single A levels. Over 12 starts, he gave up 22 earned runs over 39 1/3 innings for Hillsboro of the Northwest League and South Bend of the Midwest League. He also walked 22 and struck out 40. Shipley pitched on three different levels in 2014, beginning at South Bend followed by a trip up to High Class A Visalia and ending the campaign at Double A Mobile. Over 22 starts covering 126 innings, he struck out 127 batters and walked only 42 while surrendering 117 hits. Shipley was selected to pitch in the Futures Game and threw 2/3 of an inning for the victorious United States squad. He spent all of 2015 at Mobile going 9-11 with and ERA of 3.50 in 28 games, 27 of them starts. Strikeouts went down to 118 while walks went up to 56 in 156 2/3 innings pitched. He went through an eight start stretch toward the end of the season allowing no more than two earned runs in any single outing.
Will he be with the D-backs in 2016? The smart money says the 23-year old Shipley will start 2016 with Triple A Reno but get an invitation to Spring Training just as he did last year. He would be a long shot to make the rotation on Opening Day with so many other experienced arms and youngsters such as Archie Bradley and Aaron Blair ahead of him on the depth chart. However, this is a team that will head into the season fully expecting to contend for a playoff berth and the margin for error for guys such as Jeremy Hellickson, Chase Anderson and Rubby De La Rosa will not be as great as it was in 2015. If he shows enough promise with the Aces and one of those three guys stumbles, Shipley could be in Arizona by the All-Star Break. That is, of course providing he doesn’t get dealt like he nearly was at the trading deadline for Aroldis Chapman.