Arizona Diamondbacks: Banda has ‘All-Star’ experience

Anthony Banda hopes to join teammates in the future at Chase Field. ( Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)
Anthony Banda hopes to join teammates in the future at Chase Field. ( Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports) /

At first, there was success and then promotion. For Arizona Diamondbacks’ left-handed prospect Anthony Banda, an important result of this season could not have been more rewarding.

SAN DIEGO – As the only member of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ organization to be named to the prestigious Futures Games, Anthony Banda’s presence capped off one-half of a season filled with accomplishment.

Beginning the season at Double-AA Mobile, the 6-2, 205 pound native of Corpus Christi, Texas managed a 6-3 mark with the BayBears and a solid 2.66 ERA. Then, a promotion to Triple-AAA Reno, and the question whether Banda can overcome the challenge of a hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.

That’s just ahead, but for now Banda viewed participation in the Futures Game as an important step in his development. Only 23 year-year-old, Banda eschews video as a teaching device and says he relies on practice and knowledge. Pitching in the Futures Games provided that exact experience.

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“The key for me is to stay consistent,” he said in the Team USA clubhouse after the recent Futures Game. “The goal is pitch well enough to keep my team in the game. I go with the fast ball and curve, and use both to keep hitters off balance.”

After two starts during the final week of spring training, Banda caught the attention of decision-makers.

Coming over from the Brewers in a 2014 trade involving Gerardo Parra to Milwaukee, Banda was originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 33rd round in the 2011 draft, but did not sign.

Because the Arizona Diamondbacks scheduled several games against National League West Division teams during the final week of spring training, manager Chip Hale did not desire to show is hand, and kept starters Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin from facing division teams. Instead, Banda was called in to face this opposition, and left a calling card.

“(Banda) is a tough kid, and stayed focused for us,” Hale said. “We like his arm and his stuff. At this point in his career, he needs to be challenged.”

For that reason, Banda was sent to Reno, and in his first three starts, Banda was indeed challenged. In those appearances, the 6-2, 205 pounder was rocked for 11 earned runs (17 overall) in 15 innings of work That translates to an 0-3 mark and a 6.60 ERA.

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Like Alfred E. Neumann, “what me worry?, Banda seemed to point out. At this point Banda knows the path ahead will be littered with landmines and road blocks.

“The difference between guys at AA and AAA is their experience,” Banda offered. “Guys at AAA tend to be in the majors before, are here rehabbing or trying for another shot at the majors. I just want to be consistent in the zone.”

If Banda faced a test in transition, the experience in the Futures Game could leave a mark. Banda entered the game in the eighth inning for Team USA and held a 3-2 lead. After error by shortstop Alex Bregman, which put Raimel Tapia on first, Banda hung a curve to Yoan Moncada who drilled the game-winning, two-run homer. Despite a seven-run ninth inning to break this on open, the World cruised to an 11-3 victory.

“Yeah, the pitch was up and any time you get a pitch up, a good hitter will turn on it,” Banda said. “But, I had a blast, and this was a great experience to hang out with these guys and get in the game.”

Going, going ,gone

Perhaps the biggest deal of the past off-season involved the Arizona Diamondbacks dealing shortstop Dansby Swanson, their number one pick in 2015, and the number one overall pick, to the Braves, along with pitcher Aaron Blair and outfielder Ender Inciarte for pitcher Shelby Miller.

“Of course, I was surprised by the trade, and who in the baseball community was not surprised,” Swanson said in the Team USA clubhouse after the Futures Game. “Look, the Arizona Diamondbacks had their agenda and that’s out of my control.”

Next: Meet Anthony Banda: Your Futures Game Representative

With a mark of 2-9 at the All-Star break and failure to win a game at Chase Field over the first half of the season, Miller quickly fell from grace. Meanwhile, Swanson is thriving at the Braves’ Double-A Mississippi, and hitting .277 with 20 doubles, six homers and 34 RBIs. Swanson is considered the Braves’ shortstop of the future and is likely to move into that position when Atlanta moves into their suburban Cobb county ball park next season.