The Arizona Diamondbacks head into Spring Training with a plethora of prospects who could make an impact in 2017.
Although the Arizona Diamondbacks failed to have a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Torey Lovullo has multiple prospects, especially pitchers, who could break the big league roster. The bullpen still has many questions to answer, and young guys can be the answer. In 2016, we saw the arrival of Brandon Drury, Jake Barrett, Braden Shipley, and Steve Hathaway. Which prospects will have a chance of making the 25-man roster after the Cactus League?
While the D-Backs failed to get a top 100 prospect according to MLB.com, Baseball America gave Anthony Banda the 88th spot in their rankings. The clear top pitching prospect in the organization could make a run for the 5th starting spot in the rotation with a good spring. He blew away his Double-A competition in 13 starts with a 2.12 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 76.1 innings. Compared to his Double-A stats, Banda got hit around a little bit at Triple-A Reno after a promotion. His ERA was 3.67 with a WHIP of 1.36 in 13 starts.
Banda made headlines when he was the only Diamondback to be selected to the Futures Games in San Diego. He gave up a two-run home run to top prospect Yoan Moncada of the Chicago White Sox, a Red Sox at that time.
Banda will compete for that 5th rotation spot, but he will most likely start his year as the number 1 in Reno. If injuries occur, look for Banda to make an appearance midseason.
Jimmie, “Wild Thing,” Sherfy claimed his nickname while at the University of Oregon as a closer. Sherfy was a First Team All-American is final year at Oregon with 21 saves after struggling early on in his career. He changed his pitching mechanics, but he credits his mental game for his rise to stardom at Oregon.
Just like at Oregon, Sherfy struggled in the minor leagues early on. In 2015, his second full season, he had a 6.52 ERA in Double-A. This led to a demotion in 2016 where he started in Advanced-A. Between Advanced-A and Double-A in 2016, he was lights out with 18 saves with a near zero ERA allowing just one earned run in 31.2 innings. His opponents hit .168 against him while his WHIP was .99. This led to a second promotion to Triple-A where he struggled in 24 games. In those 24 games, he struggled with walks at a rate of 5.0 walks per inning, and his ERA rose to 6.12.
His 12.8 strikeout across the minor leagues in 2016 will entice pitching coach Mike Butcher. Sherfy is electric with a fastball in the mid to upper 90s with good movement and an above average slider. With a solid spring and more command control, I could see Sherfy getting a surprise bullpen spot for Opening Day.
Miller played for an astonishing five different Diamondback affiliates in 2016. Between Full-A and Triple-A, he had a 2.64 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 61.1 innings. Opponents hit .169 against him, and he walked 23 batters all year.
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While these numbers impress, it was Miller’s 5th team that caught the eye of the scouts and reporters everywhere. An invitation to the Arizona Fall League led to an AFL All-Star Game appearance. In 13.2 innings, he has given up no earned runs, struck out 25 batters, gave up four hits and two walks.
Miller is a hard throwing 6’7″ left-hander who transitioned from starter to full-time relief pitcher in 2016. His fastball, cutter, and breaking ball combination make him the most intriguing prospect in Spring Training at Salt River.
The Vanderbilt product has a serious chance to make the roster with the lack of depth in left-handed relief pitchers.
Gibson has the lowest ceiling out of the pitchers named in this article, but that doesn’t take away from his value. The 25-year-old out of the University of Florida was a starter in college, but he has been a reliever his entire career with the D-Backs.
Gibson split time between Double-A and Triple-A, and he struggled a bit in Reno. At Triple-A Reno, he had an ERA of 6.86 in 21 games. In Double-A, he excelled in 24 games with an ERA of 0.40. He isn’t a big strikeout guy with only 34 K’s in 43.2 innings. Gibson splits against righties and lefties heavily favors him pitching against left-handers.
He could be useful with weak competition in the bullpen for lefties, and he might be the biggest surprise to make the Opening Day roster with a strong spring.
Brito had his first shot in the big leagues in 2015, and he had his first full opportunity last season. He hit just .179/.196/.358 in 97 plate appearances for the D-Backs. Brito played the majority of the season at Triple-A Reno where he hit .294/.322/.439. Only walking 13 times in 303 at-bats is a bit concerning, though. The D-Backs staff will look for Brito to fix his approach at the plate to help him get on base more.
Brito is going into his most critical year and Spring Training after a weak showing in the majors in 2016. At the age of 24, a strong showing at Salt River Fields still probably will send him to Reno. A refined approach at the plate with continued batting average success should lead to some opportunities for Brito at the Major League level, though. For now, look for Brito to be the 5th outfield at best behind Tomas, Pollock, Peralta, and even Owings.
Reinheimer is the most advanced and MLB ready middle infielder prospect the D-Backs have. Dawel Lugo and Domingo Leyba are right there behind him, but at the age of 24, Reinheimer should come out with some extra energy at Salt River Field. Known for playing with confidence, Reinheimer is a leader where ever he plays.
He is a contact hitter who can play all around the infield. He hit .288/.353/.384 in Triple-A Reno with only two homers. With the current depth in the infield, it seems like a long shot for Reinheimer to crack the roster. This spring is important because it will show the front office if he can be a valuable trade piece or a future starter. An after thought acquired in the Mark Trumbo trade from the Mariners, Reinheimer must play with a chip on his shoulder in Scottsdale.
Hernandez, the fourth catcher on the 40-man roster, seems to be projecting downwards heading into Spring Training. The D-Backs released two catchers (Gosewisch and Castillo) and signed four others (Mathis, Iannetta, Thole, and Conger) this winter. It is clear the front office doesn’t see the 23-year-old ready within the next two seasons.
Hernandez started in Advanced A in 2016 and had success hitting .295/.402/.464 in 34 games. As you always hear, the jump to Double-A is the toughest for Minor League hitters. Hernandez hit .184/.227/.382 in 42 games in Double-A. He also received his second September call-up that saw his first career home run. Even though he isn’t quite near top prospect status, he is a good catcher to keep on eye on during the spring.
I believe Jared Miller will come out strong in the Cactus League and earn a spot on the Opening Day Roster. Other than that, the Major League roster is fairly complete. Sherfy should get an opportunity in the D-Backs bullpen as well at some point. With a strong spring, though, you can expect to see Sherfy early on like Miller. I think Anthony Banda could get anywhere between 3-6 starts this year as well. In reality, look for both of these guys later in the summer.
As for position players, Reinheimer might be ready, but he has nowhere to play with a crammed infield. Brito might not be ready, but he will get some opportunities if extra depth is needed in the outfield. Overall, it shouldn’t be a prospect heavy summer for the Diamondbacks under Torey Lovullo.