Left-hander Anthony Banda of the Arizona Diamondbacks appears ready to pitch at the major-league level
The Arizona Diamondbacks farm system has taken a hit in the last few years, thanks to some trades by previous front offices, but left-hander Anthony Banda is one prospect that was kept.
Banda, 23, is considered the Diamondbacks No. 1 prospect by MLB.com and Baseball America. Baseball America ranked Banda No. 88 on their top 100 prospects list for 2017.
Arizona originally drafted the 6′ 2″ 190 pounder in 2011, but he chose to attend college and did not sign. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 2012 draft, and he, along with outfielder Mitch Haniger, was sent to the Diamondbacks at the 2014 trade deadline for Gerardo Parra.
After an impressive 2016 between the Double-A Mobile Bay Bears and the Triple-A Reno Aces, Banda arrived at major-league camp with a chance to be the Diamondbacks’ fifth starter.
The Corpus, Christi native has not allowed a run in 4.0 Cactus League innings. Banda has come out of the pen in his two official spring appearances. He did start against Grand Canyon University on Feb. 22.
The right-hander has improved his command the last two years, and he said, speaking to azcentral.com in February, he has learned a lot from being around established big league pitchers.
"I’m just honored to be here around the guys like this. My main goal right now is to stay healthy, have a good spring and make it tough,. Wherever I go, I’m just going to compete, keep my head down and stay in my lane. continue working. That’s my goal. And whatever happens, happens."
Banda recorded a 2.67 ERA in 13 starts for the Bay Bears, and then he made 13 more starts for the Aces and recorded a healthy 3.67 ERA.
Advanced Command and Control
Major-league evaluators usually do not put a whole lot of stock into minor-league stats, but K/9 and BB/9 are great indicators of a pitcher’s ability to control and command the strike zone.
In 522.2 career minor-league innings, Banda has struck out 8.76 batters per nine innings, while walking 3.24 batters per nine innings. He has struck out an average of 9.51 batters per nine IP.
Bill Mitchell of Baseball America offered this account of Banda’s pitches:
"His heater sat 86-89 mph in junior college but now sits 92-95 and touches 96 because to added strength and improved mechanics. The jewel of his arsenal is a slow, mid-70s curveball that flashes plus at times, and he complements the breaking ball with an at least average, firm changeup with down movement."
So far this spring, Banda has demonstrated an ability to command all of his pitches on both sides of the plate, in addition to sequencing his repertoire depending on what the situation called for.
Simply put, Banda has filled up the strike zone. He has thrown more than 3,000 pitches in the minors, and 62.6 percent of them have been strikes.
On top of that, Banda has always been pitch efficient, a skill that Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley have yet to perfect. He has averaged 16.7 P/IP in each of the last three seasons, an ideal mark for any pitcher.
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An Insiders Perspective
Jeff Bajenaru is the pitching coach of the Visalia Rawhide, the Diamondbacks Class-A affiliate.
The former MLB pitcher with the Chicago Whitesox and Arizona Diamondbacks has worked with Banda during past spring training and instructional leagues.
Bajenaru, who was a member of the 2005 World Series Champion Whitesox, told Venom Strikes that Banda had worked hard on his delivery, which Bajenaru said has in part, helped Banda be consistent.
"I think he has success because he has a plus fastball that he commands well and two solid secondary pitches that keeps hitters guessing. When you’re throwing all three consistently for strikes and you’re able to maintain his delivery which he does, you’ll have success,. He’s steadily progressed the couple of years and has really gained confidence knowing that he can get hitters out at any level. Very happy for him. He’s really matured in the time that I’ve seen him and he’s still only 23."
"Arizona Diamondbacks: Starting rotation comes into focus"
The Diamondbacks hope that Banda’s self-confidence will make him a mid-to-top of the rotation starter for years to come.