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The Best Starting Rotation in the Minors? Has to be the Mobile Bay Bears | August

While the Arizona Diamondbacks are clinging to a one game lead over the Giants, many Diamondbacks' fans are also keeping a close eye on the games of the Mobile Bay Bears, because the Diamondbacks' AA club has the best starting rotation in the Minor Leagues right now.  The starting staff for Mobile consists of Trevor Bauer, Jarrod Parker, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and Charles Brewer - the first three are all consensus Top 50 prospects in all of the Minors, while Corbin and Brewer are both highly regarded in a very deep farm system. Let's take a closer look at the Mobile staff, as welll as a look around baseball at other possible contenders for the title of Best Minor League Starting Rotation.

1. Trevor Bauer (20) - 10 IP, 2.70 ERA, 16K/4BB, 1.20 WHIP, 2.50 FIP
Bauer was the #3 overall pick in the June 2011 draft, and has already blasted through the California League and landed in AA ball. In his first 19 professional innings, Bauer has already struck out 33 batters, for a rate of 15.6K/9. Of the 82 batters that have faced him, 40.2% have struck out. Bauer has already jumped to the head of the organization's Top Prospect list, and was rated by Baseball America as #12 prospect in all of baseball in their post-draft prospect rankings.

2. Jarrod Parker (22) - 121.2 IP, 3.77 ERA, 107K/54BB, 1.31 WHIP, 3.79 FIP
Parker was the #9 overall pick in the 2007 draft, but lost the entire 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. This is his first season back from the injury, and understandably, his command took a little while to return. But his fastball is already back to the upper 90s, and his command has been much better recently. Over his last 10 outings, Parker has been 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA, with a much better 47K/18B ratio over 55.2 IP.  Baseball America has rated Parker at #47 overall, but that should move up as his performance continues to improve.

3. Tyler Skaggs (20) - 37.2 IP, 2.87 ERA, 47K/10BB, 1.14 WHIP, 2.70 FIP
As a 19 year old earlier this year, Skaggs struck out 125 batters in the High A California League in 100.2 IP, and was promoted to AA Mobile in July.  He has continued to dominate in AA, with 47 strikeouts in his first 37.2 IP, a rate of 11.2 K/9. An odd piece of statistical trivia - Skaggs has identical strikeout rates of 11.2K/9 in both Visalia and Mobile, and also a WHIP of 1.142 in both leagues.

4. Patrick Corbin (22) - 150.1 IP, 4.01 ERA, 134K/35BB, 1.28 WHIP, 3.48 FIP
Like Tyler Skaggs, Corbin came to the Diamondbacks in last year's Dan Haren trade. While he has allowed a few more runs than his teammates, Corbin has outstanding strikeout and walk rates, with almost a 4:1 ratio.

5. Charles Brewer (23) - 41.2 IP, 3.02 ERA, 37K/12BB, 1.24 WHIP, 2.98 FIP
Brewer has missed most of the season with a hand injury, but has just returned to the Mobile rotation. He's striking out 8.0K/9 while allowing very few walks and home runs (2 HR in 41.2 IP).  

So the Diamondbacks are sending out five starters in Mobile who are all at age 23 or younger, and three of whom are ranked among the Top 50 prospects in all of baseball. All 5 have excellent strikeout rates, and do a good job in minimizing walks and homers.  All five have good results for the 2011 season so far. Is there any other minor league team that can claim such a rotation? At this time, there really isn't much competition.  Here are some possible contenders:

New York Yankees - AAA Scranton - Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren
The Yankees' AAA club probably has the next best group of pitching prospects outside of Mobile. Banuelos and Betances are both Top 30 prospects, and Brackman is a former 1st Round pick, but one with a 6.83 ERA.

Atlanta Braves - AAA Gwinettt - Julio Teheran, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor*, Todd Redmond, Erik Cordier - Teheran is a very highly rated prospect (#4 Overall by Baseball America), and Delgado (#50) and the recently promoted Minor form an excellent group, but the two final members, Redmond (26) and Cordier (25) are more organizational arms than prospects.

Tampa Rays - AAA Durham - Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, Brian Baker, Dirk Hayhurst
LHP Matt Moore just may be the pitching prospect in the Minors right now, and both Cobb and Torres have excellent strikeout rates. But again, the back of the rotation has veterans like Baker, Hayhurst, or Edgar Gonzalez.

Kansas City Royals - AA NW Arkansas - Jake Odorizzi, Will Smith, Chris Dwyer, Zach Miner, John Lamb
The Royals had a very strong group heading into the season, but they have stumbled during the 2011 campaign. Lamb has been injured, while Smith, Dwyer, Odorizzi, and Miner all have ERAs over 4.00 this year.

Texas Rangers - AAA Round Rock - Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, Eric Hurley, Zach Jackson, Michael Kirkman
The Rangers have a strong group of pitchers, but none of these pitchers in AAA have had great success this year. Perez, in particular, has only made eight starts this year due to injury, and has a 6.28 ERA.