19 February 2012
Pitchers and catchers are reporting to Spring Training today, and the Diamondbacks find themselves considered the favorites in the National League West. Just one year ago, most experts had picked the team to finish last in the division, and many fans were speculating that the team could lose more than 100 games. Now, the team is coming off a division-winning 94-68 season, and has been bolstered by the additions of Trevor Cahill, Jason Kubel, Takashi Saito, and Craig Breslow. Unlike last year, most of the Opening Day roster appears set, and there are only a few questions for the team in Spring Training. This is the first in a series of articles previewing Spring Training for the Diamondbacks, starting with the starting position.
In 2011, the Diamondbacks entered Spring Training considering pitchers such as Zach Duke, Armando Galarraga, Aaron Heilman, and Barry Enright for the rotation. This year, the first five spots appear set, with Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, and Josh Collmenter all virtually assured of a spot.
By the end of last season, Collmenter had actually passed Saunders as the #3 pitcher. Still, he has less of a track record than the other four, and is probably the only one in any danger of slipping out of the rotation.
After these five, the Diamondbacks have five more starting pitchers from the 40-Man roster in camp - Trevor Bauer, Barry Enright, Zach Kroenke, Joe Martinez, Wade Miley. Wade Miley is probably the current #6 starter, after making 8 starts for the Diamondbacks in 2011 and compiling a 4.50 ERA. Trevor Bauer is the pitcher who will be watched most closely in Spring Training. After being selected with the #3 pick in last June's draft, Bauer struck out 43 batters in just 25.2 IP between Class A Visalia and AA Mobile. But Bauer has made only 4 starts at the AA level, and probably needs some more minor league experience.
The Diamondbacks have also invited four non-roster invitees to Spring Training - Charles Brewer, Patrick Corbin, Chris Jakubauskas, and Tyler Skaggs. After Bauer, Skaggs will be the pitcher attracting the most attention this spring. Skaggs is 6 months younger than Bauer, but has already made 47 starts in the Minors compared to Bauer's 7. Skaggs struck out 198 batters in 158.1 IP last year, and is the team's top left-handed pitching prospect. As we discussed last year, if Bauer and Skaggs were called up to the Majors in April, they would have less minor league experience than almost all current Major Leaguers. The signing of Joe Saunders will allow these two to spend a little more time in the minors. Corbin made 23 starts in AA with a 4.21 ERA, while Brewer missed most of the year with an injury, but did make 11 AA starts with a 2.58 ERA. Jakubauskas has split time between the Majors and AAA for the last few years, and should just serve as extra insurance if one of the Top 5 has to miss some time.
There is really not much chance of the Diamondbacks breaking camp with anyone in the rotation besides Kennedy, Hudson, Cahill, Saunders, and Collmenter. If Collmenter has a disastrous spring, it might open the door for Wade Miley, but the other four should be locks. For the rest of the pitchers invited to camp, I think it will probably break down like this:
AAA - Corbin, Enright, Jakubauskas, Kroenke, Martinez (bullpen), Miley
AA - Bauer, Brewer, Skaggs