After a disappointing month of May, the Diamondbacks' pitching staff has pitched much better in the month of June, helping lead the team to a 9-4 record this month. As a group, the staff has a 3.08 ERA in June, and the starters have been even better, with an ERA of 2.99.
Here are the overall pitching staff numbers by month in 2012:
Not only has the staff ERA dropped by a full run in June, but their peripheral stats have shown an even bigger improvement, as the strikeouts have jumped up to 8.1K/9, while the walks and home runs have both dropped, leading to a Fielding Independent ERA (FIP) of 2.54.
Leading the way for the starters in June has been Trevor Cahill (0.77 ERA in 23.1 IP), but the team has also received good starts from Wade Miley (2.35 ERA in 23.0 IP) and Joe Saunders (2.84 in 12.2 IP). The bullpen has also pitched very well in June, led by closer J.J. Putz (0.00 ERA in 3 IP), Josh Collmenter (0.00 in 5.1 IP) and Bryan Shaw (1.80 ERA in 5.0 IP).
For the year as a whole, the Diamondbacks have lowered their ERA down to 3.94 (7th in the NL), with an ERA+ of 107 (6th in the NL).
The Diamondbacks have already signed 9 of their first 11 picks from the 2012 June draft, and 30 out of 40 overall. Here are some notes on the team's top selections.
1. (26) Stryker Trahan, C/OF, Acadiana HS, Lafayette, LA, Slot: $1.7M (BA #27, ESPN #24)
A high school QB, Trahan is an excellent athlete who has good power, runs well, and has a strong throwing arm. His receiving behind the plate needs some work, but his bat and arm are expected to be good enough for a move to a corner OF spot, if needed. Trahan also rates highly for his toughness and leadership. If he can stick behind the plate, he has some real star potential. Trahan signed for $1.7M, and took batting practice with the Diamondbacks last weekend. He is expected to train in the Diamondbacks' facilities at Salt River Fields through September.
2. (90) Joe Munoz, 3B/SS, Los Altos HS, Hacienca Heights, CA, Slot: $540K (BA #252)
It was a little surprising to see Munoz drafted in Round 2, as most had him as a 4th-6th round selection. He has some decent offensive potential, but has not had very good results this spring. Defensively, there are questions about his agility and footwork, so he will probably move from SS to 3B. At 6-3, 185 lbs, he does have a lot of tools, but he is probably a long way from the Majors.
3. (120) Jake Barrett, RHP, Arizona State, Slot: $392,900 (BA #64, ESPN #97)
2012 Stats (ASU) - 2-4, 11 Saves, 1.62 ERA, 33.1 IP, 21H, 6 ER, 9 BB, 36K, 1 HRA, .179 OBA
Barrett has very good stuff, with a fastball in the mid 90s and a hard breaking slider. He has had a history of elbow injuries, which forced ASU to convert him to a reliever last season. He had an excellent season for ASU, striking out 36 in 33.1 IP while walking only 9, with a 1.62 ERA. Often compared to pitchers like Heath Bell and Jonathan Brozton, he should be able to help at the Major League level quickly. Barrett should begin his pro career at Low Class A South Bend in the Midwest League.
Two mock drafts out on Monday Morning, from Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, have the Diamondbacks selecting OF Lewis Brinson in the first round of today's draft. Brinson is a 6-4, 185 lb centerfielder from Coral Gables HS in Florida with outstanding tools, but is considered a little raw at the plate. He is considered an intelligent and hard-working player, and scouts love his makeup. Defensively, Brinson takes long, easy strides in the outfield, and while his jumps and routes still need some work, his raw speed while the ball is in the air helps him cover a lot of ground. Most scouts feel that he will be a plus defender in CF, with an above-average Major League arm.
Brinson finished his Senior Year in high school with a .382/.506/.721 line, with 4 HR in 68 AB, with 14 BB and 17K, and went 10/12 in stolen base attempts. He has excellent power, winning the Home Run Derby at the Under-Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field, defeating projected Top 3 pick Byron Buxton. But the problem has been his contact rate, as his long swing and erratic mechanics have led to too many swings and misses. Despite that, many scouts think Brinson has the highest upside of any player in the draft besides Buxton. Brinson has been compared to Major League outfielders Cameron Maybin and Dexter Fowler, and has committed to the University of Florida.
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The 2011 draft was a very exciting one for the Diamondbacks, since the team had two picks in the Top 7, which turned into pitchers Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley. 2012 will probably not be as interesting, since the club does not pick for the first time until Pick #26, and not for the second time until Pick #90. Monday's Draft also will be the first conducted under the new collective bargaining agreement, which places an effective cap on bonuses offered to draft picks. For their first ten picks, the Diamondbacks can spend a total of $3.818M, much less than than the $11.16M the team spent in 2011 on its Top 10. In fact, the Diamondbacks spent more each on just Bradley ($5M) and Bauer ($3.4M) than they can this year. So there will be no chance of going way over-slot to draft a "hard-to-sign" player.
So what kind of player will the Diamondbacks be looking for in the June 4 draft? The team certainly has a lot of minor league pitching depth, and an overall shortage of talent among position players, especially at catcher. But it is generally a mistake to draft for need in the MLB draft - getting the best player available is usually a better strategy, given the long development time and low success rates of drafted players. It's always tough to project a pick all the way at #26, because so many teams will have a chance to take all of the players listed below. Plus, if any of the currently projected top players slips, the Diamondbacks might end up getting a much better player than predicted. Given all of these limitations, here are a dozen players that the Diamondbacks might be looking at (with rankings from Baseball America, ESPN, and Baseball Prospectus).
Stryker Trahan, C/OF Acadiana HS, Louisiana (BA #27, ESPN #24, BP #31)
Trahan is the Diamondbacks' pick in Baseball America's latest Mock Draft. 6-1, 220 lbs, Trahan is a very good athlete who also started at QB for his high school team. He throws well, but there are questions about his receiving ability, which may move him to RF. He has good power and surprising speed, and his offensive tools are expected to be good enough for a corner outfield spot. Would be an outstanding pick if he can stick at Catcher. Committed to the University of Mississippi.
Nick Travieso, RHP, Archbishop McCarthy, Florida (BA #40, ESPN #33, BP #31-40)
Travieso is the Diamondbacks' selection in Keith Law's Mock Draft for ESPN. He's played for some of the top high schools (American Heritage and Archbishop McCarthy) in the country, and as a result, found himself needed only as a reliever until this season. He throws his fastball consistently in the 92-95 mph range, and has reached as high as 98. Travieso also has a hard slider and is working on a changeup. He's been moving up draft boards since his stuff seems to have improved significantly during the season.
Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M (BA #25, ESPN #42)
Naquin is one of the best pure college hitters in the draft, leading the Big XII in batting average for the last two seasons. Naquin also has the best throwing arm of any college outfielder, and also has good spped, going 21 for 26 in stolen bases. But there are questions about his power, as he has only 3 HR and 24 extra base hits in 229 ABs this season. Some scouts are afraid he is a tweener - not good enough speed for CF, but not enough power for a corner OF.
Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS, Florida (BA #28, ESPN #19, BP #16)
Russell has excellent bat speed, good range at SS, and an above-average arm. Scouts initially were projecting him as a 3B, but he lost 20 lbs in his senior year and now looks like he could stick at SS. He should have plenty of power for a SS, although the strikeouts may always be high. Russell has some serious star potential, and has signed with Scott Boras. Committed to Auburn.
Victor Roache, OF Georgia Southern (BA #22, ESPN #89)
Roache had a tremendous power season for Georgia Southern as a sophomore in 2011, blasting 30 HR in 62 Games while batting .326. Unfortunately in 2012, Roache broke his wrist in February, and only played in 6 Games this year, hitting two home runs. Scouts were hoping he could come back for the NCAA postseason, but that didn't happen, so there is a lot of uncertainty about whether Roache is completely healthy. Before the injury, he was considered a possible Top 10 pick.
Hunter Virant, LHP, Camarillo HS, California (BA #53, ESPN #26)
Virant is a projectable left hander who already throws in the low 90s with good location. He has a good downward angle on his pitches, and throws a solid changeup and a decent slider. Some see him as similar to fellow Californian high schooler Tyler Skaggs. Committed to UCLA.
Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State (BA #32, ESPN #59)
Johnson's fastball sits in the 92-93 mph range and can reach 96. He throws a power curveball in the low 80s, along with a changeup and a slider. Johnson struck out 112 batters in 91.2 IP in 2012, for a rate of 12.2K/9, while walking only 26 (2.55 BB/9). There are injury concerns with Johnson - he missed some starts with a forearm strain this spring, and many scouts are not crazy about his delivery.
Ty Buttrey, RHP, Providence HS, North Carolina (BA #38, ESPN #34)
Buttrey is a tall, projectable right-hander at 6-5, 205. He was throwing as high as 96 mph in the early spring, but settled into the 90-93 range for most of the season. His curve/knuckle-curve and change-up give him the potential for three plus pitches. Buttrey turned 19 at the end of March, so he is one of the older prep prospects. Committed to Arkanasas.
Clint Coulter, C Union HS, Washington (BA #48, ESPN #35, BP #29)
Coulter is a strong 6-3, 200 lbs and was a state champion wrestler. His bat looks solid, with both contact and power, but there are questions about his defensive ability and agility behind the plate. If he can't stay at catcher, his bat may be good enough to move to 1B. If he can stay at Catcher, he has a very high ceiling. He's often compared to Mike Napoli, and is committed to Arizona State.
Tanner Rahier, SS Palm Desert HS California (BA #34, ESPN #31, BP #24)
Rahier has been moving up draft boards after some impressive private workouts. He didn't play high school baseball for the last two seasons, playing instead for a club team in a wood bat league. He's one of the more polished prep hitters in the draft, with a good approach and bat speed, but he may need to develop more power. Defensively, he has a strong arm, but may not have the range to stick at SS. But he could be a plus defender at 3B or 2B if he needs to switch positions. He's often compared to the Rays' Evan Longoria. Committed to the University of San Diego.
Joey Gallo, 3B/RHP, Bishop Gorman HS, Nevada (BA #33, ESPN #23, BP #27)
At 6-5, 205, Gallo has tremendous power, hitting over 60 home runs in his high school career, and he had the 10th longest home run in Petco Park history while playing in an All-Star game there. But he also swings and misses a lot, and he doesn't have much range at 3B. He throws in the mid-90s as a pitcher, but has said that he prefers to be a position player.
Stephen Piscotty, OF/3B, Stanford (BA #26, ESPN #15, BP #22)
Piscotty won the batting title in the Cape Cod league last summer, and hit .312/.405/.460 for Stanford this season. He needs to show more power, but many feel that he will once he leaves the Stanford program. He's a good athlete with a strong arm, but he did make 11 errors this year, so he may be moved from 3B to a corner OF position.
Others who the Diamondbacks could take, but who probably won't last until Pick #26:
OF Byron Buxton (Appling County HS, Ga.), RHP Mark Appel (Stanford), RHP Kyle Zimmer (San Francisco), C Michael Zunino (Florida), SS Carlos Correa (Puerto Rico), RHP Kevin Gaussman (LSU), OF Albert Almora (Mater Academy, Fla), RHP Lucas Giolito (Harvard Westlake HS, Cal.), LHP Max Fried (Harvard Westlake HS, Cal.), SS Deven Marrero (Arizona State), RHP Marcus Stroman (Duke), RHP Michael Wacha (Texas A&M), OF David Dahl (Oak Mountain HS, Ala.), RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (Jesuit HS, Fla), SS Gavin Cecchini (Barbe HS, La.), OF Courtney Hawkins (Carroll HS, Tex.), 3B Corey Seager (NW Cabarrus HS, NC), LHP Andrew Heaney (Okla St.), RHP Chris Stratton (Miss. St.), OF D.J. Davis (Stone HS, Miss.), 3B Richie Schafer (Clemson), RHP Ty Hensley (Santa Fe HS, Okla.), LHP Matt Smoral (Solon HS, Ohio), RHP Zach Eflin (Hagerty HS, Fla.)
Here is a summary of the Diamondbacks' first ten picks in Monday's draft. The team's pick value is ranked 28th out of 30 teams.
The Diamondbacks have had a disappointing month of May, with a 10-17 record heading into Wednesday night's game against Tim Linecum and the Giants. That leaves the team with a 22-28 overall record, and puts the team 10.5 Games Behind the Dodgers. While both the starting pitching (overall 4.38 ERA, 14th out of 16 NL teams) and the bullpen (3.90 ERA, 10th out of 16) have played below expectations, the biggest source of frustration has been the team's offense. The Diamondbacks have scored only 100 runs in 27 games in May, or an average of just 3.85 R/G. They have scored 2 runs or fewer in 5 of the last 9 games, and in 19 games for the year. Only the Padres and Pirates have been held below 2 runs more times in 2012:
|Team||Games with 2 Runs or Less|
What's been wrong with the offense? The biggest problem has been the lack of power. While the Diamondbacks rank 4th in the NL with a .329 OBP, they are only 8th in Home Runs and are 7th in Slugging Percentage. For a team that plays half its games in hitter-friendly Chase Field, that's just not good enough. For the entire month of May, the Diamondbacks have hit only 16 Home Runs, well below the NL average of 25 per team.
Looking at the players with over 100 plate appearances this year, almost every batter is slugging worse than in 2011. The biggest culprits are the team's #3 and #4 hitters, Miguel Montero and Justin Upton, who have both seen their SLG drop by over .140 this year.
|Player||2012 SLG||2011 SLG|
Upton has shown some improvement recently, slugging .558 over the last two weeks, but Montero has been going in the opposite direction, with just a .301 SLG for May, and only batting .130/.287/.217 over the last two weeks. The only players on the roster with a SLG over .500 are Chris Young (.581 in 82 Plate Appearances), Lyle Overbay (.552 in 70 PA), and surprisingly, John McDonald (.531 in 68 PA).
While the Diamondbacks are off to a slow start at the Major League level, all four Minor League affiliates currently have winning records, and almost all of the organizations' top prospects are off to a good start in 2012. Here is an update on how the Top 16 players from the pre-season Top Prospects list are doing this year.
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP (21)
Bauer had eight strong starts for AA Mobile before being promoted to AAA Reno. There are a lot of positives for Bauer this year - excellent strikeout rates, low ERA, very few home runs. The only negative has been the walk rate, as he has struggled with command of his fastball on occasion. Still, the overall results have been very good. Some interesting quotes from Bauer about his walks and ground ball rates can be found in this interview with Nick Piecoro.
Justin Upton got off to a slow start in 2012, as discussed here last week. One area that has been particularly frustrating for Upton and for Diamondbacks fans is that he has struck out looking a league leading 20 times through his first 39 Games. Upton's overall strikeout rate in 2012 has increased from 18.7% in 2011 up to 23.8% in 2012, but that is actually the same as his career strikeout rate. The difference in 2012 is that is that for his career, about 30% of Upton's strikeouts have been looking, while this year that rate has shot up to 53%.
Upton is tied for 15th in the National League in total strikeouts, but ranks #1 in the NL in strikeouts looking:
Among those in the Top 25 in strikeouts, Upton also has the highest percentage of strikeouts looking in the NL. He's one of only two players who are over 40% in strikeouts looking, and the only NL player over 50%.
Looking at Upton's previous stats on strikeouts looking, this rate of 53% is way over his previous numbers:
|Year||Strikeout Rate||% Looking||Total K|
Upton has only been swinging at 40.9% of the pitches he has seen this year, down from his career rate of 43.9%, and his high of 46.6% in 2011. He has been unhappy with the umpires' calls of balls and strikes for most of the season, but it is clear that he needs to do a better job of protecting the plate once he gets two strikes.