When CF Chris Young went on the Disabled List on April 18th, the Diamondbacks recalled OF A.J. Pollock from AAA Reno. But Pollock has really struggled in the Majors, going just 3 for 25 over 11 games, with just one walk and zero extra base hits. Remember that Pollock had played one full season at the AA level followed by just 12 games at AAA, and he appears to be overmatched at the Major League level right now. While he has only struck out four times, he has hit very few balls hard over the last two weeks.
What other options do the Diamondbacks have to play CF besides Gerardo Parra? At AAA Reno, the two centerfielders are Adam Eaton and Evan Frey. Eaton, 23, has played just 15 games in AAA and 67 games in AA. He does have a .439 OBP at AAA, and a career OBP of .455 for his Minor League career. But he has as little experience as Pollock, and may run into similar problems in the Majors. Frey, 26, has a .232/.357/.317 line for Reno, but his low slugging percentage (career .365) probably doesn't suggest success in the Majors. Another AAA option could be Cole Gillespie, but he is hitting only .194/.290/.269 so far this year.
The best option for the Diamondbacks may be 28 year old Brent Clevlen, who was recently signed to AA Mobile. Clevlen has Major League experience, having played 59 games in the Majors with a career line of .234/.280/.429. While the OBP has been low, he has good power and can play all three outfield positions effectively. The same has been true in Mobile this year, as Clevlen is hitting .280/.315/.520 in his first 13 games. As a right-handed batter, he would be a natural platoon partner for Parra in CF. Plus, he may be better suited to a part-time role than Pollock and Eaton, who would be better off playing every day in AAA than getting one or two starts a week in the Majors. And he would provide a power option on the bench, which is something the team is lacking.
We'll see if the Diamondbacks decide to make a move. One problem is that Clevlen is not on the 40-Man roster, although the current roster does not seem to be full (19 Pitchers, 3 Catchers, 9 Infielders, 7 Outfielders = 38 players, plus the recently released Jonathan Albaladejo and Geoff Blum on the 60-Day DL) . If they had to, they could decide to transfer Stephen Drew to the 60-Day DL, which would mean that he could not return to the Majors until early June, or designate someone else for assignment (Yonata Ortega? Cole Gillespie? Sam Demel? Mike Zagurski?). But it doesn't seem necessary right now, if the roster on the Diamondbacks web site is accurate. In any case, it wouldn't be a surprise to see A.J. Pollock sent back to AAA, and someone else given a shot as the 4th outfielder.
The Diamondbacks completed the month of April 2012 with a decent 12-11 record, despite losing Chris Young and Daniel Hudson to the Disabled List. Even though Young only played in 11 of the team's 23 games, he still leads the team in HR and RBI. The leading pitcher so far has been Joe Saunders, who currently leads all Major League pitchers with a 0.90 ERA. On the other end of the spectrum are pitchers Josh Collmenter, Mike Zagurski, and Joe Paterson, who all have ERAs over 9.00, and five hitters who are still batting below .200 - Ryan Roberts, Paul Goldschmidt, Henry Blanco, A.J. Pollock, and Geoff Blum.
31 Players have played for the Diamondbacks in the month of April. Here are my rankings from #1 to #31.
With 9 strikeouts in 6 innings on Thursday night, Trevor Bauer now leads all Minor League pitchers in strikeouts with 37, passing AA Mobile teammate Tyler Skaggs. Close behind in the strikeout race is Visalia (High Class A) pitcher Andrew Chafin, who has 33 strikeouts in just 20.2 IP.
(Through games of Thursday, April 26)
Just missing the Top 10 are several more Diamondback pitchers - David Holmberg and Michael Bolsinger of Visalia have 27 strikeouts each, Archie Bradley has 26 for South Bend, Patrick Corbin of Mobile has 25, and Anthony Meo of Visalia has 24.
The Diamondbacks have added to their organizational depth by acquiring 3B Josh Bell (assigned to AAA Reno) and OF Brent Clevlen (to AA Mobile). The recent injury to OF Chris Young and the slow start by 3B Ryan Roberts have highlighted the organization's lack of position player depth in the upper minors, and both newcomers could find themselves with opportunities at the Major League level if things break right for them.
Bell, age 25, was originally a 4th Round draft pick of the Dodgers in the 2005 draft. He went to the Orioles in 2009 as part of a trade for LHP George Sherrill, and then was traded to the Diamondbacks on April 21 after being designated for assignment by the Orioles. Bell had played parts of the 2010 and 2011 seasons in Baltimore, compiling a career .200/.221/.264 batting line over 220 AB. Even worse, Bell has a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 78 to 6, which is the poorest of any Major Leaguer with over 200 plate appearances over the last two years.
Bell's Minor League numbers are a little better, as he actually posted decent walk and OBP numbers in 2008 and 2009 to go with some good power. But at the AAA level, the K/BB ratio deteriorated and the OBP dropped to an unacceptable level.
The Orioles Designated Bell For Assignment after Spring Training, giving the 3B position to a combination of Mark Reynolds, Wilson Betemit, and Rule 5 pick Ryan Flaherty, and the Diamondbacks acquired him for a player to be named later. He was assigned to AAA Reno, and has gotten off to a hot start, with 2 HR and 6 RBI in his first 10 ABs, plus one walk. With Ryan Roberts off to a slow start in the Majors (.170/.254/.264), Bell is battling with fellow AAA 3B Ryan Wheeler for an opportunity to play in the Majors. But even with Bell's hot start, he needs to show much better plate discipline before getting another shot at the Major League level.
Clevlen (age 28) has spent parts of four seasons in the Majors, with the Tigers and the Braves. Over 77 career Major League ABs, he has a line of .234/.280/.429, with 3 HR, 7 RBI, and an ugly 31/5 K/BB ratio. He's a good athlete who has power, can run, and can play decent outfield defense, but he's always had trouble with too many strikeouts and too low of a batting average.
Clevlen may still find a role as a 4th or 5th outfielder in the Majors. He has a strong arm, and has played plenty of CF (243 games) and RF (636 games) in the Minors. And Clevlen's power is always a good asset to have on the bench. If the Diamondbacks decide that they don't want a young player like A.J. Pollock sitting on the bench in the Majors, they may turn to a veteran like Clevlen for the reserve outfielder role.
The week of April 16-22 was a rough one for the Diamondbacks, as the team dropped five out of seven games to the Pirates and the Braves, including five losses in a row from Tuesday through Saturday. Even worse, the Diamondbacks lost hot-hitting CF Chris Young and #2 Starter Daniel Hudson to the 15-Day Disabled List, and were also without RF Justin Upton for several games due to a thumb injury. Not surprisingly, the team struggled to score runs all week, scoring just 21 runs over 7 games, while giving up 34. Here is a recap of Week 2 for the Diamondbacks, focusing on the team's injuries, offensive struggles, and some important minor league promotions.
Although several players have started off slowly for the Diamondbacks, the team still has a solid 7-3 record through the first ten games. The offense has scored 48 Runs through the 10 games, good for the third best rate in the NL, while the pitchers have allowed 37 Runs, which ranks 7th in the NL. Let's take a closer look at the individual performances so far this season.
In one year, things have really changed for the Diamondbacks' pitching staff. One year ago, the team was trying to pick between Zach Duke, Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, and Aaron Heilman for the back end of the rotation. The bullpen was coming off a historically bad season in 2010, and was hoping for improvement from newcomers J.J. Putz and David Hernandez. As we head into the 2012 season, the Diamondbacks now have five reliable starters (Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, Joe Saunders, Josh Collmenter), plus several exciting backup options in Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Patrick Corbin, and Wade Miley. Similarly, the bullpen has become an asset for the team, and has a quality pitcher in every slot.
Following up the projections for the hitters, here are my predictions for the Diamondbacks' pitchers for 2012.