It’s more than just a slight understatement to just say that the Arizona Diamondbacks “have pitching”. When you have arms like Tyler Skaggs, Jarrod Parker, Pat Corbin, and Trevor Bauer at one level alone, you have one crazy surplus. Each one of these pitchers is currently a fixture with Arizona’s AA affiliate in Mobile, Alabama and each one has a fairly high ceiling, save for Corbin (who still has plenty of value as a legit #4). It doesn’t seem likely that this group will be together in the near future, so let’s break down why the AA Mobile staff is really talented and really unfair to Southern League batters.
The most accomplished arm of this bunch is Tyler Skaggs, he of 2.65 FIP at High A Visalia and 2.70 FIP at AA Mobile. Following his move to the Diamondbacks organization in the Dan Haren trade, the lefty has maintained an excellent K rate (around 11.2/9 IP) while keeping his walks at a respectable level. A bump in velocity and increased control on his fastball, paired with his already excellent curve can account for much of what the 6’4″ 20 year old has done in 2011. It’s looking like the biggest thing going forward for the lanky lefty is that he works on keeping his mechanics clean and in-check, although he has already made great strides with them this year. Smaller framed/limbed pitchers usually have less problems repeating their deliveries, so this may be the one thing to keep an eye on along with the progress of his changeup. Either way, Skaggs is keeping a fine pace in his climb through the minors.
Jarrod Parker was always considered the more refined, highly regarded prospect before 2011, but Skaggs has challenged him all year. His past two seasons have been difficult as he’s rehabbed from Tommy John surgery and worked to find his feel for pitching again. Although struggling for Parker equals pitching to the tune of a 3.79 FIP at the AA level, with control being his biggest issue in his comeback campaign. The 6’1″ righty is not striking out as many as he did before surgery, but he is still getting the same amount of ground ball outs that he was before. It is important to note that Parker’s struggles are not on account of diminished stuff, as his fastball has still touched the upper 90′s and his slider has still shown the ability to dominate hitters. Almost just as significant is that the 22 year old’s mechanics are still clean and effortless; a good sign for the future. If the talented right-hander regains just a modicum of control he seems a sure bet to bump up his K rate and start really dominating hitters.
While Tyler Skaggs was the centerpiece in the return on Dan Haren, fellow lefty Pat Corbin has been a strong presence in the Mobile rotation after arriving from the Angels’ organization. The 22 year-old might not be throwing quite as well as Skaggs (3.48 FIP), but he is certainly holding his own considering he’s been with Mobile for the entire year. Corbin has averaged 8 K per 9 while keeping his walks lower than the rest of his rotation mates with an advanced feel for his fastball, slider, and changeup. His 6’3″ frame still has room to grow, which might lead to an uptick in velocity down the road on his already live fastball. Corbin is not one to blow it by hitters or finesse them to death, instead using his entire repertoire to keep hitters off balance with quality stuff. He’s mainly a flyball guy though, so he will need to maintain his current K rate once he reaches the major league level to post a respectable ERA for a 3/4 level starter. It’s very possible continued improvement to Corbin’s changeup may help him in this respect, in both increased strikeouts and a greater ground ball rate.
If two potential top-of-the-rotation arms isn’t good enough for you, Diamondbacks fans, then I’m sure you (along with most other baseball fans) are fairly interested to see what Trevor Bauer‘s future holds. Most everything he’s thrown in his UCLA career has been graded as plus, plus plus, or close to plus. I hesitate to say the 6’1″ righty has a “knack” for striking guys out, but that’s simply the quirky Californian’s approach to pitching in games. If/When you have the pleasure of watching him carve up a lineup, focus on his mid 90′s heater, sharp curve, and plus changeup (although he may toss an unorthodox slider/splitter in there somewhere just to make sure you’re paying attention). Bauer has a specific training/game day prep routine, and the Diamondbacks appear content in working with him to keep him happy, aggressively promoting him along the way. He hasn’t even cracked the 30 innings mark as a professional yet, and there’s talk of him already reaching the majors. Don’t be surprised if it happens soon.
Of the big four in the Mobile Bay Bears rotation, Jarrod Parker still seems like the best bet to be a steady ace in the Diamondbacks rotation in the near future, but Trevor Bauer may just beat him there. Tyler Skaggs has made improvemens that cannot be ignored, and depending on the consistency of his mechanics and the quality of his changeup, he should be fighting for a call up as well. It appears as if Bauer is considered the most major-league ready by how aggressively he’s been promoted, while Parker’s control issues and Skaggs’ youth have them just a step behind. Though Pat Corbin’s ceiling is not as high as his rotation mates, his consistency and strong command of three quality pitches may lead him to a call up before Skaggs and Parker if both struggle in their development next year. Don’t be mistaken though; Parker and Skaggs should have stronger careers in Arizona. Parker has the stuff to immediately step into a major league rotation; he just needs to get his control issues under control. This group won’t be together much longer (Bauer sounds like he’s on the fast track), so enjoy it while it lasts, Mobile fans.