Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers hasn’t been shy about overhauling his roster.
He made changes after taking the job at the end of the 2010 season, most notably to the bullpen, and Arizona improved by 29 victories and won the National League West in 2011.
The Diamondbacks geared up for another run at the postseason in 2012 by signing free agent Jason Kubel and trading prospects Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill to the Athletics for Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow. But injuries and the inability to duplicate the 48 come-from-behind victories of 2011 contributed to 13 fewer wins, a .500 record and a third-place finish.
Towers started remaking the 2013 roster before last season ended. When former franchise cornerstone Stephen Drew never got his bat going after he came back from ankle surgery, Towers shipped him to Oakland for fringe shortstop prospect Sean Jamieson.
He swung another deal with the A’s in October, a three-team transaction with the Marlins that brought Heath Bell and Cliff Pennington to Arizona in exchange for Chris Young, who wasn’t the same after injuring his shoulder crashing into an outfield wall in April. Towers added more bullpen help by swapping third-base prospect Ryan Wheeler to the Rockies for Matt Reynolds, and signed veteran free agents Brandon McCarthy and Cody Ross.
Towers made his biggest deal in mid-December when he gave up the third overall pick in the 2011 draft (Trevor Bauer) in a three-team deal to get shortstop Didi Gregorius as a replacement for Drew. And rumors continued to swirl that the Diamondbacks’ best player, Justin Upton, was on the block.
While the team’s 2012 performance was a disappointment, a steady stream of rookies provided some hope for the future and more fodder with which Towers could remake his club. Wade Miley won 16 games, made the All-Star Game and finished second in NL rookie of the year voting.
Top prospects Tyler Skaggs and Bauer also joined the rotation, though neither was particularly effective. Bauer was demoted after four midseason starts, while Skaggs was shut down after six starts with a tired arm in mid-September. They were outperformed by Patrick Corbin, who provided six wins.
Adam Eaton, a 19th-round pick as senior sign from Miami (Ohio) in 2010, made Young expendable as he continued his meteoric rise through the farm system. Arizona’s minor league player of the year, Eaton led the minors in batting (.375), hits (198) and doubles (47) and won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP award. He drilled his first two major league homers in September and will start in center field in 2013.
Eaton was just part of the good news down on the farm. Reno won both the PCL playoffs and the Triple-A National Championship, Mobile grabbed its second straight Double-A Southern League title and Missoula earned the Rookie-level Pioneer League crown.
After Towers arrived in 2010 and senior vice president of scouting and player development Jerry DiPoto left to become Angels GM following the 2011 season, the front office was relatively stable in 2012. The only significant change came in November, when international scouting director Carlos Gomez followed DiPoto to the Angels in the same role. Arizona hired former Red Sox international director Craig Shipley as an assistant to Towers a week later.
Background: Skaggs was a three-sport star at Santa Monica (Calif.) High, where his mother Debbie was the longtime softball coach. He eventually gave up basketball and football to focus on baseball and pitched his way into the supplemental first round of the 2009 draft. The Diamondbacks hoped to take him with the 41st overall selection, but the Angels beat them to the punch at No. 40. He was part of a strong Angels draft class that already has sent Mike Trout, Skaggs, Garrett Richards, Patrick Corbin and Drew Carpenter to the majors. Skaggs signed for $1 million just before the Aug. 17 deadline, giving up a Cal State Fullerton commitment. Arizona finally got him a year later, acquiring him as the centerpiece of a July 2010 trade for Dan Haren. The Diamondbacks also received Corbin, Rafael Rodriguez and Joe Saunders. Skaggs’ fastball velocity and prospect stock have risen in each of his two full seasons with Arizona, and he represented the organization in the last two Futures Games. He ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Double-A Southern League and No. 4 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2012, going a combined 9-6, 2.87 with 116 strikeouts in 123 innings before making his major league debut on Aug. 22. He beat the Marlins in his big league start and pitched well in his next two before he tired and his velocity dropped in his next three. The Diamondbacks shut him down for the season after the Padres beat him on Sept. 20.
Scouting Report: The jewel of Skaggs’ repertoire is a sharp 12-to-6 curveball that he throws in the mid-70s. It features late, sharp break and is regarded as one of the best in the minors. He set it up with a fastball that ranges from 89-94 mph and features some armside run. He delivers his heater with good downhill plane and spots it to both sides of the plate. He throws in the low 90s more consistently than he ever has, and he also has improved his fastball command as well. Skaggs’ changeup gives him a potential third plus pitch, but he needs to trust it more. It arrives at 78-80 mph, has some fade and plays well off his fastball. He can dominate hitters when all three pitches are working for him. Skaggs has smooth, easy mechanics and uses a high three-quarters arm slot. His athleticism allows him to repeat his delivery and consistently command his pitches. He also stands out for his composure on the mound and his idea of what he needs to do with each hitter. He holds runners well with a strong pickoff move, permitting just five steals in eight attempts last year. He didn’t give up a single stolen base in his six major league starts and he uses his athleticism to field his position well.
The Future: Skaggs will only be 21 when spring training rolls around, but he has an excellent chance of earning a spot in the Arizona rotation when camp breaks. There’s still some projection remaining in his lanky frame, so there’s a chance he could continue to get stronger and add more velocity to his fastball. One of the top lefthanded pitching prospects in the game, he projects as a No. 2 starter.
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Background: When the Diamondbacks failed to sign No. 6 overall selection Barrett Loux in 2010, they got the seventh choice in 2011 as compensation. That pick became Bradley, who turned down the chance to play quarterback at Oklahoma for a $5 million bonus. After pitching two innings in his first pro summer, he jumped to low Class A South Bend in 2012, ranking as the Midwest League’s top pitching prospect while leading in opponent average (.181), but also in walks (84).
Scouting Report: Arizona has a pair of potential No. 1 starters in the system, and Bradley has the most electric arm. His fastball ranges from 93-98 mph, though he doesn’t always command it well because a high leg kick can throw off his mechanics. At least when he misses, he misses down in the strike zone. Bradley’s above-average 12-to-6 curveball gives him a second swing-and-miss pitch, and he’s developing feel for an average changeup with nice sink. He has the athleticism and easy delivery to develop solid control, as well as a strong build for durability.
The Future: Bradley made significant strides with his command in instructional league, so he could take off in 2013. With a deep pool of pitching prospects ahead of him, Arizona won’t have to rush Bradley, who will spend all or most of the year at high Class A Visalia.
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Background: Eaton won the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting title (.385) after signing for $35,000 as a 19th-round college senior in 2010, and he continues to prove that was no fluke. He reached the big leagues in 2012, when he also led led the minors in batting (.375), hits (198) and doubles (47) and was named Pacific Coast League MVP. He played regularly for Arizona in September before an errant pitch broke his right hand.
Scouting Report: Though Eaton is undersized at 5-foot-9, he has plenty of tools. His plus-plus speed stands out the most, and he does an excellent job of putting the ball in play so he can use it. He gets to top speed quickly, making him a basestealing threat. He led the PCL with 38 in 48 tries last year. A prototypical leadoff hitter, Eaton consistently puts together good at-bats and gets on base. He added more pop to his package in 2012 and now projects as a double-digit home run threat. He also made big strides defensively, convincing scouts that he can be a big league center fielder. He has a strong, accurate arm.
The Future: Eaton has gone from draft afterthought to big league regular in two years and he has a relatively clear path to be Arizona’s everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter.
Background: A high school teammate of Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker, Davidson was the 35th overall pick in the 2009 draft and signed for $900,000, but didn’t debut until the following year. After sharing third base with 2009 first-rounder Bobby Borchering in their first two full pro seasons, Davidson had the hot corner to himself at Double-A Mobile last year. He improved his defense and slammed a career-high 23 homers.
Scouting Report: Davidson brings a professional approach and plenty of power to the plate. When he doesn’t try to do too much, he can drive the ball to all fields. While he continued to improve his plate discipline in 2012, he’ll always accumulate strikeouts and probably won’t hit for a high average. The opportunity to play regularly at third base helped Davidson enhance his range and actions. His 28 errors led SL third basemen by a wide margin, so he needs more consistency, but he has the soft hands and average arm to play there. Better positioning would help him. He’s a below-average runner.
The Future: Arizona needs a starting third baseman and more power bats in its lineup. Davidson still needs some time in Triple-A but should make his major league debut at some point in 2013. He’ll push incumbent Chris Johnson aside when he’s ready.
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Background: The Diamondbacks had sought a shortstop since trading Stephen Drew to the Athletics in August, and they found one by making a three-team deal in December. In return for Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw, Arizona received Gregorius from the Reds plus Tony Sipp and first-base prospect Lars Anderson from the Indians. Afterward, Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said that Gregorius reminded him of a young Derek Jeter.
Scouting Report: Most scouts see Gregorius as the opposite of Jeter, a gifted defender with questions about his bat. Gregorius has smooth actions, plus range and a sniper rifle of an arm, allowing him to make plays from deep in the hole. He showed improved consistency in 2012, making just 18 errors in 128 games. Scouts are divided on Gregorius’ bat. Some think he could end up as a No. 2 hitter, while others think he’ll fit at the bottom of a lineup. He’s too aggressive and needs to use the whole field more, but he does have gap power. He’s an average runner.
The Future: Blocked by Zack Cozart in Cincinnati, Gregorius now has a clear path to starting. Whether the Diamondbacks will regret giving up on Bauer so quickly remains to be seen.
Background: Getting Daniel Hudson from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson was a nice return for the Diamondbacks in their 2010 deadline deal. As an added bonus, they also received Holmberg, a polished lefthander who has breezed through three levels in the last two seasons.
Scouting Report: One of the most polished pitchers in the system, Holmberg has the best command among Arizona farmhands. He knows how to pitch and can locate four offerings where he wants. His best pitch is a low-80s changeup with sink that he’ll use in any situation. He spots his 88-91 mph fastball well, reaching as high as 93. He also has a good feel for a curveball and slider that can become average pitches. Holmberg is extremely poised on the mound and very sound mechanically. He has firmed up what used to be a doughy body and is now stronger and more athletic.
The Future: Holmberg held his own but didn’t dominate in Double-A, so he could open 2013 back in Mobile. He’s on track to reach Triple-A before he turns 22 and could make his big league debut in 2014. While he may not match the upside of other pitching prospects in the system, the odds are pretty good that he’ll reach his ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter.
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Background: When the Angels took Tyler Skaggs with the 40th overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Diamondbacks used the next choice on Owings, who signed for $950,000. Planta fascitis in both feet abbreviated his first full pro season, and he struggled with pitch-recognition issues in 2011. He put up the best offensive numbers of his career when he repeated high Class A last year, though he leveled off after a midseason promotion.
Scouting Report: Owings uses his strong hands to generate above-average bat speed. He has more power potential than most middle infielders and could match the 17 homers he hit in 2012 at higher levels. He used a more compact swing and stayed on pitches better last year, improving his ability to handle curveballs. He still needs to draw more walks, however. Owings should be at least an average big league shortstop, with solid range and a very strong arm. He runs well and could steal 20 or more bases on an annual basis once he refines his technique.
The Future: Owings will return to Mobile until he shows he can handle Double-A pitching. If he makes strides similar to 2012, he could reach Triple-A at midseason. Didi Gregorius is now Arizona’s future at shortstop, so Owings could wind up moving to second base.
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Background: A tough but friendly Cajun kid named after a character in a Burt Reynolds movie, Trahan was the first prep catcher drafted in 2012. The 26th overall pick, he signed for $1.7 million before slugging .473 and leading the Rookie-level Arizona League with 40 walks in his pro debut. Because he’s unrefined defensively, he spent the entire summer in the AZL so he could work with hitting coach Robby Hammock and catching coordinator Bill Plummer, both former big league catchers.
Scouting Report: Trahan’s hitting is far ahead of his defense. He has advanced plate discipline, above-average bat speed and the strength to drive the ball out of the park. His plus power is his calling card, but he also has the potential to hit for solid average. Opinions are mixed as to whether Trahan can stay behind the plate despite a strong arm and good athleticism. He threw out just 24 percent of AZL basestealers and his blocking and receiving skills are below average. He did show improvement during the summer. He runs well enough to play on an outfield corner if he has to move.
The Future: Trahan has the hitting chops to warrant a move to a full-season team, but he’ll likely stay behind in extended spring training to work on his defense at the start of 2013. His next stop likely will be short-season Hillsboro.
Background: After signing Chafin for $875,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2011, the Diamondbacks challenged him with a jump to high Class A in his first full pro season. He dominated in his first 10 starts, recording a 2.91 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 59 innings, before tiring and pulling bullpen duty for a month. The fatigue wasn’t unexpected, considering it was just his second year back from Tommy John surgery, and he recovered to lead the Califonia League in strikeouts per nine innings (11.0) and opponent average (.241).
Scouting Report: Chafin has the best slider in the system, and it can be unhittable for lefties and righties. He throws his 90-94 mph four-seam fastball to both sides of the plate, and he uses a two-seamer with sink. He focused more on his average change when pitching in relief and used it more in the second half. Chafin’s delivery lacks fluidity and features some upper-body tilt, leading some scouts to believe he might be better suited for the bullpen. He has the repertoire to remain in the rotation, though he’ll need to stop nibbling so much and trust his stuff more. Scouts noted a more aggressive approach during instructional league.
The Future: Chafin is ready to move to Double-A. He has a realistic ceiling of a mid-rotation starter or set-up man.
Background: The Diamondbacks expected Pollock to move quickly after signing him for $1.4 million as the 17th overall pick in 2009, but he missed the following season when he fractured a growth plate in his right elbow during spring training. He has made up for lost time by batting .312 in the upper minors during the last two seasons and getting three separate big league callups in 2012.
Scouting Report: Pollock’s total package is more than the sum of its parts, with only his bat and makeup grading better than average. He’s a gap-to-gap hitter who makes reliable contact but has yet to develop much over-the-fence power. The ball does come off his bat well, so Arizona believe he’ll eventually produce 10-15 homers per year. Pollock makes the most of his average speed, running the bases well and showing annual 20-steal potential. He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions, getting good reads and displaying an average arm that’s enough to handle right field.
The Future: Scouts are split on Pollock, with some seeing him as a solid regular in center field and others thinking he profiles best as a fourth outfielder. The Diamondbacks have no shortage of starting outfield candidates in Adam Eaton, Jason Kubel, Gerardo Parra and Justin Upton, so Pollock will have to settle for a reserve role in 2013.
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