Top D-backs Prospects: Raw Pitchers

Top D-backs Prospects: Raw Pitchers

After going hitter-heavy in the 2009 draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks went pitching crazy last summer, taking mound men with their first eight selections. Of the seven that signed, four were 18-years old and two were only 20. This increased Arizona's stock of raw pitchers with good potential who are difficult to rank this early in their development. Here are profiles of 10 such hurlers.

 

Top 60 Prospects
Age is listed as of January 1, 2011

RHP Enrique Burgos, Age 20


Enrique Burgos saw his hits allowed, home runs allowed, and ERA all plummet in 2010, but he also struck out fewer batters than he did in 2009 while his walks, wild pitches, and hit by pitch totals each increased.  His low-to-mid-90s heater did not seem to have as much sink and his offspeed pitches remained inconsistent.  The Diamondbacks will continue to develop this big Panamanian as a starter for now, but his career might not take off until he is shifted to relief duties.  Even still, Burgos needs to improve his control and harness his raw talent.

RHP J.R. Bradley, Age 19


At first glance, J.R. Bradley's debut season looks like a disaster: 1-7 with a 5.93 ERA and only 40 strikeouts in 54.2 innings.  He actually made great strides, though, allowing one run or fewer in four of his final five starts.

"I'd never dealt with failure," Bradley noted at a recent fundraiser for the Valley High baseball team. "I just have to go in with the mid-set I'm going to outwork everybody. My work ethic was what kept me going."

The 6-foot-4 hurler regularly hits 90 mph with his fastball and commands it well.  His smooth delivery may give him the endurance of a starter, but his secondary pitches need a lot of work to be effective in that role.

RHP Yiomar Camacho, Age 20

Yiomar Camacho lost all of 2009 to an arm injury, but bounced back with a solid 2010 campaign.  Although he finished the year 3-5, Camacho had a 3.89 ERA, .249 opponents' average, and induced two ground outs for every fly out.  The Venezuelan right-hander tops out at 91 miles per hour, throws a decent changeup, and has the best curveball among DSL Diamondbacks prospects.  He turns 21 this month and will get the chance to establish himself in the States this year. 

RHP Tyler Green, Age 19

Green pitched and played shortstop at Brazoswood high school, but the Diamondbacks are interested in him as a hurler.  That's because his fastball sits in the low-90s and can sometimes reach the mid-90s.  Green compliments that offering with an impressive power curveball.  He did not pitch with Arizona until the instructional league, since he'd been using a high-effort delivery that the D-backs wanted to fine tune prior to his pitching competitively.  Green's $750,000 signing bonus was the second-highest among 2010 Diamondbacks draftees despite the fact that he wasn't selected until the eighth round.

LHP Jose Jose, Age 20

Jose Jose was an outfielder who did nothing but strike out.  Now he's a pitcher doing his fair share of striking out, but this time it's in a good way.  It's not as prolific; Jose was fanning every other at-bat as a hitter, but now he's averaging only about a strikeout per inning as a pitcher.  He throws his fastball in the 90s and he throws it for strikes.  The next step is for him to develop a breaking ball, although he had enough of one to throw five shutout innings in his second career start and final appearance of the season.  The velocity on his heater also remained in the later innings of that start, as you might expect given Jose's athleticism.  All told, he held a 2.50 ERA over 17 appearances, plus a 1.98 ERA over his final 10. 

RHP Blake Perry, Age 18


Although he was taken in the sixth round, Blake Perry negotiated a half-million dollar signing bonus commensurate with a late second or early third-round draft pick.  Having not signed until the last minute, Perry only pitched one inning for the Osprey after going 2-0 with 29 strikeouts in 29 innings for the IMG Baseball Academy.   The lanky right-hander's velocity reportedly sits between 88-91 mph, but the Diamondbacks expect that to increase as Perry adds bulk to his body. 

RHP Andrea Pizziconi, Age 19

Pizziconi became the first ever Arizona Diamondback to sign out of Europe.  He's a sinker/slider guy who currently maxes out at 90 mph and is still working on his offspeed pitches.  At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Pizziconi could possibly add velocity to his fastball, although reports suggest that he already has solid mechanics.  The Italian right-hander had a dazzling 2.57 ERA between Yakima and Missoula, but the meager 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings that he averaged is a cause for concern.  If he isn't missing bats at these low levels, advanced hitters are going to feast upon him.

RHP Robby Rowland, Age 19


Rowland came to the D-backs in the third round of the draft boasting an impressive 6-foot-6 frame, strong baseball bloodlines, and a developing five-pitch repertoire.  The upper-80s fastball, cutter, curveball, splitter, and straight change did not lead to much success with Missoula, as Rowland had a 5.67 ERA and only 40 strikeouts in 54 innings.  The assumption is that Rowland will add velocity to his fastball, sharpen and perhaps consolidate his secondary pitches, and develop into a middle-of-the rotation type of starter.  Patience will be key, as the splitfinger fastball has been known to set back many a young pitcher with the stress it places on the arm.

RHP Jeff Shields, Age 20

Jeff Shields converted from a sometimes closer/sometimes shortstop to a full-time pitcher prior to the 2010 season, and it was a very good call.   He went 12-1, 1.37 with 92 strikeouts in 85 innings for Chattahoochee Valley, earning him a seventh-round selection in June.  He struggled with his command as a pro, walking 11 batters (nine unintentional) in 16.2 Pioneer League innings.  With a fastball that reaches the mid-90s and a decent slider, Shields just needs to improve his command of the two offerings to become a top relief prospect.  Add in a changeup, and the 6-foot-3 athlete becomes a viable candidate for the rotation.

LHP Cody Wheeler, Age 21


"Raw" isn't a fair characterization of the 21-year-old Cody Wheeler.  He is quite polished, having gone 30-2 over his three seasons with Coastal Carolina.  The reasons we list him here rather than try to rank him are his lack of professional experience and the lack of a consensus among scouts regarding his abilities.  He only tossed three innings for Yakima after throwing 111frames as a junior.  His pitches - a 90 mph fastball, curveball, and changeup - appear inconsistent despite solid mechanics and good core strength for the slender southpaw. 

So is Wheeler a fifth-round sleeper, or college wonder who will struggle professionally?  We'll begin to find out in April, with Wheeler expected to feature prominently in the South Bend Silver Hawks rotation.


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