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TOP 10 PROSPECTS
|1. Anthony Banda, lhp|
|2. Dawel Lugo, 3b|
|3. Domingo Leyba, ss/2b|
|4. Socrates Brito, of|
|5. Jazz Chisholm, ss|
|6. Anfernee Grier, of|
|7. Taylor Clarke, rhp|
|8. Brad Keller, rhp|
|9. Jon Duplantier, rhp|
|10. Curtis Taylor, rhp|
The Diamondbacks came out of spring training in 2016 with a Cactus League-best 24-8 record and a huge wave of optimism, largely due to what was expected to be a bolstered rotation after the shocking free-agent signing of Dodgers ace Zack Greinke and the controversial trade to acquire Shelby Miller from the Braves.
With their rotation fortified, Arizona hoped to thrive in 2016 and catapult into contention for the National League West title.
Instead, everything fell apart.
The D-backs finished 69-93, which was quite the fall from the club’s optimistic preseason outlook. They barely squeaked past the Padres to finish one game out of the NL West cellar.
Center fielder A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow in the next-to-last spring training game and missed most of the season. With the outfield depth weakened due to the inclusion of reliable outfielder Ender Inciarte in the Miller trade, the D-backs were forced to put shortstop Chris Owings in center field, despite the fact that he hadn’t played the outfield since high school.
To compound the shortage, outfielder David Peralta was limited to 48 games with multiple injuries.
Coming off a Cy Young Award runner-up season with the 2015 Dodgers, Greinke didn’t live up to expectations. He went 13-7 with a subpar 4.37 ERA, while also missing the entire month of July with an oblique injury. Miller posted some of the worst numbers of any starting pitcher in the game and spent time at Triple-A Reno in an attempt to get his delivery and mechanics back to form.
The trade to acquire Miller had been universally derided in the industry. In addition to giving up Inciarte, the D-backs included shortstop Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, and top pitching prospect Aaron Blair in the deal.
The front office of chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart came under fire for the team’s performance, but especially for the Miller trade. The duo’s approach to the game proved out of touch and out of place with the advanced baseball methodologies practiced by the other 29 organizations.
Ownership finally pulled the plug on their two-year regime, with Stewart, senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson and manager Chip Hale all terminated after the end of the 2016 season. La Russa, the Hall of Fame manager, was retained in a nebulous advisory role with no apparent power.
The organization certainly went in the other direction for their replacements, bringing in a pair of acclaimed executives from the Red Sox: general manager Mike Hazen and assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye. New manager Torey Lovullo, who had served as Boston’s bench coach, followed a few weeks later. Another newcomer, Cesar Geronimo Jr., was hired to be the new Latin America scouting director.
The biggest challenge facing Hazen and company is to work within the framework of a projected payroll of around $100 million, especially since one-third of that total is due to Greinke. There’s not much help to be expected from the farm system, one of the weakest in baseball.
Arizona is starting from the bottom, but Hazen and the new regime have a blank canvas to work with as they try to get the D-backs back on track.
1. Anthony Banda, lhp
Born: Aug. 10, 1993. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: San Jacinto (Texas) JC, 2012 (10th round). Signed by: Brian Sankey (Brewers).
Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.
Background: Not every trade for prospects works out for the team trading away big league talent, but the Diamondbacks certainly benefited from the deal in which they sent veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Brewers in 2014 in exchange for Banda and outfielder Mitch Haniger. The trade was the D-backs’ second attempt to bring Banda into the organization after previously drafting the Texas native in the 33rd round out of high school in 2011. Banda instead played one year at junior college powerhouse San Jacinto (Texas), where he went 6-0, 1.95 to help the Gators to a second-place finish at the Division I NJCAA World Series. After his year at San Jacinto, Banda was selected by Milwaukee in the 10th round in 2012 and signed for an over-slot $125,000 bonus. He made it to low Class A with the Brewers by his third season before moving to the D-backs organization. Banda struggled with his command in the early part of his career but started throwing more strikes and increased his velocity not long after joining Arizona. He showed continual improvement in 2015 and 2016. He got a big boost after the 2015 season when he worked with former big league southpaw Mike Gonzalez, a fellow native of the Corpus Christi area and also a one-time San Jac pitcher. Shortly after being promoted from Double-A Mobile to Triple-A Reno midway through the 2016 season, Banda was Arizona’s lone representative at the Futures Game. By the end of the year, he ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Double-A Southern League and No. 20 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He led the D-backs system with 152 strikeouts and ranked second with a 2.88 ERA in 150 innings.
Scouting Report: Banda uses a four-seam fastball with armside run that has continually ticked up during his pro career. His heater sat 86-89 mph in junior college but now sits 92-95 and touches 96 because to added strength and improved mechanics. The jewel of his arsenal is a slow, mid-70s curveball that flashes plus at times, and he complements the breaking ball with an at least average, firm changeup with down movement. He repeats his smooth, easy delivery and effectively sequences his pitches. Banda consistently records high strikeout totals, with a career rate of 8.8 per nine innings. He has walked just 3.2 per nine since joining Arizona. One area for improvement is to better control the running game and other small facets of pitching.
The Future: Previously cast as a potential No. 5 starter or reliever, Banda is now viewed as a possible mid-rotation arm with one plus pitch and two other average-or-better weapons and above-average control. He will go to big league spring training in 2017 with a chance to break camp on the 25-man roster. More likely he winds up back at Reno for more seasoning. He should make his big league debut at some point in 2017.