When general manager Kevin Towers passed on trading deadline deals that would have thinned the Diamondbacks minor league system, the recent performance of Patrick Corbin was the sort of thing that informed his thinking.
Corbin has made two quality starts since returning from Class AAA Reno to the rotation Aug. 1. He beat the Los Angeles Dodgers with six shutout innings that day and was in line for the victory Tuesday before the bullpen could not hold a 3-2 lead in Pittsburgh.
His is one of the many quality arms in the D-backs system.
The kind of arms opposing general managers sought.
The kind that the D-backs refused to move.
Pitching is always at a premium on the open market, and if you can grow it yourself, all the better. Combine interim general manager Jerry Dipotos astute 2010 deadline deals with the D-backs ability to make two of the top seven picks in the 2011 draft, the D-backs find themselves with several of the top-rated prospects in baseball.
Long-term control is the key for mid- and small-market teams, and the D-backs were not about to sacrifice a piece of their future for a possible short-term gain.
It makes a lot of sense, considering the talent on hand.
Industry bible Baseball America ranked the Diamondbacks minor league system No. 4 entering in 2011, with Tyler Skaggs and 2011 first-round picks Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley among the top 30. Baseball Prospectus ranked those three in the top 40.
And that was before Bauer, Skaggs, Corbin, Adam Eaton and Ryan Wheeler, among others, took another step forward this season.
Skaggs has appeared in the Futures Game in each of the last two seasons, and as with most of the D-backs top minor league talent, the future is drawing near.
The Elite Eight
RHP Trevor Bauer
11-1, 2.16 ERA, 125 strikeouts in 104 innings (AAA, AA)
Sure, Bauer had a little trouble in his first four major league starts on either side of the All-Star break, when his velocity declined, although it appears that groin and leg injuries were more of an issue than originally believed. He still has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball, and he did shut out the Dodgers on two hits over six innings on July 8. Bauer threw six shutout innings for Class AAA Reno on Monday, and the most encouraging takeaway was that he used only 80 pitches.
LHP Tyler Skaggs
9-5, 2.38 ERA, 112 strikeouts in 117 13 innings (AAA, AA)
Skaggs has been the best pitcher in the system since being promoted from Mobile to Reno six weeks ago, moving up after Bauer was taken to the big leagues. Skaggs was at it again Wednesday, giving up one run in six innings. He has given up four earned runs in his last 40 23 innings, a 0.89 ERA.
RHP Archie Bradley
9-5, 3.90 ERA, 115 strikeouts in 108 13 innings (A)
Miguel Montero wandered over to the minor league camp to get a look at Bradley this spring and came back raving. It is easy to understand. Bradleys fastball has stayed in the mid-90 mph range all season, and his command has improved as his first pro season has progressed.
SS Chris Owings
.299, 15 home runs, 46 RBI (AA, A)
Owings, who does not turn 21 until Sunday, is one of the youngest players in the Southern League, but he has held his own after being promoted from Visalia, where he made the California League midseason all-star team. Owings glove is major league-ready, and he already has set a career high in homers.
OF Adam Eaton
.384, 40 doubles, 41 RBI, 40 stolen bases (AAA)
Eaton continues to lead the minor leagues in hits and runs, and he became the ninth minor league since 2008 to score 120 runs in a season when he reached that number on Saturday. He has a right fielders arm and a center fielders range and has the makings of a table-setting, base-stealing leadoff hitter D-backs have never had in their 15 years.
3B Matt Davidson
.267, 20 home runs, 59 RBI (AA)
Davidson, also one of the youngest players in the Southern League at 21, is third in the Southern League in home runs and fifth in OPS. His bat is his biggest weapon, and his all-fields approach will play at every level. He has 26 errors at Mobile, but scouts have seen improved range and footwork around the bag.
LHP David Holmberg (AA, A)
9-7, 3.31 ERA, 137 strikeouts in 149 13 innings
Holmbergs fastball has been clocked in the low 90 mph range, plenty when you consider he has shown ability to command his three other pitches, including a changeup that is probably his best offspeed pitch. He turned 21 on July 19.
C Michael Perez (Rookie)
.309, 7 homers, 45 RBI
Perez, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011, has time to develop, inasmuch as Miguel Montero just signed a five-year, 60 million contract extension. After spending the early part of the season in the extended spring training program, Perez has 22 extra-base hits and 45 RBIs in 35 games at Missoula. Perez, who turned 20 on Monday, is built like Montero, and hits like him, too.
Note: Corbin, Wheeler and A.J. Pollock were omitted fromthis list because of their extended major league playing time this season.
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