SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. The Diamondbacks made a point to send their top pitching prospects against major league hitters this spring, and again Wednesday, the kids did not flinch.
Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs have thrown a combined seven shutout innings over the last two days, supplying further evidence in support of their high national profiles and the teams deep depth.
Corbin threw three scoreless innings in his first spring start against San Diego on Wednesday, striking out three while limiting the Padres to three singles. Tireless Trevor Bauer followed with three strikeouts in two shutout innings -- that after throwing 75 or so pitches in the bullpen before he entered. A day earlier, Skaggs threw two innings of shutout relief against the Los Angeles Angels.
You could almost see the future salivate.
Bauer is ranked the No. 9 minor league prospect by Baseball America. Skaggs is ranked No. 13. Corbin is ranked as the 30th best left-handed pitching prospect.
Were excited about the young pitching, general manager Kevin Towers said.
The exercise in immersion not only gave the D-backs a chance to evaluate their prospects against top competition, it also enabled them to judge their stuff and composure and perhaps even establish an early pecking order in the event that a major league opening develops at some point during the regular season.
Despite making strong impressions, none are expected to break camp with the D-backs, although that hardly means they will not pitch in the majors this year. The D-backs promoted nine pitchers from minor last season, including now No. 5 starter Josh Collmenter, down-the-stretch starter Wade Miley, Jarrod Parker, Bryan Shaw and Ryan Cook. Collmenter, Parker and Shaw were on the playoff roster.
The way I look at it, as we get down the road in spring training, thinking about (opening day) April 6, were going to have to make decisions, manager Kirk Gibson said.
Using Bauer in relief Wednesday was part of the learning process. The D-backs plan for Bauer to be a starter this season. But what happens if a relief opening occurs in midseason? If we want to bring one of our kids up and we need some length in the bullpen, would Pat Corbin be a guy, or Tyler Skaggs, or Trevor Bauer, if they absolutely have the best stuff?" Gibson said. "I think you want to leave your options open. We want to win a World Series this year, so this might be the beginning of how we see how he might do a modified way he gets ready.Im very encouraged by them. We liked them when they came in. We still like them.
The D-backs length in young pitching does not stop with Bauer, Skaggs and Corbin. Archie Bradley, like Bauer a high first-round pick last season, is ranked No. 23 overall by Baseball America. A high school player last season, he is farther away. David Holmberg is the No. 13 left-hander, Miley is ranked No. 19 and Charles Brewer has drawn positive words.
It is a deep group, so deep that it is possible not all will spend the majority of their major league careers in a D-backs uniform.
It has to do with need, and with dealing from strength.
General manager Kevin Towers expects to open exploratory talks on long-term contracts with top two starters Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. Both have said they are at least willing to listen. Trevor Cahill is under contract for three more years. If all goes well, the top three rotation spots could be locked in soon.
Towers used top prospect Parker he is ranked No. 26 by Baseball America and will open the season in Oaklands rotation to acquire Cahill and reliever Craig Breslow.
The other factor is the Miguel Montero situation. The sides failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract after Montero agreed to a one-year, 5.9 million deal to avoid arbitration, and it is possible Montero will price himself out of the D-backs salary range with a similar year to 2011, when he was one of the best hitting catchers in the majors.
The sides never were believed close in their talks, and if the D-backs succeed in locking up Kennedy andor Hudson, it would shrink the bank account.
The D-backs are thin in catching, and middle infield if Stephen Drew is slow to recover from his injury, a trade might be the best option. They are scouting both positions, and they have inquired about Angels catcher Hank Conger, although scouts say Conger must rebuild his game after a nagging injury limited his major league playing time last season.
The top catching prospects include Torontos Travis DArnaud, Philadelphias Sebastian Valle and Pittsburghs Tony Sanchez. The Giants have three young prospects on Baseball Americas preseason list. Boston has two, and so do the Yankees, even after trading Jesus Montero to Seattle last winter. DArnaud is blocked by J.P. Arencibia in Toronto and could be a target. He is ranked as the No. 17 prospect after winning the Class AA Eastern League MVP last season.
It would cost a lot to get a top catcher, but Towers will match his evaluation against anyone. Teams have asked the D-backs about Gerardo Parra, but Towers said he has engaged in no talks. Teams have not asked about the D-backs top pitchers, Towers said, because they do not believe the D-backs will part with one. Towers has never been afraid togive a prospect to get one.Follow Jack Magruder on Twitter