Prospect A-Z returned to the Rangers organization with lefty starter Robbie Ross. He’s one of a few upper minors starters the Rangers have left after trading Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland to the Padres at the deadline, but it’s still a deep system, especially in the lower levels. Ross has the potential to start, but with a solid major league rotation and an organization with a lot of pitcher depth, he could do very well as a reliever with his ability to pile up strikeouts and groundouts. Let’s stick with lefty starters but go with Tyler Skaggs of the Diamondbacks.
When the news broke of Dan Haren‘s trade to Anaheim last year, people immediately questioned the wisdom in letting an interim GM trade a big part of the franchise like Haren. He was having a down year, but it proved to just be a blip on the radar. At the time, it didn’t seem like the Diamondbacks got fair value at all, but the perception seems to be changing, and that’s thanks to Tyler Skaggs’ emergence. He was the PTBNL in that deal originally, and now it’s clear he’s the big catch in the trade. Meanwhile, Jerry DiPoto is now Haren’s general manager in Anaheim, and there’s no interim tag.
DiPoto has made quite a splash in his first offseason as a general manager. He came virtually out of nowhere to steal Albert Pujols right under the noses of St. Louis and Miami, and when C.J. Wilson made it clear he wanted to play close to home, and even though Anaheim didn’t really need to spend big money on the rotation, they made it work at a reasonable rate for both parties. They proved to be within striking distance of the Rangers last year, and now the back to back AL champs have to be worried. It should be a great race in 2012.
Back to Skaggs though. The Diamondbacks were happy to trade for him in 2010 after just missing out on him in the previous draft. He has a very good feel for pitching compared to most pitchers that come out of high school, and the Angels started him out in the Midwest League in his first full year as a professional. He represented Cedar Rapids in the All-Star Game, and by the time of the trade, he had a 3.61 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and had he recorded one fewer out, he would have 82 strikeouts in 82 innings.
Two weeks after the trade deadline, Skaggs was finally able to pitch for the Diamondbacks organization. Draft picks aren’t allowed to be traded until one year after they signed, and he didn’t sign until the deadline right on 8/15. So for two weeks, he couldn’t pitch in games. He finished the year by making four short starts for Arizona’s affiliate in the MWL, striking out 20 and only walking four in 16 innings. It was an impressive showing, but there were still a few doubts about his future upside.
One year later, those doubts seem to have been erased. Although it was in Visalia which is one of few parks in the league favorable to pitchers, Skaggs conquered the Cal League. He started the All-Star Game against the Carolina League, a great honor for a league pretty deep with pitchers this season. A greater honor came in July when he was tabbed to start the Futures Game for Team USA. This was in front of his future fans in Arizona. For Visalia, Skaggs struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings with a 3.22 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
The strikeout rate was particularly notable for Skaggs because scouts wanted to see his stuff continue to develop a little more after 2010. With a 6’4, 195 pound frame, it certainly wasn’t out of the question. His fastball needed a little more consistent velocity, and that should happen with his projectable frame. If his numbers against right handed batters are any indication, his changeup is improving. In addition to his curveball which is his best pitch, Skaggs has the potential for three plus pitches. He might have a future as a #2 starter.
Skaggs finished the year at AA Mobile, and Diamondbacks had a glimpse of their future rotation. At one point during the year, other top prospects like Trevor Bauer and Jarrod Parker also pitched for the BayBears, although Parker is now with the Oakland organization. Pat Corbin and Wade Miley also spent time in AA, and all of those guys have the potential to pitch in a major league rotation someday. Arizona went from worst to first from 2010 to 2011, and their future should be in good hands with great pitching depth in the organization. With Trevor Cahill, Dan Hudson and Ian Kennedy already manning the rotation, as long as they continue to build around Justin Upton, they will be in good shape.
Prospect A-Z will be taking a three day weekend and return on Tuesday with one of the following: Will it be another top pitching prospect for Seattle, a former #1 pick that’s been a disappointment or the Phillies’ strikeout king? Merry Christmas to all readers. May you, your family and friends all receive copies of Bus Leagues Experience Volume 2 under the tree.