D-backs remain optimistic about prospects

Despite injuries and slow starts, Montgomery sees potential

D-backs remain optimistic about prospects

PHOENIX -- The D-backs brought in many talented prospects during the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, but most of those players -- including first-round pick Touki Toussaint -- are likely years away from playing at Chase Field -- if they ever get there.

However, there is a bevy of young players who may make an impact on the big league club sooner rather than later.

Unfortunately for the D-backs, the cream of their Minor League crop has hit a roadblock this season. Starting pitcher Archie Bradley, MLB.com's No. 4 overall prospect, has not pitched since April 26 due to a sore right elbow.

Despite the injury, D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery is hopeful Bradley can return soon.

"He threw a couple innings, no issues," Montgomery said. "Command, control, velocity, everything was back."

Before being placed on the 7-day disabled list in April, Bradley was struggling in Triple-A Reno. In five games (24 1/3 innings), he had a 5.18 ERA and had already walked 12 batters.

The Pacific Coast League is known for being a hitter's paradise, so the No. 7 overall pick from 2011's struggles could be due to small sample size in a offensive league, as Bradley was still averaging nearly a strikeout per inning.

"He feels good," Montgomery said. "So [he is] coming along."

Another young arm progressing rapidly through the D-backs' farm system is Braden Shipley. The D-backs took the righty out of college in the first round of the 2013 Draft, and he is progressing quickly.

Shipley was primarily an infielder when he arrived at the University of Nevada-Reno, but he quickly focused on pitching after a year as the starting shortstop.

Shipley, who was recently promoted to High-A Visalia, has struck out 15 batters in 12 innings in his last two outings. Just a year after being drafted, Shipley was named the No. 23 prospect in ESPN writer Keith Law's midseason prospect list.

"[He's] a very athletic kid," Montgomery said. "We knew when we took him that he was going to have to get some innings.

"He's in Visalia now, which is a tough league to pitch in, and he's progressing quite well."

Shipley was the D-backs' first selection in 2013, but they also found talent a bit later in the Draft with another college pitcher without a lot of innings on his arm.

Daniel Gibson wasn't a star while he pitched at the University of Florida. He threw only 73 1/3 innings in three seasons while sitting behind other talented pitchers, like the Dodgers' Steven "Paco" Rodriguez and Austin Maddox, who is now in the Red Sox system.

But Gibson has been lights-out since the D-backs took him in the seventh round of the 2013 Draft. In 53 2/3 innings between Low-A Hillsboro and Class A South Bend, Gibson has a 1.17 ERA. Despite no single dominating pitch, he is averaging 9.9 strikeouts per nine innings.

"Sometime guys just don't get the opportunity to pitch enough in college," Montgomery said. "He just didn't get the innings he really needed. I think now [Gibson is] getting the consistent opportunity to pitch, flourishing more, maybe, in a role that he's better suited for out of the pen."

As good as the D-backs have been at developing pitchers, it's been more of a mixed bag in the field. Major League-ready players like shortstop Chris Owings have already reached the D-backs, leaving a bit of a dearth of promising position players. Of the D-backs' top 20 prospects, only seven are position players. Only three are in the top 10.

The top-ranked position player in the system is Stryker Trahan. The D-backs selected him 26th overall in the 2012 Draft as a catcher out of Lafayette, La., but Trahan has struggled in the field and at the plate.

The D-backs moved Trahan to the outfield before this season started, and he still hasn't found an answer at the plate -- he is hitting .200 with a .622 on-base-plus-slugging mark at Class A South Bend.

However, Montgomery remains optimistic that Trahan will improve with his bat.

"Coming from where he came from and the level of play he was used to playing against, it's a big step to go to the Midwest League at 19," Montgomery said. "So we expected him to have some issues and struggles, like most do.

"I like the fact that he's still shown the power that he has in the past and we thought when we drafted him. I'd like to see him work on his plate discipline a little more, cut down on the strikeouts, but I think going through that league at his age will be a good learning experience for him."

In the same Draft, however, the D-backs took a hitter who hit the ground running and hasn't looked back.

Jake Lamb, a third baseman who ranks as the D-backs' No. 6 prospect, according to MLB.com, has hit to the tune of a .959 OPS in 63 games at Double-A Mobile this season.

Lamb was a sixth-round pick in 2012 out of the University of Washington, and he has put up superb numbers in all three years he's been in the D-backs organization, never hitting below .294 or smacking fewer than nine home runs.

"It was just a matter of getting him to believe in his swing, his stroke, his power," Montgomery said.

Adam Lichtenstein is an associate reporter at MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.