The 2014 season has not gone according to plan thus far for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Over the first two months of the campaign, the D-backs have been plagued by both inconsistent play and notable injuries to key players.
But while Arizona’s less-than-stellar 23-36 record might not instill confidence within its fan base, ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law was more than happy to bring a little cheer to the Valley faithful with his updated top 25 prospects rankings.
In an ESPN insider piece released this weekend, Law included Arizona pitching prospects Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley on his esteemed list.
In fact, the D-backs were one of only five organizations — the others being the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins — to have more than one prospect ranked.
Bradley, the team’s No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, has had a rough go of it this season in Triple-A Reno. The Oklahoma native had a 1-4 record with 23 strikeouts in five starts with a 5.18 ERA before being forced to the Aces’ seven-day disabled list in late April with an elbow injury.
The 21-year-old has not made a return to the mound since his stint on the DL, however he has made progress in his rehabilitation program.
12. Archie Bradley | RHP | Arizona Diamondbacks (age 21)
Current level: Triple-A (Reno)
Preseason ranking: 9
Bradley probably would be in the majors by now had he not been slowed by an elbow injury that has cost him a month already and may not see him back in a game until mid-June.
He remains among the game’s best pitching prospects despite his high ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, making four of his five starts so far in terrible pitchers’ parks.
Like Bradley, Shipley is not a first-timer on Law’s list, though his progress in Low-A South Bend led to ESPN analyst moving him up the rankings.
The organization’s first-round selection last June, Shipley has been impressive so far in 2014, going 4-2 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in the Midwest League.
23. Braden Shipley | RHP | Arizona (age 22)
Current level: Low Class A (South Bend)
Preseason ranking: 25
Shipley got a slightly late start after a brief elbow scare of his own, but he’s been solid so far in low A, showing three above-average pitches at times with excellent control, walking two or fewer batters in every start but one so far. He’s too advanced for low A, but the D-backs may be trying to keep him out of the hitter-friendly Cal League, or to minimize any eventual stay there.
While the present might not seem extremely bright, it’s comforting to know the organization possesses potential pieces to build toward a better future. And based on Law’s rankings, the cupboard certainly isn’t bear for the D-backs when it comes to pitching talent.