The past — at least the recent past — was not too kind to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Last season they won just 64 games, finishing with the worst record in all of baseball.
But there is reason to have hope that the future will be better, and it’s due in large part to their improving farm system.
Earlier this week, ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the D-backs’ farm system 14th in all of baseball. Thursday, in an ESPN Insider piece, he pointed out that Arizona has three of baseball’s top 100 minor league prospects in pitchers Braden Shipley, Archie Bradley and Aaron Blair.
Of the 22-year-old Shipley, whom he has ranked 19th, Law writes that Shipley has an excellent curveball with a plus changeup and a good fastball, while needing to improve in his command and pitch movement.
He can get ground balls and miss bats with both secondary offerings, and the Diamondbacks have cleaned up a little hand break that might have tipped his pitches, giving him at least No. 3 starter potential, with the chance to be more depending on how much his command develops.
Then there is Bradley, the 22-year-old who once ranked higher on this list but dropped after struggling in 2014. Law notes that could possibly be attributed to injuries, and even still the potential is there for the right-hander to get back to being one of the game’s best young hurlers.
Bradley still has the raw ingredients to be a top-of-a-rotation starter, between his size, delivery and the chance for two plus pitches. If the tear has completely healed after an offseason of rest — it’s typically not associated with elbow ligament tears in pitchers this young — look for Bradley’s old curveball to be back and his command to improve, which would put him back on the fast track to the big leagues.
Then, finally, there is Blair, a 22-year-old who reached Double-A Mobile last season. Law said it’s possible he is the best D-backs prospect of the three on his list, which he said is a thought some in the Arizona organization profess. Law writes Blair has a good fastball and a plus changeup, and has really improved his breaking ball.
Don’t overlook him in the mix with Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, as Blair might be the most major league-ready of the three and has at least an equal chance to remain in the rotation.
Last season, Law had Bradley ranked ninth on his list, with Shipley coming in at 25. Shortstop Chris Owings, who hit .261 with six home runs and 26 RBI for the D-backs last season, was 72nd.