Diamondbacks prospect Anthony Banda’s humble approach serves him well
SCOTTSDALE — Diamondbacks pitcher Anthony Banda’s Twitter profile includes a quote that reads: “No matter how good you are, you can always be replaced.”
It is a mental approach that has served him well.
“It’s reality,” Banda said. “It’s something to keep a lot of people humble. It keeps me humble. It keeps me aware. It keeps me working hard.”
It is a mentality that also will come in handy right now. Banda was optioned to Triple-A Reno March 14 after fighting for a spot in the Diamondbacks’ rotation during spring training.
This was his first big league camp and served as a chance to get to know the players in the big league clubhouse.
Not that they aren’t already aware of Banda.
The 23-year-old bespectacled left-handed pitcher can fling a 96 mph fastball, which has a lot to do with his ranking as the No. 1 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline.com.
That lively left arm is inked with his family tree. The words “relentless,” “fearless” and “pride” are inked onto his wrist.
His right arm is cloaked with a tattooed sleeve of clouds and stars dedicated to his grandparents, who both passed away from cancer.
They are reminders to continue doing what it takes to move up the development ladder. Last season he posted a 2.67 ERA for the Double-A Mobile BayBears, and followed up with a 3.67 ERA for the Triple-A Reno Aces.
Then, for his first start of spring training, he put up a solid outing in which he tossed a scoreless inning and yielded one walk.
The option to Reno was not entirely unexpected, but it is likely only a matter of time before Banda gets his shot with the big league club. Baseball America ranks him as the 88th best prospect in baseball — the only Arizona player in the top 100.
Banda understands that such rankings don’t mean much. He must produce on the field.
“We have a lot of good talent here in this organization,” he said. “ It’s an honor to be recognized and be a part of something like that but, it’s a just a list to me, personally.”
Pitching coach Mike Butcher got to know Banda on a personal level at the team’s rookie development camp prior to spring training.
Banda has a quiet demeanor. Butcher said that’s just his personality.
“I think, deep down, he’s funny. He’s quick-witted, but he’s definitely very low-key,” Butcher said.
Butcher likes Banda’s pitching repertoire that features a changeup, breaking ball and fastball. So far in camp, he’s adjusted the grip of his changeup and worked on ironing out his delivery.
“I’ll remember him most by the way he goes out there and approaches what he does every single day,” Butcher said. “He works hard. Obviously he caught somebody’s eye- that’s why we got him here. His pitching is what’s going to speak more about him than anything else.”
Development is a prime focus, but not the only benefit a young prospect can reap from Cactus League games.
There are plenty lockers in the clubhouse occupied by veteran players whose brains Banda can pick.
“It kind of shortens the learning curve a little bit while you are up here in the big leagues for spring training,” Butcher said. “The more exposure to that, the better it is for him.”
He looks up to Randy Johnson, who occasionally watches the team workouts at Salt River Fields. He watches Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray to learn what makes the veteran starting pitchers tick.
“I watch all the starters because I’m a starting pitcher,” Banda said recently. “I like to see how they carry themselves on and off the field. I pay attention to, not so much how their pitches work, but what they throw on specific counts.”
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