ESPN’s Law ranks trio of D-backs prospects among MLB’s top 100

Jan 29, 2014, 6:01 PM | Updated: 6:02 pm

According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Arizona Diamondbacks have three of the top 100 prospects in Major League Baseball.

As he does every year, Law produced ESPN Insider pieces ranking of baseball’s best young talent, with lists of 1-50 and 51-100.

The highest-rated D-backs prospect is pitcher Archie Bradley, who comes in at No. 9.

Bradley made 26 starts between Single-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile last season, compiling a 14-5 record to go along with a 1.84 ERA. He struck out 162 in 152 innings of work, while walking 69.

His command and control were both significantly better in 2013; his walk rate dropped by nearly 30 percent from low Class A to Double-A, and his rate of walks plus hit batsmen dropped by 40 percent, while he even slashed his wild pitch total (which could also be a function of who was catching him) from 17 to 2.

Bradley works with a 92-98 mph fastball and a power curveball in the low 80s with depth and right rotation. He needs more work on his changeup, and needs to use his large frame to stay on top of the fastball so it doesn’t sit up in the zone. His arm works and he’s extremely competitive on the mound, so the Diamondbacks were right to move him out of the hitter-friendly Cal League as quickly as possible.

He’ll be ready to help the major league team by the second half of this year and projects as their future No. 1 starter.

Bradley is expected to contend for a spot in the starting rotation during spring training.

The next D-back on the list comes in at No. 25, and it is fellow pitcher Braden Shipley. A first-round pick in the 2013 Amateur Player Draft out of Nevada, he went 0-3 with a 4.99 ERA in 12 minor league starts last year.

Shipley pitches at 92-95 mph with his heater but can flash a little higher than that, with a legitimate big league out pitch already in his changeup, with good deception at 83-86 as well as heavy late action. His stride is very long toward the plate and his arm accelerates quickly once he turns it over; as you’d expect from a converted guy, he fields his position well and has the body control to repeat his delivery.

If the curveball he showed late in 2013 is a permanent feature he’s on his way to being the No. 2 starter in Arizona not too far down the line.

The final D-back on the list is infielder Chris Owings, who comes in at No 72. A shortstop by trade, he hit .291 with 5 RBI in a brief stint with the big league club last season. Prior to that, he earned the Pacific Coast League MVP award after hitting .330 with 12 home runs, 81 RBI and 20 stolen bases for Triple-A Reno.

His 2013 line was boosted by playing in hitter-friendly Triple-A Reno, but Owings’ bat speed is undeniable and his swing is simple and direct. I don’t see loft in the swing for home-run power, but he’s an above-average runner and I think he’ll hit plenty of line-drives to the gaps for 30-40 doubles a year. At shortstop, he has great instincts, quick feet, and a plus arm, everything required to be at least a 60-grade defender there — very much what Didi Gregorius was supposed to be, but with better hit and run tools.

Owings was 17 years old when he signed, so he had 2,000 pro plate appearances before he turned 22 and is more than ready to take over as the everyday shortstop in Arizona now, where he might walk once a week but will contribute in plenty of other ways to keep the job.

Former Diamondback Matt Davidson, who was traded to the Chicago White Sox for reliever Addison Reed, was ranked 88th by Law.

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