D-backs’ 2020 draft class contributing despite atypical introduction

Sep 2, 2023, 8:31 AM

Brandon Pfaadt of the Arizona Diamondbacks...

Brandon Pfaadt #32 of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field on August 13, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — In a five-round draft unlike any other in MLB history, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected pitchers Bryce Jarvis, Slade Cecconi and Brandon Pfaadt in 2020. 

Jarvis went in Round 1 with the No. 18 overall pick, Cecconi fell to the competitive balance Round A and Pfaadt was a fifth-rounder.

All three pitchers are all up in the major leagues three years after joining the organization despite losing most of their final college season and entering pro ball in adverse circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The D-backs have leaned on them for different roles entering the final month of a pennant race.

“When you look back at it, a lot has transpired in the last three years,” D-backs farm director Josh Barfield said. “For them to have overcome some of that and to be in the big leagues, it seems like a long time ago, but it was really just three years that they were drafted, so helping in a pennant race has been really cool.”

They started a combined 13 games in college in 2020, essentially missing a full season of in-game action just as their careers began.

Pfaadt settled into the starting rotation in his third stint this year with the big-league club. Six of his eight starts since his latest recall have gone into the sixth inning after moving over to the first-base side of the rubber for deception. 

Cecconi made his debut on Aug. 2, joining to help out an injured starting rotation in a fluid role that has seen him start three games and enter out of the bullpen twice. Jarvis came up Aug. 13 as a reliever after transitioning from a starter and has provided length in the bullpen. 

Led by Pfaadt in innings, the three combined for 66.2 frames and 26 earned runs in August for a 3.51 ERA. 

“I think they’re both they’re both up and coming pitchers for us and they are understudies right now for for Zac (Gallen) and Merrill (Kelly),” manager Torey Lovullo said of Pfaadt and Cecconi. “They are applying all their concepts and helping us win baseball games. To me, that’s a reason why we are where we are.”

The trio met at Instructional League in 2020, but Jarvis started at the minor league alternate site at Chase Field. As Arizona’s first-round pick, Jarvis was challenged against advanced competition early on. 

“Right away his first impression of professional baseball, he’s in basically full quarantine, he’s right out of college but he’s asked to play with what was basically Triple-A-type level,” Barfield said. “That’s not easy having to throw against guys four or five, six years older than you as you’re still just trying to find your way. It was kind of a weird introduction to pro ball.”

Cecconi and Jarvis started their MiLB careers the following season in High-A Hillsboro while Pfaadt went to Single-A Visalia.

Pfaadt shot up the ranks, reaching Triple-A Reno by August of last year and getting tagged Arizona’s top pitching prospect by MLB Pipeline. He was named the D-backs’ 2022 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Jarvis made the leap to Double-A Amarillo in June 2021. He struggled with walks and home runs in a hitter-friendly environment while dealing with multiple IL stints in his year-plus with the Sod Poodles, but he made the jump this past April.

Cecconi pitched at Hillsboro for the rest of 2021, Amarillo all of 2022 and Reno starting this spring. He also threw in the Arizona Fall League in 2021 after spending time on the 60-day injured list.

All three of them were in Reno’s starting rotation for much of this year.

“Even back in instructs that year, I saw Bryce throw, he was doing well. And then I saw I Pfaadt and thought, ‘Man, we got some guys in the first few rounds,'” Cecconi said. “It’s cool that we’ve moved through the ranks together, doing what we can to support each other and help this team win.” 

“All three of us coming up together and putting in the work and then finally making our debut years in the same year, I think that’s pretty cool to do, especially three years out,” Pfaadt added.

The D-backs have a month left to fight for a National League Wild Card spot.

General manager Mike Hazen told Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke on Wednesday that his club has had to rely on more youth on the mound than anticipated due to injuries and performance. Kelly, Zach Davies and second-year starter Tommy Henry have missed significant time on the injured list, while Madison Bumgarner was released back in April.

The D-backs did not make a trade at the deadline for a starter despite being in the market and were not awarded a waiver claim on starting pitcher Lucas Giolito this week.

Hazen said bumps in the road are expected with young pitchers, but to this point, Pfaadt and Cecconi have helped balance a rotation that has changed so much over the season.

The three are among a group of Diamondbacks youngsters learning and fighting to win at the major league level for the first time.

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D-backs’ 2020 draft class contributing despite atypical introduction