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Diamondbacks Pitching Prospect Carousel: Are You Getting Pfaadt?

For the last decade or so Madison Bumgarner has been a fixture one way or the other in dynasty baseball. Now in year four of a five-year 85 million dollar deal the Arizona Diamondbacks dropped a bomb on Thursday announcing they DFA’d Madison Bumgarner and will eat the remaining money on his contract. Now it’s probably well overdue and frankly was a bit of a surprise when they signed him to the contract in 2020.

But I digress, after hearing this news my mind went where every dynasty manager’s mind went… Who will take his spot in the rotation? The short answer is there will more than likely be a “tryout” of sorts with prospects and Quad-A players getting a turn before a true player takes the spot but I will lay out who I believe has the best shot.

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Top Three Options to Replace MadBum

Brandon Pfaadt RHP

Alright, so admit it. As soon as you heard the news of Bumgarner’s demise your first thought went to Brandon Pfaadt? Mine too, Brandon Pfaadt was stellar in 2022, leading his league in strikeouts (218) and Innings pitched (167). Brandon Pfaadt ascended two levels in AA & AAA never having a K/9 below 10.80 and executing pinpoint control, limiting the walks to 1.83 per nine. Dynasty managers were surely surprised when the Diamondbacks left Pfaadt off the Major League roster to start the season and assigned him back to AAA Reno.

More than likely the surprise turned to concern in Pfaadt’s first outing in Reno. Pfaadt went 3.2 innings and allowed six hits and five earned runs, four of which came via the long ball. The hard hits came as a bit of a shock but the strikeouts were still there with seven in total.

Pfaadt bounced back a bit in his second start with a 4.2-inning, five-strikeout and one earned run performance (the one run was via a home run) against Tacoma (Mariners). In his third start against Sacramento (Giants), Pfaadt went five solid innings, striking out five batters and giving up two earned runs but looked solid and in control the whole time. Now with the most recent start Pfaadt looked every bit the ace we saw last season. He pitched seven shutout innings against Salt Lake with 8 strikeouts against just one walk.

In my opinion Brandon Pfaadt is the best of the options for the Arizona Diamondbacks and has come back strong from a very concerning start to the 2023 season. He’s currently sitting on 25 strikeouts in 20.1 innings pitched while holding an 11.07 K/9, 1.77 BB/9, and has brought his ERA down to a 3.54 with his last strong start. Pfaadt’s .218 AVG fits in line with what he was previously doing in AAA last season as well. Currently not a member of the 40-man roster, Arizona would need to add him or drop another player off to give Pfaadt his chance in the rotation.

Tommy Henry LHP

Now Tommy Henry has already been awarded the first crack at the rotation spot by the Diamondbacks but this might be more out of necessity than desire for him to stay. Tommy Henry will be the only left-handed starting pitcher in the righty-heavy rotation for the Diamondbacks. Now this is kind of an easy way of saying “just because” for the Diamondbacks but let’s take a look at Henry’s minor league numbers to see if he is a viable option.

Henry put together a solid season in AAA Reno in 2022 as he struck out 103 batters in 113 innings (8.20 K/9) while holding batters to a .241 average with a 3.74 ERA in a primarily hitter-friendly league. Henry can struggle with the walks, holding a 3.69 BB/9 for his career in the minors.

Henry made his Major League debut last season, making nine starts with 36 strikeouts in 47 innings pitched with a .260 BAA and a 5.36 ERA. With the results being so-so, the fact he is a lefty in in an all-right-handed rotation, and Henry being on the team’s 40-man roster, it only makes sense to give him first crack.

Blake Walston LHP

If Brandon Pfaadt was your first thought of who could fill Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation I bet Blake Walston was a close second. As mentioned, without Henry, the Diamondbacks are lefty-deprived in the rotation and could benefit greatly by having one entrenched in there. Blake Walston might fit that bill, not only because of his throwing hand but also the solid numbers he has put up in his minor-league career.

Walston ascended two levels in 2021, beginning in A- Visalia and then moving to A+ Hillsboro. He struck out 117 batters in 95.2 innings pitched, while holding batters to a .233 AVG in 19 combined starts. Walston had a fantastic 11.13 K/9 in his 2021 season, skyrocketing him up dynasty rankings.

The 2022 season saw equally impressive strikeout numbers out of Walston as he spent most of the season in AA Amarillo. Blake struck out 110 batters in 106.1 innings (9.31 K/9) while struggling to limit contact with a .276 AVG and a 5.16 ERA in 21 starts.

Despite the hard-hit rates in Amarillo, the Diamondbacks assigned Blake Walston to AAA Reno to start this season. In four starts things have not gone his way so far. In 17.1 inning pitched, Walston has seven strikeouts with a .222 AVG and a 4.15 ERA in four starts. Two concerns are the lack of strikeouts (only a 3.63 K/9) and an inflated walks per nine of 5.71. Of the two lefties, Walston has more upside than Henry but the lack of strikeouts and control will more than likely take him out of the race for the rotation spot for now at least.

The Unlikely Wild Cards

Slade Cecconi RHP

Taken 33rd overall in the 2020 draft out of Miami, Slade Cecconi has had a relatively quiet rise through the Diamondbacks system. The right-hander has completed one level per season with solid steady results; none more so than last season in AA Amarillo. Cecconi logged 129.2 innings with 127 strikeouts (8.81 K/9) with a .265 AVG and a 4.37 ERA in 25 starts.

Cecconi is primarily a secondary pitcher that features above-average grades on his curveball and slider. This is relevant because you will typically see higher walks per nine from pitchers who rely heavily on breaking pitches. This was not the case with Cecconi in 2022 as he only had 32 walks in his 129.2 innings worth of work, that’s good for a solid 2.22 walks per nine; not too bad.

Currently in AAA Reno, Cecconi has seen his strikeouts rise in his first three starts (11.81 K/9) but besides that, the results have not been good. In 10.2 innings pitched across three starts, Cecconi has 14 strikeouts in 10.2 innings but batters are hitting .385 against him, and his 11.81 ERA leaves something to be desired. There is still a lot for Cecconi to work on in Reno before he gets his opportunity to stake a claim on the Diamondbacks rotation.

Bryce Jarvis RHP

Now this is far and away the long shot of this article, but Bryce Javis’s hot start to 2023 needs to be considered. Jarvis is repeating AA Amarillo where he had 110 strikeouts in 106.2 innings all while holding batters to a .322 AVG and a rough 8.27 ERA in 25 starts in 2022. This season Jarvis looks much different. In three starts, Jarvis has struck out 17 batters in 14 innings pitched holding them to a .167 AVG and posting a respectable 3.86 ERA.

The strikeout rate has jumped back to his 2021 output of 10.93 K/9 but the control still seems to be what gets Jarvis into trouble. He’s currently sporting a 4.50 BB/9. More than likely Jarvis is not going to be considered for this big of a promotion. Regardless he needs to be watched this season as the 18th overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft makes his climb to the majors.

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