Bulls for the ‘Pen: Arizona Diamondbacks
In the latest in a thirty-part series (yeesh!), We will be looking around baseball at potential bullpen vacancies and the internal candidates that each organization has in the upper levels of their systems to fill those vacancies. We’re hoping to expose some fresh faces that should see plenty of action in 2014 barring injuries or roster screwery and in doing so provide a bit of a relief summary for each organization’s upper minors. Without further ado, we’ll get moving onto the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Kevin Towers has a reputation for a lot of things, and I will be real with you here and say that some of them are not that good. Some may remember that Towers faced a lot of scrutiny a year ago for his focus on acquiring players of a particular work ethic, especially in the aftermath of the Justin Upton and Chris Johnson (I went there) for Martin Prado trade. It’s easy, then, to forget that Kevin Towers is respected; nay, downright revered, amongst many respected baseball folk for his skill in building a bullpen. A lot of familiar faces figure to fill out the D’Backs ‘pen in 2014, with JJ Putz coming back from injury late in 2013 with a vengeance, seeking to retake the closer job from his replacement Brad Ziegler, himself in the news just this past week for his harsh criticisms in the wake of the Peralta signing by the Cards. Behind them are more potential closers in Heath Bell and David Hernandez. Will Harris also impressed in his first year in Arizona after being claimed in an April waiver-wire shuffle involving the Athletics and Rockies. Matt Reynolds was excellent when healthy, Josh Collmenter was excellent in long relief (and is also one of my favorite humans, did you know he attributes his unorthodox delivery to it’s similarity to his boyhood hobby, throwing axes?) and should be back in 2014 as well. This doesn’t really leave a spot open for an emerging rookie, but when the inevitable injuries or ineffectiveness hit the ‘pen in 2014, the team will likely be calling on one.
(Video: Rob Zeida on Youtube)
Matt Stites was drafted by the Padres out of college in 2011 and rose to AA last year in their system, accumulating 37 saves on his way. He was excellent for the Salt River Rafters in the Arizona Fall League, going 10 strong innings there with a 0.90 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Stites is the rare beast, the power/control pitcher. He throws big heat, touching 98 with his fastball and pairing it with a changeup that would actually be considered passable fastball velocity with his control, and mixes in a big curveball. He has a nice delivery with excellent momentum to the plate and he repeats it well, getting good extension and making his fastball look even faster. His numbers get crazy when you examine his control; Stites has a 0.702 WHIP as a pro. In his three seasons in the Pads’ system he racked up 150 strikeouts in 135 innings while walking a ridiculous 19. (!) His career K/BB ratio is 7.89. You can go on and on. Scouts have long loved him, and he is considered one of the top relief prospects in the game. The real reason to have confidence that we’ll be getting a look at Stites in 2014 is that Kevin Towers went out and got him, trading D’Backs starting pitcher (and previous D’Backs good starting pitcher), Ian Kennedy for Stites and Joe Thatcher, who may or may not be a non-tender candidate for 2014.
Towers said minor league reliever Matt Stites was compared to Craig Kimbrel by Dbacks scout Bill Gayton.
— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) July 31, 2013
Towers loves him some closer-type relievers, and it’s no wonder that his bullpens tend to work out as well as they do. If you prioritize pitchers to fill your ‘pen with big strikeout stuff who minimize their walks, you tend to do well.