As the baseball season slowly sinks beyond its sunset, it’s quite possible the Diamondbacks will not finish in the National League West basement.
A minor consolation for a team destroyed by broken dreams and hopes dashed nearly from the start.
That distinction will likely fall to the Colorado Rockies. Their fate was just about sealed this week when season-ending surgery to both Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez was revealed. Losing their two best players set the Rockies on a near free-fall and their season can not end quick enough.
Despite buried in a rather forgettable season, there is some glimmer of hope for Arizona.
If general manager Kevin Towers doesn’t again trade away key pieces to the future, the Diamondbacks could appear next year as an improved team.
A few reasons point to a reconstructive future and the final weeks here would provide some clues.
Because the minor league season ends in two weeks, there are several players who could get a close look in September. Two of the players were already at the major league level this season and both showed a glimpse into tomorrow.
Left-handed pitcher Andrew Chafin, who clearly impressed in his major league debut earlier this week in Cleveland, and shortstop Nick Ahmed should be around this September. With Chafin, the Diamondbacks will get a good look into his potential as a fourth or fifth starter.
On the surface, it appears Ahmed is the odd-player out but things could change. While shortstop is his natural position, the emergence of Didi Gregorius as a quality fielder and adequate hitter may force the organization to move Ahmed to second base. Aaron Hill has two more years at $11 million each year at that position and because of his age (33 at the start of next year), he may be difficult to move.
The Diamondbacks like Ahmed and would like to make room for him. Then again, the “x” factor could be Hill with his contract, age and batting average for the current season around .250.
Also, the D-backs should get an up-close and personal look at Daniel Hudson, currently rehabbing with the rookie Diamondbacks in the Arizona League.
As a result of two Tommy John surgeries to his right elbow in as many years, Hudson has not pitched competitively in a major league game in over two years. If all goes well with his rehab program, Hudson could make between three and six September appearances at the major league level. The Diamondbacks would love to have his strong right arm in the 2015 rotation and September appearances, if he is healthy enough to go, could provide some clues.
If things continue as well for Trevor Cahill over the final six weeks as they have in the previous three, the Diamondbacks should start to see some value. While the team owes Cahill $12 million next season, his terrible start and exile to the minors earlier this season clearly questioned his worth.
With his win Friday night over the Marlins, Cahill turned in his fourth quality start in a row and dropped his ERA to its current 4.68. When recalled from Triple-A Reno on July 18, his ERA was 5.66. That represents just over one run less a game. In five starts since his recall, Cahill turned heads in a positive direction.
The Diamondbacks also want to get a good look at David Peralta as an outfielder.
Manager Kirk Gibson recently told reporters that Peralta worked with coach Dave McKay on the proper positioning his glove and body movement to get in a better place to catch the ball and throw.
There’s no question Peralta has turned heads with his hitting and daring base-running. Now, he is addressing defensive liabilities and will likely hone the latter skills in winter ball this coming off-season.
Economics will enter into the off-season equation but for now, it appears the Diamondbacks made the right move in trading Martin Prado to the New York Yankees. As a result of the transaction at the recent trading deadline, the Yankees are now responsible for Prado’s $22 million contract over the next two years. In games through Friday night, Prado in pinstripes is hitting .163 (7-for-43) with one home run and two RBIs.
With Prado deal and the trade of pitcher Brandon McCarthy also to the Yankees early last month, the Diamondbacks freed around $30 million. That should help in landing free agents this off-season.
Yet, one of the dilemmas facing Towers is finding a solid starting pitcher who will not be afraid to step on the mound in hitters-friendly Chase Field. Then again, Towers and the rest of the Arizona brain trust, including Tony LaRussa, the team’s Chief Baseball Officer, may have clues in September.
That’s when Chafin should get more starts, question marks surrounding Hudson’s future could be answered and possible a look into a trio of 22-year-old right-handers.
Aaron Blair, out of Las Vegas, Nev., is one of the of three at 22 who could see the interior of Chase Field before October. Combined with Advanced-A Visalia and Double-AA Mobile BayBears, Blair, prior to Friday night’s game, posted a combined 8-5, 3.81 ERA but has put up better numbers in AA. For the BayBears, Blair, at 6-5, 230 pounds, is 3-1 with a 2.45 ERA in five starts
Blair was selected 36th overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2013 draft.
Also up for consideration is Archie Bradley, the Diamondbacks number two selection (and their second pick on the first round) in the 2011 draft. Plagued by injuries since the end of spring training, Bradley, currently with Mobile, has a 3-6 record and 4.28 ERA combined between the BayBears and Triple-A Reno.
Also in this mix is Braden Shipley, the Diamondbacks’ first round choice of a year ago. Combined with Visalia and currently with Mobile, Shipley is 6-7, 3.88 ERA
Of the three, all or neither could get the call to The Show. If Towers and others are building for tomorrow and this season is as out-of-control as a run-away freight train, it behooves the organization to get a quick peak into the future right now.