With the big league rotation in disarray, the D-backs have decided to get some help from the farm system by calling up No. 1 prospect Braden Shipley to start on Monday. Whether it's more than a one-start stopgap remains to be seen, but here is what to expect from the
With the big league rotation in disarray, the D-backs have decided to get some help from the farm system by calling up No. 1 prospect Braden Shipley to start on Monday. Whether it's more than a one-start stopgap remains to be seen, but here is what to expect from the right-hander.
The No. 58 prospect on MLBPipeline.com's current Top 100 list, Shipley was the D-backs' top pick in the 2013 Draft, taken 15th overall out of the University of Nevada. Scouts loved that Shipley had a fresh arm as a shortstop who didn't start pitching until his sophomore year of college but who also had a solid feel for pitching.
He has made a steady climb up the ladder, pitching at three levels in 2014 (in addition to making the Futures Game), his first full season of pro ball. He spent all of 2015 in Double-A, really turning it on in the second half to look more like the top pitching prospect that he is currently in the system. He's pitched well overall in a move up to Triple-A this season.
Keeping in mind that Reno, his home ballpark, can be a very tough place for pitchers to put up good numbers, he actually has a better ERA and batting average against at home (3.43, .267) than he does on the road (3.99, .295). A big reason for that might be his groundball rate, 1.88 GO/AO compared to 0.95 away from Reno.
His ability to continue to get groundball outs will be a key to his success in the big leagues, especially because he's been missing fewer bats in each of the last two years. After striking out 9.1 per nine innings in 2014, his strikeout rate dropped to 6.8 in 2015 and 5.8 so far this season. He has a career 1.35 GO/AO, a sign he does have the ability to induce weak contact. He certainly doesn't hurt himself with walks, cutting that rate to 1.7 per nine innings in 2016, down from 3.2 a year ago.
It's not that Shipley doesn't possess swing-and-miss stuff. He'll sit in the low-90s with his fastball and can touch 95-96 mph at times. His changeup is very effective, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball, giving it a lot of deception. His power curve has the potential to be an out pitch. When he's mechanically sound -- something he struggled with a bit in the first half of 2015 -- all of his offerings are tough to pick up. As a former infielder, he's athletic on the mound and fields his position very well.
The key for Shipley on Monday will be to avoid trying to do too much on the mound. Even with his success in Triple-A this year, he's been hit a bit too much (9.9 hits per nine), so his ability to repeat his delivery and throw all three pitches for strikes down in the zone will be crucial, both in his first start and long term. If he can get ahead and create weak contact in pitcher's counts, he should be able to contribute to the D-backs rotation for as long as he is needed.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.