It’s rare that a club just gives away a first round investment for pennies on the dollar, but that’s exactly what D’Backs did this past December with Trevor Bauer. Less than two years after drafting him 3rd overall, Arizona decided they didn’t like his attitude, they didn’t appreciate his stubbornness, and so they shipped him to Cleveland for Didi Gregorius and a couple toss-ins. Again, teams just don’t do this sort of trade — they don’t give a front-of-the-rotation prospect a $3.4 million signing bonus, and then cut him loose 18 months later for a defense-first shortstop simply because the kid wouldn’t listen. The Diamondbacks did, though. And they did so because they felt they had the organizational pitching depth to offset the loss. A major factor in that decision was the guy they drafted four picks after Bauer in the 2011 draft, a guy named Archie Bradley.
Standing 6-4, 225, Bradley is an intimidating presence on the mound, bringing his fastball in the mid-upper-90s and changing speeds with an outstanding power breaking ball. The fastball-curve combo misses plenty of bats, as evidenced by the 20-year-old’s career 10.6 K/9. The fastball, in particular, is an elite pitch, a plus-plus weapon that he delivers with ease on a difficult downward angle. Judging by stuff alone, Bradley is one of the best arms in the minors, a top-5 guy. Command and control troubles, however, have so far delayed his breakout. In his first full season of pro ball, Bradley posted 3.84 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP across 136 IP in the Midwest League. He allowed only 87 hits in those innings, but his 84 walks were awful, likewise were the 17 wild pitches. He’s taken a step up to High-A in 2013, into the extremely hitter-friendly environment of the California League, and through three starts on the young season, his ERA sits at 0.51 and his K/BB at 27/6. Scouts are already saying his stuff is too good for the low minors, and I imagine he won’t be long for Visalia. Bradley has the type of arsenal that could garner MLB consideration late this year, but he’ll need to arrive at Double-A and continue throwing with command there first, not to mention his changeup could use some refining. Arrival sometime in 2014 is a much more reasonable expectation, but if he can start to tap into his ace-type potential, he’ll begin register on fantasy radars later this season.
Drafted second overall last June, Buxton brings enormous, five-tool potential to the Midwest League this summer. In terms of athleticism, he’s undoubtedly among the most impressive prospects in the minors. Featuring plus-plus speed to go with plus grades for both power and AVG, the 19-year-old has the potential to develop into an All Star in center and a goldmine in the fantasy game. The common off-season thought on Buxton was that in his first season of full-season baseball, his immediate impact would be primarily defensive. Through 10 games and 41 PA with Cedar Rapids, though, Buxton is batting .441/.537/.706 with two homers and four stolen bases. Approach and in-game power were two facets of an impressive package that scouts figured would take time to develop, but if these first few weeks are any indicator, it appears as if his readiness was underestimated. Clearly there is a long way to go, and it’s reasonable to expect a prolonged slump at some point this season. Even so, Buxton needs to be considered among the top-tier of outfield prospects right now. I live just 40 minutes from a Midwest League ballpark, and this is the dude I’m most looking forward to seeing this summer. Can’t. Friggin. Wait.