This is the third installment of a five-part series leading up to Friday's home opener for against the San Francisco Giants. For the first two portions click here and here and check back with SB Nation Arizona daily for more Arizona Diamondbacks' analysis and predictions.
In 2011, rookies Josh Collmenter, Bryan Shaw, Joe Paterson, Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill and of course Paul Goldschmidt were all included on the Arizona Diamondbacks postseason roster due to the profound impact they made in their short time in the bigs.
Heading into 2012, it looks like the D-backs roster will start off with every player having at least one major league game under their belt. But that doesn't mean things won't change, especially considering how deep the Diamondbacks farm system is.
Here are some names to remember when the bumps and bruises (or straight atrocious play) kicks in, ranked based on likeliness:
Tier one - Money in the Bank (These are the guys that already have a locker reserved for them)
1) Patrick Corbin - Pitcher - No, he isn't a marquee name like some of his pitching prospect peers. But Corbin proved he's arguably the most ready of the bunch with a 3.00 ERA and 20 strikeouts across 21 innings. As I touched on in yesterday's edition of this series, current number three starter Josh Collmenter is on the hottest of hot seats after a dreadful spring. Although the tomahawking pitcher seems to be one of Manager Kirk Gibson's personal favorites, Gibson is in the business of winning, not making BFFs. Expect Corbin to be the first man up if a starter sustains an injury or Collmenter fails to impress in his first four starts.
2) Tyler Skaggs - Pitcher - Skaggs is more like a 1b to Corbin's 1a but in terms of raw stuff, it's not even close. Averaging over 11 Ks per nine innings across his 27 minor league starts in 2011 thanks largely in part to a nasty curveball, the 6'5" southpaw has the intelligence and control to step in fool batters right away. The only thing holding him back from being number one on this list is his 7.43 ERA this spring. Nonetheless, he still struck out 16 across those 17.1 innings and fans can expect to see him at the latest by All-Star Break time, even if it's just in a relief role.
Tier two - The Replacements (These guys are guaranteed to get the call to fill-in when a sore hammy strikes. Staying there? That's another question)
3) Wade Miley - Pitcher - Miley pitched admirably in his eight appearances as the D-backs fifth starter last year, going 4-2 with a 4.50 ERA. Yet with the acquisition of Trevor Cahill and a crowded bullpen, his services are no longer needed and he'll be sent back down to the minors to work on his control (1.39 K/BB in the MLB last year). With all the talent coming through the system, he's more likely to be trade bait in the long term more than anything. But if an injury is to occur to one of the lefties in AZ's pen while he's still here, he's more than capable of getting the job done.
4) A.J. Pollack - Outfielder - I know what you're thinking: outfield is perhaps the Diamondbacks deepest offensive positions at the major league level, right? That might work in Pollack's favor though. Gibson surely won't make someone like Chris Young play through another lingering wrist injury again with Golden Glover Gerardo Parra waiting on the bench. So if (or more like when if we're talking about Jason Kubel) the injury bug bites, the D-backs will be less hesitant to utilize the DL since they can plug Parra in and not skip a beat. That's where Pollack comes in. Some fans may clamor for Cole Gillespie but Pollack proved he's more ready this Spring with three home runs and .275 average in 51 at bats. He may never develop that home run power but Pollack is bound to have a useful career as a utility outfielder. And odds are it starts this season.
5) Barry Enright - Pitcher - Enright seems like a really cool guy and if baseball doesn't work out, someone should just pay him to tweet professionally. But at the end of the day, you could be The Fonz himself and you still won't keep your major league pitching job if you give up 11 home runs across your first seven starts as Enright did in 2011. Still, the lovable red head is only one year removed from a shockingly effective 2010 campaign in which he went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA across 17 starts. At the end of the day, the real Enright probably falls somewhere in between 2010 and 2011 which is both comforting and concerning when analyzing his long term worth. If I had to guess, he'll make a spot start or two, perhaps even before Corbin's called upon. Just don't expect him to last long.
6) Ryan Wheeler - First basman/Third Basman - This one is probably a long shot but with the uncertainty surrounding Ryan Roberts and Goldy, Wheeler is definitely worth mentioning. When talking about the D-backs corner-infield prospects, Bobby Borchering and Matt Davidson are usually the first names to come up. Still, that doesn't mean you should sleep on the smooth-swinging Wheeler. Defensively, he's nothing to write home about but he knows how to find a gap and can work pitch count with his consistent ability to make contact. Looking to the future, he'll projects as something closer to a Wes Helms than a Paul Konerko. However, his future could start a little sooner than expected if Roberts regresses back to his career averages or Goldschmidt goes on a strikeout spree.
Tier three - The Pretty New Pet (This tier is reserved exclusively for Trevor Bauer A.K.A. @BauerOutage A.K.A Tim Lincecum's stunt double A.K.A The Chosen One. [Note: if you don't understand this tiers title, please click on the link to be enlightened on what might happen with Bauer if the Diamondbacks aren't careful].)
7) Trevor Bauer - Pitcher - Please, hear me out before you tar and feather me for having the surefire ace-in-the-making this low on the list. Yes, I realize he has 42,165 pitches in his arsenal and yes, I realize his warm up routine is known to give both fans and scouts alike the uncontrollable urge to want to build a Helga Pataki-like shrine in his honor. But why rush perfection if you already have more than enough capable arms lined up? The D-backs know that if they want Bauer to have a long, Cy Young-contending career then they need to be delicate with him, especially considering he already has 15 collegiate complete games to his name. Come 40-man roster time, of course he's going to get a look but in my opinion, it's going to take this staff contracting the Black Plague plus Corbin and Skaggs failing miserably if he's making his grand debut before then. Because when he arrives, he sure ain't leaving unless it's through free agency.
Tier Four - The Salivators (No doubt the potential for a long MLB career is there. But it's going to take the perfect storm if they're to get their chance this year)
8) David Holmberg - Pitcher - "Oh, you mean that other guy we got back in the Daniel Hudson trade?" Why yes, that's exactly who I'm referring to. And please, imaginary reader guy who I like to pretend to speak on behalf of, don't be so facetious. Holmberg is a fine prospect in his own right despite the "soft body" claims by scouts that made him drop to the second round in the 2009 draft (Is it just me, or does the phrase "soft body" make you think of this?). Holmberg really has no go-to pitch but his secondary stuff is above average and he's tacked on some velocity as he continues with his development. While he is more developed than his age (20) suggests, he has the looks of a workhorse more than a reliever making it unlikely he sees the majors unless Gibson gets desperate for some long relief help.
9) Chris Owings - Shortstop - Upside-wise, Owings could be as good as any position player on this list; he has all the tools and athleticism that a manager requires from their everyday shortstop. In reality though, he's no where near being ready, at least from what he showed last year in high-A ball (.246/.274/.388 in 521 at bats). Even with his above average defensive instincts and plus speed, there's no way the D-backs call upon him this season with John McDonald and Willie Bloomquist in the fold as backups. But with the possibility of Stephen Drew departing in free agency next offseason, Owings could be forced into the majors sooner than expected (Is it too early to start the "four more years of Drew" chants now?)
10) Archie Bradley - Pitcher - Okay, this is never, ever, EVER going to happen this year. But Bradley is dripping with so much potential that it would be a sin not to put him on a list about the Diamondbacks farm system. With a 6'4", 230 pound frame, Bradley was also offered a scholarship to play quarterback for the University of Oklahoma before signing with the Diamondbacks as the number seven overall pick. However, it's not just his tight end build that allows him to reach as high as 98 mph on the radar gun. Bradley also comes equipped with nearly flawless mechanics with a indistinguishable release that allows his curveball to be a highly effective complimentary pitch. There's no doubt in my mind that the sky is the limit for this flamethrower only one year removed from high school. Now just imagine if minor league pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyre Jr.'s premonition of Bradley being the next Roger Clemens comes true (that's a prediction that you're not going to misremember anytime soon).
Check back tomorrow when I break down the rest of the NL West and who looks to be the biggest speed bump on the Diamondbacks road to a second straight division title.