Nine former Missoula Osprey have earned a spot in the MLB.com Top 20 Prospect List for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which was released on Friday. The list includes six former pitchers, an infielder and two outfielders.
Of the nine players, four of them were acquired through the 2011 MLB Draft - right-handed pitchers Archie Bradley (2nd) and Anthony Meo (14th), left-hander Andrew Chafin (13th), and outfielder Justin Bianco (19th).
Bradley made his professional debut in Missoula, and logged a total of two innings, allowing just one hit while striking out four batters. The 7th overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bradley possesses three plus-type pitches, and his makeup may help him move faster than expected. Some say that he could be a late-season call-up in 2012, but his projected impact year would more than likely be 2014.
Meo seems destined for the bullpen, but will likely be a starting pitcher this season. Meo did not allow a baserunner and struck out three batters in three innings of work between Missoula and the Arizona Rookie League in 2011. His fastball and slider are considered above-average, and is expected to be in the Major Leagues by the 2013 season.
Chafin was held to just an inning in the Arizona Rookie League as the D-backs wanted to ease him into their system. Chafin recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2010 to be a top college closer, but has an arsenal of pitches and will, for now, be used as a starting pitcher. Chafin's estimated time of arrival into a Major League uniform is expected to be around 2014.
Bianco struggled out of the gate in Missoula last season, but the third-round draft choice adjusted well to playing nearly every day in center field. He hit 33 points better (from .194 to .227) in the second half of the season, and finished with a .206 batting average, with two home runs and 20 RBIs in 54 games. Glimpses of his athleticism were showcased in the outfield as he earned top fielding outfielder status in the Pioneer League in 2011. His estimated time of Major League arrival is around 2015.
Two members of the list played in Missoula in 2010 - left-handed pitcher David Holmberg (7th) and outfielder Adam Eaton (16th).
Holmberg sparkled in his first full season with the D-backs organization, posting a 12-9 record between South Bend and Visalia, with a 3.44 ERA in 154 1/3 innings of work. Holmberg posted a 32-inning scoreless streak before he was promoted midway through the 2011 season. Holmberg has a four-pitch arsenal and the ability to be a back-of-the-rotation performer. The estimate for Holmberg to make a Major League roster is around 2014.
Eaton has opened a lot of eyes since being drafted, and has done nothing but impress. Eaton - who won the Pioneer League batting title with the Osprey in 2010 - carries a career .340 batting average as a professional baseball player, and posted a .344 average in the 2011 Arizona Fall League. Eaton has risen to a spot of being a candidate as a fourth outfielder at the Major League level, at least, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, and is expected to make his MLB debut around 2013.
The other three players mentioned on the list - shortstop Chris Owings (4th), outfielder Bobby Borchering (11th) and right-handed pitcher Charles Brewer (15th) - all played on the 2009 Osprey that advanced to the Pioneer Baseball League Championship Series.
Owings, who was also named to the NL West All-Prospect team, along with Bradley, has the tools to make an impact at the Major League level, according to scouts. While he has struggled at the plate the past two seasons, Owings is still regarded as the best position player prospect in the D-backs' system. Scouts project Owings to be on a D-backs' lineup card sometime in 2014.
Borchering, who has moved to the outfield, has showcased the power scouts felt he had coming out of high school. The former first-round pick was fourth among D-backs minor-leaguers with 24 home runs and 92 RBIs, plus showed signs of improving further at the plate by cutting down on his strikeouts in the second half of the season in 2011. Borchering is projected to be in the Major Leagues by 2013.
Brewer overcame a concussion, which sidelined him during last season, to go 5-1 with a 2.44 ERA and, along with Eaton, played a big role in the Mobile BayBears winning the Southern League title in 2011. Brewer, who started the 2011 AFL Championship Game for the winning Salt River squad, could be in a Major League uniform by the 2013 season.
The Osprey will open the 2012 season on June 18 in Billings, and open the home schedule on June 22 against Great Falls. Season tickets are available now at the MSO Hub Box Office, located at 140 North Higgins in Downtown Missoula, online at MissoulaOsprey.com and by phone (406) 543-3300.