The Crystal Ball is on …

by Ben Catley

OK, time for me to stick my neck out and see if I can try to keep my average in the respectable area.

Last season, I successfully predicted two former Missoula Osprey players would make their Major League debuts – Paul Goldschmidt and Evan Scribner. I also whiffed on Tom Layne and Taylor Harbin, so that puts me at .500 at the moment. Of course, if I go .500 again, or better, I may change my nickname from Big Ben to Hardball Carnac. Actually, no, I won’t, but I digress.

So, here, today, I stick my neck out and call my shot, plus reveal the poll results of how you, the Bird Droppings readers, feel about the subject, followed by why (or why not) it will (or will not) happen.

We break this down by position players and pitchers, because of the fact that we’re still fairly deep in former Osprey talent on both sides of the coin.

Position Player to Make MLB Debut in 2012
Reader’s Choice: Adam Eaton (52.11% of vote)
Ben’s Picks: Adam Eaton and … wait for it … Jake Elmore

Why Eaton will be the next Former Osprey position player to make his debut:
Easy … because he is that good. In two minor-league seasons, Eaton is a career .340 hitter, and that does not include the .345 average he posted during the Arizona Fall League in 2011. However, it’s not a case of him making it to the Major Leagues out of camp, it’s taking the Goldy path – starting the season in Double-A and seeing what happens. The difference is, the D-backs, last season, didn’t really have a solution at first base in the Major Leagues. The one caveat to this pick is …

Why Eaton will NOT be the next Former Osprey to make his debut:
Traffic jams, as in the current D-backs outfield situation. When Gerardo Parra wins a NL Gold Glove in left field and is relegated to fourth outfielder duty, it shows how the position can get jammed up. What could make this a quicker, and more certain, trip would be a trade of one of the outfielders – or dare I say Eaton himself. Between him and AJ Pollock, the prospects for the D-backs are great in the grass. Now the question is, will one of the starting outfielders not named Justin Upton do something to force the hand for a trade, or will it come down to Kirk Gibson wanting to put a true leadoff guy at the top of the lineup, and a trade of someone could facilitate the move. We shall see …

ETA: Late 2012 or out of camp in 2013.

Why Elmore will be the next former Osprey to make his debut:
The lack of, um, stand-on-your-head guys up the middle. John McDonald and Aaron Hill are a nice combo there, but looking beyond that, you have Stephen Drew returning sometime in 2012 – and you have the Hill/McDonald combo at second. Of course, it appears that Willie Bloomquist will be the odd-man out when Drew is ready, unless they think that Lyle Overbay has nothing else to share with Paul Goldschmidt, and Goldy just shreds pitchers who throw either lefty or righty. Which is possible.

However, the D-backs are fragile at second. David Nick (2009) is getting closer (and with his promotion to Double-A to start the season, he’s a tempting pick here, too), but I’m thinking they want him to spend a full season in a pitcher’s paradise to see how he adjusts after a solid season in the Hitter’s Haven known as the Cal League. Beyond that … Eric Groff (who, if he hits .330 in the Midwest League, may see Cal League pitching before the summer really hits) and … at the moment, not much else.

However, with Elmore headed to Triple-A Reno to start the season, two things will happen, because they have taken place everywhere he has played … for one, he will work his way into the starting lineup, show his versatility, and be such a good clubhouse guy that he sticks in the starting lineup. Secondly, the team will begin to win once that happens, and suddenly you have a player who is not playing like a 34th-round draft pick.

Why Elmore will NOT be the next former Osprey to make his debut:
Adam Eaton and Rusty Ryal, just to name two. For one, I think, barring injury, Eaton will get the call first. Secondly, if there is an injury in the infield before Drew’s return, don’t be surprised if Ryal – who has MLB experience – gets a look first as it comes to an infielder. Honestly, though, I make Elmore my second pick from the position players because, well, he is a former Osprey position player at Triple-A who has not made his Major League debut yet. And, of all the others, he’s in the best position. Especially with Chris Owings back in Visalia.

One thing to keep in mind … Elmore is a Ryal clone. A kid who is a hard worker who has enough confidence in his abilities to be able to preform on the field. I can’t say how Ryal was in the clubhouse, because he was here two years before I arrived, but I know how Elmo is – very positive, his own worst critic (like Ryal, who revealed that to me when I interviewed him a couple of years ago), and someone who brings a positive energy to the table. More Jeremy Lin-like than Tim Tebow-like.

ETA: My guess is, if he has a great season at Triple-A, late 2012 or sometime in 2013.

Side note: I also like Taylor Harbin for this as well, especially if he ends up with Elmore at Reno. My feeling is that it will be either Eaton … or we wait until 2013. Then you add guys like Owings and Nick to the list.

Pitcher to Make MLB Debut in 2012
Reader Choice: Archie Bradley (2nd overall and top pitcher, 16.9% of vote)
Ben’s Picks: Charles Brewer and … um …  Archie Bradley

Why Chad’s look-a-like will be the next former Osprey pitcher to make his MLB Debut:
First – evidence …

Charles Brewer and a pic of his "twin", Chad from the Alltel commercials.

Second … he has been impressive since leaving Missoula. When you look at his career minor-league numbers – 23-11 record, 2.45 ERA, 266 strikeouts in 260 2/3 innings pitched – he has shown a penchant for winning, efficiency (a 1.12 career WHIP) and, since the second half of the 2009 season in Missoula, has not been out of a starting rotation (his 10 career relief outings were his first 10 appearances as an Osprey).

Now he may end up in a bullpen when he does make it to the Major Leagues, but the bottom line is, he gets guys out. If he can have another solid season, and not get hurt (concussion set him back last season … someone get him a skull cap to wear in the dugout, please!!), then he will have a chance to make some noise … and maybe his debut.

Why Brewer will NOT be the next former Osprey pitcher to make his MLB debut:
Too many guys ahead of him. For one, Brewer is likely to be the No. 4 man in the Mobile rotation, after Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin. Plus, there are other arms in the pipeline (Anthony Meo, Andrew Chafin and Bradley) which the D-backs would love to look at sometime in 2012 or 2013. Amazing how the D-backs had most of the Mobile starting rotation in big-league camp, isn’t it??

That being said … I believe that, especially if there is a rash of injuries, or if the D-backs are out of it in September, the future will begin sooner rather than later. And if the D-backs would rather not deal with the Super 2 deal on Meo, Chafin and Bradley … Brewer would be a logical choice.

ETA: Sometime in 2012 or 2013.

Why Bradley will be the next former Osprey pitcher to make his MLB Debut:
Between the investment the D-backs made in their righty out of high school, and the fact that he has big-league stuff now, trends Bradley to the bigs on a fast pace. He will start the season in South Bend, but don’t be surprised if his path is put on a bullet train if he goes out and dominates the Midwest League, and the Cal League later this summer. Heck, they may just send him to the BayBears Rotation of Domination if he does well in the ‘Bend.

Why Bradley will NOT be the next former Osprey pitcher to make his MLB Debut:
We said the same thing about Jarrod Parker, remember?

ETA:  Depends on how the season goes for the D-backs, but I would say more than likely, 2013.

Of course, you also realize I may have done that so that Tom Layne actually makes it this season, right?? I’m hoping …

Anyway, please comment below if you have your own opinions. And get ready, because the less-than-100-day countdown to Osprey baseball is on!!!

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