PHOENIX – Since the start of his current regime in the fall of 2016, Mike Hazen, general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, built a reputation for acquiring depth at all levels of the organization. At the same time, he developed a penchant for securing such talent through high profiled trades.
The two most prominent remain dealing Paul Goldschmidt to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for now-starting catcher Carson Kelly and Luke Weaver, a starter in the rotation. Then, there was the deal which sent Zack Greinke to Houston in exchange for a series of prospects and many of whom may be destined for Chase Field.
The issue facing Hazen, and his staff in player development, is the aberration of the current season. With no minor leagues in operation and a shorten major league campaign of 60 games, the high-prized prospects have no location or platform, this summer, to enhance their skills.
Last season, MLB.com rated the Diamondbacks’ farm system as the fifth best in baseball and only the San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins rated higher. Now, Hazen stockpiled talent but now these players have no destination.
During the current “summer camp,” Hazen and other club officials divide players between workouts at Chase Field and Salt River, the Diamondbacks spring training facility. Following completion of afternoon drills, several are bused from Salt River to Chase Field and participate in the nightly intersquad game. At this point, that is the only interface between prospects and evaluation.
“These players are under close supervision and we see their progress,” field manager Torey Lovullo said in a recent Zoom session. “Like everyone else in baseball, we hope for a better situation and allow these players to grow and develop. Without the minor leagues, this is their season and their development for right now.”
There is no question that the organization would like to have prospects play as much as possible. That’s is especially true for high picks, such as outfielders Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson, Corbin Carroll, infielders Pavin Smith, Seth Beer, Wyatt Mathisen and pitchers Bryce Jarvis, J. B.Bukauskas and Corbin Martin, the latter two brought over from Houston in that Greinke deal.
By now, and in mid-July, these players would have settled neatly into the Diamondbacks farm system and likely promoted. That will all have to wait, placed on hold, and Arizona decision-makers hope their skills do not diminish between now and commencement of spring training in 2021. That is, assuming baseball, and the sports world, are back “to normal” at that time.
From the trainer’s room …
First baseman Christian Walker, a finalist for a National League Gold Glove at that position a year ago, suffered a strained right groin during an intrasquad game earlier this week. That puts the 29-year-old native of Norristown, Pa. out of action for the foreseeable future.
Walker sustained the injury when diving for a liner off the bat of catcher Carson Kelly. After an MRI revealed a Grade I strain, that injury required rest. Yet, Walker told MLB.com he plans to recover and be in the lineup on July 24. That’s when the Diamondbacks open their 2020 season against the San Diego Padres in Petco Park.