When Spring Training started there was a lot of talk around baseball at the depth of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system particularly in starting pitching. For the past few seasons the team has been stockpiling young arms that would continually feed their need for pitching for years to come.
For long time Diamondbacks fans the hype around the minor league pitching was similar to 1998 when Arizona had three studs in the farm system that was touted as the cornerstones of the franchise. Closer Gregg Olson dubbed them the “three phenoms” who were first ever draft pick Nick Bierbrodt, John Patterson, and a sixth round draft pick Brad Penny.
These three pitchers were kept together at each level of the minor league system. The reasoning behind this was there was healthy competition between the three pitchers that drove each of them to greater heights. We were told that these three players were “untouchable” and that no trade offer would ever be considered for any of them. This changed in 1999 when the aforementioned Olson fell apart as a closer and the Diamondbacks traded Penny to the then Florida Marlins for closer Matt Mantei.
Patterson and Bierbrodt would both make it to the Diamondbacks roster but struggled and were subsequently dealt leaving behind a legacy of broken dreams by D-backs fans everywhere. Fast forward to 2011 when a new crop of hurlers was being touted as the second coming of the Atlanta Braves staff of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz.
The new “phenoms” consist of right-hander Trevor Bauer a Diamondbacks first-round draft pick from 2011 along with left-handers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin who were both in the trade package for Dan Haren in 2010.
During the spring everyone raved about these three pitchers and in particular Bauer and Skaggs who seemed to already be tapped as dual aces at the top of the rotation. I had the opportunity to watch all of the Diamondbacks Spring Training games at Salt River Fields and with each outing I came away more and more impressed at how impressive these three pitchers were.
While it would be easy to jump on the Bauer or Skaggs bandwagon; I came away most impressed by Patrick Corbin. With each start Corbin made he seemed poised and controlled locating his pitches well and most importantly throwing strikes.
During the time where Corbin was impressing Diamondbacks front office and coaching staffs, second-year pitcher Josh Collmenter struggled mightily. As the Cactus League schedule began winding down there were questions whether Collmenter would be ready for the season and if Corbin were a better option to begin the season in the starting rotation.
In the end manager Kirk Gibson awarded Collmenter with loyalty and Corbin was sent to minor league camp. His demotion would not last long though. After having success in Double-A Mobile Corbin would get called up after an injury to Daniel Hudson and a string of ineffective starts for Collmenter.
Corbin would see his first game action during a road trip to Florida and New York and would not have his Chase Field debut until Friday May 11th. In front of 35,792 cheering fans Corbin would pitch a masterful game.
In seven innings of work Corbin would allow just three hits including a home run in the first inning to Melky Cabrera. He would strikeout four and walk no one. At the plate he would have a strong showing that the box score would not represent including one at bat where he saw 11 pitches.
While Bauer and Skaggs continue to get a lot of press with impressive seasons at Mobile Corbin has shown a lot of poise and composure on the mound. He has filled in admirable when given the opportunity and shown he can get out big league hitters. Each appearance he has made he looks more at ease, which bodes well for the Diamondbacks.
Many expect Corbin to go back to the minor leagues when Hudson returns from the disabled list but given how he has performed that may not be such an easy decision. The decision may come down to whether the Diamondbacks want to use Corbin in long relief in the bullpen and send down Collmenter or possibly keep Corbin in the rotation and move Miley back to the bullpen again sending Collmenter down to work on his location and control. Either way the Diamondbacks have proven they have the depth they will need if they want to return to the post season.