Any fantasy owner who has been holding onto Diamondbacks pitching prospect Brandon Pfaadt (like we are in NFBC main event), has been hoping for an opening in the Arizona rotation with the possible release of out-of-juice veteran Madison Bumgarner looming.
Then on Thursday the D’backs obliged, designating Bumgarner for assignment. But to Pfaadt owners’ chagrin, Arizona announced it will be bringing up soft-tossing lefty Tommy Henry instead to take Mad Bum’s turn on Monday.
The excuse D’backs GM Mike Hazen gave is that Henry was lined up to pitch on regular rest on Monday while Pfaadt would’ve either had to have been skipped in Triple-A and debuted on nine days’ rest or pushed the entire Arizona rotation off schedule to accommodate Pfaadt’s arrival next week.
“All these decisions we’ve been talking about, I understand, have centered around Brandon,” Hazen told The Arizona Republic. “Brandon is gonna pitch up here and he’s gonna be a very good player for us. And it’s going to come. But it’s not going to come right this second.”But don’t go freaking out just yet, fellow Pfaadt owners – we see a possible plan shaping up. Henry’s second turn would come up next Sunday at Coors Field against the Rockies. By the time that spot in the rotation comes up again, Pfaadt can get lined up by pitching every five days and land on a perfect debut – in front of a home crowd against the lowly Nationals on Saturday, May 6.
The D’backs currently stand in first place in the NL West, just barely ahead of the Padres and Dodgers, so Hazen will be motivated to field his most talented starting five in the very near future.That brings us back to Pfaadt, so let’s take a closer look at the 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander.
The 24-year-old was taken in the fifth round of the 2020 draft out of little Bellarmine University, becoming the ninth player drafted out of the private Catholic school in Louisville, Ky. Pfaadt had gotten off to a hot start in his junior year at Bellarmine before the pandemic hit, going 3-1 with a 1.38 ERA and 27 strikeouts to just four walks in 26 innings.
Pfaadt quickly rose up the ladder in the D’backs’ organization in 2021, starting with a 3.12 ERA and 57-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 40 1/3 innings for Low-A Visalia. He shoved for High-A Hillsboro, posting a 2.48 ERA with a 67-14 K-BB ratio in 58 innings before finishing the season with a 4.59 ERA and a 36-7 K-BB in 33 1/3 innings for Double-A Amarillo.
Pfaadt started 2022 back with the the Sod Poodles, posting a 4.53 ERA, being victimized by home runs in the homer-happy Texas League (serving up 19 taters in 19 games) and the hitter-friendly Amarillo home park (5.68 ERA in 10 starts). His peripherals were outstanding though, striking out 144 against 19 walks in 105 1/3 innings.
Pfaadt was promoted to Triple-A Reno, where he would encounter another homer-happy league (PCL) and hitter-friendly home ballpark. This time, he had no problems, putting up a 2.63 ERA with a 74-14 K-BB ratio in 61 2/3 innings despite giving up nine homers in 10 games. All told, he led the entire minor leagues with 218 strikeouts.
He made a strong bid to make the Arizona rotation out of spring training, posting a 3.75 ERA with a 15-4 K-BB ratio in 12 innings. The D’backs instead chose Ryne Nelson for the rotation and Drey Jameson to be the long man in the bullpen. Since then, Jameson entered the rotation when Kyle Davies went on the IL and now it appears Henry will be going in for Mad Bum.
In the meantime, Pfaadt started out by laying a dud in Triple-A (4 homers and 5 ER in 3.2 IP), but has been excellent over his ensuing three starts – 1.62 ERA, 18-4 K-BB in 16 2/3 innings, including 7 scoreless innings in his last start on Thursday.
So what can we expect out of Pfaadt once he arrives, hopefully soon, in Arizona? He’s very highly-ranked in our latest Top 500 fantasy baseball prospects list and has been for quite some time.
Pfaadt has a deep arsenal, tremendous command and almost no workload concerns coming off 167 innings in the minors last year, so he has the makings of a rookie pitcher who can hit the ground running.
That arsenal begins with a mid-90s fastball that acts almost like a cutter with carry, allowing him to challenge batters up in the zone. He pairs his 60-grade fastball with a slider, which sits 80-84 with heavy sweep, earning a 60 grade and making it his put-away pitch. He has a plus changeup that has arm-side run along with a curve he uses early in counts.
Pfaadt pounds the strike zone, which has at times led to a propensity for giving up homers, but we’ll see if some of that was pitching in hitter-friendly environments. That attack mentality leads to a lot of strikeouts and very few walks, which could serve him well as a fantasy asset.
Projections systems see a useful pitcher in fantasy, with ATC DC having Pfaadt expected to post a 4.23 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP and 78 strikeouts in 82 innings. We think he will get to a much higher innings-count, let’s say 130, with a 3.85 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 140 strikeouts. Pfaadt could become this year’s George Kirby, coming up in early May and becoming a rotation mainstay for fantasy owners.