Braden Shipley, who entered 2016 as Arizona's top prospect, made his MLB debut in July and stayed in the rotation through the end of the season. Like many young pitchers, Shipley had his ups and downs during his first stint in the majors. He didn't post huge strikeout totals his last couple years in the minors, and that trend continued at the big league level, as the young righty recorded just a 5.53 K/9 across his 70 MLB innings. He is relatively new to the mound, having converted from shortstop to pitcher in college, so Shipley is still developing his stuff and learning how to set up big league hitters, so the strikeout totals could improve. He still has the ceiling of a No. 3 starter, but will have to compete with Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin for the final two spots in the rotation during spring training. Don't expect elite results, but Shipley makes for a nice end-game dart, given his pedigree and stuff.
Shipley was optioned to Triple-A Reno on Monday. Shipley spent 70 innings with the big league club in 2016, posting a 5.27 ERA and a 43:28 K:BB during the short-lived stint. He was in consideration for both rotation and bullpen spots with the Diamondbacks to start the 2017 season, however, the 25-year-old was always on the outside looking in. He'll head to Triple-A as one of the Diamondbacks' top pitching prospects to start the season, where he'll wait for a call-up back to the majors.
Shipley may be competing for a rotation spot this spring, but his destination to begin the season could hinge on the health of the starters currently ahead of him on the depth chart. The D-backs have Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, and Taijuan Walker positioned as their first three starters, with Shelby Miller, Patrick Corbin, Archie Bradley, and Shipley vying for the final two spots. It seems unlikely that the D-backs will give up on Bradley as a starter in 2017, but he and Shipley have minor league options remaining, which could leave the duo working as teammates in Reno to open the year. One other variable to consider is the role of Corbin, who may be shifted into the bullpen depending on how things go over the course of spring training. Shipley's decline in strikeout rate over the past two seasons at Double-A and Triple-A continued during his 70-inning taste of Arizona last season, and that trait makes him particularly susceptible to damage having to pitch half of his games at Chase Field if he's a member of the 25-man roster at any point in 2017.
Shipley (4-4) allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk with three strikeouts over four innings in a loss Monday to the Padres. Shipley hasn't gone more than five innings since Sept. 3 against the Rockies and hasn't managed more than three strikeouts in a single outing all month. He managed to induce just six swinging strikes in 85 pitches and isn't pitching like he has the stuff to keep major league hitters off balance, as his ERA is now up to 5.49.
Shipley will slide into Rubby De La Rosa's rotation spot next week, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports. The Diamondbacks announced on Thursday that they are shutting De La Rosa down for the rest of the season. This opens a spot up for Shipley, who had been coming on in relief of De La Rosa in his recent starts. Arizona hasn't named a probable starter for Monday yet, so look for Shipley to get the nod then and likely one more time later in the week.
Shipley will not be the starting pitcher for Friday's matchup with the Giants, Jack Magruder of Fanrag Sports reports. Although Shipley was initially scheduled to start, the Diamondbacks decided it would be better to insert Rubby De La Rosa (elbow) back into the rotation for the evening. That being said, De La Rosa will likely be on a strict pitch count, so there's a decent chance that Shipley could still piggyback De La Rosa and garner a few innings. It's unclear if the Diamondbacks plan to make this change to the rotation for the remainder of the season or if Shipley will re-enter the rotation during the next turn, but that should become clearer over the next week or so.
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