Diamondbacks Look to Strike with David Holmberg

The state of Arizona is known for having numerous varieties of poisonous snake. The Arizona Diamondbacks have something even more potent. The big league club boasts one of the most impressive collections of young pitching in Major League Baseball.

And the rich continue to get richer.

Left-hander David Holmberg will make his MLB debut on Tuesday night when he faces off against the San Diego Padres and former Diamondbacks hurler Ian Kennedy. The southpaw earns the start over another pitching prospect — Archie Bradley — who is rated by many as one of the Top 10 prospects in baseball, as well as Tyler Skaggs who has spent the majority of the season in Triple-A but also made seven big league starts in 2013.

Holmberg, who I ranked as the organization’s seventh best prospect, doesn’t come close to matching Bradley’s and Skaggs’ ceilings, but he’s polished for his age and has above-average command of a four-pitch repertoire that includes a plus changeup. He also has a fringe-average fastball and two solid breaking balls in his curveball and slider. When things are going well, he works quickly and shows an easy, repeatable delivery with a three-quarter arm slot.

Holmberg traditionally displays above-average control, as well, but it’s worth noting that it’s been a little more inconsistent than in past seasons. In July, the Florida native walked 14 batters in 27.2 innings. He’s also a fly-ball pitcher, who could be prone to the long ball in the Majors unless his command and control continue to consistently work at an above-average level.

In his prime, the young pitcher has a chance to fill a third or fourth slot in a big league starting rotation, and his big, strong frame should allow him to provide plenty of innings in that role. In the immediate future, though, I expect he’ll be more of a No. 4/5 starter who might struggle to provide innings due to high pitch counts. He’s managed to get past the fifth inning just twice in his last seven starts at the Double-A level.

As alluded to above, home runs could also be an issue in the early going, especially while pitching in his home ball park. He’ll need to pitch ahead to take full advantage of his changeup, which looks just like his heater before it disappears. Holmberg, 22, doesn’t have the pure stuff to compensate for mistakes and he needs to command both corners of the plate. If he doesn’t, it could get ugly.

Holmberg joins a rotation in Arizona that already features Trevor Cahill, 25, Patrick Corbin, 24, Randall Delgado, 23, Wade Miley, 26, and the old man of the bunch Brandon McCarthy, 30. Daniel Hudson, still just 26, is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Miley is the only pitcher of the seven that was drafted by the Diamondbacks. The others joined the organization via trades or free agency. Holmberg was acquired from the White Sox in 2010, along with Hudson, for the enigmatic Edwin Jackson.

The organization currently sits in second place and 9.5 games behind the surging Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West but is only six games out of a wild card spot. The young pitching will have to step up its efforts to help the organization sneak into the playoffs with a strong September showing. The club’s starting rotation currently sits 12th in WAR (7.8) out the 15 NL teams, ahead of only the Giants (4.4), Brewers (3.0), and Padres (2.5). In comparison, the Cardinals relatively young starting staff has compiled 12.2 WAR, while the Dodgers have accumulated 10.6 WAR.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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