A pair of Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospects highlight the Opening Day roster of the Kane County Cougars.
Among Diamondbacks prospects, LHP Alex Young is ranked No. 5 by MLB Pipeline and No. 7 in the Baseball America Prospect Handbook (BAPH). Young was a second-round draft pick last year and barely pitched professionally in 2015, but BA believes he could move quickly to High-A and has a ceiling as a No. 4 starter in the big leagues. If you follow the College World Series, you may recall Young as the Texas Christian University pitcher who took a no-hitter into the 7th inning against Vanderbilt while striking out 12 batters.
RHP Taylor Clarke is ranked No. 12 by MLB Pipeline and No. 14 in BAPH. A third-round draft pick last year, he joined the Hillsboro Hops roster in time to go on a 23-inning streak in which he gave up no runs, helping lead the team to the Northwest League championship title. BA says he “has a solid, muscular build, coupled with a solid three-pitch mix and above-average control, which is why he will move back to the rotation in 2016.”
Those two talented hurlers may be a mere taste of what could turn out to be a formidable Cougars pitching staff. MLB.com columnist Jonathan Mayo believes LHP Cody Reed (blister), RHP Tyler Mark (groin pull) and RHP Jose Martinez (back spasms) will be assigned to Kane County after their individual injuries heal.
A player to watch on the offensive side is outfielder Matt McPhearson, who might be the fastest baserunner in the Diamondbacks organization (according to Baseball America). He batted only .231 with a .313 on-base percentage, but swiped 30 bases in 56 games with the rookie-level Missoula Osprey last year. He is a legitimate stolen-base threat, but he needs to get on base consistently to turn that into a plus for the team.
Twenty-two of the players on the 2016 roster were part of championship teams last year. Two teams below Kane County in Arizona’s farm system — the Missoula Osprey (Pioneer League) and the Hillsboro Hops (Northwest League) — won their respective league titles in 2015.
You can see the complete Cougars roster here.
The Cougars are managed by former big-league infielder Mike Benjamin. You can read about him and his coaching staff here.