Arizona is potential O’s trading partner with top pitching prospects

The Diamondbacks have been mentioned as one of the teams that checked in on the availability of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. While the D-backs have Jake Lamb, who hit 30 homers and drove in 105 at third base, perhaps they have shortstop in mind when thinking of Machado. Either way, they have been one of the teams reportedly showing significant interest.

According to this report last night in The Athletic (subscription required), the Diamondbacks are the “most persistent of the teams interested, according to major league sources. No trade appears close, but for the D-Backs, Machado would be a fascinating addition, possibly the right move at the right time for a franchise ready to win now.”

machado-home-run-swing-orange-side.jpgFrom the Orioles’ standpoint, you could see the interest in that Arizona’s top two prospects, per Baseball America, are pitchers. Right-hander Jon Duplantier is ranked as their No. 1 prospect and left-hander Anthony Banda, who made the majors last year, is No. 2. Both may be in the national top 100 when we see such lists released by various outlets over the next several weeks.

The 23-year-old Duplantier had a sensational 2017 after previous injury concerns. He missed the 2015 season in college at Rice with a shoulder issue that did not need surgery. An elbow concern limited him to one single inning on the farm in 2016. That was the year he was selected in the third round of the draft.

But Duplantier no doubt pitched his way onto top 100 lists and may be well up on those lists, with his remarkable 2017 season. Between low and high Single-A ball, he went 12-3 with a 1.39 ERA. That is the second-best ERA in the minors for a qualifying pitcher since 1993, topped only by Justin Verlander at 1.29 in 2005. Over 136 innings, Duplantier allowed 91 hits with 42 walks and 165 strikeouts, averging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He began the year with a streak of 20 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run and represented the United States in the Futures Game.

He ended the year as a finalist - along with the Orioles’ Austin Hays - for Baseball America’s minor league Player of the Year. The award was won by Atlanta outfielder Ronald Acuna. It seems unlikely, but maybe not impossible, that Arizona would part with this pitcher for only a year of Machado. At the same time, if there are long-term injury concerns, maybe he becomes more available.

Per Baseball America, his fastball sat at 90-94 mph but touched 97, and he throws a power curveball that was a plus pitch. He also throws a slider and changeup with plus potential. But Duplantier is not yet major league ready and appears ticketed for Double-A in 2018.

The D-backs’ No. 2 prospect right now is 24-year-old lefty Banda. He went 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA in 2016. But at Triple-A last season in the Pacific Coast League, he went 8-7 with a 5.39 ERA at hitter-friendly Reno. He walked 51 and fanned 116 over 122 innings. He pitched in eight games in the majors, making four starts. He went 2-3 with a 5.96 ERA.

Scouts say he has impressive stuff, but his command took a step back in 2017. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph, touching 96 according to Baseball America. His curve and change can both flash plus and his ceiling may be a No. 3 starter. He was drafted in the 10th round by Milwaukee in 2012.

Of course, the Diamondbacks could also move Lamb in a deal for Machado in a swap of third baseman. But they would be giving up a player that is a first-year arbitration-eligible player with three more seasons of team control. And one with a career .798 OPS to .805 for Machado.

Arizona could offer a pitcher out its major league rotation, which was very good when the D-backs won 93 games last year. They featured a rotation that was third in the majors in ERA and fifth in innings. Lefty Patrick Corbin, who went 14-13 with an ERA of 4.03, has been mentioned. But he doesn’t fit what the O’s seek - a pitcher with a lot of team control remaining. He can be a free agent after the upcoming 2018 season.

In the end, are the Diamondbacks a team that can match up here with the Orioles?

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