D-backs Prospects Excel in PWL

The Puerto Rican Winter League playoffs begin tomorrow. Three Arizona Diamondbacks pitching prospects playing for Los Leones de Ponce have already made their mark on the Caribbean through their dominant performances during the regular season.

In his first full-time stint as a starting pitcher since his community college days, Kyler Newby led the PWL in ERA.  In a way, we should not be surprised.  Newby has a solid five-pitch arsenal, a physical build, a deceptive delivery, and an aggressive mentality, all characteristics of a successful starting pitcher.  Additionally, Newby was extremely successful in 13 starts at Double-A Mobile over the past two seasons, most of which came this past August.

Still, when Newby managed a 1.55 ERA when no other qualifying starting pitcher had an ERA under 1.93, it was hard not to do a double-take.  Even more impressive than the near strikeout-per-inning that he averaged despite wielding a fastball with below-average velocity was the fact that he did not surrender a single home run in 46.1 innings.  Newby uses both a sinker and a splitfinger to reduce the number of fly balls he allows, and it has certainly paid off this winter.

Wes Roemer increased the percentage of ground ball outs he induced in Puerto Rico, which helped him to a dazzling 1.99 ERA despite a near 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  When he got promoted to Reno last summer, home runs were his biggest downfall, as the 17 he allowed in 71.2 innings led to a woeful 7.03 ERA with the Aces.  The fact that he did not allow a homer in his 22.1 Winter League innings is therefore a good sign that he can overcome the hitter-friendly conditions of the Pacific Coast League and Aces Ballpark in particular and perform like the pitcher who had a 3.75 ERA over 30 Double-A starts between 2009 and 2010.  Still only 24 years old, this former 50th overall draft selection still has time to make himself into a major league-caliber pitcher.

Tom Layne, on the other hand, turned 26 in November, and has to feel some pressure to perform in 2011.  The left-handed sinkerballer is not on the club's 40-man roster and was left unprotected in the December Rule 5 draft.  Fortunately, he performed quite well in 2010, both at Double-A Mobile and then during his brief stint in Puerto Rico.  Layne went 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA over two starts and two relief appearances.  He fanned 13, walked seven, and like Newby and Roemer, did not let the ball leave the yard.  Both a workhorse and tough on left-handed hitters, Layne could succeed either as an innings-eating starter or a left-handed relief specialist.

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