Diamondbacks Minor League Roster Surprises

95% of the time, it's pretty easy to see where Josh Byrnes, A.J. Hinch, and Jack Howell are coming from when they assign a minor league player to a particular level. But every so often, a player finds himself at a level that appears either too easy or too advanced for him. Here are five such head-scratchers.

Sometimes a player is at an unusual level for a good reason.  First baseman Bryan Byrne played well enough to earn advancement last season, but his way is blocked by first baseman Joshua Whitesell, the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year last season.  For both first-sackers to get sufficient at-bats, Byrne must remain at Mobile.

What follows is a list of five prospect who begin the year at strange levels not due to circumstance, but due to reasons beyond my comprehension.

Rafael Quezada -
Assigned to: Lo-A South Bend
Belongs at: Extended Spring Training

Okay, so Quezada's a big guy, so you figure that he can handle a full season's worth of innings.  The trouble is that he hasn't yet shown that he can handle Rookie League hitters, so how is that going to work for him in the Midwest League?  Not too well is the guess here.  He went 2-8 with an 8.17 ERA for the Missoula Osprey last year.  In 68.1 innings, he allowed more home runs (11) than any player on his team hit.  Quezada is 22-years old now when the average Pioneer League player was 21 last year, so  leaving him behind for one more season at rookie ball would not stunt his development.  Frankly, there are several pitchers in Extended Spring Training with better credentials for beginning the year at South Bend.

Wes Roemer -

Assigned to: Hi-A Visalia
Belongs at: Double-A Mobile

Wes Roemer was a 50th overall draft selection in 2007, and supplemental round draft choices generally don't find themselves repeating levels unless they had terrible results the season before.  You can argue that Roemer's results were disappointing last season, but they were far from terrible.  His 199 hits allowed was most in the California League, but he was also second in innings to teammate Barry Enright.  I suppose the theory here is that the hitter-friendly conditions in California might provide more of a challenge for Roemer's pitch-to-contact style than the humid Southern League, but it is still an unusual decision.  Expect Roemer to be one of the first pitchers to receive a promotion this season.    

Matt Torra -
Assigned to: Double-A Mobile
Belongs at: Triple-A Reno

Torra has become the Rodney Dangerfield of the Diamondbacks organization - he gets no respect.  It was a surprise when he was left off the 40-man roster this winter and exposed to the Rule 5 draft, and it is a shock that he will not begin this year with the Reno Aces.  Torra made 13 starts for the BayBears last year, compiling a 2.85 ERA and displaying impeccable command of his pitches.  He was more hittable after a promotion to Tucson, but was still among the most effective starters there, going 5-5 with a 4.71 ERA over another 13 starts.  This is a former 31st-overall pick we're talking about, not a guy for whom success is a surprise.  You have to wonder what damage this demotion has done to his psyche.

Hector Ambriz -

Assigned to: Double-A Mobile
Belongs at: Triple-A Reno

Ambriz actually struggled quite a bit in Mobile last year, to the tune of a 4.89 ERA.  But he was invited to pitch in the Arizona Fall League as a reliever and fanned 20 batters in 16.1 innings to go with a 2.76 ERA.  As if his success against some of the game's top prospects weren't enough, Ambriz then tossed six shutout innings against big leaguers this spring.  The rationale behind leaving Ambriz in Double-A is that he can continue to develop as a starter there, whereas in Triple-A, he would be relegated to bullpen duties. 

Of course, had the organization not signed Seth Etherton and Travis Blackley this spring, there would be room for both Ambriz and Torra in the Triple-A rotation.  It's good to have major league-ready veterans in Triple-A as an insurance policy, but the D-backs already have Yusmeiro Peitit and Billy Buckner in the major league bullpen.  Both of them could step in as a starter if needed, and in fact Petit will be doing just that on Saturday, stepping in for Brandon Webb

Josh Ellis -

Assigned to: Triple-A Reno
Belongs at: Double-A Mobile

Ellis was great in Visalia last year, averaging a strikeout per inning while compiling a 2.40 ERA.  And yes, he was also great in his brief stint in Triple-A, as he tossed three innings of shutout, one-hit ball.  But this is a big jump for a guy who posted a 6.50 ERA in Missoula just two years ago.  At 24, Ellis is an appropriate age for Tucson, but he has just over 100 professional innings under his belt, meaning he may not have the necessary experience.  I predict that he joins the Mobile BayBears as soon as Reid Mahon is activated off the disabled list.

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