PHOENIX -- As he sat in a locker normally occupied by D-backs second baseman Kelly Johnson, Arizona top prospect Tyler Skaggs looked around the room at his teammates on the USA team for the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game.
"It's kind of surreal to tell you the truth," said Skaggs, who started the game for the U.S. and worked a scoreless inning in his team's 6-4 victory. "I never thought I'd really be here, so it's crazy. I'm here with some of the best players in the world. It's awesome."
One year ago, the left-hander was just a couple of weeks away from being dealt to the D-backs from the Angels. He was the player to be named in that deal, so he was not able to pitch or do more than play catch for weeks until the trade could be made official.
This year, the 19-year-old is 5-5 with a 3.22 ERA in 17 games for Class A Visalia and leads the California League with 125 strikeouts and just 34 walks in 100 2/3 innings.
"It's probably as good as I wish it could be," Skaggs said. "I'm throwing three or four miles harder [this year.]"
In addition, Skaggs said his curveball has gotten even better.
"It's becoming a really good out pitch," he said.
Skaggs is without a doubt on a fast track to the big leagues, though it is highly unlikely that it will happen for him this year.
"It's easy to stay focused," Skaggs said of tuning out the timetable talk. "But it's hard when everyone is trying to push you up to the big leagues or push you up to Double-A or Triple-A, because I'm trying my hardest. It's up to the organization. All I can do is go out there every fifth day and try my hardest."
If anyone can relate to that mindset it was the person one locker over from Skaggs, highly touted D-backs Double-A Mobile first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
The slugger, who was selected in the eighth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, made an impression with the Arizona brass during his time in big league camp in Spring Training, and he started the season hot at Mobile and he has not looked back.
Goldschmidt is hitting .315 with 25 homers and 78 RBIs. The homer and RBI totals lead the Southern League as does his .434 on-base percentage and .630 slugging percentage.
He didn't have quite the same success Sunday, going 0-for-4.
Given the lack of production the D-backs have gotten out of their first basemen this year, it's not surprising that fans have clamored for the organization to call up Goldschmidt.
"You get asked those questions and people say that stuff, but you really just have to try to forget it all because first, it's out of your control and second, you never know what can happen and you can get away from what you're trying to do," Goldschmidt said. "I'm enjoying my time in Mobile. We've got a great team, a lot of great teammates, great coaching staff, a chance to possibly win the league this year, so I'm really focused on just helping my team win there. I probably hear it less than everyone else, because I'm not trying to read anything and I'm not thinking about that. So if it's getting said, I don't know about it, which is how I want it to be."
When he got to big league camp this year, Goldschmidt said he was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming the veteran players were to him.
"They took me under their wing and treated me like any other guy and told me what had helped them and maybe it would help me," he said. "It was nice to go through that experience and see that we had so many great guys both on and off the field. It's nice to root for them now not just because of what they do on the field but for the people I know they are off it."