The top ten Diamondbacks prospects are finally here. In case you missed either of the other articles, I already broken down numbers 21-30 and 11-20 last week. Also, I discussed the thought process behind these rankings recently and I’d suggest reading them if you haven’t already.
Because I’m anticipating some questions about my final ten, I’ll leave some final thoughts at the bottom. I’d love to hear what you think so please drop a line in the comments section! Here we go:
10. Justin Williams, OF, 8/20/95 (A)
I’m going out on a bit of limb by putting Williams in the top-10, but I think he’ll develop into an impact bat. He’s physical at 6’2”, 215-pounds and there’s a lot of strength and power in his lower half. He has contact skills already and is learning to use his power in games. He has a very mature approach to the game and scouts have raved about his makeup. Drafted as a raw prep out of a Louisiana High School in the 2nd round of this June’s draft, Williams will be given every chance to grow. He played at three levels in 2013 and should open the year in full season Single-A South Bend. If he could hit .351/.397/.452 across three levels as a “raw” talent, imagine the potential once he spends a year or two with professional coaching. The sky’s the limit here.
9. Andrew Chafin, LHP, 6/17/90 (AA)
Chafin’s stock as a prospect has varied quite a bit over his short professional career. A supplemental pick in the 2011 draft (#43 overall) out of Kent State, he sat out most of 2011, then destroyed High-A California League hitters in 2012 only to change his profile in 2013 at Double-A Mobile. The strikeouts dropped dramatically but he also cut down his walks, an Achilles’ heel for him in the past. It appears that he changed his approach to focus on throwing more strikes and/or getting early contact as he remained very effective (1.25 WHIP, 2.85 ERA over 126 innings) but was not nearly as dominant. The biggest question mark for Chafin is whether or not he remains a starter or the organization shifts him to the bullpen. He’s noted for his wipeout slider and could move quickly if converted to relief, but I’m betting he stays in the rotation at least one more season to see if he can stick there long term. There’s far more value for him as a starter. We could see him as early as 2014 but I’m in favor of bringing him along more slowly and allowing him to try to recapture the strikeouts in the minors. With the upside of a number three starter, I’m curious which Chafin will show up in 2014.
8. Matt Davidson, 3B, 3/26/91 (MLB)
Davidson garnered a lot of attention in early 2013 as he got off to a red-hot start in Reno. He carried the production through the first half and into the All-Star break where he won the AAA Home Run Derby and was crowned MVP of the Future’s Game. Because the Diamondbacks had needs, he was rumored as a trade chip near the deadline but a deal was never done. It’s unclear just what the organization thinks of Davidson, but one gets the impression that they’re not that high on him given how long they’ve delayed his big league arrival amongst other things. And perhaps they have good reason to be concerned: contact remains a problem and it undermines his power, he struggles against breaking stuff and doesn’t walk very much. His approach has a long ways to go before it’ll be effective in the majors. One can’t argue with the power, though, as it’s undeniable and if he figures out how to make it play consistently in major league games, everything changes. As of now, however, he needs work and he needs it at the major league level where he’s blocked unless Prado moves to LF full time. Don’t be surprised if he gets moved in a trade this winter.
7. Jake Lamb, 3B, 10/9/90 (A+)
Injuries are never a good thing, especially when you’re tearing the cover off the ball like Lamb was before he went down with a broken hamate bone. He came on strong to finish the seasons but would have likely ended the year in Double-A if he’d stayed healthy. He’s got pop and patience at the plate but strikeouts and zone control can be a problem from time to time. Lamb is a good athlete and can definitely stick at third long term, it’s just a matter of him making the necessary changes to his approach at the plate. A 6th rounder out of the 2012 draft, he could turn into a real steal for the Diamondbacks if everything clicks. He doesn’t have as much power as Davidson at this point but he makes good contact more frequently and is a little farther off, giving the Diamondbacks flexibility to figure out what exactly they want to do at third long term. He should start 2014 in Mobile and could possibly see Reno before year’s end. I think he debuts in late 2015 and can develop into a solid regular.
6. David Holmberg, LHP, 7/19/91 (AA)
Homberg continued his methodical rise through the minors with yet another successful season. He pitched 157.1 innings for Mobile where he was very durable and efficient. The strikeouts won’t “wow” you, but he remains effective at getting hitters out. He received a very brief call-up and made a start for the Diamondbacks in late August and, unsurprisingly, the talent differential between the Southern League and the National League caught up with him. The future remains bright and the value lies in the bulk of effective innings he’s capable of throwing. Much like Aaron Blair listed above, Holmberg should become a durable innings-eater who can provide 200+ innings on an annual basis. We’ll see him in the majors in 2014 at some point, and he has the ceiling of a number three.
5. Jake Barrett, RHP, 7/22/91 (AA)
The former Arizona State Sun Devil and Mesa, Arizona native put his name in the discussion for Opening Day of 2014 with his most recent performance. Given the struggles of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen, Barrett looks like an instant upgrade. He’s been dominant since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft. He strikes a ton of batters out thanks to his power arm, including a upper 90’s fastball, a wipeout slider and a developing splitter. Barrett has “future closer” written all over him and it’s not an issue of “if”, but “when” he makes his Arizona debut. Expect him to get a look during Spring Training and have a chance to make the club for Opening Day. I think he ends up in Reno to start the season, but injuries and/or ineffectiveness could have him in a DBacks uniform before the All Star break.
4. Braden Shipley, RHP, 2/22/92 (A)
There aren’t many pitchers in the game with Shipley’s upside. His unrealized potential is what made him the Diamondbacks’ 1st round pick in 2013. Many analysts had him going as high as 6th overall to the Marlins but he luckily fell right into Arizona’s lap and they were happy to pop him. He already possesses two plus pitches in a mid to upper 90’s heater and a fantastic changeup that was rated as the best available in the draft. His curve is developing and has the potential to be average or better. His athleticism is rare and he has a projectable frame. He’s only been pitching for two years and is nowhere near reaching his potential as a future number two. It’ll be a long climb for Shipley as he has lots of development left, but the tools are undeniable and I expect steady growth from him and a MLB debut in 2015.
3. Chris Owings, MI, 8/12/91 (MLB)
After a stellar performance in Reno, Owings’ stock had never been higher and he finished the season with the major league club. He was a supplemental pick back in 2009 (41st overall) and has moved steadily through the minors. Considering that he stands only 5’9”, there’s pop in the bat and he can steal a base once in a while, too. There are concerns, however. Can he stick at shortstop long term or is he a second baseman down the road? His two best minor league seasons came at Visalia and Reno, environments that distort offensive numbers. He routinely strikes out around 20% of the time and has only walked 73 times in over 2000 career minor league at-bats. It’s not clear what the team plans to do at shortstop in 2014 and if Owings isn’t dealt, which is a possibility, he will be in fierce competition with Didi Gregorius for the starting job, which would be a lot of fun to watch.
2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP, 7/13/91 (AAA)
People are forgetting about Tyler Skaggs. You know, the guy who was a top-15 overall prospect in the game for the last two years and made his major league debut at the age of 20? The guy with the mid 90’s fastball from the left side and a curve that gets a ton of swinging strikes? The really bad mustache? Well, forget the mustache, but remember Tyler Skaggs. He’s not the first guy to struggle as a 20 or 21-year old in the majors and as long as he keeps refining his command, the ceiling remains high. He pitched well in Reno despite the ERA, striking out 107 over 104 innings. It’s not like he’s the only Diamondbacks pitcher that struggled to keep the ball in the park and if he can get back to pounding the bottom of the zone and continue to develop his changeup, there’s no reason to think he won’t become the number two pitcher we’ve always thought. He’ll still be just 22 on Opening Day. A good lefty is a great commodity.
*Note: Skaggs technically surpassed the innings-pitched threshold and has exhausted his prospect status. This essentially moves everyone up a spot.
1. Archie Bradley, RHP, 8/10/92 (AA)
Perhaps the best pitching prospect in all of baseball, Bradley has it all: a power arm, great stuff, a projectable frame, strong makeup and he’s well ahead of the typical development curve. There aren’t a lot prospects that project as an ace, but Bradley is one of the handful. Although many are clamoring for him to arrive in Phoenix as soon as Opening Day, his inconsistent command is a little worrisome. He has a tendency to issue free passes and major league hitters will take advantage. Remember, Skaggs has great stuff that can put away Double-A hitters with ease but the majors were a different story as the level of competition is completely unforgiving. Bradley could find himself in the same boat if he struggles with command. He needs a little more polish, but not much. I’d expect we see him sometime in 2014 after the Super Two cutoff if all goes well.
- I’m high on Williams but with only a short debut under his belt, there’s a long way to go. The indicators are there, however, and with there being a lack of impact bats in the system, Williams stands out.
- Jake Barrett’s going to be good, but I feel like those that rank him in the top three prospects in the system are overselling the production. He’ll never pitch a ton of innings and relievers are pretty fungible, not to mention volatile.
- I’m a believer in the upside of Shipley. The athleticism, the stuff and the fact that he’s just started pitching full time within the last two years tells me there’s a ton left to be discovered. It’ll be a slow development, but I’m excited about it.
- Skaggs over Owings is going to raise some eyebrows, but I just don’t buy Owings as anything more than a average regular at second base. I’ll take a number two or high-end number three lefty starter over an average second baseman every day. Yes, Owings is coming off a hot season and Skaggs struggled, but this is about the big picture, not the final few months of the 2013 season.
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