Maybe you missed it or maybe you didn’t, but Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks revealed the BP Top 101 Prospect List on Monday. Just two days later, Keith Law of ESPN released his own Top 100 Prospects. I bring this up not because individual rankings are important in a vacuum. On the contrary, arguing that player X should have been ranked in the top 50 but was listed at 53 is pretty much a waste of time. Where the lists are important is that they give a glimpse of an organization’s prospect power relative to that of other organizations. So what do these lists tell us about the Diamondbacks?
For starters, they tell us something that we already know: Archie Bradley is a stud. He ranked #9 on the Baseball Prospectus list (second best, behind Taijuan Walker) and #9 on the ESPN list as the best pitcher in the minors. No matter who’s rankings you prefer, Bradley looks like the real deal.
With far less consensus, Chris Owings also cracked both lists at #28 on BP’s list and #72 on ESPN’s. That’s a pretty stark contrast and highlights something you’ve heard here a lot this winter: Owings is far from a sure bet. Similarly, the team’s 2013 first-round pick Braden Shipley appears on both lists, and while he comes in at #62 at BP, he’s all the way up at #25 for ESPN. Like they are on Owings, Parks and Law are split on Shipley, although I have more confidence in saying that Parks probably just feels that he has more development to do before he starts climbing the list. Law, on the other hand, saw some improvements from Shipley during his debut and has a lot of confidence in the young right-hander.
So there, the Diamondbacks have three guys that are consensus choices among two of the most respected scouts and baseball analysts around. That’s nice, but it doesn’t compare to some other organizations that can boast more depth on the lists. The Twins have eight players listed while the Cubs and Rangers have seven players each on the Baseball Prospectus list, for example.
But the rankings from organization to organization aren’t really what I wish to get at here. Instead, I have another question: what will this list look like a year from now?
Bradley and Owings are expected to get a good dose of MLB time in 2014, exhausting their prospect eligibility. Relievers typically don’t make it because of their lack of overall value, so that counts out a number of guys, even if they are really good in their roles out of the ‘pen. If these players aren’t on the list, who’s left? Braden Shipley is on this year’s list and has a great chance to climb even higher over the summer, but what else is there?
For answers, I turned back to the different prospect lists that have come out over the last few weeks.
Jose Martinez (RHP) – with a power arm and breaking pitches that flash plus potential, Martinez has a chance to crack into the next Top 100 should he find some refinement. The raw stuff is there and he’s got the tools be a big time prospect, but at 19, he’s still learning how to control his arsenal. Should he come around in 2014, he could make a splash.
Has a Chance
Jake Lamb (3B) – if Jake Lamb can do to AA pitching what he did to A+ pitching, he has a chance to become a legit Top 100 guy. With that said, he’s not a flashy prospect and while he’s projected to stick at third, he still needs to clean up the defense. Should he make it, he’ll be a back-end of the list kind of guy given that he’s not a “sexy” player.
Brandon Drury (3B) – like Lamb, if Drury puts together another stellar season, he could sneak on to the back of next year’s list. He’d need to crush in Visalia like he did in South Bend, then probably get some productive time in Mobile to make it, but that’s not out of the realm of possibility. His defense sounds solid-average at third, but the bat will have to carry him.
Stryker Trahan (C) – being a former number one selection, Trahan can launch himself back into the fray with one good season behind the plate and at the dish. Still waiting for him to come around, though, both offensively and defensively.
Aaron Blair (RHP) – the narrative on Blair is that he’s a potential innings-eater who can get ground ball outs. Those guys don’t make it onto these lists very often, but a surprisingly dominant season from Blair could give him a chance.
Justin Williams (OF) – the second round selection from 2013 flashed his ability to make contact and hit for power in his debut. He’s very young but if he should somehow reach A+ and crush it, he could appear on Top 100 lists next January.
Surprise Player (MYSTRY) – there’s a chance the Diamondbacks hit gold in the draft in 2014 and nab someone who can crack the Top 100 after their debut, much like Shipley did this year. The possibility also exists that someone in the low minors emerges as one of the best prospects in the game, shooting up the system and grabbing a ton of attention. We’ll have to follow 2014 closely to see just who that may be.
When this time rolls around next year, don’t shocked if Braden Shipley is the only name on the various Top 100 lists around the baseball. There are a few guys that have a chance to join him, but that’s iffy at best.
And while Shipley may be the system’s only ‘big talent’ come January 2015, that’s not to say that the Diamondbacks’ system is devoid of good players, it’s just that the bulk of the talent, once you skim off Bradley, Owings and the relievers, is a long ways away from being major league producers. Until the guys at the complex levels can refine their game, through coaching and development, they will remain tough to rank due their risk of becoming ‘busts.’ The talent is down there, though, and some of it will emerge in 2014 and beyond. Keep your eyes peeled and we’ll have coverage here for you all throughout the upcoming minor league season!
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