It’s hardly a secret, but Visalia is a disorienting place to play. It’s notorious for warping statistical outcomes and any time a batter’s performance exceeds expectations or a pitcher’s performance disappoints, it’s common to say, “well, hey, it was at Visalia.” In fact, the entire California League is brutal on pitchers and rewards hitters like no other.

That’s not a huge problem for the Rawhide as there aren’t many pitchers of note on the squad. In fact, the entire roster is a little thin. Last year it was Kane County that was a touch light and now most of those players have graduated up the chain, making Visalia a not-entirely exciting affiliate for the Diamondbacks. That said, there’s still some intrigue, so let’s have a look.

Four-Star Prospects
Three-Star Prospects
Two-Star Prospects

*Four-star prospects represent players with clear major league upside, three-star prospects are players who have tools but indefinite major league upside, two-star prospects are players with intriguing talents but are questionable to reach the big league level

What to Look For

Domingo Leyba is easily the highest-rated prospect for the Rawhide after coming over from the Tigers with Robbie Ray in the Didi Gregorius trade this winter. He thrives off of a big league hit tool and the ability to make a ton of quality contact. Power output will never be a big part of his game, but that’s just fine as he profiles as a top of the order bat. While he’s played some shortstop, he looks like a second baseman long term.

Anthony Banda turned some heads when he made a spot start for the Diamondbacks in their last exhibition game this spring against the Cubs. He faced some elite bats in Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber and  Arismendy Alcantara, guys who’ve had success in the upper minors and/or majors. While his stuff wasn’t the sharpest, he did a nice job of throwing strikes and keeping hitters off-balance with a nice three-pitch mix. Not bad for a kid who’d never pitched above Single-A.

The Rawhide have three intriguing relief prospects in Silvino Bracho, Daniel Gibson and J.R. Bradley. Bracho is a strikeout machine, Gibson has been decent as a lefty against other lefties and Bradley has done a nice job of generating K’s. All three have big league upside but are a long way off. Michael Perez was the best catching prospect in the organization prior to the Oscar Hernandez acquisition. His growth at the dish has been slower than the team would like to see. Jamie Westbrook continues to be young for his league and the scrappy middle infielder can hit a little bit, albeit for limited power. Daniel Palka is a first baseman turned right fielder who can put the ball over the fence but has some contact issues.

For a thin crop, this team still has players worth keeping track of. Leyba is the headliner and Banda has #4 starter upside, but it’s not inconceivable to see some of the relief arms in the majors in the next two years. Jamie Westbrook’s numbers haven’t been stellar, but he’s the second-youngest player on the team and one of the youngest in the whole Midwest League. The fact that the organization continues to challenge him with assignments bodes well for their internal confidence in him. Michael Perez needs a big offensive season to stay on the prospect radar but Visalia is just the place to make it happen. Palka gives the org a power bat to continue to develop. Visalia is hardly a powerhouse but we’ll be tracking them all year long.

4 Responses to Visalia Rawhide (A+) 2015 Preview

  1. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    I am very much enjoying these previews. Question: what about Silvino Bracho’s profile says 2-star prospect, rather than higher? Are scouts not high on him? Or is it just because he projects as a relief arm?

    Because the production thus far is elite. Career 13.0 K/9, 1.4 BB/9, 1.44 ERA in the minors thus far! And he was filthy at South Bend last year. At 22, it seems to me that if he continues to be so dominant it is not out of the question that he gets a cup of coffee in the bigs this year. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see him in Reno.

    He and Burgos are, to me, the most exciting relief prospects in the system — Barrett, Sherfy, et al notwithstanding.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Hey Lamar, you’re right on. It’s more about his relief upside than it is about the numbers. He’ll need to put up the same kinds of efforts in the higher minors before he’ll start to warrant more attention. Not too many relievers in Single-A reach a high prospect status. Also, he was perhaps a year old for the Midwest League, so at 22 now, you’d like to see him reach AA, meaning he’d have to earn a midseason promotion. If he does that, well, then his stock might start to rise.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well, so far so good. 2 IP with 6 Ks, 0 BBs, and 0 Hs!

        I understand your reasoning about being a slightly old reliever. Even so, I think he’s at least a solid tick above the rest of those 2-star guys. We shall see.

    • rye says:

      I agree with you Lamar, Bracho has MLB closer upside. That 14.5 SO/9 he put up last season had heads turning his way in the organization. I’d rate his chance of seeing the major leagues above Banda.

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