Whenever evaluating prospects, an organization, a trade or something else where value is assigned, it’s always valuable to pull in different perspectives. Early in the week, I broke down The 2015 Diamondbacks Midseason Top 10 Prospects. As always, the order and ranking of prospects, plus those omitted, created plenty of discussion, both in the comments and on twitter. After completing the list, I turned to Mauricio Rubio of Baseball Prospectus to get some feedback. Although I’d previously checked in with him and a half dozen others prior to creating the list, I was interested in his feedback. Luckily for us, he obliged. Below is the question and answer I had with Mauricio regarding the list, including some additional names to keep an eye on.
First of all, thanks for agreeing to take the time to give us a little more context and insight on the Diamondbacks’ top prospects. I don’t want to say too much in the beginning, so let’s just jump right in!
I place Dansby Swanson at the top of this list because I think he has a very probable outcome. Do you agree with his spot at the top and what do you think that outcome is?
It sounds like Swanson is going to skip Low-A so I’ll have to wait until Spring Training to see him. All the reports I’ve read on him warrant your selection as the top prospect in the D-backs’ system, especially in the aftermath of the Toussaint departure. He brings a balanced skill set to the table and I like him to stick at short. Advanced bat and defensive feel go a long way at that position.
The Braden Shipley/Aaron Blair rankings caused a bit of a stir since I placed Shipley ahead of Blair even though Blair is the one running through the system wile Shipley continues to be hot and cold. Could you talk a little bit about their comparative ceilings and what the likely outcomes are there? Also, how would you order them at this juncture?
Shipley’s struggling this year and there are some reports that his stuff is middling but I still think there’s solid #3 potential in the arm, especially as the curveball started coming around towards the end of last year. Shipley’s fastball was straight and got flat, but he’s shown aptitude for pitching and he can learn how to manipulate the ball some and get back on track. I’m a sucker for athletic pitchers. Blair has a lower OFP – I view him more as a low #3 or a #4 starter. He’s closer to contributing and he is running through the system but I like Shipley’s stuff and potential more still.
We’ve been excited about Brandon Drury for a quite a long time and I know you and I caught him together in the AFL last year. How good can he be and how does his eventual position affect his value?
He’s not a sexy prospect and as I’m sure you’ve found out, there aren’t many sexy prospects in the D-backs’ system right now. It’s been an odd season for Drury, the pop hasn’t shown up this year but he still has more than enough power for second base. He profiles better at the keystone and if he can get his approach back we’re talking about a solid average regular.
Alex Young threw me for a loop – I just didn’t know where to go with him. Is his ranking close to accurate for you and what do you think the Diamondbacks got in their second round pick?
I have young as a high #4 starter with a fast track to the majors. I think where you have Young is solid. My natural desire is to move him down because the OFP is fairly limited but when I look at the names behind him I can’t really make a case for anyone over him.
The major league outfield in Arizona is strong at the moment with Pollock, Peralta, Tomas and Inciarte holding it down, but there’s not much in the system down below. Gabby Guerrero came via Seattle and Marcus Wilson was a 2014 second round pick. Both appear to be projects. Do they have a realistic shot to be difference makers in the majors?
Guerrero is a scary prospect in that his most important tools, the hit and power, can both be undone by his plate discipline. When you’re a corner outfielder and you project to be as big as Guerrero projects to be, you have to start hitting all the way up the ladder, and to this point, Guerrero’s lack of zone command is hurting him. The tools are certainly there but AA is when it’s less about projection and more about answering the all important “can he play?” question. Wilson is in the same boat. This will be his second year in rookie ball and his profile warrants the assignment. Wilson has all the bat speed you want out of a hitter and he has time. I think both have the potential to contribute. Wilson still has the new prospect shine and it’s just easier to project a difference maker for him. Guerrero has a shot but his stock looks diminished at this point.
Wei-Cheih Huang has been a revelation. I mean, he went from “unknown” to the Futures Game in just a couple of months. What does his ceiling look like?
The question I always go back to with Huang is this: how well does the body fill out? Huang has plus command, a potential plus fastball and change and a curveball that flashes when he stays on top of the offering. He’s very skinny, however, and he has narrow hips that don’t inspire much confidence that he gains the prototypical starter build. Thats the limiting factor, really. I think Huang starts but he won’t likely be a durable middle of the rotation stalwart that the stuff suggest. I think he’s a high #4/low #3 who makes 20-25 competent starts a year.
We both killed him in the offseason but Peter O’Brien has a much better profile in the outfield over catcher and I think you can make the case for his inclusion on the back end of this list and even higher. It’s not pretty but he’ll hit homeruns. I’m basically in love with Colin Bray as a player and I think he’ll be a major league contributor. He plays plus defense in center field with a solid average arm. The hit tool is in question and I don’t think it gets much over 40 but when you think about the overall profile that’s a major league 4th outfielder. I really want to like Sergio Alcantara because he has 60 defense and a 70 arm. He’s the best defensive shortstop I’ve seen all year, he can make every throw and he has natural instincts for shortstop. It’s real pretty. His hitting is terrible, however. 20 power, 30 hit best case scenario. I think those are the three guys you can make a case for over Yoan Lopez and even Sherfy to an extent.
After looking at the Top 10, what are your thoughts on this system as a whole? Where do you think it’ll rank when the organizational rankings come out this winter?
The DBacks are lacking impact here and they’ve traded away an impact piece, weakening their org ranking overall. This is a back-half organization when the dust settles, I think.
Is there anyone else we should be keeping an eye on? Are there any guys not mentioned who you think have a chance to really improve their stock in the final few months of the season and into the future?
I’ll go off guys I’ve seen here. I’ve come around on Zac Curtis. He’s not a top ten type of guy but it wouldn’t surprise me if he figured out a way to contribute at MLB. It’s 89-91 with a nice breaking ball and stones. I like Victor Reyes‘ hit tool, but that’s a limited profile as well because he has a LF profile and the power doesn’t look like it can get to average.
That’s great stuff, Mauricio, thank you! I know the we’re not talking about the minor league systems of the Rangers or Nationals here, but there’s a future in Arizona nonetheless. We certainly thank you for giving us some extra clarity on where to find it. Speaking of finding things, where can readers find your other work?
No problem, thanks for having me! People can follow me on twitter @MRubio52 and find my work several days a week at BaseballProspectus.com. We have a new podcast out on prospects called, “Raw Projection” that I do with Tucker Blair, CJ Wittman and a couple of other members of the BP Prospect Team. If readers liked the above, they should definitely tune into that.
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