On Tuesday, I took the time to point out that the low minors are now in full swing, which has given the Diamondbacks four new affiliates to watch. Whereas the Dominican Summer League and Arizona Rookie League teams are full of international prospects to keep an eye on, the Missoula Osprey and the Hillsboro Hops are a more balanced blend of international and domestic talent. The names here are a blend, too, being assembled from the last two drafts and some international signs mixed in. This makes for an interesting mixture of talent to observe.
Neither affiliate, The Osprey of the Frontier League and the Hops of the Northwest League, have a ton of talent. This points the weakness of the lower minors when it comes to the Diamondbacks. Most of it is concentrated in Double and Triple-A at the moment. But there are some upside plays down low and it’s important we take a minute to establish who we should be watching. Take a look below and you’ll see some names you recognize, many you may not. With a strong 2015, there will inevitably be some guys who push their names up the prospect list, and this is our first glimpse of those players in 2015.
Missoula Osprey – Frontier League
Bo Takahashi (18), RHP – hailing from Brazil, Takahashi is an advanced-for-his-age pitching prospect that doesn’t have overpowering stuff but knows how to use what he has. At just 5’11”, he’s not exactly projectable but he performed reasonably well in his debut in the AZL last year and the Pioneer League offers a new challenge against mostly older competition. He’s performed well in three starts thus far, although given his height, it’s no surprise that he gives up a lot of fly balls.
Francis Christy (19), C – with the lack of catching in the system, Christy was a breath of fresh air coming in the 7th round of this year’s draft. He fits the physical profile at 6’2″, 220-pounds and scouts have noted that he does have some bat-to-ball ability. The power isn’t a calling card, but if he can stick behind the plate and just hit a little, he’ll automatically become an important part of Arizona’s minor league puzzle. He’s shown a contact-oriented approach in nine games this year.
Isan Diaz (19), 2B – a second rounder from the 2014 class, Diaz was noted for having an advanced feel for hitting and he’s shown it in his brief pro career. He’s playing out of position at shortstop, something we saw in Spring Training at the complex a few months ago. Most scouts agree that his long-term fit is at second, however. He’s shown respectable plate discipline, something that correlates well to advancement, so Diaz is certainly one to watch.
Marcus Wilson (18), CF – the D-backs got a lot of praise for pouncing on Wilson who was thought to go higher in the 2014 draft (he was selected in the second round). He’s a raw athlete who’s working on his swing, something that was evident in Spring Training. Wilson worked closely with coach Shelby Miller to refine his stroke and it’s geared for line drives. He didn’t hit well in his debut but is faring far better in ten games in 2015. He’s got speed to burn and is one of the fastest players in the minors. He’s built a bit like Cameron Maybin and should patrol center field for a long time if the bat comes around (video).
Others of Note
Gabriel Moya (20), LHP – Moya is a six-foot lefty with strikeout stuff who did well in two seasons in the DSL before struggling last year during his stateside debut. The Venezuelan has moved back into a relief role where he’s pitching well again. If he stays in relief, he could move relatively quickly.
Tyler Humphreys (20), 3B – Humphreys was a seventh rounder last year and looks the part of a projectable pro. He stands 6’2″ and 212-pounds with the actions needed to stick at third. How the bat develops is the question, but he’s off to a decent start in 2015.
Didimo Bracho (18), 2B – Bracho hit well in his first pro season in the DSL and jumped all the way to the Pioneer League this year where he’s struggling to date. At just 18, however, that’s not unexpected. He was as stolen base machine last year, so if he can just get on base, he’s got a chance.
Austin Byler (22), 1B – Arizona got compliments for taking Byler in the 11th round out of Nevada as he was one of the top players available in day two of the 2015 draft. He’s rewarded them thus far as the Pioneer League doesn’t look like much of a challenge. He may see a promotion to Hillsboro sooner than later.
Kal Simmons (21), SS – Simmons was popped in the eighth round of this year’s draft and projects as an all-around shortstop type with no elite tools, but a decent overall package. He saw his power spike in his junior year at Kennesaw State, but he’s struggled in his nine-game debut.
Matt McPhearson (20), OF – a speed-first outfielder, McPhearson was a fourth rounder in 2013 who’s struggled to make consistent contact. He’s done a reasonable job of getting on base, however, where his speed can be unleashed. Without a strong arm, he’s a fourth outfielder type.
Matt Railey (20), OF – Railey has as much talent as anyone on the roster, but a PED suspension has delayed his season. He’s a toolsy outfielder but has seen very limited action as a hamstring injury ended his 2014 campaign early. Once he hits the field, he could shoot up the D-backs’ prospect rankings (video).
Hillsboro Hops – Northwest League
Cody Reed (19), LHP – Reed is s full-figured lefty without much projection left. He stands 6’3″ and 245-pounds – a mature body for a 19-year old. He’ll have to watch his weight, but he wields a mid 90’s heater that’s been clocked up to 96 and he was excellent at two stops last year (AZL and Frontier League) after being selected in the comp round of the 2014 draft. He’s proven capable against older competition so far in the Northwest League and he could really start to rise with a solid season. He’s proven both tough to hit and capable of striking out more than a batter per inning while generating ground ball outs.
Ryan Burr (21), RHP – Burr is a fan-favorite hailing from Arizona State University where he was selected in the fifth round. He’s got power stuff as reliever and joins guys like Jake Barrett and Jimmie Sherfy as recent high-profile relievers drafted early from high-quality college programs. He’s made three appearances so far for the Hops and generated either strikeouts or ground ball outs in the smallest of samples, but if it continues, he could move very quickly through the minors (video).
Breckin Williams (21), RHP – everything above about Burr is applicable to Williams who’s something of a carbon copy. Again, it’s a power profile from a righty who’s a reliever all the way and hails from a quality D1 program (Missouri). He was actually taken a round before Burr, coming in the fourth. He’s made just two appearances thus far with nothing really to glean from them, so we’ll have to keep watching.
Sergio Alcantara (18), SS – Alcantara is one of my favorite guys in the system as his slick-fielding at shortstop is a complete joy to behold (think: smoother Nick Ahmed). Unfortunately, he’s still learning to hit and it’s a work in progress. He was aggressively assigned to Kane County to start the year but was demoted when he struggled against much older competition. He’s performed much better in Hillsboro, however, and is back on track. Time is on Alcantara’s side here, and if the bat plays at all, you’re looking at a second-division starter or one of the best defensive substitutes in the game (video).
Taylor Clarke (22), RHP – Clarke was a third rounder in 2015 out of the College of Charleston. At 6’4″, 200-pounds, there’s a tiny bit of projection left, but he appears to be who he is: a polished starter who will have to really hone his command at the pro level. He’s a Tommy John survivor who’s back up to the low to mid 90’s with the heat and if he fills out, he could add a touch more. It’s a back end profile, but one that bears watching nonetheless. He’s pitched in relief so far this year, but the org is likely being cautious with his rebuilt arm (video).
Others of Note
Jeferson Mejia (20), RHP – the hulking Mejia was part of the Miguel Montero trade return from the Cubs this winter. He’s struggled mightily since coming over and was demoted from Kane County early in the season. He’s struggled for Hillsboro, too, so things are still not going well. At 6’7″ with power stuff, Mejia looks the part of a dominant righty but he just can’t control it yet. A move back to the bullpen may help.
Fernery Ozuna (18), 2B – Ozuna is a blast to watch live as he plays with a ton of energy and smooth actions in the field. He’s even got sneaky pop in the cage for a 5’8″ middle infielder. Unfortunately, he’s struggled to hit in game action and was sent down from Kane County with his middle infield mate Alcantara (above). He’s performed better in the Northwest League and has a utility profile (video).
Luis Veras (21), OF – Veras has flown under the radar a little bit, but has hit well at three stops in the minors since signing out of the DR in 2012. At 6’1″ and 180-pounds with a strong arm, he’s a right fielder in the making. If his power takes a turn in the right direction, his stock could start to climb.
Dansby Swanson (first round) has not yet signed his pro contract, which isn’t uncommon for a high profile pick who just finished up the World Series. The team may have wanted to give him some time to decompress after a long college season where Vanderbilt advanced to the College World Series (but lost to Virginia in three games). Once he signs, as expected, it’ll be interesting to see where he’s assigned. They could take it easy on him and send him to Hillsboro or aggressively send him to Kane County. We just don’t know yet.
The same can be said for lefty Alex Young (second round), who is also yet to sign. He also played in Omaha with TCU and deserves some time to rest. I’m more confident that he’ll head to Hillsboro as the D-backs have been somewhat cautious with arms to date. He could even see time in relief just to get him some innings but keep his workload manageable. Time will tell, but announcements should be coming in the next couple of weeks or sooner.
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