With the improved play of the Diamondbacks this year, it’s easy to focus on what’s taking place in the majors. There are a boatload of compelling storylines, like Yasmany Tomas’ transition to the majors, Jake Lamb’s emergence (and Ryan’s subsequent adoration), Archie Bradley’s ups and down, Paul Goldschmidt’s battle with Bryce Harper for NL bragging rights, A.J. Pollock’s All-Star bid and so much more. We could throw guys like Chase Anderson and Nick Ahmed into that conversation, too. Considering what happened last year, this has already been a far more enjoyable year in Arizona.

Hopefully you noticed something about the bright spots mentioned above. All those players, save Tomas, are homegrown talents. The D-backs drafted Goldschmidt, Lamb, Pollock, Anderson, and Bradley, plus have largely raised Ahmed and the eventual Brandon Drury. Eleven of the players on the 25-man roster are homegrown players and 14  of them got their big league start in the desert. The Diamondbacks as you know them have been built from within. The core that’s powering this squad is young and largely Arizonan in professional nature. In fact, one could argue that it’s the big league guys traded for who have weighted the squad down in recent years.

And we can make a bevy of jokes about Kevin Towers and Dave Stewart, but some of their moves have been good (Goldschmidt’s contract, the Gregorious trade). Still, neither has seemed to properly value young talent. There are major holes in how each has apparently forecast the worth of their prospects (Skaggs and Eaton for Trumbo, Toussaint with Arroyo to Atlanta), and I do believe it will start to catch up with Stewart like it did with Towers. The reaction is delayed, but there will be one.

Over the winter, I broke down the 2015 D-backs Top 30 Prospect List in detail. At this point, I think it’s a good time to re-evaluate the list and see what’s going on, especially since I plan to release the Midseason Top 10 in the coming days. I’ve covered every affiliate at least once this year and you may already have an idea of who you should be watching this summer (I’ll provide the links to the previous write-ups at the bottom of this post). You can look at these names a number of ways. They’re either the next wave of homegrown talent, the next guys to get traded for other players or maybe they’ll just disappear into the prospect void. Either way, you should know who they are and where they stand. So with that in mind, here’s my Top 30 from the winter and not on how their stock has changed to date in 2015.

Top 30 Update

Climbing the Ladder

As sometimes happens in life, there’s good new here. Although Jake Lamb and Nick Ahmed aren’t eligible for the next prospect list, they have seen their respective stocks soar. Very few people thought Ahmed could be a top five NL shortstop and if it weren’t for an injury and his own teammate, Jake Lamb might have gotten some rookie of the year publicity by this point. We could say similar things about Enrique Burgos who jumped from High-A to Double-A straight to the majors after a good showing in the Arizona Fall league. Since coming to the majors, all he’s done is just strike out everyone in sight. And if you’re catching on here, a good way to get promoted to the majors is to exceed expectations in the minors.

Speaking of those guys, Aaron Blair continues to lead the way. We can argue about his ceiling all day, but there’s no denying that he’s remained a development freight train. He’s found some tougher sledding in the PCL, but take that with a grain of salt. Of course, Brandon Drury has joined him there and after a horrid start to the year, he earned a promotion to AAA and hasn’t looked back. He’s splitting time between second and third base, but was primarily playing second in Mobile. We could see him alongside Nick Ahmed before the year is out.

Cody Reed has been a revelation since starting his 2015 campaign as he’s dominated short season hitters in the Northwest League. Socrates Brito has done a decent job of making contact although he still has work to do. I was too low on Wilson initially, but after seeing him in person, I can see why he draws the praise he does. He’s a major project at the plate, but he has as much upside as any position player in the system. Daniel Gibson continues to progress as a lefty reliever and Jamie Westbrook, despite being young for the level, has held his own yet again.

Holding Steady, Or Not

Braden Shipley headlines this section and there will be more to talk about with him when it comes time to rank prospects. For now, the results don’t match the stuff, but there may be a valid reason for that. There are guys who are ready for a chance in the near future in Peter O’Brien, Kaleb Fleck, Jake Barrett and Jimmie Sherfy. Each has work to do, but they’re getting close to audition time. There are some future role players, too, in Evan Marzilli, Zach Borenstein, Mitch Haniger, Fernery Ozuna, Anthony Banda and others. These are guys with limited major league upside, but upside nonetheless.

Archie Bradley has seen his stock drop some after a white-hot start to his 2015 campaign. The peripherals didn’t match the results and, sure enough, the results started to line up with what he was really doing. Getting hit in the face with a comebacker probably didn’t help. He could realistically spend the rest of 2015 in the minors as he’ll have to earn his way back into the rotation and I’m not sure he can do it at this point, not with the team dreaming of a wild card birth. Joining him here Matt Railey, a toolsy outfielder who’s inaugural season ended prematurely following a torn hamstring, then his 2015 hasn’t gotten going yet thanks to a PED suspension. He’s still a very talented player with major upside, but this hasn’t been the start anyone had hoped for.

New Additions

This list is just a starting point for the impending Midseason Top 10 list. There are names that have been added to (and subtracted from) the system since the Top 30 was revealed while other guys have put themselves on the map since the season began. Yoan Lopez still exists. Victor Reyes is doing some things. Dansby Swanson and Alex Young are dudes. Colin Bray is turning heads. So is Wei-Chieh Huang. Touki’s not around anymore (#RIPTouki). You get the idea – the landscape has already changed in a major way and that will be reflected in the next set of rankings. So keep your eyes out for that and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Previous Minor League In-Season Works

Toussaint Debuts for the Cougars

Rawhide Pitching Their Way to the Top

Aaron Blair Stealing the Spotlight in Mobile

New International Signs Debut for the Diamondbacks

Recent Draft Picks Making an Impression in Rookie Ball

11 Responses to Taking Stock of the D-backs Top Prospects

  1. J says:

    Dbacks did not draft Ahmed

  2. Rick D says:

    As I look at the list of players in the first two paragraphs up there, I can’t help but think about all the comments here about this year’s draft, and the lack of high schoolers drafted. Goldschmidt, Pollock, Lamb, Ahmed, and Anderson were all drafted out of college. As were Corbin, Blair, and Shipley. Had the DBacks followed your advice back in 2011, they would have missed out on their 8th round pick, collegian Paul Goldschmidt.

    Maybe next year they’ll draft all high schoolers and balance things out. But I don’t really see much wrong with using colleges as the low minors.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      We know that strong performers come out of both ranks. For a team to justify spending a pick on a kid that’s 4-6 years away from the majors (aka a high school player), he has to possess the necessary upside to warrant the risk. College guys are by and large safer bets to be make it, but are generally lower-upside picks. There are exceptions to all of this – we’re working with large generalities here.

      The argument for high school players is built around the idea that Arizona has a lot of high-floor, low ceiling players already but lack the sort of impact guys in the system that you can turn into franchise cornerstones. Only Shipley has a remote chance of that and I think those odds are pretty low. So keep in mind, the reason to add high schoolers is to add the kind of impact you only find in certain places: college kids that go very early or high school guys a further down. It’s not about age, it’s about a lack of impact potential.

  3. Dave-Phoenix says:

    In looking at the whole package, I would say the D-Backs cupboard is pretty bare.

    It is hard to see many of the prospects being any better than the current team. Maybe that is because the MLB team is so young, and all the prospects are already here.

    In reality there are only two things that the D-Backs need to be come contenders: Starting pitchers, and relief pitchers.

    The current crop of D-Back pitching prospects will not provide a big enough upgrade to get the D-Backs over the hump. The D-Backs are going to have to reach into their pockets for free agent help or be satisfied with continued mediocrity. They should have plenty of “payroll flexibility” now thanks to the Touki/Montero/Trumbo/Cahill trades…. 🙂

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Right on, this is definitely true. The collection is not impressive and taking the player with the highest impact potential out of the system definitely hurts. Basically, you have a couple guys who look like big leaguers, some relievers and a boatload of fourth outfielder/utility types. That’s not uncommon, but it’s not good for where this organization is. They need guys to push them over the top, not just add depth to the system. The scary part is that the people in charge of these decisions have a very inconsistent track record of making quality transactions.

  4. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Jeff, also deserving of a look for your new top 30 would be Silvino Bracho and Daniel Palka. Possibly, although this is more of a stretch, Henry Castillo as well. The first two, especially, I think may merit rankings more than some of the 4th-Of and fringe relief arms you include here.

    I’m also not sure if it’s correct to say that Isan Diaz is a potentially high-average guy and nothing more. I know it’s the Pioneer League, but his SLG is in that league’s top 10 right now. He may be someone to get legitimately excited about.

    And I know I’m Bracho-obsessed, but so far in AA he has a 1.80 ERA with 33 K’s and 6 BB’s in 25.0 IP. In his minor league career he has 185 K’s and 23 BB’s in 128.2 IP. If I had to guess at the Dback relief prospect who will go on to have the best MLB career, I’d take Bracho over anyone else, including Barrett (whose AA numbers were not as good, at a similar age). His strikeout ability plus control is precisely what you are looking for.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      These guys will definitely be part of the larger discussion when the winter rolls around. The thirty above are from last winter. Bracho is on the list now, even if he blows out his elbow tomorrow. Palka’s pretty fringy and I want to see him produce in AA before giving him much run, but the production is always nice, even if it is in the CAL League.

      • Lamar Jimmerson says:

        Thanks. Agreed that Palka is fringey, but the I remind myself that he *was* a pretty high draft pick. And his SB numbers this year indicate, if not speed, at least Goldschmidtian savvy on the basepaths.

  5. Cole says:

    My theory is that Stewart wants to develop a winning team ASAP so he can take a “better” job with another in the next 3 years or so. Why else would he blatantly ignore the club’s long term future? He drafted all college guys so they can have an immediate impact at the expense of sustainable future success. I think that’s also why he bet on Yoan Lopez instead of using the international money the way we all hoped. But I hope I’m wrong.

  6. […] midseason lists have appeared at Baseball Prospectus, Baseball America and other sites. Last week I profiled our Top 30 Prospect List from last winter and provided some updates, noting that some things have changed. There have been […]

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