There’s been a ton of focus on the major league club around here and that’s for a good reason. They’re doing pretty well and certainly have blown those preseason expectations out of the water, plus they’re a pretty damn fun team to watch play baseball. The gears are still grinding in the minors, however, and it’s about time a few guys get their due. Some stocks are rising (below), some stocks are falling (farther below) and there are a couple of tidbits worth throwing out there, too (furthest below). So, without diluting this too much, have a look at some guys whose performances to date will give me a lot to consider this winter when it comes time for prospect rankings.
Jamie Westbrook (20), 2B, Visalia Rawhide (A+)
This has been a true breakthrough season for Westbrook. He made an impression after he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft from a Phoenix area high school. He hit well in his debut at 18, held his own in full season ball at 19 and has emerged in A+ at the age of 20. Westbrook has been young for each league yet continued to get the job done. The power has really come around for him, and even taking the California League’s hitting environment into consideration, he’s exceeded expectations. I’d expect him to see AA as a 21-year old where he’ll get a real test. He’ll be moving up from #30 in this year’s prospect rankings without a doubt.
Isan Diaz (19), 2B, Missoula Osprey (R)
Diaz has played the bulk of 2015 at shortstop but he fits best at second base long term. That’s just fine because it’s his ability to hit that got him drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft. Playing 2015 in the Pioneer League, he’s hit extremely well and produced more power than expected with 18 doubles, six triples and nine homers. He’s swiped eleven bags to boot, showcasing a full skill set. He was always expected to hit, but this has been more than what was expected. At just 19, he’ll be ready for full season ball in 2016 and moving up from #21 in the offseason ranking.
Colin Bray (22), CF, Kane County Cougars (A)
Bray has turned heads in center field for the Cougars this season, drawing praise for his range, instincts and reads on balls hit to the outfield. But he’s excelled with the bat in 2015, too. After an injury-shortened 2014, Bray has hit for average, stolen a bunch of bases and showed a bit of pop, too. It’s the kind of skill set that won’t make him a super star, but gives him a chance to be a second division starter or, at the very least, a fourth outfielder. Unranked this winter, he’ll find himself on the list this time around.
Socrates Brito (22), RF, Mobile BayBears (AA)
Brito entered the season as a toolsy outfielder with a lot of question marks when it came to his ability to hit. A move out of the hitter friendly California League and into the more pitching-favored Southern League hasn’t slowed him at all, however. He’s maintained the average, cut down on the strikeouts and added more power than ever before. He’s still stealing bases and his overall offense is well above average in his first taste of AA. Thought of a fourth outfielder type heading into the season, he know looks like a player with a chance to hold down a starting spot in the future. He’ll move up from #17 in the rankings for sure.
Brad Keller (21), RHP, Kane County Cougars (A)
Keller has always been a pitcher with a lot of movement on his pitches, he just wasn’t always able to command them. Fortunately, that command has come around in 2015 as he’s had a fantastic year in full season ball. He’s not a strikeout machine by any means, but he’s a big body with a lot of sink on his fastball that generates grounders. With the body to log innings, Keller looks every bit the part of a workhorse number four starter who should provide reliable innings. He’ll wide up somewhere in the back half of the top 3o this winter.
Cody Reed (19), LHP, Hillsboro Hops (SS)
Reed was the team’s second rounder in 2014 as a big bodied lefty with plus velocity. While reports have suggested that he’s not generating the same heat as he did in high school, that very well may be due to the Diamondbacks emphasizing command and throwing strikes. Fortunately, that’s worked very well for Reed who’s done extremely well in short season ball as a 19-year old playing against a lot of older competition. The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the overall package should hold him steady in this year’s rankings at the very least.
Anthony Banda (22), LHP, Visalia Rawhide (A+)
Pitching in the California League is quite the task, but Banda has been up to it all season long. The lefty acquired in the Gerardo Parra trade made a spot at the end of Spring Training and turned heads, then has proceeded to pitch well for the Rawhide. His strikeout to walk ratio is strong and he’s done a relatively good job of limiting hits and keeping the ball in the yard. Banda’s upside is likely that of a number four starter, cost-controlled back end lefties are valuable assets. He’ll move up from #23 in last year’s rankings.
Silvino Bracho (23), RHP, Mobile BayBears (AA)
Bracho has gone from an off-the-radar prospect to the player with arguably the most helium in the system. It was easy to dismiss some of his past results as a player who was old for his level, but that’s no longer an option. With 71 strikeouts and just 10 walks in 49.2 innings, he’s been simply dominant. It’s the ability to command his stuff that’ so impressive while he continues to generate the whiffs. He could very well find himself in the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in 2016 as the latest iteration of Enrique Burgos but with perhaps a little more command. He was unranked last winter, but that won’t be the case this time around.
Francis Martinez (18), OF, AZL Diamondbacks (R)
Martinez is a massive right fielder with a cannon arm and ton of raw power. Unfortunately, he has’t hit a lick in the AZL, striking out 33% of the time. At just 18, it’s obviously not too late for Martinez, but it appears that the Dominican slugger is going to have a lot of work to do to get back on the list.
Yoan Lopez (22), RHP, Mobile BayBears (AA)
Lopez hasn’t pitched a ton this year due to a couple of injuries, but when he’s been on the mound, the results haven’t been what were expected. He’s not striking a lot of batters out and walking too many, a bad combination. This season has been a disappointment for Lopez and perhaps we see him in the AFL this fall in an attempt to recoup some innings and his reputation.
Jimmie Sherfy (23), RHP, Mobile BayBears (AA)
The funky right hander has had a tough run in AA this season as he’s apparently lost some of his command. The walk totals have piled up for Sherfy although he’s still getting his swing and misses. He’ll be moving down in the rankings this winter.
Jake Barrett (24), RHP, Mobile BayBears (AA)
Barrett has bounced around Reno and Mobile for two seasons now as he’s struggled for find success above AA. Command appears to be the culprit and the former closer-in-waiting has seen his stock fall for two years now. He’ll be 25 next season and is losing ground to younger prospects.
Dansby Swanson – he’s playing baseball, so yay! And he’s hitting baseballs, so yay! Really though, short season ball appears to be easy enough for him that he could very well skip Kane County next year and head straight to A+ Visalia to open 2015.
Alex Young – he’s playing baseball, so yay! Ok, enough with that. Given the number of innings that Young racked up en route to the CWS with TCU, he was given an extended break and is being broken in in a relief role in Hillsboro. He should start the year at Kane County in 2016.
Jose Martinez – Ramirez is finally healthy and is slowing returning to form after an elbow injury cost him virtually all of 2014 and a hamstring cost him the start of 2015. The stuff is still exciting and next year will be huge for him.
Matt Railey – after a hamstring injury derailed his first campaign and a suspension delayed his second, Railey is finally back to work. He’s a toolsy outfielder with speed, power and an arm who is capable of big things.
Brandon Drury – the over-the-fence power is still missing for Drury, but he’s on pace to hit more than 40 doubles for his third season in a row and he’s still hitting for average. I thought the PCL would have brought more homers, but he’s using a contact-oriented approach and it’s working for him.
Peter O’Brien – it’s familiar territory for O’Brien – he’s hitting, lumbering around the outfield and blocked in the majors. He has no clear path to the bigs but is clearly ready for a trial. Will he get a look in September?
Daniel Palka – Palka is basically O’Brien Jr. in that he’s a first baseman roaming right field. He’s hitting for average and power but is not young for A+ ball and will get a good test in AA next year.
Kevin Cron – blocking Palka is Cron, who’s hitting very similarly and at a very similar age. Both were college draftees with advanced approaches and a lot of raw power, which is showing up in consistent doses. Despite the power, neither is considered much of a “big time” prospect thanks to the defensive limitations and age/level issues.
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