It’s February now and baseball is coming. It seems like a long time ago that we were stuck in the dead zone of baseball past, back when the only thing to do was talk about prospects. Then there were trades. Players have left the organization at a rate that’s frankly shocking. Even with a win-now mentality, no one wants to see a lose-later one as a result. Sometimes that’s the tradeoff  and sometimes moves are made that just don’t seem to add up. The D-backs have surely cost themselves a lot of future value this winter in order to add to the present, something that is understandable even if we don’t always agree with how they’ve gone about it.

Back in November, we released the new Diamondbacks Top 30 Prospect List and, frankly, a lot of that talent is gone. As I alluded to, this has been a trend. Baseball Prospectus unveiled their Top 101 last week and there are a lot of familiar names on the list who aren’t with the team any longer. Dansby Swanson is 27th on that list and Aaron Blair is 43rd. Touki Toussaint landed at #69 on’s Top 100 and Isan Diaz is surely one more strong campaign from finding himself on these lists as well. Put those names together with Braden Shipley, Archie Bradley and Brandon Drury and that had the makings of a really strong system. Of course, you don’t build your team to earn the top org rank in the game. You build it for wins on the field. We should see a lot more of those in 2016.

So it’s time to recalibrate, perhaps, create a new Top 10. It seems a little disingenuous to list Archie Bradley here as I reasoned back in November – he’s a big leaguer even though he didn’t pitch a ton of MLB innings. He was on the roster most of the year (albeit on the DL). So I’ll continue to omit him here. A new list should look something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 4.09.46 PM

Out go Swanson, Blair and Diaz. In come Wei-Cheih Huang, Gabby Guerrero and Taylor Clarke. There’s no re-ordering here – I stand by my earlier assessment. I’m higher than most on Alex Young and won’t at all be surprised to see him in the back half of lists after next seasons. I put myself out there in the past on him and I’m comfortable staying out there. But having boom-or-bust players like Marcus Wilson in the top gives me pause. His volatility is unsurpassed in the original top 30. Guerrero is very similar although higher in the minors. He’s young but has a lot of work to do. Jamie Westbrook lit the California League on fire last year but will move away from hitter friendly environments in 2016 and scouts don’t see a good defensive position for him as he’s possibly below average at second base. If he can’t stick at second, where do you move a 5’9″ player without range and a strong arm? Taylor Clarke will get every chance to start and can be back end type of pitcher, but also has the kind of stuff that may play up best as a reliever. He also hasn’t played above short-season rookie ball and already has one Tommy John surgery on his resume.

You get where this is going. A system that once looked pretty respectable now looks downright scary. That’s what happens when a top-heavy list loses it’s top. If we squint hard here, there are two potential rotation options in Shipley and Young, and an average position player in Drury. Wilson is a lottery ticket with potentially huge payoff that’s hard to really see at the moment. Socrates Brito is maybe a starter, maybe a 4th outfielder. Westbrook hasn’t seen AA yet and has questions defensively. O’Brien is O’Brien – a masher who belong at first or in the American League as a DH. Huang is a frail starter with mostly average stuff who hasn’t even seen Visalia. Guerrero is going to strike out a bunch and may not mature enough at the plate to ever see the majors. Clarke was a pleasant surprise last fall but is untested and an injury risk.

When the final organizational rankings come out, the Diamondbacks will be buried in the back of the pack. That’s to be expected. They’ll need to use the 39th pick well and find value in the 2016 Draft to begin reloading because when this contention window passes, there will be needs all over the place. They can’t afford to keep everyone around even with an expanding payroll. We’ll have to hope for some new breakouts and a better than expected draft return in 2016 or the future will start look exceedingly bleak.


11 Responses to Double Plus: A New Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

  1. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Dang. Hadn’t really thought about the fact that without the trades, the Dbacks would have had 5-6 players on most top 100 lists, not to mention Diaz fast rising; I think that in terms of top-100 players that would have put them in the top 10 or maybe even top 5 in the league. It really is a very weak system now, and if Bradley, Shipley, and Drury graduate this year the Dbacks will likely have zero top 100 prospects next off-season.

    The late teens are gonna be ugly. And I’ll bet a sizable amount that Dave Stewart won’t be here to see them.

  2. Larry Person says:

    Where is Yoan Lopez in your ranking? He sits at #3 on the MLB site.

  3. Larry Person says:

    I’m OK with the depleted prospect list. The team is young, with absolutely no one set to retire. The depth for the middle infield is on the roster now. Same for starters and bullpen. Only depth issues are at catcher and 4th outfielder, both of which can be cost effectively shored up. We don’t need prospects at the top of the list that are near major league ready, we need depth in the lower minors that will be ready after the 2018 season.

    • Lamar Jimmerson says:

      Re the need for depth in the lower minors: agreed, which is why trading/losing Justin Williams, Andrew Velasquez, Isan Diaz, Touki, Swanson, Palka, and a first-round draft pick doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (None of these guys had played above A ball before being traded.)

      In DS’s defense, they did get back in trades the following A-ball or lower guys: Leyba, Godley, Mejia, Flores, Elander, Reyes, Lugo, and Speier.

      But that’s still a lot more outflow–a LOT more–of low-minors talent than it is inflow.

      In fact, the Dbacks have taken back in trades a number of high-minors guys, nearly all of whom have lower ceilings: Gosselin, Koch, Diaz, Guerrero (the low-ceiling exception), Reinheimer, Webster, and Wagner. Webster’s now gone and Gosselin–the jewel of the Touki trade–is apparently not being considered for anything other than a utility role. Presumably they could have received low-minors guys instead, and chose not to.

      And lest we forget: the Dbacks loaded up on college players in last year’s draft, ostensibly–they told us–because they needed talent that would ready *before* 2018; that is, they wanted lower-ceiling guys who would be in the high-minors very quickly.

      I never understood that and it makes even less sense now.

      None of this makes sense. I don’t think there’s a plan; I’m not even sure the high-GB% pitchers thing is on purpose. Certainly the acquisition of Greinke (which I love) wasn’t planned; it came together in 5.5 hours.

      All of the objective evidence points to the baseball ops department being rather poorly run.

      • Cole says:

        Honestly I think Stewart’s plan is to turn the Dbacks into a winner over the next three years and then move on to a bigger job.

        • Lamar Jimmerson says:

          Ownership groups and front offices have become much more sophisticated over the last few years. Maybe Stewart’s moves make the Dbacks a big winner over the next three years; maybe they don’t. But regardless, his methods and statements have made it much less likely he would get a “bigger job” in today’s environment. So maybe that’s his plan, but if so it’s a bad one.

  4. Larry Person says:

    In an ideal world, MLB teams would field a consistent contender on the Major League level and have a top rated Minor League system teeming with highly regarded prospects. In the real world, unless you are the St. Louis Cardinals organization or a big market team with deep pockets so you can shore up your Major League team with affordable, high priced free agents, having that Minor League system in tip top shape is nigh unto impossible every year. Most small market teams cycle through good Minor League prospects and using them to strength the Major League team. So, I think it’s an unreasonable standard to expect the Diamondbacks to never deplete any part of their Minor League system to go “all in” like they are doing right now. This is reality, not an idealistic standard set up for big market teams. So, again, I have no trouble at all with the D’backs prospect pipeline rated very low on these rating systems. It’s ebbing and flowing. It doesn’t need to flow again until 2019. Don’t go into panic mode. Enjoy these next 3 years of contention, and watch Stewart and company rebuild toward 2019.

    • Lamar Jimmerson says:

      Larry, I agree that it’s very hard if not impossible for a mid-market team to have both an elite major league product and a top farm system. Totally true. What i was arguing was that if the Dbacks’ plan was to deplete the high minors to make the major league team better while leaving the low minors intact, or even improving their low minors talent, they aren’t doing it very well. Much more likely is that that is not their plan. I suspect they *have* no coherent plan.

      In any case, I certainly hope I’m wrong and that they do contend for the next three years. Unfortunately, other than signing Greinke, none of Stewart’s moves this offseason seem to objectively increase the Dbacks’ chances of contending *right now*. That’s the wasted opportunity I refer to.

      But I sure hope that I — and the projections, and all the non-Dbacks-oriented analytics guys — are wrong. Hell, I’d love to see TLR and DS prove that they know things that the analytics guys don’t know.

    • Larry Person says:

      Last week Preller (SD) made the comment “Whether it’s adding or moving players, you’re looking to add value.” That kind of language makes analytics guys salivate. If Stewart ever said something like that analytics guys would start liking and understanding him better. But that’s not who Stewart is, so he is neither understood by nor appreciated by analytics guys. So analytics guys rip his every move and say they don’t understand what he’s doing. But as Terry said, he does have a plan. It’s just not a plan that resonates with analytics guys.

  5. Terry Miencier says:

    Lamar, I think management has a coherent plan. Attendance is priority and wins gets them in. Then for the next three years their farm development is priority. Their player and management transactions indicate placement of a future boilerplate. Who knows where that transaction ends, maybe ownership?

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