The Diamondbacks’ minor league system is down as a whole given the departures of guys like Touki Toussaint, Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair. Not helping things, Archie Bradley has kind of stalled and if it weren’t for a strong close to the 2015 season from Braden Shipley, things might look really bad. All of that said, there are still young guys who are working every day to be better baseball players. You’ve heard of some, you’ve probably not heard of others. After a short week in camp scouting the organization’s minor league players, I’ve got a notebook that needs unloading, So let’s jump right into the position players that stood out. If you missed it, we covered pitchers last week.
Marcus Wilson, CF
If there’s a guy I really wanted to see, it was Wilson. The 2014 second round pick has the highest ceiling of any D-backs position player prospect, but was incredibly raw when I saw him last spring. The team was well aware of this when they took him and they’ve worked hard with the youngster to refine his game. A miserable debut at the plate in 2014 gave way to some strides in 2015. Heading into this season, I was anxious to see how he’d grown.
Below you’ll find two clips. The first is from Wilson last spring when he was struggling to make good contact in batting practice. The second is from this spring. See if you can notice the changes.
First, you should see the change in his stance. He’s widened out his feet, which provides some extra balance. In the early clip, he takes a massive stride in an effort to generate power. Now, the stride is shorter and more controlled. He stays firmer through his backside and just has better balance and leverage overall. With his hands, he’s still got a little waggle going on, but he’s shorter to the ball now than he was before. He gets better separation from his lower half and the whole thing just looks more controlled. He’s still lanky and lean, but he was much more consistent in the sessions I saw this spring than what I witnessed a year ago. These are certainly encouraging signs.
Jamie Westbrook, 2B
Westbrook is fun to talk about because there’s a big split in what he’s produced and what scouts see. The Diamondbacks have had seemingly little trouble producing quality hitters (the pitchers are a different story) and Westbrook fits the bill. At just 5’9″, he’s not of ideal size and given that he’s filled out his frame, there’s really no projection left. But the kid can hit. And that’s all he’s done since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 draft out of a Arizona high school.
In the batting cage, he showed the same simple stroke that I saw right after he was drafted. It’s a little cleaner now, although he has some extra movement with his hands. The swing is still quite short, however, and he uses his lower half very well. Westbrook is thick dude who’s stronger than his listed height and weight might suggest. He made steady, consistent, loud contact in batting practice and showed well in the game of his that I saw. He made lots of contact, recognized pitches and put a charge into the ball when he decided to pounce. It’s a mature approach and a solid foundation that will serve him well in Mobile this season.
Colin Bray, CF
Bray quietly arrived on the scene last season as he hit well in his second taste of full season ball at Kane County. His 2014 season was wiped away after just a few games due to injury, but he took to the league well with a strong average and on-base percentage. He won’t slug a ton, but he’s got the chops to stick in center field for a long time, making him a contact, line drive-oriented hitter with a good defensive reputation.
In batting practice, he was smooth and controlled, barreling up everything and not wasting any swings. His mechanics are smooth and efficient, which explains the batting average, while the bat speed looked average to plus. A lanky 6’3″, his swing might get a touch long, but he’s got the type of coordination that makes it look like he can handle it. In a few major league at-bats, Bray has shown well and put some good swings on balls from pitchers more advanced than him. He will turn 23 this season (this is where the lost season to injury comes into play) and he won’t have the age advantage over the competition in Visalia that he did last year, so 2016 will be a good indicator of just what the D-backs have in the 2013 sixth round pick.
Stryker Trahan, OF
Yeah, yeah, I know. Everyone’s tired of reading about former first round pick Stryker Trahan. His stock has slipped further and further with each passing season and he’s close to non-prospect status at this point. Strikeouts have long been the issue, which may truly stem from pitch-recognition problems because the swing doesn’t show any glaring problems.
There’s no long stride. No funky hand movement. His swing is pretty efficient, which makes the lack of contact puzzling. What you do notice, however, is just how hard he hits the ball. The iPhone might not capture it, but the ball truly does sound different off of his bat. He ripped everything thrown to him in batting practice and it’s easy to see why scouts liked him. He’s strong as an ox and quicker than you might think. In game action, I witnessed a walk, where he showed good discipline and took some close pitches, and the following strikeout:
He takes strike one, aggressively hacks at a fastball up and in, fouls off a couple of pitches down, then flails at a changeup to strike out. It was a different approach than I had seen in his previous at-bat, but there was a runner on in this case and I’m not sure if that put him into attack mode. Either way, he got outworked versus former University of Texas pitcher Parker French.
Trahan will move to the outfield full time in 2016. He was reluctant to move out there last season when the team hoped that getting out from behind the plate would rejuvenate his bat. I’ve been told that he’s embraced the change this time around and the routes I saw him take in right field were surprisingly smooth. He’s still got a cannon for an arm, so who knows? It’ll be interesting to see where the team sends him to open the season as he turns 22 next month. I’m not optimistic, but there’s some reason to keep the dream alive, even if best case scenario turns him into Peter O’Brien.
Juan Araujo, OF – the 17-year old Dominican made his stateside debut after signing for $215,000 signing in July of 2014. He’s got a thick, mature body that generated some power, but a swing that needs refinement. His sessions were inconsistent, but you can see where the projection comes from at 6’2″, 195-pounds (although he looked heavier). I didn’t get to see him in the OF, but his body might be a concern if he puts on any bad weight.
Francis Christy, C – a seventh round pick in 2015 out of a junior college, Christy showcased a solid line drive swing that produced plenty of hard-hit balls. He showed a feel for hitting from the left side. While I didn’t see him catch much, if he can stick behind the plate defensively, a line drive-hitting lefty catcher is usually a good thing to have around.
Joey Armstrong, OF – one of the two guys that popped up for me, I really like both the body and swing of Armstrong. He’s very athletic and showed his strength while taking batting practice, although his load was a bit long. A senior sign our of the University of Nevada (tenth round) in 2015, he had a poor showing in his pro debut but looks capable of doing more.
Henry Castillo, 2B/3B – the other guy who popped up for me was Castillo. At 21, he played at Kane County in 2015 and held his own. Listed as a second baseman, I saw him work exclusively at third which seemed somewhat new to him as he wasn’t completely smooth. His body suggests that a move to third might be a good idea as he’s fairly solid and looked bigger than his 5’11”, 189-pound listed weight. His batting practices were smooth and he found consistent, quality contact while launching a few balls out of the yard. He’s hit well in his minor league career and it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see him take Visalia by storm in 2016, putting his name on the radar.
Matt Railey, OF – coming off of a disappointing year, the 2013 third round pick did not show well in batting practice in multiple looks. While the swing was clean, the contact it produced was inconsistent and he didn’t show much bat control. Considering his inaugural season was washed away by injury and his sophomore season was abbreviated due to a PED suspension and more injuries, Railey has backed up at this point.
Jose Herrera, C – while I noted last season that Herrera’s game at the plate had taken a step forward, it was his work behind the plate that caught my attention. He’s been noted as strong receiver and showed those skills while catching in practice and in games. He had a firm wrist as the ball seemed to stick to his glove without moving it at all. His glove is smooth and quiet as he received the ball effortlessly, but with the authoritative ease that shows that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He won’t ever hit a ton, but he’s got MLB upside.
Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS – coming off of a bit of a down year, Leyba has seen some action this spring with the major league club, mostly as a pinch runner and defensive substitute. The swing is still sweet and he still barrels up nearly everything. A switch hitter, I liked his left-handed swing a little bit better than what he showed from the right side, and it’s showed in his minor league splits. He could start 2016 back in Visalia or head to Mobile. I’m guessing he goes back to Visalia.
Victor Reyes, OF – Reyes grabbed some attention while hitting for a high average in Kane County last season, but the former Atlanta Braves prospect offers limited upside. He’s a rotational hitter that has a swing geared for contact, but there’s just no power in the stroke. He doesn’t use his lower half much and there’s no loft in the swing. The hit tool is good, but there’s just nothing behind it. If he could play center field it might be a different story, but he’s got a left field-only profile with no power.
Kevin Cron, 1B – Cron is big and strong and just abuses baseballs. His swing is clean enough that he can make a decent amount of contact for a guy capable of truly slugging, but it’s just hard to make it to The Show as a first base prospect. He’ll be tested in Mobile this season.
Jack Reinheimer, 2B/SS – I really like Reinheimer even if his upside is that of a utility middle infielder. He’s got a slightly open stance, then steps in with a short, level swing that should produce some gap power. It’s not a sexy profile, but he can play a reasonably good shortstop and a plus second base, making him a valuable commodity. He turns 24 this season and the big league middle infield is still clogged, but he could work his way into the mix in 2017 as a valuable piece of Chip Hale’s bench.
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