The minor leagues are well under way. Last week we took a look at the high minors and some players who might make an impact. A couple of them have already been called up to the majors as Evan Marshall and Archie Bradley have found themselves in the middle of the fray as the D-backs open up a series in San Francisco tonight after a series win, the first of the season for Arizona, against the Padres in San Diego. The guys below are further away, but as Enrique Burgos and Silvino Bracho have shown in consecutive seasons, if you play well enough you might just find yourself in the majors.
Who to Watch
Brad Keller, RHP: I liked what I saw from Keller this spring as he’s continued his development as a durable righty who gets a ton of ground balls. He threw very well in full season ball last season and will certainly be challenged in High-A. Should things go well, the 20-year old could receive a late-season call-up to AA before the year is out.
Josh Taylor, LHP: a sneaky little pick-up that could pay dividends, Taylor was acquired from the Phillies for international bonus money last summer and throws hard from the left side. Undrafted out of college, he’s shown the ability to get strikeouts but the command lags far behind. He could be converted to a reliever and pick up steam.
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP: 2015 wasn’t kind to Sherfy. The righty reliever was demoted to Visalia from AA Mobile at midseason and opens this season back in High-A. With good stuff, it’s just a matter of limiting the walks for the former University of Oregon standout.
Luis Ramirez, RHP: a couple of injuries have slowed Ramirez’s progress, but when on the mound, he’s dominated as a strikeout-heavy reliever. He’s a big boy at 6’3″, 240-pounds, and if he can stay healthy, his stock could really take off.
Zac Curtis, LHP: a small left-handed reliever who can run it up there in the low to mid-90’s, Curtis owns 124 career strikeouts in just 85 career innings. The 23-year old is yet to face strong opposition since being drafted in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.
Stryker Trahan, OF: the power is still there, the swing is workable and he’s embraced a move to the outfield. This is likely Trahan’s final chance to remain relevant as he’s quickly running out of excuses for his poor performance as pitch recognition continues to be the biggest concern. Not helping matters, he’s already on the DL after playing in just one game at Visalia.
Oscar Hernandez, C: Diamondbacks fans will remember Hernandez from last season as the Rule 5 selection begins his 2016 campaign all the way down in High-A. He can catch, there’s not doubt about that, but the bat needs to come a long way for him to become anything more than a backup.
Henry Castillo, 2B: Castillo popped up for me while watching minor league camp last month. The swing is smooth and there’s some pop in the bat for the 21-year old switch hitter. He’s shown well throughout his minor league career and could really take off in the California League’s hitter-friendly confines.
Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS: a down 2015 campaign slid Leyba down the rankings some, but the swing is still pure from both sides of the plate and he’s remained at shortstop, although many suggest that second base is the better fit. He needs to hit well this year to recoup some value.
Dawel Lugo, 3B: the former shortstop has slid over to third as he shares the infield with the two guys above (and Rudy Flores at first base). The power is light for a corner spot, but he may grow into average power down the line. He has some bat-to-ball ability and a strong arm, so if the power does come, his stock could rise quickly.
Colin Bray, CF: Bray got some time with the major league club late in Spring Training and held his own against much more experienced competition. He’s a plus runner with a smooth stroke who plays terrific center field defense and should hit for a reasonable average while swiping bases. Had an injury not derailed his 2014 season, Bray would likely be playing in AA right now. He’s a true sleeper who could grow into a solid big league regular.
The others: while the highlights of the Rawhide roster are detailed above, don’t count out Grant Heyman, a left fielder with some offensive potential who lost most of last season to injury. Victor Reyes is an all-contact/no-power outfielder who has a left field profile and should hit for high averages. Ericson Leonora was signed as a minor league free agent after spending seven seasons with the Yankees and can hit for power. That power isn’t even close to what first baseman Rudy Flores possesses however, as he hit 28 homers for Visalia back in 2014 (with a huge strikeout rate). Myles Smith is a right-handed reliever who pitched in the AFL and could see AA by the end of the year, although he is 24 and old for the level.
Who to Watch
Alex Young, LHP: the highest remaining Diamondbacks pick from the 2015 draft, Young is an important part of the Diamondbacks’ system. He can throw his fastball in the low to mid-90’s with a strong slider and developing changeup. With number two starter upside, Young is one of the few guys in the system to really get excited about. He will be a strong candidate for a midseason promotion if he pitches well in the first half.
Taylor Clarke, RHP: not far behind Young is Clarke, who throws a bit harder but from the right side. He has a fastball with good movement, a sharp slider and a changeup that can be good at times. Like Young, Clarke has mid-rotation upside. He’s a Tommy John survivor, so how the team handles him will be interesting. This is a guy who could start showing up on the national radar midseason with a good start to 2016.
Carlos Hernandez, RHP: Hernandez is a 5’9″ right-handed starter who’s more feel than stuff on the mound. He had an excellent campaign in Hillsboro as a 21-year old in 2015 and looks to build upon it in Kane County where he’s off to a good start. It’s not often you see 5’9″ starters, so a move to the bullpen is expected at some point.
Gabriel Moya, LHP: a 21-year old lefty reliever, Moya repeated the Pioneer League last year exclusively as a reliever. He dominated, striking out 36 and walking eight in 23.1 innings pitched and may have a future as a middle relief option at the highest level.
Luke Lowery, C: a 14th round choice last summer, Lowery put up excellent numbers at the plate last season in Missoula. Getting eyes on him this spring, it’s clear that he has both bat speed and power with some offensive potential. If he can stick behind the plate defensively, Lowery could be quite a steal from the 2015 draft.
Jason Morozowski, OF: another mid-round pick from last June, Morozowski put up fantastic numbers in Missoula and has the frame to play a corner outfield spot and hit for some power. He struck out a bit more than you’d like and is already 21, but another solid campaign could land him on the radar.
The others: there are plenty of other players who have the ability to turn heads for the Cougars. Zach Nehrir is 23 but hit well last season and can play center field. Raymel Flores is a diminutive middle infielder who has some sneaky pop and good contact skills. Joe Munoz has just never turned the corner despite average tools while Matt McPhearson, a 2013 fourth rounder, is in jeopardy of falling into non-prospect territory despite 80-grade speed. Junior Garcia was acquired in the Oliver Perez trade last year with the Astros and the 20-year old lefty starter is one to watch, although his future is probably as a reliever.
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