So, way back when, we published a little thing called the Diamondbacks Top 30 Prospect list. That seems like a long time ago now. So much has changed. With prospects, things are always changing and it’s occasionally difficult to not get caught up in a particularly bad or good half of a season. That makes the midseason list even more difficult. Without the benefit of the a full year’s worth of performance one can easily be swayed. So this is a strange mixture of staying the course and weighing the most recent of performances. All in all, I always feel slightly uneasy about the midseason list, but here we are.
Complicating matters is the fact that the Diamondbacks have lost or graduated a number of players since the winter. One needs the baseball equivalent of whiteout when looking back given the all of the trades and promotions. Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, Isan Diaz, Brandon Drury, Yoan Lopez, Zack Godley and others are no longer under consideration. A new wave of talent from June’s draft will help fill the gap to a degree, but there’s no other way to say it: this system was thin and has gotten considerably thinner.
What we’re left with is a crop of potential everyday guys without loud tools and low impact potential. That’s not good, and when coupled with what’s taken place on the field, the long term outlook is pretty shaky for Arizona. You can rearrange a number of guys on this list depending on your penchant for risk and upside and I wouldn’t argue. That’s simply due to the fact that there is so little distinguishing the overall role these guys will play.
Now, on to the list.
- Braden Shipley, RHP: here’s the deal with Shipley, he’s holding his own in the PCL with Reno, but the strikeouts have continued to fall and while he’s been effective, it hasn’t been overly dominant. There’s two possible explanations. The first, and the one I’m hoping for, is that he’s traded in some strikeouts for throwing more strikes overall as command had eluded him in the past. At some point, he might become comfortable enough to start fishing for K’s again. The other is that his strikeout rate will fall even further when he reaches the majors, limiting him to #5 duty and making him dependent on batted balls turning into outs. If the strikeouts return, he could be mid rotation arm. If they don’t, it’s a back-end profile. **Update: Keith Law’s mentions in his midseason list that Shipley’s drop in strikeouts is deliberate and his velocity has returned to the mid-90’s. According to Law, Shipley has focused on trying to get earlier and weaker contact rather than pitching deep into counts.**
- Socrates Brito, OF: Brito has made major strides, and while I slow-played his ranking this winter, he showed a ton in Spring Training and after finding his way back to Reno, he put a terrible AAA start to rest by getting hot in late May and June. He was in over his head in the majors, but that was to be expected. He’s still showing a blend of power and speed while the hit tool has improved. Defensively, he’s capable of being an everyday corner guy and can make it work in center when needed. His on-base percentage is the biggest concern as he’s never really walked. Still improving, we’ve not seen the final iteration of Brito as there is likely more to come. How much he improves going forward is the question and can land him anywhere from a 4th outfielder to an above-average regular.
- Taylor Clarke, RHP: potentially a steal in the 3rd round last June, Clarke has made quick and steady progress this season, going from Single-A Kane County to AA Mobile in half a season. He’s found a challenge in the Southern League, but the profile remains intriguing. It’s a low to mid-90’s fastball with late run that can be thrown successfully up in the zone for whiffs and down in the zone for grounders. The breaking ball has some bite and he keeps his arm speed when throwing an low-80’s changeup with fade. He can command the zone and has maintained good strikeout and walk number throughout his climb up the ladder. The payoff is probably that of a #4 starter who can pitch better than that on some nights.
- Alex Young, LHP: Young was taken in the second round in last year’s draft and fared well in Single-A Kane County before being promoted to High-A Visalia where he’s made two starts. With a fastball that can hit 95mph from the left side, Young has the velocity to succeed. His slider is a strong offering and he’s got a changeup that’s still a work in progress. There have been some delivery concerns, but Young has remained healthy to date. His strikeout numbers have been much lower than anticipated, striking out just 44 batters in 61.1 innings this year. His walk numbers aren’t great and coming out of college as a polished arm, his results have been somewhat underwhelming. Best case scenario, he’s a #4 starter with a potential future in the back end of the bullpen if things don’t improve.
- Anfernee Grier, OF: the Diamondbacks didn’t have a first round pick in the 2016 draft, waiting until the first competitive balance round to select Grier 39th overall out of the University of Auburn. A tremendous athlete, he brings plus speed and range in center field to the table, coupled with a strong throwing arm, making him a lock to stay in center field. The swing is clean and the bat speed is plus, making average or better power projectable. Quick on the bases, he’ll bring a power/speed combo to the plate and fill a critical defensive position. He can have trouble making contact at times and the power is still coming, so right now, it’s a lot of projection as he’s somewhat raw for a college pick. He can be a better than average everyday player down the road if all breaks right, settling for a second division starter if some tools don’t maximize.
- Anthony Banda, LHP: when I caught a start by Banda this spring and saw him sitting 94mph and touching 96mph from the left side, I had a fairly strong feeling he was going to take off in 2016. He’d previously been much more of a low-90’s guy but what I saw and reported to you early on was that he now looked more like a power pitcher. The performances backed that up as he practically murdered the Southern League in his first taste of AA and has held his strong strikeout and walk numbers in his first few AAA starts. He earned the organization’s lone call to the Future’s Game (if you don’t count Dansby Swanson, R.I.P.) and showed well despite giving up a monster homer to Yoan Moncada. His fastball has good sink and his curve and changeup can be average. It’s not a tremendous arsenal, but it’s good enough to make him a left-handed #4 option if things keep progressing, especially the secondaries.
- Jamie Westbrook, 2B: Westbrook had a monster year in the California League a year ago and it raised his stock, but the caveat of playing in hitter’s environs applied. His 2016 season in the Southern League, which is much more pitcher-friendly, has slowed his power output predictably, but after a slow first month, he’s picked it up nicely at the plate while still hitting for average and making plenty of contact. He doesn’t walk much and the defense is just okay at second, but there’s enough here to see a potential everyday player at second base with no real standout tools. He may be the type to hit for an empty .275 average hitting down in the order. That’s nothing sexy, but should be enough to make for a second division starter with doubles power and a few steals long term.
- Marcus Wilson, OF: it’s easy to fall in love with Wilson’s athleticism and see a potential top of the order hitter with strong defense in center field. Drafted in the second competitive balance round of the 2014 draft, Wilson was raw and virtually all projection. His swing has improved, getting shorter making for more and better contact, but the results have yet to really avail themselves. Playing in the Northwest League, he’s been just okay, showing good plate discipline and speed on the bases, but hitting for no power and low average. At 19, he’s younger than most in the league but at some point, he has to begin hitting. There’s still plenty of time, but he’s yet to really tap into his potential at the plate.
- Cody Reed, LHP: there were concerns over Reed’s body when he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft, as he was a heavy power pitcher at the age of 17. Prior to the 2016 campaign, Reed transformed his body, shedding major weight and his results took off as he destroyed Single-A hitters and earned a promotion to High-A Visalia. He’s found tougher sledding since the promotion as hitters are less willing to chase and the California League isn’t about to help keep fly balls in the yard. Still, he’s got good velocity from the left side and developing secondaries that suggest that he could develop into a back of the rotation arm down the road, with a 7th inning bullpen role as a fall back option. **Update: after posting this, a scout let me know that Reed’s velocity was 85-87 in his latest start, a drop from his usual velocity. Not long after, Visalia placed him on the DL with an unspecified injury.**
- Jasrado Chisholm, SS: lets’s face it, the lack of talented depth in the system really starts to show this far down, so I’m going outside the box and giving the final spot to an intriguing 18-year old in Chisholm. The highest-profile international sign by the Diamondbacks last July out of the Bahamas, “Jazz” has hit well in his debut, skipping over the DSL and AZL leagues and heading straight to Missoula as one of the youngest players in the league. I was able to see him in Spring Training in March and at Diamondbacks Minor League Mini-Camp in June where he showed fluid actions at short coupled with a laser arm that suggests he can stick at short. He’s got sneaky pop for a guy that’s closer to 5’9 than his listed height of 5’10” and 165-pounds. The hit tool is solid and geared for line drives from the left side. Considering his limited exposure and age, there’s some projection left and he may develop enough of a well-rounded skill set to develop into a everyday shortstop.
Considered for the list was 3B Dawel Lugo, RHP, Wei-Chieh Huang, C Andy Yerzy and others. Lugo has been hot this season and has been recently promoted to AA Mobile. Huang has struggled this season after a strong debut last season. Yerzy was the team’s second round choice with big power but significant work to do behind the plate. Simply put, the crop is thin and with another half a season to go, consider this list to be a work in progress.
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