Prospect season has arrived and in case you missed it, we rolled out the rankings for prospects #11-20 and #21-31 last week. Those lists are full of intriguing players, some that are homegrown and others that have come to the organization recently by way of trade. That trend will continue as we move to the very top of the list, with some very legitimate big league talent surrounded by upside youngsters looking to join the fray. Let’s cap off this exercise with the top of the list.

#10 Jose Almonte, RHP

  • Age (DOB): 21 (7/8/95)
  • Acquired: 2016 trade from Boston (with Luis Alejandro Basabe) for Brad Ziegler
  • 2016 Level(s): Single-A Greenville (10 starts), Single-A Kane County (11 starts)
  • 2015 Ranking: n/a
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Steady

The return for Brad Ziegler was perceived by those within the industry to be light, and perhaps that’s so, but Almonte is a good, young right hander who’s had a strong track record of success in the minors. At 6’2″ and 185-pounds, he’s got projection left and already possesses a solid fastball with improving secondaries. While his curve and changeup lag behind his fastball, he’s young enough to continue to improve them and has already shown promising command. He struck out 104 batters and walked just 35 over his 108.2 innings of full season work last season. Young, durable and projectable, Almonte has shown steady growth, and while he’s still a ways away, there’s room for hope. He may just develop into a #4 starter long term should he keep progressing. Look for him to open 2014 in Visalia where the California League can be unkind to pitchers.

#9 Dawel Lugo, 3B

  • Age (DOB): 21 (12/31/94)
  • Acquired: 2015 trade from Toronto for Cliff Pennington
  • 2016 Level(s): High-A Visalia (79 games), Double-A Mobile (48 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: 30
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Steady

Lugo’s always been known for being able to get the bat on the ball as he’s hit pretty consistently since signing back with Toronto before the 2012 season. He’d played shortstop for several seasons but made the full time move to third base this season where reports have been solid. He should last at third and has plenty of arm for the position. He managed a .311/.339/.492 line across two levels this season and held his own after a promotion to AA Mobile. He notched 17 homers, 23 doubles and seven triples over 127 games this past season, jumping himself up this list. There are some quirks in his swing and he needs to refine his approach as he’s been exploited by strong pitching in the AFL this fall, but with some fine tuning he may turn into a solid everyday regular. That growth, particularly in the approach, has to happen for him to become a useful big leaguer, but he’ll turn just 22 this winter and should open 2017 back in AA.

Video courtesy of Bobby DeMuro

#8 Alex Young, LHP

  • Age (DOB): 23 (7/9/93)
  • Acquired: Drafted 2nd round, 2015 (43rd overall)
  • 2016 Level(s): Single-A Kane County (9 starts), High-A Visalia (11 starts, 1 relief appearance)
  • 2015 Ranking: 4
  • Volatility: High
  • Trending: Down

Young was drafted as an advanced college lefty out of TCU who showed strong stuff in the College World Series, but that stuff has backed up some since he entered pro ball. His velocity has dipped as he sat 89-91 this past season and the nasty slider he showed in his college days was less impressive this year. He pitched well enough in Kane County, posting a 2.16 ERA in nine starts before he took some lumps in Visalia after a midseason promotion. Young has been a bit of a disappointment thus far and it’s curious whether he can handle the workload of a starter (he pitched out of the Horned Frogs’ bullpen as a freshman and sophomore). The mid-rotation projection that he carried when he was drafted has fallen to that of a #5 starter if he can remain in the rotation, something that’s far from a lock at this point. It’ll be interesting to see if the club assigns him back to Visalia or challenges him with a promotion to AA Jackson when the 2017 season begins.

Video courtesy of Inside the ‘Zona

#7 Jazz Chisholm, SS

  • Age (DOB): 18 (2/1/98)
  • Acquired: 2015 International Sign ($200,000 bonus)
  • 2016 Level(s): Rookie Missoula (62 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: n/a
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Up

The D-backs have been hamstrung on the international market since blowing their international bonus pool for Yoan Lopez back in early 2015, and with the penalties in place, haven’t been able to sign high-priced international teenagers. What they’ve done as a result is to take a sort of shotgun approach to the market, looking for bargains and signing a ton of players at low figures, hoping one or two will pan out. For his part, Chisholm has held up his end of the bargain as he looked solid at short (#jazzhands) when I got eyes on him at D-backs Mini Camp in Hillsboro prior to the start of the short season leagues kicking off. In batting practice, he showed good bat speed, an ability to make plenty of hard contact, and more raw power than his diminutive frame would suggest. In his rookie season, he lit up the Pioneer League, hitting .281/.333/.446 with nine homers and a dozen doubles in 62 games. He did his share of striking out, but with the chops to stay at short and hit for power, Chisholm looks to have some of the most upside in the system, although that optimism has to be tempered given his age and lack of professional experience. The D-backs have typically been conservative with their younger players, so it’s unclear if they’ll jump Chisholm to full season ball or give him work in Extended Spring Training before letting him loose in Hillsboro next season.

Video courtesy of FanGraphs

#6 Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS

  • Age (DOB): 21 (7/11/95)
  • Acquired: 2015 trade from Detroit and New York (with Robbie Ray) for Didi Gregorius
  • 2016 Level(s): High-A Visalia (86 games), Double-A Mobile (44 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: 18
  • Volatility: Low
  • Trending: Up

Leyba suffered his first taste of failure in 2015 when he scratched and clawed his way to a .237/.277/.309 line, but put that behind him when he hit .296/.355/.429 across two levels this season. He played most of the year at shortstop and is yet to make the transition to second base, but that’s still where he’s projected to end up long term. Leyba has a clean swing from both sides of the plate and his innate bat-to-ball abilities are geared for contact, not power. While he hit a career-high 10 home runs this season, he’s not a power hitter but should rack up the doubles. Leyba walked more this season than he has in years past as part of a refined approach at the plate, something that appears to already be paying dividends. At just 21-years old, he’s still young and there’s a bit more projection left, but he has all the makings of a second division regular at second who’s held back by his limited power output. He should open the 2017 season in AA Jackson and may see Reno, or even the majors, before the year is out.

Video courtesy of Today’s Knuckleball

#5 Anfernee Grier, CF

  • Age (DOB): 21 (10/13/95)
  • Acquired: Drafted first competitive balance round, 2016 (39th overall)
  • 2016 Level(s): Rookie Missoula (4 games), Low-A Hillsboro (20 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: n/a
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Steady

The D-backs forfeited their first round pick to sign Zack Greinke and had to wait another 23 picks to select Grier out of Auburn. He’s a uber-athletic centerfielder with plus run times and plenty of range to stick in the center, though his arm isn’t great. Grier is more raw than your typical college draftee, but he was also young for his draft class, getting drafted at just 20-years old. He’s got work to do on his approach as he chases often, though he did show glimpses of good plate discipline at times during my looks at him in Hillsboro. With the bat, he’s got good bat speed and has plus raw power potential. The swing is mostly clean and he’ll have to make only minor adjustment to get to that power more frequently. If he can grow into that power and get to it regularly, he may be an impact player in centerfield by maximizing his tools. If that growth doesn’t come to full fruition, he may be a second division regular or 4th outfield type. With such a limited track record in pro ball, the range of outcomes is wide. He’ll open the 2017 season in Kane County where he’ll face more advanced pitching and could struggle early on. With less than 100 professional at-bats under his belt, it’s all about growth and repetitions at this point. He’s got a set of tools that are exciting, no doubt — now it’s about learning how to use them against professional pitching.

Video courtesy of FanGraphs

#4 Mitch Haniger, OF

  • Age (DOB): 25 (12/23/90)
  • Acquired: 2014 trade from Milwaukee (with Anthony Banda) for Gerardo Parra
  • 2016 Level(s): Double-A Mobile (55 games), Triple-A Reno (74 games), MLB Diamondbacks (34 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: n/a
  • Volatility: Low
  • Trending: Up

You might be surprised to see a prospect that’s about to turn 26 this high on the list, and while Haniger’s age is a concern, he comes with a fresh set of caveats. He wasn’t getting the regular at-bats he needed to improve in 2015 while playing in Mobile and worked with the player development staff to orchestrate his demotion to High-A Visalia so he could work on improving his swing. It worked as he made a major overhaul to that swing, resulting in more hard contact and more power output. He slugged his way through the minors, putting up a .321/.419/.581 line between AA and AAA, including 25 homers and 34 doubles while walking 15% of the time and striking out in just 21.6% of his at-bats. To top it all off, he’s a capable center fielder who can be a plus defender in right field while swiping a few bags on the bases. You can see a nice blend of power, patience, defense and speed in Haniger, and although he struggled a bit in his big league debut with Arizona, he hit the ball nearly 4mph harder than the average big league hitter. He’s big league ready right now and could be viewed as a replacement for Yasmany Tomas if he’s traded (Mike, we’re begging you here) or David Peralta if his wrist injury holds him back. Should he be blocked on Opening Day, he’ll likely return to Reno to destroy PCL pitching and wait for the call. He looks the part of a solid big league regular, and given how new his swing is to him, it’s possible there’s still another gear left to click. He’s old for a prospect, but in an effort to reinvent himself, he’s got the tools necessary to succeed in the majors.

Video courtesy of MLB

#3 Taylor Clarke, RHP

  • Age (DOB): 23 (5/13/93)
  • Acquired: Drafted 3rd round, 2015 (76th overall)
  • 2016 Level(s): Single-A Kane County (6 starts) High-A Visalia (4 starts), Double-A Mobile (11 starts)
  • 2015 Ranking: 13
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Up

Clarke (pronounced “Clark) was aggressively promoted in 2016, getting a handful of starts in Kane County and Visalia before settling in with Mobile. All things considered, he pitched well and didn’t face much in the way of actual competition until seeing AA where he notched a 3.59 ERA with 72 strikeouts in 97.2 innings. While the K’s dipped when he hit faced better hiutters, that was to be expected as adjusted to the best competition he’s ever faced. He routinely sits around 93 with his fastball, a pitch with good movement. He has a slider that will flash plus and a changeup that lags behind. With his fastball movement, Clarke isn’t afraid to pitch up in the zone with the heater for whiffs, but can throw it low in the zone for ground balls. There’s limited projection left, though his frame could carry a bit more weight and strength down the road, perhaps helping him add a tick of velocity (though he’s touched 96 at times already). If the changeup can get to average and the slider settles in at plus, you can squint and see a mid-rotation starter, but it’s more likely he ends up a #4. If the changeup doesn’t come around and/or his elbow gives him trouble again (he had Tommy John surgery in college), he could be an effective late-inning arm out of the bullpen. The D-backs will keep him in the rotation for now where he should open the year in AA Jackson and hope for a promotion to AAA Reno before the season is out. If the D-backs fall wildly out of contention again next year, it’s not impossible that he sees some major league innings in September, 2017.

Video courtesy of Inside the ‘Zona

#2 Socrates Brito, OF

  • Age (DOB): 24 (7/6/92)
  • Acquired: Drafted 3rd round, 2015 (76th overall)
  • 2016 Level(s): Rookie AZL D-backs (2 games), High-A Visalia (2 games), Triple-A Reno (73 games), MLB Diamondbacks (40 games)
  • 2015 Ranking: 8
  • Volatility: Medium
  • Trending: Steady

Despite some unsightly struggles in the majors, I’m still a big believer in Brito. His ability to hit has always lagged behind his other tools, but he’s shown improvement in that department as he’s climbed the minor league ladder. His major league stints weren’t in the plans before the 2016 season, but he was forced into action when A.J. Pollock went down and the lack of polish in his approach showed. He needed to spend the year in AA and AAA but that’s just not how it worked out as he struggled to bat his weight in the majors. The tools are still there, however, as he’s a plus runner, has a plus arm and has at least average raw power that he’s still learning to get to in games. It’s likely to always be a lowish batting average from Brito, but he can contribute defensively (at all three outfield spots) and on the bases, though more patience at the plate would do him wonders. Can he reach his ceiling as an everyday regular in right field? That all depends on his ability to make more quality contact by refining his approach and swing. If he doesn’t make the necessary adjustments, he probably winds up a 4th outfield type that warrants occasional starts. It’s been a slow burn for Brito, and while I’m concerned that his major league time may have set him back some, there’s also the thought that it was a great learning experience for the 24-year old. Look for him to open 2017 in AAA and get back to the majors where we’ll hopefully see a better approach and more good contact from the lefty-swinging outfielder.

Video courtesy of MLB

#1 Anthony Banda, LHP

  • Age (DOB): 23 (8/10/93)
  • Acquired: 2014 trade from Milwaukee (with Mitch Haniger) for Gerardo Parra
  • 2016 Level(s): Double-A Mobile (13 starts), Triple-A Reno (13 starts)
  • 2015 Ranking: 26
  • Volatility: Low
  • Trending: Up

Banda made massive strides in 2016 with successful stops in Mobile and Reno, logging 150 innings between the two and striking out 152 batters. He showed off an improved repertoire, as he arrived to Spring Training with more velocity than we’d seen from him in the past. Rather than sitting in the low-90’s, he was frequently in the mid-90’s and touched 96 in one of my early season looks. It’s a clean delivery from Banda and he pairs the heater with a good curveball that can generate whiffs. His changeup continues to lag behind his other offerings, but it’s a pitch that can flash average and should get there as he develops more feel for it. With three average or above offerings, Banda has all of the makings of a solid #4 starter with little projection left but functional stuff right now. The strikeout rate should drop some when he reaches the majors, but there’s enough talent already present to see him succeeding in the very near future in The Show. Simply put, the left-handed Texan is a safe bet to reach his ceiling and should provide plenty of quality, cost-controlled innings for the D-backs in the years to come. He should contend for a rotation spot in Spring Training, but is most likely to end up back in AAA to start his 2017 campaign.

Video courtesy of Minor League Baseball

Other installments: Primer  |  Prospects 21-31  |  Prospects 11-20

9 Responses to 2017 Diamondbacks Top Prospects: #1-10

  1. Dan C says:

    Not a terribly impressive list. I also find it’s interesting the number of top prospect we acquired from other organizations. This should tell us all we need to know about our last management team.

  2. BobJ says:

    I really don’t see anything to build on or to give hope here. From 1 to 31, these guys are very mediocre with few exceptions. It will be interesting when Baseball America comes out with the 2017 Prospect Handbook to see if any of these guys will be expected to be in the 2020 starting lineup for Arizona.

  3. Puneet says:

    #jazzhands. Outstanding.

  4. Rick Snyder says:

    What I see are a bunch of average (at best) prospects in our system with very little upside. With Nothing coming in the near future, our scouting and minor league system needs upgrading! At the big league level, we have 4 guys who can really play and make a difference; our corner outfield is a mess, catcher and shortstop are adequate (at best), and our pitching is woeful. We can’t trade for something with nothing, and I don’t believe we have or want to sign free agents to fill our needs, so, we need to free up some money, possibly trade one or two promising young guys and get something “real” in exchange for a change. Goldy won’t be here forever and it seems that everyone believes he is our heartbeat, so changes need to come, now! The Grienke and Miller deals were ridiculous from the start and anyone with true baseball knowledge should have known that. I couldn’t believe either of those deals when I first heard them.

  5. […] Problem is, the D-backs don’t have much in the way of currency in this form either. I rated the top 31 prospects in the organization a couple weeks back and the system is noticeably devoid of impact youngsters. There’s no […]

  6. […] name, all coming last year in September with Arizona. Guerrero didn’t make this year’s Top Prospect List as he’s got a decent right field profile but hasn’t learned to make enough contact to […]

  7. […] 2B/3B types on the minor league horizon, including Domingo Leyba (#6 in Jeff’s offseason top prospects list), Jazz Chisholm (#7), Dawel Lugo (#9), Jamie Westbrook (#22) and Jack Reinheimer (#24). It […]

  8. […] took Shipley’s spot atop the prospect rankings, but the overall profile ins’t all that dissimilar. It’s a decent repertoire that […]

  9. […] Anthony Banda entered this season as the Diamondbacks’ top prospect. The “top prospect” tag came with a bit of a caveat given that the D-backs’ minor […]

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