The first installment of this series began with a conversation about how hard it is to rank prospects. This process was further complicated with the Diamondbacks’ recent signing of Japanese right-handed pitcher Shumpei Yoshikawa. My list of the D-backs’ top 30 prospects has now been adjusted to 31. Bonus for you, dear reader, but a minor complication for me, your dearest ranker. As with any back end of a list, take the actual rankings with a grain of salt. Several players here have very limited reports and/or track records, making this portion exceptionally volatile. Also, I should note that these rankings are rather early in the “top prospect ranking” process and the outlook may change some with notes from fall instructionals and the Arizona Fall League. Nonetheless, let’s jump right into the action.

#31) Adrian Del Moral, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 20.1
  • 2018 Level(s): Short Season Hillsboro
  • Games: eight starts
  • Acquired: 2017 International Signing (Mexico)
  • Risk: Medium

Del Moral is a name that wasn’t on the radar heading into the season. That’s primarily due to the fact that he hadn’t pitched for the organization until June of 2018. His signing got virtually no press, but he appeared in Hillsboro as the youngest pitcher on the team and made a handful of quality starts (not be confused with the stat “quality starts”) before being shut down with an injury. But he handled older competition well, using a low to mid-90’s fastball to dispatch hitters and record a ton of ground balls. There’s not a lot of data here, but considering Del Moral’s age and how he fared against much more advanced competition in his first taste of American pro baseball, one has to walk away encourage. He’s an athletic 6’1″ 190-pounds with projection remaining and showed that he can at least be intriguing.

#30) Yan Sanchez, Util

  • Opening Day Age: 22.7
  • 2018 Level(s): Single-A Kane County
  • Games: 122
  • Acquired: 2013 International Sign (Dominican Republic)
  • Risk: High

Sanchez brings athleticism to the field as he’s an uber-smooth 6’2″ 170-pounds. He’s played primarily at shortstop and second base for the bulk of his minor league career, but saw additional action this season at third and in the outfield. He’s made slow and steady progress as a hitter to compliment his defensive chops. His frame hasn’t given way to much power production to date, but it’s easy to dream on his physical traits. There’s some projection left for him to add size and strength, but it’s unlikely he hits enough to be an everyday player on a contending team. Instead, he’s more likely destined for a sort of super utility role where he can use his combination of size, speed and arm to contribute in a variety of ways. That’s not a terrible thing to have floating around in your system.

#29) Buddy Kennedy, 3B

  • Opening Day Age: 20.6
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Missoula
  • Games: 57
  • Acquired: 2017 Draft, 5th Round
  • Risk: High

Kennedy might be most famous for his connections: he’s the grandson of Don Money and hails from Millville, NJ where he works out with Mike Trout in the offseason (in some capacity, anyways). Since being drafted he’s hit well, albeit in the AZL and the Pioneer League — both places that are friendly to batted balls. He’s hit for average, produced some power, taken his walks and rarely struck out. There’s some bat speed to his swing to go with the leverage he uses to launch the ball as he’s not a ground ball guy. The red flag might be his body, however, as he looked a bit more robust than the 190-pounds listed on the roster in a look at Hillsboro during the Northwest League playoffs (and thicker than he appears in the video linked at the end of this paragraph). While he’s fairly quick on his feet, he may lack the range to stay at third base long term depending on how his body matures. At present, he’s thick and strong, but at just 20-years old, he’ll have work to do keep himself in the kind of shape required to play third base up the chain. For now, it’s all about hitting and he’s done that so far (video).

#28) Kevin Cron, 1B

  • Opening Day Age: 26.1
  • 2018 Level(s): Triple-A Reno
  • Games: 104
  • Acquired: 2014 Draft, 14th Round
  • Risk: Low

On one hand, Cron has done everything asked of him. He hit 22 home runs and 28 doubles for the Aces in 2018 while hitting for average and controlling his strikeouts. He’s not a huge OBP guy, but he did slide over to third base to make room for Christian Walker this season. On another, he’ll turn 26 before Opening Day and doesn’t have the kind of ability to supplant Paul Goldschmidt (or Walker) or whomever else takes over at first. He’s not a third baseman by trade and that doesn’t appear a viable route, either (though I should note, it does appear that he slimmed down some for the 2018 season). The outfield is, well, out of the question. So he may end up stuck to some degree as AAAA player — a guy that can surely hit enough to damage in AAA but not likely enough to really crack the majors in a compelling way. On a rebuilding team, he might have a shot at earning a look, but in Arizona that might be a bridge too far. It’s hard to ignore the production, but it’s hard to imagine him getting full-time work in big leagues barring a trade to another organization that’s truly rebuilding (video).

#27) Kevin Ginkel, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 25.0
  • 2018 Level(s): High-A Visalia, Double-A Jackson
  • Games: 54 relief appearances
  • Acquired: 2016 Draft, 22nd Round
  • Risk: Medium

Ginkel is a University of Arizona alum and has essentially been light-out since turning pro. In 2018, he made 20 appearances in Visalia and 34 for Jackson with a combined 70 innings pitched, 100 strikeouts and 12 walks while opponents hit just .185 against him. You don’t rack up those kinds of numbers without being able to command your fastball, a pitch Ginkel will run up into the mid-90’s. He’s not overpowering by today’s bullpen standards, but has a good change and a breaking ball that’s not a true bat-misser. Still, there’s plenty of hope for a 7th inning-type arm here. The risk is that relievers, by nature, see some pretty wild swings in results from year to year, and while Ginkel has held pretty steady, fluctuations routinely occur in the bullpen. He’ll turn 25 just before Opening Day and needs to work his way into the big league bullpen picture sooner than later to keep from getting caught in the up/down game (video).

#26) Harrison Francis, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 20.4
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Arizona League, Short Season Hillsboro
  • Games: 10 relief appearances, four starts
  • Acquired: 2017 Draft, 4th Round
  • Risk: High

We haven’t seen much of Francis, an upside arm taken in the fourth round of the 2017 draft out of a Florida high school. He remained in Arizona for much of the minor league season but earned an assignment to Hillsboro in the second half of their season. While he wasn’t a “starter” there, he often threw three to four innings in his relief appearances, suggesting that he’s not (yet?) destined for the bullpen (Hillsboro managed innings closely this season, piggybacking starters). He acquitted himself well for the Hops, surrendering just three runs (all in one appearance) over 17.2 innings while striking out 21 and walking eight. It’s a small sample, but he has an athletic frame with room for projection and a fastball-slider-change mix. Francis was raw when drafted and the organization has taken it slow with him, but he was touching 93mph as a prep pitcher and there’s plenty to hope for here as he should work in the rotation going forward. It’ll be interesting to see how the organization evaluates his improvement — if he heads to full season Kane County to open 2019, that’ll be a positive sign though a potentially aggressive promotion.

#25) Jose Caballero, 2B/3B

  • Opening Day Age: 22.7
  • 2018 Level(s): Short season Hillsboro, Single-A Kane County
  • Games: 70
  • Acquired: 2017 Draft, 7th Round
  • Risk: Medium

Caballero signed out of a strong Chipola Junior College program in 2017. All he’s done since then is hit .301/.378/.468 at three levels, showcasing an advanced approach and a feel to hit. There’s some pop from him, too, and while it certainly isn’t plus, he may grow into something closer to average power down the line. He’s an athletic infielder with solid actions and enough arm to get some work in at third base. The overall profile, however, is probably best suited for second base where he should provide enough range defensively to stick. Caballero has clearly been advanced for each level he’s faced to-date, so the real question is how he’ll perform as he climbs the ladder. My looks suggest that he’s enough of a hitter to handle tougher competition and he should get a chance at Visalia in 2019 where the thin air and baked infields of the California League could do enough to his stock to start garnering more recognition. This is a sleeper guy right now with some chance to make real waves, especially if he finds his way to AA Jackson at some point next season. I do question the overall skill set a bit as he doesn’t stand out with any super loud tools, but his ability to hit, mixed with solid defensive chops, may prove enough (video).

#24) Yoan Lopez, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 26.3
  • 2018 Level(s): Double-A Jackson, MLB Arizona
  • Games: 55 relief appearances
  • Acquired: 2015 International Sign (Cuba)
  • Risk: Medium

Look, the penalties associated with Lopez’s signing shouldn’t be held against the player. The front office that signed him was under prepared to deal with the financial obligations and that set the franchise back some, but none of that is Lopez’s fault (though he’ll always carry that stigma for some). His issues walking away from his team on multiple occasions remain a sort of concern, but he’s also come back and battled his way to the majors. So take it all with a grain of salt. On the mound, the biggest issue today is his age — Lopez will turn 26 next January and he’s no longer a young buck. Fortunately, he’s a live arm out there and routinely pitched in the upper-90’s for the Diamondbacks once rosters expanded. His slider varies from appearance to appearance as his feel for the pitch wanders. When he’s commanding his fastball and his slider, he looks the part of a back end reliever. When he doesn’t have command, things can be a struggle. The missed development time likely hurts him here, but if he can refine his control and command even just a little bit, he can be a major league weapon. How Lopez handles it all is another thing to watch, but he’s got the stuff to put away hitters and has proven at least somewhat capable of doing so in the big leagues. He should get more opportunities in 2019, so keep an open mind and see what he does with them (video).

#23) Shumpei Yoshikawa, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 24.3
  • 2018 Level(s): Industrial League
  • Games: unknown
  • Acquired: 2018 International Sign (Japan)
  • Risk: Medium

Yoshikawa is the newest member of the Diamondbacks’ farm system after signing a deal to join the organization last month. He is not, however, your standard Japanese pitcher signing as Yoshikawa was not drafted by any NPB team out of high school or college and wound up playing in the Industrial League, a sort of independent league in Japan. While he wasn’t regarded highly enough to be drafted by Japan’s premier baseball league, he clearly caught the attention of MLB international scouts. He features a a fastball in the low-90’s, a slider and a splitter with advanced feel and a strong understanding of how to sequence and use his arsenal. An athletic 6’1″, he projects as a back of the rotation arm capable of getting enough weak contact to make up for his lack of power stuff. His $650k signing bonus is nothing to sneeze at and shows that the organization thought highly enough of him to make a solid offer. He should begin 2019 in either AA Jackson or AAA Reno depending on how he looks in Spring Training and shouldn’t be far from the majors. The biggest question mark is just that — how well he adjusts to American professional baseball. Given that his stuff and pitchability are relatively safe from fluctuation, that transition is the key. Luckily the Diamondbacks are familiar with this kind of thing after bringing  Yuhei Nakaushiro and Yoshihisa Hirano in recent years (video).

#22) Eduardo Diaz, OF

  • Opening Day Age: 21.7
  • 2018 Level(s): Single-A Kane County
  • Games: 33
  • Acquired: 2015 International Sign (Venezuela)
  • Risk: High

Diaz has progressed nicely since turning pro back in 2016. He hit a robust .312/.357/.510 a year ago in Missoula and made the jump to full season ball to open 2018. An injury prematurely derailed his season as he played his final game of the season in mid-June. The nature of the injury is unknown, but it was serious enough to keep him out of action for most of the season. Diaz has grown into his frame since signing, adding strength and power along the way while still being able to cover center field. A move to a corner infield spot presumably looms, but Diaz may have enough pop to carry that transition. The concerns are in his approach as he’s been aggressive to-date and he has struck out plenty. If he matures in that aspect of his game (which usually comes over time) and the injury doesn’t hold him back, he could jump up this list significantly next year — the tools are quite good and he’s still projectable. In terms of raw ability, he could be about ten spots higher than he appears now. He should open 2019 back in Kane County after the mostly lost 2018 campaign (video).

#21) Levi Kelly, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 19.9
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Arizona League
  • Games: four (brief) starts
  • Acquired: 2018 Draft, 8th Round
  • Risk: High

The Diamondbacks rolled the dice on Kelly in the eighth round this past June and signed him for an overslot amount ($350k), showing just how much they liked him. He’s got a power pitcher’s frame and delivers a fastball that was touching mid-90’s during his senior year of high school. His secondaries are a work in progress with his slider being ahead of an underdeveloped changeup. The Diamondbacks will work sharpen those pitches as well as his overall control and command, always a big chore when it comes developing high school pitchers. Still, power pitchers don’t grow on trees and Kelly is the kind of power arm that every organization covets. He’ll continue to add strength and velocity as he grows and if he doesn’t last as starter, there’s a reasonably high ceiling here for a hard-throwing back end reliever. Taking a wait-and-see approach is prudent, but the bones of an effective, modern pitcher are there. Look for more news to surface on Kelly if he moves out of the AZL and into a rotation in Missoula of Hillsboro next summer. Fall instructionals and extended spring training may allow him to take a large step forward depending on how quickly he progresses with professional coaching (video).


Other entries in this series: Top Prospects Primer and “Just Missed” List | Prospects #11-20 | Prospects #1-10 | 2018 Diamondbacks Draft Recap

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