As the Hot Stove seasons truly gets underway, the Diamondbacks are firmly at a crossroads. Over at The Athletic, I’ve written about a few of these topics, such as A.J. Pollock’s QO decision and the team’s long term payroll outlook. Both are ripe for concern. But the minor league side of the ledger remains a concern, too. The D-backs’ minor league cache has improved over the last 18 months. But with major league questions looming, it’s yet to be seen if the organization will add to or subtract from their newfound depth this winter.

Speaking of that depth, things keep right on rolling here with the next batch of top prospects. The first group had a mixture of old and new and this group is more of the same. There’s plenty of youth here, too, along with some more established names. It’s that kind of mixture that has things looking up, so let’s get started.

#20) Jimmie Sherfy, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 27.4
  • 2018 Level(s): Triple-A Reno, MLB Diamondbacks
  • Games: 53 relief appearances
  • Acquired: 2013 Draft, 10th Round
  • Risk: Low

The days when Jimmie Sherfy looked like a young, up and coming bullpen asset are a distant memory. After seemingly making strides in the strike-throwing department, he took a lengthy step backwards in 2018, both in Reno and with the Diamondbacks. The fastball velocity was down a bit in September and there have been changes to the breaking ball. That all points to a tumultuous situation for a guy who’s struggling to stay relevant. Worst of all, the big league bullpen had openings last season but Sherfy wasn’t pitching well enough to seize one. Hope is fading fast and he’ll need a strong, improved spring effort to keep himself in the picture.

#19) Emilio Vargas, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 22.7
  • 2018 Level(s): High-A Visalia, Double-A Jackson
  • Games: 25 starts, one relief appearance
  • Acquired: 2012 International Sign (Dominican Republic)
  • Risk: Low

Vargas has made slow and steady progress since beginning his professional career back in 2013. He pitched like a man among boys in the California League in 2018, earning Pitcher of the Year honors by striking out 140 batters in 108 innings while issuing 41 walks. He found rougher sledding in a late-season audition in AA Jackson, but that was to be expected as he logged a career high in innings and likely tired a bit down the stretch. The fastball/slider combo is good as he sits in the low 90’s and can run it up to 96. His changeup has developed, too, and he made strides by mixing his pitches effectively, transitioning from a thrower to a pitcher. There’s potential here for a #4 starer type, and if that fails, a reasonable relief role could be carved out by throwing max-effort fastballs and working in his best out-pitch, the slider. He’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster this winter in order to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

#18) Domingo Leyba, 2B

  • Opening Day Age: 23.6
  • 2018 Level(s): Double-A Jackson
  • Games: 83 games
  • Acquired: 2012 International Sign (Dominican Republic)
  • Risk: Low

Leyba used to be a lot higher on this list, but injuries have taken a toll and he’s missed significant chunks of the last two seasons, primarily due to shoulder issues. Once a 20-year old hitting well in AA, Leyba just turned 23 and hasn’t moved past the level. Again, that’s been mostly due to his health, but his latest AA season was just okay. Add the fact that he’s solidly confined to second base now and there’s a lot of pressure on the bat to perform. Perhaps a healthy offseason will translate to a stronger regular season in 2019. If so, there’s still some hope for a second-division player with a bench role more likely.

#17) Matt Mercer, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 22.6
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Arizona League, Short Season Hillsboro
  • Games: 13 starts
  • Acquired: 2018 Draft, 5th Round
  • Risk: Medium

Mercer is a competitor with a big arm. Scouts were concerned about his mechanics and ability to command his arsenal, causing him to slip a bit last June. It’s easy to see why as there’s violence in the delivery that likely needs to be toned down a bit in order for him to remain a starter. But he can pump the fastball up to 98, has a change that will flash plus, and a curve ball that’s just okay. It’d be nice to see him turn that curve into a slider, but as-is, there’s a profile for a big league arm. Fast-tracking him as a reliever is an option, but the Diamondbacks will probably continue working him as a starter a bit longer. It’s not clear how he ultimately fits just yet, but he has enough arm talent to be a difference maker.

#16) Matt Tabor, RHP

  • Opening Day Age: 20.3
  • 2018 Level(s): Short Season Hillsboro
  • Games: 14 starts
  • Acquired: 2017 Draft, 3rd Round
  • Risk: Medium

For a young pitcher, Tabor has a relatively strong grasp of what he’s trying to do. He had a successful 2018 season for Hillsboro, and while the stats didn’t necessarily pile up, he showed composure on the mound, got his ground balls, limited the free passes and home runs, and wasn’t hit hard often. His fastball sat 89-92, but there’s some projection left and room to add another tick or two. His changeup was quite effective, but Low-A hitters often struggle against the cambio. Overall, it’s not the sexiest arsenal, but Tabor has room to grow along with some already advanced attributes. He should get a shot at full season ball in 2019.

#15) Drew Ellis, 3B

  • Opening Day Age: 23.4
  • 2018 Level(s): High-A Visalia
  • Games: 120 games
  • Acquired: 2017 Draft, 2nd Round
  • Risk: Medium

Ellis has easy raw power and is a big dude in the box. And for his size, he’s done a nice job of keeping the strikeouts in check and getting on base. He had 50 extra-base hits for Visalia in 2018, but the power output wasn’t quite what was expected. He’s looked a bit stiff at third in the past and scouts are still not overly optimistic that he stays at the hot corner. That’s a problem, because a move off of third would push him to first and there may not be enough bat to carry the position. It’s a bit of a wait-and-see game with Ellis as he’ll need to hit more if he stays at third, and hit a lot more if he needs to move to first.

#14) Jorge Barrosa, CF

  • Opening Day Age: 18.1
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Dominican Summer League, Rookie Arizona League, Rookie Level Missoula
  • Games: 68 games
  • Acquired: 2017 International Sign (Venezuela)
  • Risk: High

Kristian Robinson got the headlines in July or 2017 as the Diamondbacks’ biggest international signing. Meanwhile, the team scooped up another prized prospect in Barrosa. While he’s physically the polar opposite of Robinson, he’s still plenty talented. And young. He’s very young. While most players his age are in their senior year of high school, Barrosa raced through three levels of the minors, ending his season in Missoula. The center fielder has taken up switch hitting, has all of the chops needed to stay in center and can rack up the steals. He hits the ball on the ground a ton, which works to some degree thanks to his speed. He produced limited power and that’s likely to remain the case given his slight stature. But there’s a profile here for a contact-oriented player capable of getting on base and wreaking havoc on the base paths. If it all breaks right, he could turn into an Ender Inciarte-type, providing excellent defense and enough offense to warrant everyday action.

#13) Blaze Alexander, SS

  • Opening Day Age: 19.8
  • 2018 Level(s): Rookie Arizona League, Rookie Level Missoula
  • Games: 55 games
  • Acquired: 2018 Draft, 11th Round
  • Risk: High

The Diamondbacks weren’t able to sign their first round pick in Matt McLain, but they added another exciting shortstop by going overslot to snag Alexander. The story on Alexander at the time of his selection was pretty simple. He was raw but had big power and a cannon of an arm with the kinds of actions suitable to keep him at short. What followed was a pro debut that appears, on the surface, to suggest that Alexander is a bit more polished than first thought. He combined to hit .329/.417/.538 across the Arizona Rookie League and his time in Missoula. Of Alexander’s 52 hits, 29 went for extra bases. He struck out some, but took plenty of walks and reports suggested the defense is for real. He was clearly advanced for the competition he saw and could potentially begin 2019 in full season ball.

#12) Andy Yerzy, C

  • Opening Day Age: 20.7
  • 2018 Level(s): Short Season Hillsboro
  • Games: 63 games
  • Acquired: 2016 Draft, 2nd Round
  • Risk: High

The questions about Yerzy’s defense were alive and well before his 2018 campaign. While he improved as a defender, those questions still persist. He’s not the quickest behind the plate, and while his receiving was okay, he allowed balls in the dirt to reach the backstop too regularly. His pop times were not particularly exciting but his arm appears adequate. At the plate, he was excellent. He made hard contact regularly, walked plenty and managed his strikeouts. In short, he still looks fringy as a catcher but capable as a hitter. A move from behind the plate may not be far off, but don’t expect the organization to throw in the towel on his catching just yet. If he can gain some flexibility and improve his reactions, a passable catcher may still be in play — though I don’t expect it. A move to first will put more pressure on the bat, and if that’s the case, he has work to do.

#11) Marcus Wilson, CF

  • Opening Day Age: 22.6
  • 2018 Level(s): High-A Visalia
  • Games: 111 games
  • Acquired: 2014 Draft, Competitive Balance Round B
  • Risk: Medium

After a breakout 2017 campaign, Wilson was primed for more as he moved up to the hitter-friendly California League. Unfortunately, he stumbled out of the blocks and struggled for much of the season. His defense remains fine, but the bulk of his season raised questions about just how far the bat had come as he appeared exposed by better pitching. But Wilson salvaged some hope by hitting well from mid-August until the end of the season in early September, hitting four of his 10 home runs during that stretch. Evaluators remain hopeful about his stock as the tools are still there. He may open 2019 back in Visalia or the organization could continue his climb by assigning him to AA. That decision may tell us something important about his progress, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Other entries in this series: Top Prospects Primer and “Just Missed” List | Prospects #21-31 | Prospects #1-10 | 2018 Diamondbacks Draft Recap

14 Responses to 2019 D-backs Top 30 Prospects: #11-20

  1. Sean says:

    Sherfy had a 1.60 ERA in hitter friendly Reno and has a lifetime 1.00 ERA for the Diamondbacks over 2 seasons and 27 innings. Of course Jeff doesn’t mention any of that, because it doesn’t fit his conclusions.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Hi Sean, thanks for reading. I tweet minor league stats for Diamondbacks prospects 4-5 times per week. I am well aware of Sherfy’s ERA. The trouble is that AAA ERA is not a great indicator of talent and most soon-to-be 27-year olds that are MLB difference makers are already in the majors. Hopefully that clarifies things some.

  2. Sean says:

    Sherfy has been in the majors the last 2 seasons and has done well. The fact that he was not kept up was more a decision to have veterans fill the bullpen roles. To say having a low ERA in Reno doesn’t correlate to talent when the average ERA is around 5 is a stretch. He’s proven he can get outs whether his fastball velocity is 94 or 97. Ultimately it’s about getting outs.

  3. Ryan McEuen says:

    I’m so pumped that Perdomo made it in the top 10

  4. Ryan Gabriel says:

    Hi Jeff. In Blaze Alexander’s write-up, it mentions he has “big power.” Im just curious what that means exactly. Do you believe he has 25 or more home run potential? Thank you!

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Raw power and game power are different. Think of raw power as the power that a player exhibits in batting practice — those long home runs. Game power is what you’re referring to — the ability to rack up the doubles, triples and homers over the course of a season. To translate raw power to game power, a player has to be able to make ample contact, work counts, identify pitches and punish them.

      Right now, Blaze is known for the raw power as he has the bat speed and leverage to really launch the ball. He’ll need to refine his approach over time and grow as an overall hitter for that to translate to game power. But the raw power would suggest that if he does develop as a hitter, he’ll have the power necessary to hit 25-ish homers. **Caveat** it’s still really early to tell, but scouts have been impressed.

  5. Wayne Seibert says:

    I’ve been cvg following Zack Shannon in his brief career. His #s are great. Where does he fall?
    Thanks Wayne.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Hi Wayne, Shannon won’t be listed this year. He’s 22 and limited to first base, so his value is heavily dependent on him rising through the minors quickly and hitting a ton. So far, so good. But, there’s a lot more that needs to be seen. The Pioneer League (where he played in 2018) is a hitter-friendly environment and he was both older and more advanced than most of the competition. We need to see him against better pitching before we can feel more comfortable knowing what kind of player he is. All that said, he did get off to a hell of a pro start and he could jump quickly if he keeps it up.

  6. Ben says:

    Could you define what you classify a prospect to be? Is it someone you see as a future All-star in MLB, someone who you see being a steady contributor for 5 to 7 years, or someone who can stick for 2 to 4 years in the majors. I read these well researched opinions but feel like I’m missing the gist of what a prospects future qualities need to be. Thick skulled in NC.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Hi Ben, sorry for the delaying in answering your question. In terms of “prospect” status, you’re looking for guys that have the ability to contribute at the big league level. Even if that’s in a bench role, it counts. There are guys in every organization that are referred to as “organizational guys” and/or “non-prospects.” These are the types that stock much of the lower minors and talent evaluators have deemed them extremely unlikely to reach the majors. Most of these players retire or are released in somewhat short order and don’t often reach AA. “Prospects,” on the other hand, are guys that evaluators believe can contribute *something* at the major league level. I hope that helps.

  7. Michael says:

    Every time i hear a projection of a #4 starter type it makes me wonder. What is a 4# starter?, what kind of ERA does he have? Is a rotation consisting 5 4# starters is good or bad?

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Good question, Michael. Placing numbers on starters is easy shorthand, but your question reminds me that it’s not usually all that helpful in communicating ability/value. So let’s do some work on that!

      A #1 starter is your sort of ace-like pitcher. Many teams don’t have this kind of guy on their roster. #2 and #3 starters are above average starting pitchers. This is something like the range between Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray. A #4 starter is basically your average big league starter, ERA about 4-ish, average strikeouts/walks, etc. A #5 starter is your back-end filler type who can eat some innings and help keep from abusing your bullpen, but that’s about it.

      You can definitely research this more thoroughly. As the game has changed, so has the definition of these types of pitchers. It’s worth searching for and reading more about. I would definitely encourage it, especially from places like Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and Beyond the Box Score.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.