U.S. Futures All-Star Tyler Skaggs of the Arizona Diamondbacks pitches in the first inning during the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects for 2012
LIST UPDATED JANUARY 17, 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Trevor Bauer, RHP, Grade A: I am a total believer, and fully expect Bauer to be a number one starter. I would have picked him over Gerrit Cole. Despite the heavy UCLA workload, I don't think his risk is any higher than any other pitcher his age, and it could be lower.
2) Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Grade A-: I don't know what to say here other than he's really good. Scouting reports are quite strong, numbers excellent, future number two starter although if everything works out. If everything works out (more on that below).
3) Archie Bradley, RHP, Grade A-: I very seldom give a grade like this to a high school pitcher, but I believe in Bradley almost as much as I believe in Bauer. He could be number one on this list a year from now.
4) Andrew Chafin, LHP, Grade B: I'm being more cautious here than with Bradley even though Chafin is a college guy; that's an instinctual call at this point. He has enough upside to rank higher next year if pro adjustment goes well. Could be number two starter or (at worst) a power reliever.
5) Patrick Corbin, LHP, Grade B-: Borderline B. Doesn't get as much attention as fellow-Haren-trade-acquisition Skaggs, but is a fine prospect in his own right who can develop into a mid-rotation starter.
6) A.J. Pollock, OF, Grade B-: Main question here is if he will develop more home run power, but he has a broad range of skills and is fully recovered from the 2010 elbow injury.
7) Matt Davidson, 3B-1B, Grade B-: I like him more than the similar Bobby Borchering at this point, but Double-A will greatly test his ability to make contact and he still needs defensive polish.
8) Bryan Shaw, RHP, Grade B-: That's a pretty nasty cutter he's developed, and he always had the arm strength to succeed if the control was there. I think he could close eventually.
9) Adam Eaton, OF, Grade B-: I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and I buy into him. Not a big guy, but he's got some tools and hustles his rear off. The stats are strong, and he can be a superb fourth outfielder or possibly a David DeJesus-type regular.
10) David Holmberg, LHP, Grade B-: You can make a case to rank him as high as 7th. Like Corbin, can be a mid-rotation starter.
11) Anthony Meo, RHP, Grade B-: Given the depth of pitching here, he might get overlooked. Will he start or relieve at higher levels? Grade could be at least a slot higher next year, maybe more.
12) Bobby Borchering, 1B-3B, Grade C+: Paired with Davidson and a similar profile as a power hitter, but with even worse contact problems and a weaker glove. Still young enough to improve.
13) Wade Miley, LHP, Grade C+: Can develop into a nice four/five starter, but he needs to do it right now or he'll get buried by guys with higher ceilings.
14) Ryan Wheeler, 3B, Grade C+: Glove is mediocre but he should be able to hit enough to hold a bench job as a 3B-1B-PH type for the right team.
15) Chris Owings, SS, Grade C+: Would rank higher based solely on youth, tools and upside, but his approach at the plate is currently awful and he needs better defensive reliability. High ceiling but a low floor.
16) Marc Krauss, OF, Grade C+: I think he's better than he looked last year, but will be more of a platoon/role player than a future regular.
17) Charles Brewer, RHP, Grade C+: Lost much of season to broken hand, and easy to overlook with the other live arms in the system. Like Miley, he has a short window of opportunity to establish himself but has a shot at becoming a back-end rotation member or a reliever.
18) David Nick, 2B , Grade C+: Contact hitter with gap power but needs to prove he can produce outside of the California League.
19) Kyle Winkler, RHP, Grade C+: TCU product from 2011 draft could rank much higher next year if elbow injury suffered late in college season doesn't hold him back.
20) Yonata Ortega, RHP, Grade C+: Can be a very useful reliever if he throws enough strikes.
21) Evan Marshall, RHP, Grade C+: Kansas State fourth round pick finished pro debut in Double-A, another potentially solid relief arm.
OTHERS: Chase Anderson, RHP; Michael Bolsinger, RHP; J.R. Bradley, RHP; Keon Broxton, OF; Jesse Darrah, RHP; Eury De La Rosa, LHP; Tyler Green, RHP; Tyler Linton, OF; Wagner Mateo, OF; John Pedrotty, LHP; Michael Perez, C; Blake Perry, RHP; Robby Rowland, RHP; Patrick Schuster, LHP; Taylor Siemens, LHP
Pitching is the obvious strength here. Arizona has four pitchers who project as number one or two starters with Bauer, Parker, Skaggs, and Bradley. Chafin isn't far behind, and then there are several other arms who could be inning-eaters or useful relievers. Keep in mind, of course, that if you have five great pitching prospects, you're doing well if you get one or two above-average pitchers. Remember what happened to the Royals last year. Someone will get hurt or backslide.
The weakness here is obvious, too: depth in position players. There is no one here who looks like a potential star hitter. Davidson and Borchering have impressive power but will their contact issues be troublesome at higher levels? I suspect so. They aren't going to hit for average, and how do they both fit in the lineup? You do have three intriguing outfielders in Pollock, Eaton, and Cowgill, but they look like fine role players or average regulars, not stars. Owings has a lot of potential up the middle but is extremely raw and has a high risk of failure.
Overall, the pitching is going to make this a fun organization to follow in 2012 and beyond.