Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Archie Bradley, RHP, Grade B+/Borderline A-. Age 22, posted 4.45 ERA with 75/49 K/BB in 83 innings between Double-A, Triple-A, and one rehab outing in rookie ball. Hampered by elbow problems early, both command and stuff suffered as a result. Still looks impressive at his best with blistering fastball, big-breaking curve, change-up and a new cutter/slider. Obviously a disappointing season but still has very high upside.
2) Aaron Blair, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, posted 3.56 ERA with 171/51 K/B in 154 innings at three levels. Other lists have Shipley ahead of Blair and I understand that, but I will play contrarian here and go with Blair due to his superior dominance numbers. Good progress with curveball and already had excellent fastball/change combination. Future number three starter.
3) Braden Shipley, RHP, Grade B+: Age 22, 3.86 ERA with 127/42 K/BB in 126 innings at three levels. Paired with Blair, more of a pure athlete than Blair, also projects as a number three starter, similar stuff to Blair with low/mid-90s heat, good changeup, good curve. Not quite as overpowering but has better command.
4) Brandon Drury, 3B, Grade B/Borderline B+: Age 22, hit .300/.366/.519 in 430 at-bats in High-A, then .295/.345/.476 in 105 at-bats in Double-A, proving that he wasn’t just a creation of the Cal League. Built on 2013 success, solid defender, I think he is for real. May wind up at B+.
5) Yasmany Tomas, OF-3B, Grade B: Age 24, Cuban defector. Everyone agrees that he has impressive power, but opinions on pure hitting skills and ability to handle advanced pitching are quite mixed due to erratic track record. Will he max out like Yasiel Puig (who was also doubted)? Kendrys Morales? Dayan Viciedo? It all depends on who you ask. After studying everything I can find on him, I don’t pretend to know the answer, so let’s slap a B on there until we get to see how he looks in spring training.
6) Touki Toussaint, RHP, Grade B/Borderline B-: Age 18, posted 8.48 ERA with 32/18 K/BB in first 29 pro innings. 2014 first-rounder, amazing athlete with mid-90s heat and one of the best curveballs to come out of the high school ranks since Bert Blyleven. He’s raw and could develop into anything from a number one starter to a Double-A burnout, but an awful lot of fun to watch.
7) Jake Lamb, 3B, Grade B-: Age 24, annihilates minor league pitching (.321/.406/.553 in his career) and has a good glove at third base. Rushed to the majors and scuffled, hitting .230/.263/.373 in 126 at-bats, coming in just under rookie limits. Controlled strike zone in the minors very well but it got away from him in the majors, experienced pitchers able to exploit his aggression and find holes in his swing. Given his track record, deserves more chances.
8) Domingo Leyba, INF, Grade B-: Age 19, acquired in three-way trade with Tigers and Yankees, hit .323/.360/.423 in 260 at-bats between New York-Penn League and Midwest League. Switch-hitter with advanced batting feel for his age, not a home run hitter but should develop respectable gap pop, defensive tools are average and fit best at second base but his instincts are sound and he is fairly polished already. Nice $400,000 signing for the Tigers in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic, and a nice pick-up for the Dbacks.
9) Jake Barrett, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, 3.09 ERA with 47/27 K/BB in 55 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 28 saves. Closer-worthy stuff with mid-90s fastball and good slider, but will need to show sharper command to get a chance at saves in the majors. It could happen.
10) Cody Reed, LHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 18, 2014 second round pick had excellent debut, 2.20 ERA with 40/12 K/BB in 33 innings in rookie ball. Three pitch mix, fastball, slider, change, velocity varies but he was excellent overall in his debut. Has to watch his weight but mid-rotation projection.
11) Sergio Alcantara, INF, Grade C+: Age 18, hit .244/.361/.297 in 266 at-bats in Pioneer League. No power at all, but controls the strike zone and gets on base, draws high praise for his defensive ability and young enough to hit better in time.
12) Robbie Ray, LHP, Grade C+: Age 23, acquired from Tigers, will be in mix as back-end starter, posted 4.22 ERA with 75/44 K/BB in 100 innings in Triple-A, but 8.16 ERA with 19/11 K/BB and 43 hits in 29 innings in the majors. Classic low-90s fastball/change-up pitcher with inconsistent breaking ball.
13) Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Grade C+: Age 23, another relief option, posted 4.97 ERA with 45/18 K/BB in 38 innings in Double-A, 34 hits, can hit mid-90s despite generous listing a 6-foot, also has a good slider. Like Barrett, he needs to sharpen the command but should be an effective bullpen presence.
14) Peter O’Brien, C-1B-OF-?, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .271/.316/.594 with 34 homers, 21 walks, 111 strikeouts in 399 at-bats in Yankees and Diamondbacks system, following trade deadline deal. Outstanding power, but with an aggressive approach that could cut into OBP/batting average against the best pitching. Very dangerous when he gets something hittable. Main questions revolve around defense. He has the tools to catch but has struggled to find the necessary polish.
15) Nick Ahmed, SS, Grade C+: Age 24, hit .312/.373/.425 with 14 steals in Triple-A, .200/.233/.271 in 70 at-bats in the majors. Excellent defensive shortstop but hasn’t proven he can hit outside of Reno. Utility profile right now, but I think he might show more offensive growth eventually. I don’t have anything objective to back that up.
16) Mitch Haniger, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, acquired in trade with Brewers over the summer, hit .259/.324/.422 with 11 homers, in 282 at-bats, all but 15 in Double-A. Average tools across the board, has some power but hasn’t lived up to full expectations generated when he was a supplemental first round pick in 2012. Decent glove could make him a workable fourth outfielder.
17) Oscar Hernandez, C, Grade C+: Age 21, Rule 5 pick from Tampa Bay Rays system, hit .249/.301/.401 in 362 at-bats in Low-A. Very good defensive catcher and has some pop, could be stashed as a reserve catcher if the Dbacks decide to keep him, although sitting on the bench for a year wouldn’t be good for his development.
18) Jeferson Meija, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, acquired in Miguel Montero trade with Cubs, posted 2.48 ERA with 45/17 K/BB in 40 innings in rookie ball. Very intriguing arm, 6-7, 195 build, can hit mid-90s, still working on curve and change-up but early results are good. High ceiling arm could rank much higher a year from now.
19) Jose Martinez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 20, missed all but two early starts last year with stress fracture in elbow. Very high-ceiling guy with mid-90s fastball, good curve, needs innings/health to refine the change-up. Could be much higher with a healthy season.
20) Matt Railey, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .267/.327/.556 in 45 at-bats in rookie ball after being drafted in third round from Florida high school. Has some power and pure hitting skills drew positive reviews in high school. Another guy who could leap up the list with a full season under his belt.
OTHERS: Anthony Banda, LHP; Zach Borenstein, OF; Silvino Bracho, RHP; J.R. Bradley, RHP; Socrates Brito, OF; Enrique Burgos, RHP; Andrew Chafin, LHP; Kevin Cron, 1B; Isan Diaz, INF; Kaleb Fleck, RHP; Alex Glenn, OF; Jose Herrera, C; Will Locante, LHP; Kevin Munson, RHP; Dan Palka, 1B; Stryker Trahan, OF-C; Garrett Weber, 2B; Blayne Weller, RHP; Marcus Wilson, OF.
New GM Dave Stewart and "Chief Baseball Officer" Tony LaRussa inherit a farm system which is not one of the top in the game. But it isn’t bad, either, especially on the pitching side.
The trio of Archie Bradley, Aaron Blair, and Braden Shipley gives Arizona three impressively talented starting pitchers who should be ready for trails within the next year. Bradley has the highest upside despite a disappointing 2014 season. He could still develop into an ace, although he’s got to show that his command won’t hold him back. Blair and Shipley project as solid mid-rotation arms. 2014 draftees Touki Toussaint and Cody Reed add some prep presence. Toussaint could be the best of the entire group although he is the furthest away. New trade acquisition Jeferson Mejia and injury project Jose Martinez are also very talented.
There are plenty of hard-throwing relief types looking for a shot, beginning with Jake Barrett, Jimmie Sherfy, Kevin Munson, and pop-up prospect Kaleb Fleck in the high minors but extending down to the lower levels as well with Silvino Bracho, Enrique Burgos, J.R. Bradley, Will Locante, and perhaps scrapheap find Blayne Weller.
Hitting is not as deep but isn’t terrible. Jake Lamb deserves more chances, with Brandon Drury waiting in the wings should Lamb fail to unlock his ability. Can Yasmany Tomas really play third base? Probably not and even his bat is a big wild card, but he’s worth taking a chance on given the relative paucity of power in today’s version of baseball. Peter O’Brien also offers excellent home run potential, though we’ll have to see where he slots positionally.
There are up-the-middle options of interest, with trade acquisition Domingo Leyba standing out in particular. Outfielders Socrates Brito and Alex Glenn had solid years in the California League but need to show that they can perform in a less hitting-friendly environment.
Overall, this looks like a middle rank system. For 2015 much rides on their evaluation of Yasmany Tomas.