Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects for 2014
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 2014 Baseball Prospect Book. The book has been delayed due to my health crisis but will be out this spring and we are still taking pre-orders.
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a reasonable chance of becoming stars or superstars. In theory, most Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or unanticipated 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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) Archie Bradley, RHP, Grade A: Still has some command issues to work through, but his stuff (blistering fastball, plus curve, improving changeup) is so good that he dominated Double-A hitters anyway. That may or may not be true in Reno and especially the majors, but as long as he remains healthy I think he will make any necessary adjustments. Future number one starter with the usual caveats regarding young pitcher unpredictability.
2) Braden Shipley, RHP, Grade B+: Former college shortstop took easily to pitching and earned his way into 2013 first round. Three quality pitches with 90s heat, curve, changeup, and he throws strikes. Mid-rotation potential.
3) Chris Owings, SS, Grade B: Pacific Coast League MVP held his own during big league trial. Won’ t hit .330 in the majors like he did at Reno and his OBP could be troublesome due to low walk rate, but should deliver some power and speed contributions and provide solid glovework.
4) Aaron Blair, RHP, Grade B: Supplemental first rounder from Marshall pairs nicely with Shipley at top of ’13 draft class. I like Shipley a bit better since I think his secondary pitches are more refined, but there’s nothing wrong with Blair, who could also develop into a number three starter.
5) Stryker Trahan, C, Grade B: Borderline B-: Despite his 2012 first-round status, this may be an aggressive grade for a guy who has questionable defense and didn’t dominate the Pioneer League. He did hit 10 homers and 15 doubles but hit just .254/.328 OBP. I’m playing a subjective hunch on this one that the power will blossom enough for him to play even at another position.
6) Jake Lamb, 3B, Grade B-: Limited to 64 games in High-A by injury, but hit .303/.424/.558. Yes it was the Cal League but he’s always hit well, controls the strike zone, and is a good defender. Overlooked prospect who needs more attention. Another hunch.
7) Brandon Drury, 3B, Grade B-: Will rank ahead of Lamb on most other lists and that’s defensible since he is younger. You also have 51 doubles in Low-A to his credit, hitting .302/.362/.500 although he was repeating the level.
8) Jake Barrett, RHP, Grade B-: I hate grading relief pitchers. If he becomes a closer he’ll have great fantasy value, but what if he’s just a middle reliever? Either way Barrett should be successful on a per-inning basis. Throws hard, throws strikes, dominates. Just needs a chance.
9) Jose Martinez, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Surface stats were uninspiring in short-season A, 4.03 ERA, 30/25 K/BB in 38 innings. But look deeper and you see that he allowed just a .159 average, and the scouting reports are glowing in regards to a fastball that can hit the upper-90s and a nasty curve. Needs experience and innings and his strikeout rate should have been higher given the stuff reports. High-potential prospect and I may bump him to full B-.
10) Andrew Chafin, LHP, Grade C+: Pretty 2.85 ERA in Double-A, but with deteriorating component ratios and an early exit from the Arizona Fall League due to a tired arm. Still a question if he is a starter or reliever in the long run. I like his arm strength if he’s healthy.
11) Matt Stites, RHP, Grade C+: Another tough-to-rank relief prospect, posted a 51/8 K/BB in Double-A, can hit 98, and has a wicked slider. Short (5-11) but talented, could get crack at closer job eventually although Barrett is ahead of him.
12) Zeke Spruill, RHP, Grade C+: Survived Reno with confidence intact which is not always easy, but I don’t like his 68/45 K/BB ratio in 124 innings: just not enough strikeouts to project him as more than an inning-eater. That still has value though. Could have a 10-year career with league-average numbers and there’s nothing wrong with that.
13) Justin Williams, OF, Grade C+: Second round pick from Louisiana high school hit .351/.397/.452 in pro debut and finished in Low-A despite pre-draft reports that he was very raw. Walk rate was quite low and he somehow fielded .883 as an outfielder, but he raked. Has flaws but considerable potential as well.
14) Sergio Alcantara, SS, Grade C+: Have to look past the surface numbers with this one. Hit just .243 with a .320 SLG in rookie ball, but he was only 17 years old, drew 44 walks in 48 games, and scouts well as a defensive player. Long-term project given his youth and present lack of power, but high potential.
15) Daniel Palka, 1B, Grade C+: Third round pick from Georgia Tech hit .310/.392/.516 between Pioneer and Northwest Leagues. We need to see him against better pitching and there’s been some concern about a long swing and limited defensive skills, but his track record is excellent and I expect he’ll continue to mash in A-ball.
16) Daniel Gibson, LHP, Grade C+: Lefty from University of Florida could fit into future power bullpen with Barrett and Stites. Posted 0.64 ERA in 28 innings between Northwest and Midwest Leagues with 27/10 K/BB. Throws hard enough to advance quickly if the command holds up. It was erratic in college.
17) Nick Ahmed, SS, Grade C+: Borderline C. Another hunch; I have several with this organization apparently. Hit just .236/.288/.324 in Double-A, which is unacceptable. But he stole 26 bases, is an excellent defender, and could possibly maybe someday develop more with the bat. Normally not my type of player but I can see an Adam Everett outcome here.
18) Evan Marshall, RHP, Grade C: Another bullpen arm on verge of majors, not a terrific year in Triple-A (4.54 ERA, 59/30 K/BB in 58 innings, 75 hits) but he gets a huge number of grounders (2.59 GO/AO) and can be tough on right-handers. Stuff not as lively as Barrett’s or Stites.
19) Charles Brewer, RHP, Grade C: 4.90 ERA with 107/43 K/BB in 140 innings for Reno. Fourth/fifth starter profile, throws strikes with average stuff and stayed alive in the PCL. Not as flashily talented as the top arms but could sneak in some quality innings under the right circumstances.
20) Felipe Perez, RHP, Grade C: Unusual free agent signee out of high school in 2012; everyone thought he was going to UCLA so he wasn’t drafted. Signed for $400,000, posted 4.55 ERA with 50/19 K/BB in 89 innings, 100 hits in the Pioneer League. That’s not very good, but he already throws strikes and draws reports as projectable arm with a clean delivery, something to build on.
OTHERS: Chase Anderson, RHP; Socrates Brito, OF; Eury De La Rosa, LHP; Ender Inciarte, OF; Brandon Jacobs, OF; Brad Keller, RHP; Alfredo Marte, OF; Matt McPhearson, OF; Jose "Joe" Munoz, SS; Willy Paredes, RHP; Lt. Commander Geordy Parra, RHP; Jimmy Sherfy, RHP.
This is a tough system to analyze. The guys at the top are obvious: future ace Bradley, impressive college arms in Shipley and Blair, a solid infield prospect in Owens. After that it gets mushy, with a large group of B-/C+ types who all have something going for them but also have weaknesses or question-marks in their profile.
Pitching depth is the key strength of this system. You have several potential starting pitchers as well as good fodder for a big league bullpen. This depth is present at all levels with some arms like Bradley, Barrett, and Stites close to the majors but with talent blended well down to the rookie levels, although the younger arms like Martinez and Perez have work to do turning their talent into performance. But that’s not unexpected; those guys are just getting started.
Hitting is more problematic. I like Owings and Trahan, perhaps more than I should. Lamb is a favorite and I can’t help but think I could be underrating Drury. And as noted I have the inexplicable and perhaps quixotic belief that Ahmed could hit eventually. But there is not an obvious future star among the position players, rather a group of players who could be solid regulars or perhaps role players.
It will be interesting to see where the Diamondbacks fall when I get my final rankings done. I’m thinking middle of the pack currently.