Today we continue with our review of the performance of each farm system for 2014 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are the pre-season grades. This is a review, not a preview for 2015.
1) Archie Bradley, RHP, Grade A: Posted 5.18 ERA with 23/12 K/BB in 24 innings for Triple-A Reno, 4.12 ERA with 46/36 K/BB in 55 innings for Double-A Mobile. Season was slowed by nagging injuries and troubles with command. Reports on his stuff remain positive, but overall a disappointing campaign and his stock is down some. How much, I have yet to determine, but down at least a half grade I think.
2) Braden Shipley, RHP, Grade B+: Opened at Low-A (3.74 ERA, 41/11 K/BB in 46 innings), held his own in the difficult Cal League (4.03 ERA, 68/21 K/BB in 60 innings), and pitched reasonably in Double-A (3.60 ERA, 18/10 K/BB in 20 innings). Stock holding steady in this territory.
3) Chris Owings, SS, Grade B: 277 plate appearances in the majors gives him a .266/.302/.432 line, wRC+99, fWAR 1.7. A solidly decent rookie debut in line with what we’d expect given his minor league performance record.
4) Aaron Blair, RHP, Grade B: Like Shipley, Blair is a college product who pitched at three levels and performed well, including a pleasant 81 strikeouts in 72 innings in the Cal League and a 1.94 ERA with a 46/16 K/BB in 46 innings at Mobile. Stock is up into the B+ area I’d say.
5) Stryker Trahan, C, Grade B: Borderline B-: I had been optimistic here but not after this season: .198/.266/.367 with 146 strikeouts in 368 at-bats in Low-A. He was better in short-season A (.257/.349/.496) and is still just 20 years old, but his contact issues are quite serious and he’s now an outfielder, not a catcher. Stock down.
6) Jake Lamb, 3B, Grade B-: but he’s always hit well, controls the strike zone, and is a good defender. Overlooked prospect who needs more attention. Another hunch. Trahan has struggled but Lamb has been good, .318/.404/.551 in 374 at-bats in Double-A, .192/.253/.301 in 73 at-bats in the majors, needs adjustment time in the majors but overall he has lived up to his potential this year.
7) Brandon Drury, 3B, Grade B-: Hit .300/.366/.519 with 19 homers in 430 AB in High-A, then.295/.351/.476 in 105 AB in Double-A. Very sound season, power is developing and has increasingly good grasp of the strike zone. Stock up.
8) Jake Barrett, RHP, Grade B-: Solid season in high minors, 2.39ERA with 24/12 K/BB in 26 innings in Double-A, 3.72 ERA with 23/15 K/BB in 29 innings in Triple-A, combined for 28 saves. Good stuff, could use sharper command, bullpen arm ready for a trial next year and has closer potential.
9) Jose Martinez, RHP, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Missed entire season due to stress fracture in elbow.
10) Andrew Chafin, LHP, Grade C+: 1.96 ERA with 41/19 K/BB in 55 innings in Double-A, 5.34 ERA with 73/39 K/BB in 92 innings in Triple-A, one major league start and pitched well. Stock level, has decent stuf from the left side but performance remains inconsistent.
11) Matt Stites, RHP, Grade C+: Strong in Triple-A (2.25 ERA, 15/6 K/BB in 16 innings, 12 saves) but control problems in the majors result in 5.27 ERA, 22/13 K/BB in 27 innings. Still has a shot to be a useful bullpen arm.
12) Zeke Spruill, RHP, Grade C+: Still looking to find a role here, 6.04 ERA with 71/21 K/BB in 79 innings in Triple-A, 89 hits. 4.82 ERA with 7/3 K/BB in nine major league innings. Still could wind up as a back-end starter or relief arm, but stock is stagnant.
13) Justin Williams, OF, Grade C+: Excellent in the Pioneer League (.386/.437/.471 in 189 AB) and performed well in the Midwest League (.284/.348/.461 in 102 AB). Turned 19 a few weeks ago, should move up prospect lists for 2015.
14) Sergio Alcantara, SS, Grade C+: Good reputation for defensive tools, hit .244/.362/.297 with 48 walks, 62 whiffs in 266 AB in Pioneer League. Draws walks but lacks power at this point, just 18 years old.
15) Daniel Palka, 1B, Grade C+: Georgia Tech product showed good power in Midwest League, hitting 22 homers, .248/.334/.466 line, 56 walks, 129 strikeouts in 455 AB. No question about the power but contact/batting average/OBP could be issues going forward.
16) Daniel Gibson, LHP, Grade C+: Strong in Midwest League (1.98 ERA, 45/14 K/BB in 36 innings) but struggled in Cal League (9.13 ERA, 22/12 K/BB, 31 hits in 23 innings). He was erratic in college too so this is a typical pattern for him.
17) Nick Ahmed, SS, Grade C+: Good year for Reno, .312/.372/.425 with 14 steals, not hitting yet in the majors at .228/.254/.316 but it’s just 57 at-bats. Defense and speed could make him a nice utility guy.
18) Evan Marshall, RHP, Grade C: Fine major league debut, 2.85 ERA with 48/15 K/BB in 41 big league innings, should remain an effective reliever going forward.
19) Charles Brewer, RHP, Grade C: 4.99 ERA with 96/34 K/BB in 126 innings for Reno, 146 hits, which isn’t that bad considering the park/league factors. He’s spent parts of three seasons there now, all very similar, could still turn into something useful as a utility pitcher due to his control.
20) Felipe Perez, RHP, Grade C: 42 innings in short-season ball, 26/10 K/BB, 50 hits, 3.67 ERA. A good arm but a long way off.
It has been a difficult year for the Diamondbacks, but there has been some good news from the farm system. Rookies Chris Owings and Evan Marshall have been solid, and right-hander Chase Anderson has been quite good through 19 big league starts. I had him as a Grade C pre-season after he had a mediocre ’13 season in Triple-A, but he’s rebounded very strongly due to sharpened command and could remain a nice inning-eater going forward. Another rookie, outfielder David Peralta, wasn’t on my prospect list at all as a 26-year-old signee from independent ball, but he’s been very impressive with a .293/.326/.461 line through 80 big league games. That was a good bit of scouting, pulling a bat like that out of the American Association.
At the minor league level, the strength of the system is on the pitching side. Bradley has had problems but retains enormous upside. Aaron Blair and Braden Shipley have justified their slots in the 2013 draft class and both could be mid-rotation starters. 2014 first-rounder Touki Toussaint may have the greatest upside of all but is the furthest away. Barrett and right-hander Jimmie Sherfy could provide bullpen reinforcement next year, and lefty Cody Reed from the 2014 draft was excellent in his pro debut.
Hitting is weaker but not empty. Lamb and Drury give a pair of very sound third base prospects. Trades brought in outfielders Zach Borenstein and Mitch Haniger; neither has star potential but both could be useful role players. Pete O’Brien, another trade acquisition, has enormous power but big holes in his approach as well. Alcantara and Midwest League shortstop Andrew Velazquez provide some middle infield depth. High school outfielders Marcus Wilson and Matt Railey from the 2014 draft are also promising but a long way from the majors. Wilson is the better athlete, Railey the better player at this stage. I like what Justin Williams has done this year. His stock is moving up and he may end up being the best of the lot in the long run.
Overall, this is not an elite farm system but it isn’t terrible. Any team would love to have the Bradley/Shipley/Blair/Toussaint quartet, and the organization has shown some ability to find talent in unusual places (Peralta, middle and late round picks like Lamb and Anderson).