This morning we reviewed the Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Pre-season prospects list. Two players who have seen their stock rise considerably are Double-A infielders Domingo Leyba and Dawel Lugo. I had them both rated as Grade C+ pre-season, 21st and 22nd on the list, but their 2016 seasons have been very impressive. Let's take a look.
First, Domingo Leyba. Here's how things looked pre-season:
Domingo Leyba, INF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bats: S Throws: R HT: 5-11 WT: 160 DOB: September 11, 1995
2014: Grade C; 2015: Grade B-
Acquired from the Tigers in the three-way Didi Gregorius trade with the Yankees, Leyba played every day in the California League at age 19 last year. This was not a success statistically, as his combination of impatience and weak power resulted in desultory performance. Scouting reports continue to emphasize his youth and technically sound swing, so it is much too soon to conclude that he won’t hit eventually. Leyba is a reliable if uninspired defender at shortstop. He doesn’t make excessive errors but his range and arm are marginal and in the long run he’ll likely end up at second base. Sometimes players with this profile really blossom and sometimes they don’t. I don’t know which way to go with Leyba so I’ll chicken out with a Grade C+.
Leyba returned to Visalia to open 2016 and hit well: .294/.346/.426 with 25 doubles, six homers, 29 walks, and 62 strikeouts in 340 at-bats, much better than the .237/.277/.309 line he posted at the same level in 2015. Promoted to Double-A Mobile in July, he's remained hot with a .330/.387/.443 slash through 26 games, with nine walks and 13 strikeouts in 97 at-bats. He remains a fairly aggressive hitter but better physical strength/maturity have helped, plus some mechanical tweaks to his swing enable him to get to his strength more frequently.
Leyba's defense is quite steady. Although his range isn't spectacular, he is more reliable than most infielders his age, making only 12 errors in 90 games this year and none at all since moving up to Mobile.
A switch-hitter who is young for his league, with pop and a reliable glove at a premium defensive position. That's a prospect, at least a Grade B- and perhaps a straight B depending on what we find out from more detailed scouting reports.
Then there is Dawel Lugo, the pre-season take:
Dawel Lugo, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-0 WT: 188 DOB: December 13, 1994
2014: Grade C+; 2015: Grade C+
Blue Jays prospect Dawel Lugo opened 2015 in the Florida State League. He was terrible there, leading to a demotion to the Midwest League in July and a trade to the Diamondbacks in August for Cliff Pennington. Lugo makes contact readily but is impatient, draws few walks, and lacks power. That’s not a good combination. He is reliable on defense in terms of avoiding errors and mental mistakes and his strong arm works well at shortstop; however his range is mediocre and may force a position switch eventually. Scouts still like the tools and he remains young but he needs to get the bat going. Grade C+.
Lugo opened 2016 in the lineup with Leyba at Visalia and he hit even better: .314/.348/.514 with 13 homers, 15 walks, and 41 strikeouts in 315 at-bats. Promoted to Mobile in July, he's kept pace with Leyba hitting .303/.321/.450 with three walks and 12 strikeouts in 102 at-bats.
Lugo is more aggressive than Leyba but is getting to his power much more often this year, thanks to maturity and some tweaks. His strengths and weaknesses as a hitter are otherwise similar. Defensively, Lugo has played mainly third base this year out of deference to Leyba at shortstop. Lugo himself is a natural shortstop but has done a very good job at third, with the range, arm, and reliability to stay there.
Comparing the two, Lugo has a bit more power projection but Leyba has a bit more polish at present despite being 10 months younger. Like Leyba, I'd give Lugo as Grade B- at a minimum with a good shot at a straight Grade B.
We'll see what the fall brings, but don't overlook either of them.