The Arizona Diamondbacks are trending in the right direction. A new front office and the National League Manager of the Year had this team back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
While the farm system took some hits under the old regime, there are quite a few pieces left that could provide help down the road. Here are three under the radar names to know.
Anfernee Grier, OF
Grier was selected out of Auburn with the 39th overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. He made his debut last season in the Northwest League, but a shoulder injury limited what he was capable of doing.
The biggest takeaway from our own John Sickels assessment is that Grier is a high risk, high reward prospect. He has all of the tools, with speed being his biggest asset. Many thought the shoulder hindered what appeared to be plentiful raw power, but a four home run campaign in 2017 leads to question marks.
Grier does have some swing-and-miss issues, but he does draw walks (10.6 percent of his plate appearances in 2017) which is helps a player with his speed profile. He hits a ton of ground balls (49.3 percent batted ball rate in 2017) and the lack of loft may be from adjustments he needs in his swing mechanics.
Overall, Grier seems to be a toolsy player who could stick in centerfield thanks to that speed. If he doesn’t develop the power he may be destined for a fourth outfielder role. He’s now 22 coming off his first full season of ball. It wouldn’t be a reach to see him jump two or three levels this season and wind up in Double-A for the bulk of the year.
Jared Miller, LHP
Miller was from the Vanderbilt 2014 National Championship squad. If there is one thing we know about Vandy of late, it’s that they can definitely pump out big league talent.
The huge lefty (he stands at 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds) was a starter with the Commodores. He struggled in his first year as a starter in the pros, but since converting to the bullpen he has been brilliant. That’s primarily because he has a fastball-slider combo that is top notch and never really developed average stuff outside of that.
Miller’s fastball is a mid-90s offering with sinking bite. That not only led to a ton of strikeouts, but a 50 percent ground ball rate in the slugger-friendly Pacific Coast League. His slider has cutter action and has become a strikeout pitch.
The reliever was at his best on two of the bigger stages. He dominated the AFL, not allowing a run and striking out 30 in his 18.1 innings pitched. While he was average in the Southern League to start in 2017, he dominated the power-happy PCL, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.83 WHIP and striking out 43 and walking ten in 31.1 innings.
Miller has the makings of a solid bullpen piece that can serve as a late inning guy and even close in a pinch.
Andy Yerzy, C
Talk about a complete about face. Here’s what John said about Yerzy in the 2017 preseason rankings:
Age 18, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Canada; hit .216/.240/.265 in 162 at-bats in rookie ball, which is terrible; ranks this highly in a thin farm system entirely due to physical potential; lefty hitter with 60-grade power and a good birthday; otherwise quite raw as a hitter and fielder; high-upside bat with a very large risk premium.
Yerzy repeated Rookie ball as a 19-year-old and was infinitely better. He hit .298 with 12 doubles and 13 home runs in 54 games, so the power potential is certainly there. He maintained just about a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate. Surprisingly, despite the increase of power, he still hit over 56 percent of his batted balls on the ground. Imagine what he could do putting the ball in the air more?
He’s still developing behind the plate as his 13 passed balls clearly suggests. Yerzy threw out 14 of 48 (29 percent) of attempted base stealers. He’s a project for sure, and the D-backs have no reason to rush him. His development in full-season ball this year will show if he is simply a power bat behind the plate or a future all-around catcher.