Arizona Diamondbacks Top 20 Prospects for 2018
(This list was updated February 26th, 2018)
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses.
The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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) Jon Duplantier, RHP, Grade B+: Age 23, third round pick in 2016 from Rice University; excellent 2017 season with 1.39 ERA, 165/42 K/BB in 136 innings between Low-A and High-A, only 91 hits allowed; despite statistical dominance he was handled somewhat carefully due to history of elbow and shoulder problems but could rise rapidly in ’18; fastball varies between 90 and 97 but works even at lower velocities due to contrast with strong secondary arsenal: curve, slider, change all very good; strong pitchability and mound presence; durability is the only real concern. ETA late 2018.
2) Pavin Smith, 1B, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from University of Virginia; hit .318/.401/.415 with 27 walks, 24 strikeouts in 195 at-bats in Northwest League; polished hitter with excellent strike zone judgment and contact hitting ability; looks like he should have power with 6-2, 210 build but he didn’t show much in pro ball, granted the sample is small; main question on draft day was long-term power projection and that’s still the main question; ETA late 2019.
3) Taylor Clarke, RHP, Grade B: Age 24, third round pick in 2015 from College of Charleston; 3.35 ERA with 138/52 K/BB in 145 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 123 hits; very solid all-around with low-90s fastball, good slider, improving changeup, usually throws strikes; stuff isn’t quite as good as Duplantier’s but Clarke matches him for pitchability and polish, possible number four starter, maybe more. ETA 2018.
4) Daulton Varsho, C, Grade B/B-: Age 21, son of former major leaguer Gary Varsho, compensation round pick in 2017 from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; hit .311/.368/.534 in the Northwest League; runs very well for a catcher, at least average power and has hit at every level to which he’s been exposed; re5iable and mobile defensive catcher with one handicap, a below-average arm, though he did throw out 33% in the NWL; if he hits as expected the arm issue is tolerable. ETA 2020.
5) Marcus Wilson, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, compensation round pick in 2014 from high school in California; hit .295/.383/.446 with nine homers, 15 steals, 55 walks, 90 strikeouts in 383 at-bats in Low-A; Midwest League observers praised 60-65 speed and noted improved ability to tap power; works counts well and draws walks, could be ideal leadoff guy with some power down the line; breakthrough candidate for 2018. ETA 2020.
6) Jasrado Chisholm, SS, Grade B-: Age 19, signed out of Bahamas in 2015; hit .248/.325/.358 with 10 walks, 39 strikeouts in 109 at-bats in the Midwest League until tearing knee meniscus; stats don’t stand out as this point but scouts love the tools, notably above-average raw power and a decent chance to stick at shortstop along with strong makeup; we’re very much in the “need more data” area here but the upside is quite high. ETA 2021.
7) Domingo Leyba, INF, Grade B-: Age 22, missed most of 2017 with shoulder injury; hit .276/.344/.448 in 58 at-bats in Double-A; hit .301/.374/.436 at same level in 2016; line drive hitter has shown better feel for the strike zone when healthy over last two seasons while showing more power as well; not a bad shortstop, better at second base; easy to overlook due to injury season but still quite young. ETA late 2018.
8) Andy Yerzy, C, Grade B-: Age 19, compensation round pick in 2016 from high school in Canada; hit .298/.365/.524 with 13 homers, 24 walks, 45 strikeouts in 225 at-bats in the Pioneer League; threw out 28% of runners, with high error and passed ball rates; has the tools to catch but needs a lot more polish and experience and some sources doubt he will ever be adequate as a defender; bat looks promising with left-side home run potential and decent strike zone judgment; ETA 2021.
9) Taylor Widener, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 23, 12th round pick in 2016 from University of South Carolina by the New York Yankees, traded to Arizona in three-way deal with Tampa Bay Rays; 3.39 ERA with 129/50 K/BB in 119 innings in High-A, just 87 hits; several injuries in college but held up in ’17, showing 90-96 fastball while making progress with slider and change-up; could use tighter command; was probably going to be a reliever if he stayed in New York but may have more of a chance to start for the Diamondbacks. ETA late 2019.
10) Gabriel Maciel, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 18, signed out of Brazil in 2015, hit .323/.389/.438 with 24 walks, 34 strikeouts in 217 at-bats in Pioneer League, nine steals; 65-70 speed though he needs to use it better; patient approach helps OBP and makes him a significant leadoff threat; athletic switch-hitter but 5-10, 170 frame lacks impact power; more polished as a hitter than Eduardo Diaz but younger. ETA 2021.
11) Eduardo Diaz, OF, Grade C+/B-: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela in 2015, hit .312/.357/.510 in the Pioneer League with 11 steals, 11 walks, 47 strikeouts in 247 at-bats; intriguing power/speed mixture, has some plate discipline/contact issues but young enough to improve those; range and arm work well in center field; full-season ball will test his approach. ETA 2021.
12) Matt Tabor, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 19, third round pick in 2017 from high school in Massachusetts; threw just 4.2 innings in rookie ball but struck out nine without allowing a walk; fastball anywhere between 90 and 96 and has a good change-up for a cold-weather high schooler; slider needs more polish but that’s not unusual; could end up being a bargain in the third round if he reaches his full potential. ETA 2022.
13) Drew Ellis, 3B, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2017 from University of Louisville, hit .227/.327/.403 with eight homers, 24 walks, 45 strikeouts in 181 at-bats in Northwest League; solid glove at third base; will show both power and patience but has never hit for average with wooden bats; could still be quite valuable with SLG, walks, and glove but the issue is worth watching. ETA late 2020.
14) Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 25, 10th round pick in 2013 from University of Oregon, posted 3.12 ERA with 20 saves, 61/10 K/BB in 49 innings in Triple-A, then threw 10.2 shutout innings in MLB regular season with nine whiffs and two walks; ready for full trial in MLB pen; fastball into mid-90s with plus slider. ETA 2018.
15) Jose Almonte, RHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 22, from Dominican Republic, posted 3.55 ERA with 162/66 K/BB in 139 innings in High-A, impressive for Cal League, 129 hits allowed; fastball 92-95, mixes in slider and changeup has improved, K/rate not lying about the quality of his stuff but walks will need to come down as he advances up the ladder; watch his K/BB ratio in Double-A. ETA late 2019.
16) Jared Miller, LHP, Grade C+/B-: Age 24, 11th round pick in 2014 from Vanderbilt, strong relief year in high minors with 2.93 ERA, 94/28 K/BB in 71 innings, just 49 hits; 6-7 lefty has smoothed out his delivery, fastball into mid-90s now with heavy action, good cutter/slider, stuff makes him more than just a LOOGY as long as command holds up. ETA 2018.
17) Yoan Lopez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, signed out of Cuba in 2015 for over $8 million, blowing international budget; huge disappointment at first and retired for a while in 2016 but came back and pitched brilliantly in 2017, with 56/9 K/BB and 0.88 ERA in 31 innings in High-A, only 16 hits; reports were excellent, fastball back into upper-90s with nasty slider and much improved control; really hard to rank given his history but this is the pitcher the Dbacks thought they were getting; health and makeup remain concerns but he’s pulled himself off the scrapheap. ETA 2019.
18) Cody “Alabama” Reed, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick in 2014, posted 3.17 ERA with 139/41 K/BB in 136 innings in Low-A/High-A, 123 hits; although the stats were solid scouting reports have cooled rapidly, with fastball dipping into 80s and unexciting secondary stuff; he’s still whiffing hitters at a good clip but skepticism that this will continue at higher levels has increased; if he moves up to Double-A and keeps pitching well, bump this grade up a notch. ETA late 2019.
19) Christian Walker, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Age 26, fourth round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 from South Carolina but was blocked in that system; unfortunately he’s blocked by Paul Goldschmidt here; good track record in Triple-A including .309/.382/.597 line with 32 homers in 2017; he can hit and is entering the late-20s window of peak performance for most players but where does he fit? ETA 2018.
20) Socrates Brito, OF, Grade C+: Age 25, long-time denizen of prospect lists, hit .291/.336/.449 in 292 at-bats in Triple-A; fights injuries frequently but always one of the toolsiest players on the field with speed, arm strength, and raw power; flashes skills just often enough to keep me interested. ETA 2018.
OTHER GRADE C+: Ryan Atkinson, RHP; Kevin Cron, 1B; Ben DeLuzio, OF; Jhoan Duran, RHP; Anfernee Grier, OF; Ramon Hernandez, 3B; Joey Krehbiel, RHP; Dominic Miroglio, C; Colin Poche, LHP; Jack Reinheimer, INF; Kristian Robinson, OF; Joey Rose, 3B; Brian Shaffer, RHP; Ildemaro Vargas, INF; Alex Young, LHP
OTHERS OF NOTE: Jorge Barrosa, OF; Matt Brill, RHP; Jose Caballero, 2B; Justin Donatella, RHP; Frank Duncan, RHP; Tommy Eveld, RHP; Harrison Francis, RHP; Eddie Hernandez, INF; Tramayne Holmes, OF; Wei-Chieh Huang, RHP; Mark Karaviotis, 1B; Buddy Kennedy, 3B; Mack Lemieux, LHP; Keshawn Lynch, 2B-SS; Tyler Mark, RHP; Francis Martinez, 1B; Mason McCullough, RHP; Sam McWilliams, RHP; Kevin McCanna, RHP; Eudy Ramos, 3B; Yan Sanchez, INF-OF; Bo Takahashi, RHP; Emilio Vargas, RHP; Breckin Williams, RHP
The Diamondbacks are obviously not an elite system at this point but they do have some depth in Grade C+ types. I will answer questions in the comments section.