With the 2018 Minor League Baseball season coming to a close as playoffs begin at all levels, its time to take a look at which prospects took the biggest jump in 2018, as well as who took the biggest step back.
In this new series, I’ll be taking a look at six players per system—three of whom rose the most in 2018, while the other three fell the most in 2018.
Kicking off the series is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Perhaps the biggest surprise in the D’Backs system this season was the emergence of Taylor Widener. Widener, the D’Backs third-ranked prospect, was acquired from the New York Yankees in the Brandon Drury trade back in February.
In his first season in the Diamondbacks system, Widener put up huge numbers. In 25 starts for the Double-A Jackson Generals, Widener went 5-8 with a 2.75 ERA, striking out a Southern League-leading 176 batters in 137.1 innings.
Opponents hit just .197 off of Widener, whose big fastball and improving secondary stuff make him a nice fit in the Diamondbacks rotation by late 2019. With Patrick Corbin set to hit free agency this winter, the Diamondbacks could be in need for some reinforcements, and Widener has certainly emerged as a candidate with his 2018 campaign.
Unlike Widener, Chisholm has always been one of the top prospects in a pretty subpar Arizona system. However, Chisholm still managed to increase his stock in a number of ways in 2018. Chisholm, the D’Backs second-ranked prospect, spent 2018 split between Single-A and High-A.
In 112 games between those two levels, Chisholm hit a combined-.272 with a career-high 25 home runs and 70 runs driven in. Chisholm’s power was easily his weakest tool prior to the season, however after an impressive 25 bombs from the shortstop position, the 20-year old is looking more like a five-tool player than a league-average shortstop.
Chisholm likely won't be considered for a major league trial until like 2020, but a sizable increase in power at the young age of twenty is a spectacular sign for the Diamondbacks.
At the age of 26, Jimmie Sherfy stock was in question heading into 2018. However after a huge 2018 season, the Diamondbacks might just have a serious relief ace in Sherfy. In 38 appearances in Triple-A, the righty logged a 5-1 record with a 1.60 ERA. In 45 innings, Sherfy struck out 58 and allowed just one home run, while saving 15 games.
Sherfy was recently among the Diamondbacks September call ups, and rightfully so. The hard-throwing righty found his way onto the D’Backs playoff roster last season, and all signs point to him being able to make the same kind of impact this time around.
Although this time, it looks like Jimmie Sherfy is here to stay.
The Diamondbacks first-rounder pick in last year’s draft, Pavin Smith opened up the season as one of baseball’s Top-100 prospects.
Unfortunately, after an up-and-down 2018, Smith is well off of all Top-100 lists. Smith excelled in strike zone-management, as well as gap power in college at the University of Virginia. While Smith has still been able to hold strong at the plate (57 walks to 65 strikeouts), the lefty has slugged just eleven home runs in High-A.
Additionally, Smith hit just .255 in 120 games in 2018, after hitting .342 in his junior season at Virginia. While collegiate success doesn't always translate to professional success, Smith’s colossal drop-off is a big red flag for the Diamondbacks.
After a big 2017 season, outfielder Marcus Wilson’s stock with on the rise heading into 2018. Now, after an extremely disappointing 2018, Wilson’s stock is right back where we started.
In 111 games at High-A, Wilson hit just .235 with ten home runs. While the power was never really a strength of Wilson, his plate discipline took a massive step back in 2018, with 141 strikeouts in 447 at-bats. Speed, which was previously Wilson’s best tool, didn't really improve in 2018, with 16 stolen bases.
With the emergence of 2018-draftee Alec Thomas, Wilson’s future as the Diamondbacks starting centerfielder is seriously in doubt. Following up a breakout season with a lost season is never a good sign for a prospect, but Marcus Wilson unfortunately has done just that.
The Diamondbacks top pick in the 2016 draft, Anfernee Grier continued his steady drop-off with a horrible 2018 season.
The former Auburn Tiger hit just .208 in 34 games at Advanced-A after injuries riddled his first half. Grier hit just three home runs, driving in just eight while striking out a whopping 46 times in just 125 at-bats.
Grier’s stock wasn't exactly on the come up after a disappointing 2017 season, but 2018 pretty much solidified his 2017 struggles as legitimate. It’s certainly too soon for the Diamondbacks to give up on Grier, given his high draft selection and young age (22), but if the power struggles and plate discipline woes continue, it won't be long before Grier’s opportunity with the Diamondbacks comes to a close