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Top 25 Diamondbacks Prospects for 2011 | January

The Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system had a big drop in talent from 2007-2009, as players like Justin Upton, Miguel Montero, and Mark Reynolds advanced from the minors, while prospects such as Carlos Gonzalez and Brett Anderson were traded away. The result was a minor league system that was rated in the lower third of MLB, with very few players ready to contribute at the major league level.  Things began to improve with the 2009 draft, when the Diamondbacks had seven picks in the first two rounds, and continued in 2010, as players such as Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson were traded away for minor leaguers. Unfortunately, the team's top pick in the 2010 draft, Barret Loux,  did not sign due to injury concerns, but the Diamondbacks did sign and draft a good crop of young, hard-throwing pitchers. The result is that now Arizona has a farm system that is rated in the middle of the pack for 2011, and should be moving further up in 2012 as the many high school-drafted players move up through the ranks.

Top 5 Prospects for 2011
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP (22)
2. Matthew Davidson, 3B (20)
3. Bobby Borchering, 3B (20)
4. Tyler Skaggs, LHP (19)
5. Marc Krauss, LF (23)

The rankings are led by Jarrod Parker, whose stuff is considered to be among the very best in the major leagues. Coming back from elbow surgery, he should be making his major league debut at some point in 2011. The rest of the Top 5 are a little further away - #2 Matthew Davidson and #3 Bobby Borchering are 2009 first round picks  now in Visalia of the Class A California League, who both have legitimate 30-HR potential in the Majors.  #4 Tyler Skaggs dominated batters in the Midwest League last season, and will join the talented group of prospects in Visalia. #5 Marc Krauss will be starting in AA Mobile, and is coming off an All-Star season in the California League and a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, where he led the league in RBI.  

The Diamondbacks also have several young players who should make major contributions in 2011, including 1B/LF Brandon Allen (25), RHP Sam Demel (25), and 1B Juan Miranda (28).

2011 Rankings
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP (22)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 1 

2010 Stats: None (Tear to Ulnar Collateral Ligament in Elbow)
2009: Visalia, High A: 19 IP, 1-0. 0.95 ERA, 0.842 WHIP, 21K, 4BB, 0 HR
2009: Mobile, AA: 78.1 IP, 4-5, 3.68 ERA, 1.481 WHIP, 74K, 34 BB, 2 HR 
Parker was the Diamondbacks' first round pick in 2007, drafted #9 overall. He has electric stuff, and most scouts feel he has true ace potential. Parker was touching 98-99 mph in AA Mobile in 2009, but then injured his throwing elbow in July 2009 and hasn't pitched in a game since. He was back on the mound during the fall Instructional League, but did not face live batters. In addition to the excellent fastball, Parker has a hard slider and a change-up that should be quality pitches at the Major Lague level. Expectations are that he will be completely ready for Spring Training, where he has an outside shot to make the Major League club.  Most likely, he will start the year in AA, but he should be getting his first experience in the Majors during the 2011 season.

2. Matthew Davidson, 3B (20) - Bats (R)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 6
2010: South Bend, A: 475 PA, .289/.371/.504, 16 HR, 79 RBI, 58 R, 43BB, 109K
2010: Visalia, High A: 84 PA, .169/.298/.268, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 6 R, 12BB, 25K
Davidson was the 35th player taken in the 2009 draft, and spent most of the season in the Midwest League with South Bend, before a late call-up to Visalia in the California League. Davidson will always be closely tied to fellow 2009 draftee Bobby Borchering - both were drafted out of high school as elite power hitting 3B with questionable defense. After playing together for South Bend, I think Davidson has moved slightly ahead. 

Davidson had an impressive season with the bat in 2011, showing power to all fields and steady improvement as the season progressed, going from a .770 OPS in June to .863 in July and all the way to .991 in August before his promotion to Visalia. He started the year with 21 Ks and only 1 BB, but maintained a respectable 2:1 ratio for the rest of the season. He faltered a little during his one month in Visalia, but he was one of the five youngest players in the league, and he did draw some walks and show some power. Defensively, Davidson struggled to a .919 Fielding Percentage (17 errors in 72 games), and only started 5 DPs. 16 of those errors were for South Bend; he only committed 1 in 20 games with Visalia. Most scouts think he has a better chance to stick at 3B than Borchering, but he probably will never be more than serviceable, as he has below average range and an erratic though strong arm.

Davidson was rated as the #9 prospect in the Midwest League in Baseball America's survey of scouts and managers, and was considered by many to be the second best offensive prospect in the league, behind only Angels' OF Mike Trout. He should start the 2011 season in Visalia.

3. Bobby Borchering, 3B (20) - Bats (Switch)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 3
2010: South Bend, A: .270/.341/.423, 15 HR, 74 RBI, 74 R, 54BB, 128 K
Borchering had a solid season in his first full year of professional baseball, and finished very strongly, going .305/.385/.532 in August and September. His 15 HR ranked 12th in the Midwest League, and was #3 among those under the age of 21, behind Davidson and Nick Franklin of the Mariners. He drew a fair number of walks, but also struck out 128 times. A switch hitter, Borchering hit better against LHP (.829 OPS) than RHP (.740) in 2010.

Borchering's big problem was his defense, as he committed 20 errors in 84 games (.892 FP) and only started 5 DPs. He has a strong arm, but his poor footwork at 3B may force a move to 1B soon. Overall, Borchering still looks like a switch-hittter who could hit 30 HRs in the major with a solid batting average and OBP, even if he has to move to 1B. Like Davidson, he should start the year in Visalia.

4. Tyler Skaggs, LHP (19)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - NR
2010: Cedar Rapids/South Bend, Class A: 9-5, 3.29 ERA, 98.1 IP, 102K, 25BB, 1.18 WHIP
Skaggs came over to the Diamondbacks in 2010 from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade. The Diamondbacks had always liked him, and nearly took him in the 2009 draft with the #35 pick when they selected Davidson. The Angels then drafted Skaggs at #40, one selection before the Diamondbacks picked again. 

Skaggs is a very polished pitcher for someone so young, with a fastball in the low 90s, an above-average curveball, and an improving change-up. At 6'-4", 195 lbs, Skaggs is expected to fill out and add more velocity over the years. That extra velocity will be the key in whether Skaggs can become a top-of-the-rotation starter or a mid-rotation one.  

At this point, Skaggs is ready for the challenge of the California League. He struck out 9.3K/9 IP in the Midwest, while walking only 2.3BB/9. He was voted the #10 prospect in the Midwest League for 2010, right behind Matt Davidson. Like many of the Diamondbacks' top prospects, he should start 2011 in Visalia.

5. Marc Krauss, LF (23) - Bats (L)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 8
2010: Visalia, High A: .302/.371/.509, 25 HR, 87 RBI, 107 R, 57BB, 141K
2010: Arizona Fall League: .298/.404/.524, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 20R, 15BB, 22K
Krauss just continues to hit at every level, putting up fine numbers in both the California League and the Arizona Fall League. He was a key member of the AFL Champion Scottsdale Scorpions, where he led the league in RBI, collecting 23 in 22 games. At 6'-3", 235 lbs, he's a large presence at the plate and has power to all fields. As a left-handed hitter, he had no trouble against LHP, going .329/.365/.563 against them.

Like many of the DIamondbacks' top prospects, Krauss is defensively challenged. He doesn't have much speed so his outfield range is limited, and many scouts think he should be moved to 1B (sound familiar?). There are questions about his ability to handle higher level pitching, and whether he hits enough fly balls to take advantage of his power.  But so far, Krauss has impressed at every level, and he will maintain his lofty prospect status until proven otherwise. He should start 2011 in AA Mobile.

6. Chris Owings, SS (19) - Bats (R)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 12
2010: South Bend, A: .298/.323/.447, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 39 R, 9 BB, 50K 
Owings only played in 62 games for South Bend in 2010 because of plantar fasciitis, but really impressed the scouts in that league. He was voted as the #17 prospect in the league, and many scouts thought he was a more impressive hitter than Davidson or Borchering. He has a solid line drive stroke, and is a good defensive shortstop who should be able to stick at that position.

The negatives for Owings are that he has very little base stealing ability or power.  And so far, he hasn't shown the ability to take a walk, with 12 career BBs in 382 plate appearances.  He's only 19, so he still has room to grow. It will be interesting to see how he does over a full season.

7. Wade Miley, LHP (24)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 9
2010: Visalia, High A: 4-5, 3.25 ERA, 80.1 IP, 50K, 37BB, 1.47 WHIP
2010: Mobile, AA: 5-2, 1.98 ERA, 72.2 IP, 63K, 28BB, 1.21 WHIP
Miley had an impressive 2010 season, particularly at AA Mobile.  His fastball was in the 92-94 mph range, and the heavy sink on his fastball led to a lot of ground balls and very few home runs (14 in 292.2 career IP). His strikeout rates are decent, with a career mark of 6.9K/9, but he needs to maintain that rate as he advances.  The concern for Miley at this time is the walks, as walked 4.1BB/9 in Visalia, and 3.5BB/9 in Mobile. He will probably start 2011 in Mobile or Reno, and improving his control will be crucial for his development.

8. A.J. Pollock, CF (23) - Bats (R)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 7
2010: AFL: 16 Games, .313/.389/.406, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 10R, 6 BB, 10K, 7 SB, 0 CS
Pollock is another member of the draft class of 2009, selected #17 in the first round. He missed the entire 2010 minor league season with an elbow injury, sustained on a diving catch in CF. But he came back in the Arizona Fall League, and picked up right where he had left off, getting on base, stealing bases, and playing well in CF.  He should start the 2011 season in either High A Visalia or AA Mobile.

9. Charles Brewer, RHP (23)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - NR
2010: A and High A: 11-8, 2.45 ERA, 150.2 IP, 153K, 35BB, 1.09 WHIP, 8 HR
Brewer, a 12th round pick out of UCLA, earned the Diamondbacks Minor League Pitcher of the Year honor in 2010.  He started out the year with South Bend, and then was promoted to Visalia mid-season. Even in the hitter-friendly California League, Brewer managed a 2.98 ERA and struck out 8.3K/9 while walking only 1.7BB/9.  Brewer doesn't have outstanding stuff, but has very good command and keeps the ball on the ground.

10. Patrick Corbin, LHP (21)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - NR
2010: A and High A: 13-4, 3.42 ERA, 144.2 IP, 136K, 37BB, 1.13 WHIP, 10 HR
Corbin also came to the Diamondbacks from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade, after being drafted in the 2nd Round out of Chipola Junior College. Like Tyler Skaggs, Corbin is a left-hander who throws around 90 mph with a good combination of polish and projectability. He already has a good curveball, and is develping a changeup. He uses his 6'-3" height to get downward sink on his pitches, and Visalia manager Audo Vicente says Corbin's pitches "are never straight". 

Corbin's future success also depends on increasing his velocity as he advances through the minors. Scouts say that Corbin needs to get stronger to be a big league starter; at 170 lbs, he may not be able to handle the physical demands of a starter, and may be better suited to relief pitching.

11. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (23) - Bats (R)
2010 D'Backs Venom Rank - 21
2010: Visalia: .314/.384/.606, 35 HR, 108 RBI, 102R, 57BB, 161K
Goldschmidt won California League MVP honors in 2010, leading the league in HR (35) and SLG (.606). He showed good power to all fields, and played well defensively at 1B, showing good skill at digging throws out of the dirt. Despite his success in 2010, the high strikeout rate is still a concern for Goldschmidt. His 161 Ks were second in the league, and many scouts still question his ability to succeed at higher levels.

12. David Holmberg, LHP (20) - Acquired in the Edwin Jackson trade, Holmberg has good control, but only throws in the upper 80s, despite being 6'-4", 220 lbs. Has good secondary pitches and good sink on his fastball.
13. Raul Navarro, SS (19) - Hit .305/.357/.416 in the Pioneer League; should develop into a good defensive SS, but made 26 errors in 63 games
14. Chase Anderson, RHP (23) - Started in South Bend and pitched well as a starter; moved up to Visalia and mostly pitched out of the bullpen. Struck out 83 in 70 IP while walking only 16.
15. Josh Collmenter, RHP (25) - Was excellent at Visalia and AA Mobile (8-3, 2.52 ERA), but struggled in AAA Reno (4-3, 5.77 ERA). Strikeouts per 9 IP dropped from 12.6 to 8.3 to 6.1 as he moved up.
16. Kevin Munson, RHP (22) - 4th Round pick in 2010 draft pitched well in the South Bend bullpen (2-0, 1.12 ERA, 16.1 IP); The former college closer could move up the ladder quickly if he can limit the walks.
17. Wagner Mateo, OF (18) - .257/.359/.401, 16 SB in Dominican Summer League at age 17; true five-tool talent originally signed for $3.1M with Cardinals, but deal was voided due to eye problem; signed with Diamondbacks for $512K.
18. Colin Cowgill, OF (25)
- solid .285/.360/.464 season for AA Mobile; could find spot as a 4th or 5th OF in the majors
19. Ryan Wheeler, 3B (22)
- After a 1.002 OPS in 2009, Wheeler regressed to a .745 OPS in 2010 between Visalia and Mobile. Needs to show more power to advance as a corner infielder. 
20. Michael Belfiore, LHP (22) - Moving from Missoula (2009) to South Bend (2010), saw his strikeout rate drop from 8.5/9 to 7.5/9, and his walks go up from 2.0/9 to 3.0/9.
21. Kevin Eichhorn, RHP (21) - Has struck about one batter per inning at low A ball; needs to show something against higher level competition.
22. Ty Linton, OF (20) - 2010 14th Round Pick was signed away from football and baseball scholarships at UNC. Outstanding athlete and has great tools, but is very far away from the Majors. Puts on a great BP show, but had some trouble against tough high school pitching.
23. J.R. Bradley, RHP (19) - 2nd Round pick in 2010 draft; struggled in Rookie League debut with 1-7, 5.93 ERA and 6.6K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.
24. Robbie Rowland, RHP (19) - Struggled in his pro debut, with 21 BB and only 40K in 54 IP for Mizzoula; 6'-6" right-hander still has lots of potential
25. Adam Eaton, CF (22) - College player dominated at Mizzoula in the Rookie League, hitting .385/.500/.575 with 20 SB;  was hit by pitch 19 times in 68 games.

Others of note - Bryan Shaw, RHP; Tyler Green, RHP; Blake Perry, RHP, Keon Broxton, CF; Eric Smith, RHP;  David Nick, 2B; Jeffrey Shields, RHP