08 March 2012
The Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system has made great strides in the last two years, and now includes three players ranked among the Top 25 of Baseball America's overall rankings, and four players in the Top 100. The organization is now very pitching-heavy, and had enough depth that it could afford to trade Jarrod Parker, who would have been ranked anywhere from #1-4 in the system, to Oakland for the more experienced Trevor Cahill during the winter.
I think every ranking for the Diamondbacks' top prospects has Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, and Archie Bradley as the Top 3, but there are some variations in their order. All three are fantastic prospects, and they each have different amounts of experience, risk, and skills. Bradley (age 19) has the least experience of the three, with a grand total of 2 professional innings for Rookie League Missoula last year. But he probably has the highest upside of the three, with a fastball that already reaches the high 90s and an overpowering curve ball. Skaggs, at age 20, has the most pro experience of the group, and struck out 198 batters in just 159 IP between Class A Visalia and AA Mobile. But his stuff may be just a notch below the other two, although his stats have been outstanding so far. Bauer has the deepest pitching repertoire of the group, with a fastball that usually sits in the mid 90s, and an outstanding curve ball. Plus, Bauer also throws changeups, sliders, splitters, and various combinations of all of those pitches. He has extensive major college experience at UCLA, and did make 7 starts between Visalia and Mobile after being drafted by the Diamondbacks last June. He's probaly the closest to the Majors of the Big Three. It's very hard to separate them, but my rankings right now are: 1) Bauer, 2) Bradley, and 3) Skaggs.
Here are my full rankings for the Diamondbacks' Top 25 Prospects for 2012. (Here are links to rankings from 2011 and 2010).
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP (21) - Ranked #9 Overall by Baseball America
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Bauer is certainly one of the most interesting prospects in recent history, due to his extensive pitching repertoire and his unusual conditioning and practice routines. But aside from that, Bauer was the best pitcher in college baseball in 2011, and also struck out 43 batters in just 25.2 IP between Visalia and Mobile. He also started two games for Mobile in the AA playoffs, and was the winning pitcher in the clinching championship game, striking out 7 in 5 IP while allowing only one run. He's in Major League Spring Training with the Diamondbacks, but will probably start the 2012 season in Mobile. He should be first in line if Arizona needs a starting pitcher by mid-season.
2. Archie Bradley, RHP (19) - Ranked #25 Overall by Baseball America
Bradley was the #7 pick in last June's draft, and the second high school pitcher taken after Dylan Bundy. Bradley is very polished for a high school pitcher, and already has a mid 90s fastball and an excellent curve. He was very impressive in the Fall Instructional League, with his stuff as well as his make-up, and some in the organization felt that he was already the best prospect in the system (over Bauer). He needs to work on his changeup as a third pitch, but most expect him to advance rapidly through the Minors. There is always a huge amount of risk with high school pitchers, but Bradley is about as good as a high school prospect can be. He will probably start 2012 in Class A South Bend, with 2014 penciled in for his Major League debut.
3. Tyler Skaggs, LHP (20) - Ranked #13 Overall by Baseball America
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As a nineteen year old, Skaggs was selected as the top pitching prospect in the California League, striking out 125 batters in 100.2 IP, while maintaining an outstanding 3.7 K/BB ratio. He was promoted to AA Mobile in the Southern League midseason, and was even more impressive, bumping up the strikeouts and significantly reducing his walks. He was ranked as the #2 prospect in the Southern League despite just 10 starts, behind Matt Moore of the Rays and just ahead of teammate Paul Goldschmidt. Skaggs has a low 90s fastball that he can locate well, and an excellent curve ball that is probably his best pitch. There is still some question as to whether he has "ace" stuff, but he already profiles as a very good #2-3 starter. Skaggs should start 2012 in AAA Reno.
4. Matt Davidson, 3B (21) - Ranked #97 Overall by Baseball America
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A 2009 supplemental 1st round pick for the Diamondbacks, Davidson has moved slightly ahead of fellow draftee Bobby Borchering in the organization. Both were drafted as 3B, but it looks like Davidson is the one who will stick at the position. During the first few days of Spring Training, Davidson impressed the team with his improved defense at 3B. Offensively, as a 20 year old in the California League, Davidson slugged 20 HR and 38 doubles, finished 2nd in the league in doubles and 4th in RBI. The only negative is that he did strike out 147 times, or 24.3% of his plate appearances. Davidson was called up to AA Mobile for their playoffs, and hit a Home Run in their clinching win. Davidson will start 2012 in AA Mobile as the starting 3B.
5. David Holmberg, LHP (20)
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Holmberg dominated the Midwest League, reeling off 34 consecutive scoreless innings before a promotion to Visalia. He had a tougher time in the California League, but still struck out over a batter per inning. While Holmberg's fastball is only in the low 90s, he has outstanding command and an excellent changeup. Holmberg has the potential to become a #3 starter in the Majors. He should start 2012 back in Visalia, but hopefully will reach AA by mid-season.
6. A.J. Pollock, CF (24)
After missing all of 2010 with an injury, the 2009 draft pick was aggressively promoted to AA Mobile, and held his own offensively, leading the Southern League in Hits with 169. Pollock doesn't have any outstanding tools, but does everything fairly well. He makes excellent contact, is a smart baserunner and makes good reads defensively. The two big questions for Pollock are his power, and whether he can handle CF at the Major League level. At the least, Pollock could be a solid 4th outfielder in the Majors, who can fill in at all three outfield positions. He should start 2012 in AAA Reno.
7. Bobby Borchering, LF/3B/1B (21)
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Drafted in 2009 as a 3B along with Matt Davidson, Borchering played a lot of 1B in 2011 and will be tried in LF in 2012. He probably has the most power potential in the organization, but also swings and misses too much. Like Skaggs and Davidson, he was one of the youngest players in the Cal League, so there is still time for him to develop. The Diamondbacks still think he could develop in a 30-HR player in the Majors. Borchering is expected to start 2012 in AA Mobile as a LF.
8. Patrick Corbin, LHP (22)
Corbin finished as the Southern League leader in Strikeouts with 142, and had a very good 3.6 K/BB ratio. He throws in the low 90s and has a good downward plane on his delivery. Corbin has an improving changeup and slider, and is an excellent athlete on the mound. He doesn't have the upside of some of the other Diamondback prospects, but he could develop into a solid back-of-the-rotation option. He should start 2012 in AAA Reno.
9. Wade Miley, LHP (25)
Miley was a surprise call up from AA to AAA last summer, but actually pitched much better at AAA. He later made 8 appearances (7 starts) in the Majors for the Diamondbacks, and managed a decent 4.50 ERA. The problem was, Miley walked way too many batters in the Majors (4.0 BB/9) and also gave up a lot of basehits while not striking out very many (5.6K/9). The good news was that Miley did a fine job of keeping the ball on the ground (1.54 GB/FB ratio). He's probably the team's #6 starter right now, but is in danger of being passed by Bauer, Skaggs, and Corbin.
10. Anthony Meo, RHP (22)
Meo, a supplemental 1st round pick in last June's draft, is another great arm in the Diamondbacks' system. His fastball is in the mid-90s, and he has a decent slider. Meo doesn't have a good 3rd pitch right now, which might make better suited to the bullpen, but he will begin 2012 as a starter, probably in South Bend.
11. Chris Owings, SS (20)
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Owings was the 2nd youngest regular in the California League last year, which may help explain his struggles. His 130K/15BB ratio was among the worst in all of baseball, and his 32 errors on defense were worrisome. On the other hand, Owings has excellent bat speed, above-average bat speed, and good defensive tools at shortstop. He'll be promoted to AA Mobile for 2012, but really needs to improve his plate discipline to remain a top prospect.
12. Marc Krauss, LF (24)
2011 was a disappointing season for Krauss. After hitting 25 HR for Visalia and leading the Arizona Fall League in RBI in 2010, Krauss struggled with the jump to AA. The good news for Krauss is that he maintained a good walk rate, and he did hit for power (47 XBH, 54 Singles). Like Davidson and Borchering, Krauss has the potential to be a Major League level bat, but he adds very little in terms of speed or defense. He needs to rebound offensively in 2012, and AAA Reno is always a good place for that.
13. Adam Eaton, OF (23)
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Eaton had a very impressive year in 2011, hitting well in both Visalia and Mobile. He has had an OBP over .400 at each stop in the Minors, and has also looked good on the bases. Defensively, he has an excellent arm, but may not have the speed to stick in CF. Since Eaton is only 5'-9", many have doubted his abilities, but he has become a favorite with both fans and coaches with his hustle and production. He will probably start 2012 in AA Mobile.
14. Evan Marshall, RHP (21)
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Marshall is another 2011 draftee who has moved rapidly through the Minors. He finished the year closing for AA Mobile during their playoff run, racking up 2 more Saves and 7 more strikeouts. Marshall was a starter in college and threw his fastball around 90 mph, but since moving to the bullpen has seen his velocity rise to the 91-96 mph range. He should start 2012 in AA Mobile, and should continue to rise rapidly through the system.
15. Ryan Wheeler, 3B (23)
After a disappointing 2010 season, Wheeler rebounded with a 77 point OPS improvement in 2011, keeping himself in the Diamondbacks' future plans. Wheeler finished 2011 ranked 5th in the Southern League in Hits, and 4th in the SL in RBI. There are still some questions about his ability to stay at 3B in the Majors, but he could be useful in a utility player role, playing both corners in the infield and perhaps some LF.
16. Andrew Chafin, LHP (21)
Chafin was a supplemental 1st Round pick in the 2011 draft after being drafted from Kent State. While he was throwing in the low-to-mid 90s in college, he seemed to have lost quite a bit of velocity in the Fall Instructional League, topping out in the high 80s. Chafin has already had one Tommy John surgery, so health is a big concern for him. If he's healthy, his fastball/slder combo could make him a bullpen asset fairly quickly. But the current plans seem to be for Chafin to work on developing a third pitch as a starter, perhaps in South Bend. If he's healthy, he could easily be among the team's Top 5 prospects next year.
17. Charles Brewer, RHP (23)
Brewer missed a good part of the 2011 season with a non-pitching-related wrist injury, but showed he was healthy when he returned for the Southern League playoffs and the Arizona Fall League. While Brewer does not have outstanding velocity, he does have four pitches that he can throw for strikes with good command. He is potentially a back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen arm for the Diamondbacks, perhaps as soon as late 2012. He should start 2012 with AAA Reno.
18. Keon Broxton, CF (21)
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Broxton is the best defensive outfielder in the Diamondbacks' minor league system, with excellent speed and a strong arm. His offense showed some improvement in 2011, especially after his promotion to Visalia. But he still finished the year with 172 strikeouts and only 28 extra base hits, so making solid contact is still a problem for him. Broxton is still only 21, and the organization still has high hopes for him. He will probably return to Visalia for 2012 as their starting CF.
19. Kyle Winkler, RHP (21)
Winkler was a potential 1st Round pick in last year's June draft before an elbow stress fracture injury ended his college season early at TCU. The Diamondbacks took Winkler in the 10th Round, and expect him to be ready to start his pro career this year. Before the injury, Winkler had a fastball in the 92-95 mph range with a plus curveball. At TCU, he had an 8-2 record with a 1.39 ERA, and 99K/14BB in 90.2 IP.
20. Mike DeMark, RHP (28)
DeMark is too old to be considered a prospect, but the 28-year old righthander who was plucked out of the independent Atlantic League last spring pitched so well for AA Mobile that he must be considered a bullpen option for the Diamondbacks. DeMark had a remarkable 48K/9BB ratio for Mobile, and then finished the year with a string of scoreless outings for AAA Reno, including a pair of Saves in the playoffs. He's in Major League Spring Training with the Diamondbacks, and will probably begin 2012 as the closer for AAA Reno.
21. David Nick, 2B (22)
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Nick rebounded from a disappointing 2010 season with a better showing in the more hitter-friendly California League. He compiled a .300 batting average for the year along with 35 doubles and 13 home runs, and finished 5th in the league in Runs Scored. His plate discipline could still use some improvement. Nick's defense improved in 2011, particularly at turning the double play, but he's not considered a great defender. He should be playing 2B for AA Mobile in 2012.
22. Kevin Munson, RHP (23)
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Munson struck out a lot of batters in Visalia last year, 76 in 53.2 IP, but also walked 41. He has a very good fastball/slider combo that makes him well suited for late inning relief, but the control has to get better. Munson did have a good stint in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 1.32 ERA with 16K/3BB in 13.2 IP. He should begin 2012 in AA Mobile.
23. Fidel Pena, C/2B (20)
Pena is an interesting player, who started his pro career as a second baseman, but has now shifted to catcher. He has some pop in his bat, but clearly needs to work on his plate discipline. His defense is rated quite highly for someone so new to the position. The other young catchers in the system, Raywilly Gomez and Rossmel Perez, have shown very little power at the plate, so there is an opportunity for Pena and 2011 draftee Michael Perez. Pena should see time in South Bend in 2012.
24. Wagner Mateo, 1B/OF (18)
Mateo had originally signed a $3.1M contract with the Cardinals, but failed his physical due to a vision problem. The Diamondbacks eventually signed him for $500K in 2010, and Mateo showed some promise in the Dominican Summer League that year. His 2011 season was more of a struggle, as the strikeouts went up and the offensive production went down. Even worse, he had trouble picking up the ball off the bat in CF, and ended up playing a lot of 1B. Mateo still has tremendous power potential and speed, but his vision is still a concern, and he's a very long way from the Majors.
25. Chase Anderson, RHP (24)
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In three starts for Visalia, Anderson compiled 20 strikeouts while walking only 1 batter. Unfortunately, an elbow injury knocked him out for the rest of the season. At age 24, he's a little old for the California League, and it's not clear if his 90mph fastball and excellent changeup will to be enough to get batters out at higher levels.
Others of Note: OF Socrates Brito (20), RHP J.R. Bradley (19), C Michael Perez (19), OF Ty Linton (21), RHP Tyler Green (20), 2B Jesus Abreu (20), RHP Blake Perry (20), Patrick Schuster (21), Yonata Ortega (25), 1B Yazy Arbelo (23), LHP Daniel Taylor (24).
Top 25 Summary
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP
2. Archie Bradley, RHP
3. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
4. Matt Davidson, 3B
5. David Holmberg, LHP
6. A.J. Pollock, CF
7. Bobby Borchering, LF/1B
8. Patrick Corbin, LHP
9. Wade Miley, LHP
10. Anthony Meo, RHP
11. Chris Owings, SS
12. Marc Krauss, LF
13. Adam Eaton, OF
14, Evan Marshall, RHP
15. Ryan Wheeler, 3B
16. Andrew Chafin, LHP
17. Charles Brewer, RHP
18. Keon Broxton, CF
19. Kyle Winkler, RHP
20. Mike DeMark, RHP
21. David Nick, 2B
22. Kevin Munson, RHP
23. Fidel Pena, C/2B
24. Wagner Mateo, CF/1B
25. Chase Anderson, RHP