Prospect Review – Arizona Diamondbacks
The Baseball America Prospect Handbook is one of the annual publications I add to the bookshelf each winter. BA kindly shows its top-10 prospect lists for each organization on its site along with Tools Awards, a projected lineup for three years down the road and a look back at the top prospects over the last decade (you can check out the D-Backs write-up here.)
For fantasy owners, the key to breaking down the rankings is two-fold. First, it's crucial to determine where the big league club might have an opportunity in the near future. Since most prospects don't fit the Eric Hosmer mold and simply pound down the door while forcing the organization to accommodate them, it's important to track team weaknesses to determine where the mid-level prospects might be given a chance to become regular contributors. Second, it's a process of determining which players are better "fantasy" prospects than real ones. BA's rankings are not tailored to the specifications of your league, but instead are evaluations of talent aimed to predict overall MLB success and long-term value.
From an organizational standpoint, The Diamondbacks' most pressing needs are in the back of the rotation, the corner infield spots (first base being the immediate issue) and left field.
Joe Saunders, SP – 0-5, 25:24 K:BB, 5.48 ERA and 1.625 WHIP in eight starts.
Armando Galarraga, SP – 3-3, 27:20 K:BB, 5.50 ERA, 1.566 WHIP in seven starts.
Zach Duke, SP – Broken hand, hasn't pitched in a big league game this season.
Josh Collmenter, SP – 1-0, 3:0 K:BB, 0.00 ERA and 0.333 WHIP in one start.
Collmenter is intriguing, but he relies more on deception with his over-the-top delivery than pure stuff. Maybe he'll stick as a No. 5 starter type, but it will be interesting to see how better lineups hit him after seeing him the second and third time through the order. Otherwise, this group appears to be littered with starters who won't be taking the ball for a big league club in this capacity by 2013 and 2014.
Juan Miranda, 1B – .206/.333/.365, two homers, five RBI, 11:18 BB:K in 63 at-bats.
Russell Branyan, 1B – .203/.288/.339, one homer, two RBI, 7:20 BB:K in 59 at-bats.
Xavier Nady, 1B – .268/.323/.375, one homer, 10 RBI, 5:13 BB:K in 56 at-bats.
The three-man timeshare at first base has generated a combined WAR of 0.0 – clearly change is on the horizon, and whether it's adjusting the playing time in a way that only uses one or two players instead of the entire trio – or looking to the farm system – a shake-up is on the way. Plenty of options are available internally, highlighted below.
Gerardo Parra, LF – .257/.336/.358, two homers, eight RBI, 13:23 BB:K in 109 at-bats.
Parra is actually having a nice season, but his lack of power from a corner-outfield spot doesn't bode well in the long run. Thanks to his defense, Parra ranks ninth among MLB left fielders with a 0.7 WAR, but his future could be on the bench as a fourth outfielder if the power doesn't develop.
With that, here's a breakdown of the D-Backs' top-10 prospects entering the season and how they've fared to this point. Other players of intrigue are included below.
1. Jarrod Parker, SP – Parker, 22, returned to Double-A Mobile to begin this season after missing all of 2010 following Tommy John surgery. His high-90s velocity was back last fall, but control is the biggest obstacle in his way as he's issued 20 walks in 33 innings over his first six starts. A callup during the second half of 2011 remains possible – even if it has to wait until September – but for those in keeper leagues, there is still a potential frontline starter here as he was pitching well at this level as a 20-year-old before going under the knife. Parker has been getting better results recently, giving up just eight earned runs over his last five starts (2.77 ERA, 26 innings) despite the free passes.
2. Tyler Skaggs, SP – At 19, Skaggs has been cruising at High-A Visalia with a 59:21 K:BB in 45 innings. He leads the California League in strikeouts, and his control has steadily improved over the course of his seven starts. A 2012 debut isn't out of the question, and the timetable should become clearer after his first exposure to Double-A later this season. In the big picture, Skaggs will be a big part of the D-Backs rotation behind current members Ian Kennedy and Dan Hudson along with top prospect Jarrod Parker.
3. Matt Davidson, 1B/3B – After posting a .656 OPS in April, Davidson is heating up at Visalia with a .345/.394/.586 line along with four homers and 17 RBI in 14 May games with the Rawhide. Remember, the California League is very hitter friendly (hence the doubts about Paul Goldschmidt entering 2011), but Davidson is only 20 and still has plenty of time to improve his plate discipline (11:40 BB:K) to solidify his status as one of the organization's best prospects. Projecting him today, Davidson is probably two full years away from getting the call to Arizona so a June 2013 ETA seems likely. If his development happens as expected, Davidson will become a middle-of-the-order thumper with plenty of pop.
4. Chris Owings, SS – It's another case where the production isn't as important as the age for the level. As a 19-year-old at High-A, Owings is one of the youngest players in the California League, so to say that he's raw is an understatement. Long term, he might be a better MLB prospect than a fantasy one, but Owings is contributing in the power (four homers) and speed (four steals) departments despite poor plate discipline (7:36 BB:K). Long term, Owings may be the replacement at second base for Kelly Johnson rather than at shortstop for Stephen Drew, while the rotisserie comp here appears to be something along the lines of Mark Ellis in his prime with a .265-.270 average and 12-15 homers and a similar number of steals in most campaigns with a season or two that slightly exceeds those marks.
5. Marc Krauss, OF – Defensively, improvement needs to take place before Krauss can be considered a viable MLB prospect. Further, left field is the only outfield spot that could open in the reasonably near future for him, so Krauss may end up getting stuck at Triple-A before eventually transitioning into a backup outfield/pinch-hitter role. The power he displayed at High-A (.509 slugging) hasn't carried over to Double-A Mobile (.412 SLG) yet so he'd likely slide a few spots if this list were re-written today.
6. A.J. Pollock, OF – A first-round selection for the D-Backs in 2009, Pollock is at Double-A as a 23-year-old with a .289/.333/.409 line, one homer and 21 RBI in 14 at-bats. The interest you'll have in him will be his speed, as he's 8-for-11 on stolen-base attempts, and his improving walk rate is a good sign for the D-Backs' hopes that he may eventually be their leadoff hitter. Chris Young is average defensively in center field, and by the time Pollock is ready for the big leagues (mid-2012 or early 2013), he could move to the corner as part of an improved Arizona defense. The timetable could be accelerated if Young were to be traded or suffer an injury later this season.
7. Bobby Borchering, 1B/3B – Like teammate Matt Davidson, Borchering is also 20 and considered a big part of the team's future plans. A switch-hitter, Borchering also has his share of defensive issues, which is a big part of the organization's decision to have the two players split time between first and third base this season. Plate discipline is also a concern early on as he's carrying a 10:53 BB:K mark around a .269/.323/.414 line with Visalia. The raw power is projectable from both sides of the plate, but he'll need to make adjustments as he advances to avoid being a liability in the average and on-base percentage departments.
8. Wade Miley, SP – A 24-year-old left-hander, Miley projects as more of a back-end starter with a modest strikeout rate as he hasn't missed many bats since making the leap to Double-A last season. Miley has also been hittable at most of his stops, relying on his groundball rate and ability to limit homers to maintain his effectiveness. This season, he's been limited to five starts because of a shoulder injury suffered in his second outing. The lack of quality depth in the back of the Arizona rotation could make him an option as early as 2012, but he's not the type worth stashing in keeper formats.
9. Patrick Corbin, SP – Following a career-high 10 strikeouts in his last start against Double-A Carolina on May 14, Corbin has improved his season K:BB mark to 33:10 while holding his own as a 21-year-old in the Southern League. While Tyler Skaggs was the centerpiece of the Dan Haren deal, Corbin is a good prospect in his own right with much more projectability than Miley given his ability to miss bats and get outs on the ground (1.36 GO/AO). He'll likely spend the season at Double-A before a promotion to Reno in 2012 with an eye toward his big-league debut mid-summer.
10. Keon Broxton, OF – Toolsy and unpolished, Broxton has the raw ability to rapidly ascend the ranks of the D-Backs organization, but the bust potential is understandably high as well. Interestingly enough, a promotion to High-A Visalia (due to an injury to Adam Eaton) has led to better walk and contact rates through his first 15 games there, but Broxton isn't showing much power yet (just one homer in 136 at-bats between Low- and High-A), and his full-season debut with Low-A South Bend in 2010 wasn't particularly impressive either (.228/.316/.360, 21-for-34 on stolen-base chances). The D-Backs could give him until 2014 before a big-league debut, and Broxton would still be just 24 years old at that time.
Others to Consider
11. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B – The knock on Goldschmidt was that his 2010 numbers were inflated by California League parks, but he's dispelled that notion beyond all reasonable projections through the first six weeks of play at Double-A Mobile. He homered again over the weekend and has now gone deep 14 times in his first 125 at-bats, generating a .336/.468/.720 line for the BayBears and perhaps providing clarity for the organization as they look to ditch the three-headed monster of Juan Branyanady manning first base in Arizona. If this torrid pace continues, Goldschmidt could get half a season at Triple-A to continue his development. Arguably, he's a top-five prospect in the organization now with the added upside of playing a position in need for the big-league club – and he appears to be the most advanced hitting prospect in the system, which makes him more desirable than Matt Davidson and Chris Owings for keeper leaguers.
18. Collin Cowgill, OF – Given his age and track record of success in the upper levels of the minors since his promotion to Double-A Mobile last season, Cowgill should be on the brink of getting his first taste of the big leagues. He's maintained the improved contact rate he showed last season, striking out in just 16 percent of his at-bats while walking at a career-high 13-percent clip. The PCL can inflate power numbers, so the .527 slugging percentage (six homers) is likely aided by park factors, but there's a nice skill set here, and his ability to handle all three outfield spots defensively should help his bid to secure a fourth outfielder job when the D-Backs deem him ready.
22. David Holmberg, SP – When the D-Backs flipped Edwin Jackson to the White Sox for Dan Hudson last season, Holmberg was also included in their return. He's off to a nice start at Low-A South Bend, carrying a 41:11 K:BB in 38 innings and allowing just two homers. The 19-year-old left-hander may not maintain that strikeout rate at higher levels barring an increase in his velocity, but he could emerge to become a slightly more interesting version of Wade Miley as he advances.
26. Chase Anderson, SP – The "Best Control" award seems to be right on point with Anderson. He's carrying a 20:1 K:BB over three starts at High-A Visalia over three starts, but has been placed on the DL twice already this season. Considering that he was a reliever in college, Anderson (at age 23) faces an uphill battle to make his mark as a starter as he progresses through the Arizona system, but he could move up this list before next season if his absence isn't the result of an injury.
N/R. Wily Mo Pena, OF – Certainly Pena isn't a prospect as this stage of his career as a 29-year-old, but he's showing better plate discipline at Triple-A than he has throughout most of his career, and a .387/.446/.798 line is impressive even in the most hitter-friendly circumstances. He'll almost certainly get a look from the D-Backs at some point, and the raw power potential he possesses with the combination of Chase Field for a home park makes him an intriguing NL-only bid.
N/R. Brandon Allen, 1B/OF – Lost in all of the D-Backs' shuffling at first base, Allen may no longer be a part of the organization's plans. Still, he's only 25 and has been hitting again at Triple-A with a .314/.412/.518 line with five homers, 30 RBI and 36 runs scored with the Aces this season. Most of his playing time this season has come at first base, but Allen started to play left field last season to improve his versatility.
N/R. Yazy Arbelo, 1B – As a 23-year-old in Low-A, there's no need to overreact here, but Arbelo is off to a nice start – .266/.377/.578, 10 homers, 30 RBI – at South Bend.
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