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January 7, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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State of the Farm: I say ‘High", you say "Low’. You say ‘Why?’ And I say ‘I don't know’”.

Prospect rankings primer

The Top Ten

  1. LHP Tyler Skaggs
  2. RHP Archie Bradley
  3. SS Chris Owings
  4. 3B Matt Davidson
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. C Stryker Trahan
  7. LHP Andrew Chafin
  8. OF Adam Eaton
  9. C Michael Perez
  10. OF A.J. Pollock

1. Tyler Skaggs
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/13/1991
Height/Weight: 6’3’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2009 draft (Angels), Santa Monica High School (Santa Monica, CA)
2012 Stats: 5.83 ERA (29.1 IP, 30 H, 21 K, 13 BB) at major-league level
The Tools: 5+ FB; 6+ CB; 5 CH

What Happened in 2012: An impressive run through the upper minors left Skaggs standing on a major league mound at the end of the season, where the 21-year-old held his own on the biggest stage.

Strengths: Underrated pitchability; clean delivery; maintains a good line to the plate; good strike-throwing ability; fastball is crisp in the 89-92 range; can get more and attack north/south; excellent up and down curveball; major-league bat-missing pitch; changeup plays at 5; can flash more, with good arm-side fade; mature approach.

Weaknesses: Fastball is table setter, not big plus offering; command needs to be sharper; can live too loose in the zone; can push changeup and lose deception.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; arsenal can play at major-league level; ready for rotation spot.

Fantasy Future: Has strikeout potential because of sharp 12-to-6 curveball; walks fine line with hard contact and lack of dominant fastball; body to log innings; prototypical mid-rotation arm if everything clicks.

The Year Ahead: Skaggs will look to take another developmental step forward, earning a rotation spot out of camp and living up to the hype. If he can locate the fastball early, working low in the zone, he can set up hitters for the big bender, which should allow the southpaw to miss bats at the highest level. If the changeup can join the curveball as a steady plus offering, the sky is the limit for the young arm.

Major league ETA: 2012

2. Archie Bradley
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/10/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4’’ 225 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011, Broken Arrow High School (Broken Arrow, OK)
2012 Stats: 3.84 ERA (136.0 IP, 87 H, 152 K, 84 BB) at Low-A South Bend
The Tools: 7+ FB; 7 potential CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2012: Making his full-season debut, the Oklahoma native was his biggest enemy on the mound, missing plenty of barrels, but struggling to find the strike-zone for most of the year.

Strengths: Big size and impressive strength; athletic; throws on a steep plane to the plate; difficult to square; fastball is very large pitch; will work in 92-97 range; can touch elite velocity; heavy action; hard curveball is second plus-plus pitch; two-plane breaker with slider velo; throws CB with confidence; raw stuff is top of the chart.

Weaknesses: Still a thrower; arm action can get long; doesn’t finish; fastball command is below average; changeup is fringe offering; deliberate.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter on championship-level team

Explanation of Risk: High risk; command needs big jumps; changeup is fringe.

Fantasy Future: Monster potential, with big strikeout ability; body to log heavy workload; could be big win/big K arm.

The Year Ahead: Bradley’s raw stuff is too good for the lower minors, and it allows him to avoid exploitation when he works up in the zone. With two plus-plus offerings, its unlikely that High-A hitters will have the swings to compete with his power stuff, so Double-A will be his first big competitive test. His command needs to take big steps forward, as does his changeup, but the FB/CB is so legit that he should be able to miss barrels at any level. If he improves the pitchability without sacrificing the raw stuff, he could emerge as one of the top arms in the minors and make the somewhat conservative no. 2 starter projection look foolish.

Major league ETA: 2014

3. Chris Owings
Position: SS
DOB: 08/12/1991
Height/Weight: 5’10’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2009, Gilbert High School (Gilbert, SC)
2012 Stats: .324/.362/.544 at High-A Visalia (59 games); .263/.291/.377 at Double-A Mobile (69 games)
The Tools: 6 arm; 5+ glove; 5+ hit tool

What Happened in 2012: As expected, Owings returned to the California League, where the toolsy shortstop raked, but was often overwhelmed at the plate after a promotion to Double-A.

Strengths: High-end baseball instincts; can stick at shortstop; arm is plus; actions are solid; smooth around bag/good on turn; shows plus bat speed at the plate; fast hands; not empty contact; can sting the ball; could be two hole bat.

Weaknesses: Aggressive approach at the plate; red flag approach; struggles against off-speed stuff; lots of swing-and-miss; doesn’t work counts; lacks loud tools on either side of the ball.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid average regular

Explanation of Risk: High risk; struggled in first taste of Double-A baseball; approach is immature.

Fantasy Future: Gamer type with some pop in the bat at a premium defensive spot. Might be able to hit .270 with good gap power, but approach might limit on-base ability.

The Year Ahead: Owings is a polarizing prospect, with some in the industry calling him a future first-division player, with the chops to stick at shortstop and a two hole offensive profile, while others are concerned that the approach will doom his offensive potential, and his likely future will be as a utility infielder. Owings needs to put himself in more favorable hitting situations by staying true to his pitches and not chasing out of the zone. With a good glove, strong arm, and good bat speed at the plate, Owings looks like a future major leaguer, but that future is tied to the refinement of approach, and if his pitch recognition skills are the main villain, the odds aren’t in his favor.

Major league ETA: 2014

4. Matt Davidson
Position: 3B
DOB: 03/26/1991
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 225 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2009 draft, Yucaipa High School (Yucapia, CA)
2012 Stats: .261/.367/.469 at Double-A (135 games)
The Tools: 6 raw; 6 arm

What Happened in 2012: Slow and steady goes Davidson, as the 21-year-old moved up to the Double-A level and showed off his plus raw power at the plate and improved actions in the field.

Strengths: Mature approach at the plate; makes a pitcher work; hard out; generates good leverage in swing and can drive the ball; easy plus raw; power plays in games; arm is strong; hands and footwork showed improvement at third.

Weaknesses: Hit tool projects as average and plays lower; can be exploited by quality stuff (velo above the waist; breaking balls from RHP); shows good power but most likely a down-the-lineup hitter.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; played well at Double-A level; has a plan at the plate; good present skills.

Fantasy Future: Unlikely to be a middle-of-the-force, Davidson could hit .260-plus with good OBP skills, and 20 HR at the major-league level while handling the defensive demands of the hot corner.

The Year Ahead: Often discounted because he doesn’t project to be a monster, Davidson has major-league quality skills, and is nearing the major-league level. While the bat isn’t special, the power could play above average, and his approach should keep him in good hitting situations as he climbs. Even if he only develops into a second-division starter, his pop and ability to stick at third should provide plenty of value at a friendly price.

Major league ETA: 2013

5. Didi Gregorius Position: SS
DOB: 02/18/1990
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent (Reds), 2007, Curacao
2012 Stats: .300/.300/.300 at major league level (8 games)
The Tools: 7 arm; 6 glove; 6 run

What Happened in 2012: From the Southern League, to the International League, to the majors, to the Diamondbacks in exchange for top prospect Trevor Bauer, the 22-year-old Gregorius was a man on the move in 2012.

Strengths: Very strong arm; plus range at shortstop; solid-average actions; 6 overall profile at the position; plus run; shows some contact ability at the plate; hit tool could play in average range.

Weaknesses: Bat lacks impact potential; good bat control, but swing can be empty/lacks punch; well below-average power; struggles against plus stuff; plus defender, but not among wizards at the position.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; ready for major leagues.

Fantasy Future: Has plus run, but not a huge stolen base type; makes contact, but unlikely to hit for any power; batting average could be empty.

The Year Ahead: Gregorius is a good player with great expectations placed upon him, and if the bat gets off to a slow start, the pressure will only increase. With above-average skills at a premium position, Gregorius will have value, but the bat has question marks and could end up playing as an empty tool, which could make the return for Trevor Bauer an underwhelming player at the highest level.

Major league ETA: 2012

6. Stryker Trahan Position: C
DOB: 04/25/1994
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 215 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2012 draft, Acadiana High School (Lafayette, LA)
2012 Stats: .281/.422/.473 at complex level AZL (49 games)
The Tools: 6+ arm, 7 raw; 6 run

What Happened in 2012: The 26th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Trahan wasted little time proving his promise, with a 49-game clip at the complex level that showcased his impressive offensive tools.

Strengths: Big, strong, physical athlete; rare plus run from a catcher; impressive second-gear; great hands at the plate; plus bat speed; plus-plus raw pop; advanced approach; easy plus arm behind the plate; defensive options; big makeup

Weaknesses: Raw behind the plate; below-average receiver at present; poor footwork; quality of bat and defensive limitations could push him off position; swing has some length; has yet to face high-end stuff; big unknowns.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: High risk; small professional sample; demanding position.

Fantasy Future: Unlikely to stick behind the plate, but plus athlete with plus arm, so numerous defensive options; bat could be middle-of-the-order legit, with some contact ability and excellent secondary skills (on-base, power, speed).

The Year Ahead: Trahan has the approach at the plate and present pop to jump to full-season ball and stay above water, but if the plan is to develop him behind the plate, the timetable could be slower than expected. He’s a well below-average receiver at present, with the tools and makeup to improve if given the opportunity. The bat is going to play, and with plus speed and good baseball skills, Trahan could move to several positions on the diamond and maintain his first-division projection. If the bat proves to be legit and he takes a step forward behind the plate, this could be a monster prospect.

Major league ETA: 2016

7. Andrew Chafin Position: LHP
DOB: 06/17/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2’’ 205 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Kent State University (Kent, OH)
2012 Stats: 4.93 ERA (122.1 IP, 112 H, 150 K, 69 BB) at High-A Visalia
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6+ SL

What Happened in 2012: With only one complex league inning under his belt, Chafin jumped all the way to High-A, where the southpaw missed a ton of bats, but struggled with his command.

Strengths: Big arm strength; very fast arm; sharp fastball works easy plus range and touches higher; shows well above-average sink; slider is money pitch; two-plane monster with intense depth; multiple sources called it a 7 pitch.

Weaknesses: Mechanics aren’t easy; max effort with some violence; struggles to work quality changeup without slowing down arm; command is well below average; unlikely to find pitchability to start.

Overall Future Potential: 6; frontline late-inning reliever

Explanation of Risk: High risk; injury history; hard mechanics and approach.

Fantasy Future: Has a high-end bat missing offering and the mentality to close games.

The Year Ahead: While it makes sense to develop Chafin as a starter, his ultimate role will most likely be in the bullpen, where his fastball will play up in bursts and his slider will continue to be his execution pitch. His command needs refinement, as does the rest of his secondary arsenal, but his floor is relatively high thanks to the power of that slider, which one source called the best secondary pitch in the entire org, which is saying something with guys like Skaggs and Bradley on the list.

Major league ETA: 2014

8. Adam Eaton
Position: OF
DOB: 12/06/1988
Height/Weight: 5’8’’ 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 19th round, 2010 draft, Miami University of Ohio (Oxford, OH)
2012 Stats: .259/.382/.412 at major-league level (22 games)
The Tools: 6+ arm; 6 run; 5+ hit

What Happened in 2012: Eaton crushed in Triple-A before getting the call to the majors, where the diminutive outfielder continued to prove the doubter wrong, reaching base at a 38 percent clip in brief 22-game sample.

Strengths: Louder tools than people realize; arm is very strong; good utility; very good athlete with plus run; knows how to handle the bat; works himself into favorable hitting conditions; quick to the ball with contact ability; shows aptitude for all three outfield spots; quality glove; quality range; nothing fancy, but makes plays.

Weaknesses: Well below-average power; hit tool unlikely to play as plus at highest level; limited size and strength; needs to stay in center to have value as starter.

Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; mature tools; already played at major-league level.

Fantasy Future: He can get on base, he can swipe some bags, and has enough sting in the stick to keep pitchers honest; pretty solid profile in center field that quickly loses value in a corner.

The Year Ahead: With contact ability, a good approach, and plus speed, Eaton has some offensive upside. He isn’t going to hit for power, and with a hit tool that looked better against minor-league pitching than it will against major-league pitching, he might only hit in the .270 range, but the defensive versatility and secondary skills are his ticket to a long major-league career. The majority of sources on Eaton felt he could start in center field and produce enough at the plate to justify the spot. If the bat doesn’t play up to the projection, the profile shifts to a fourth-outfielder type, but one that will offer good value given Eaton’s baseball skills and overall approach to the game.

Major league ETA: 2012

9. Michael Perez Position: C
DOB: 08/07/1992
Height/Weight: 5’11’’ 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, Colegio Vocacional Para Adultos (San
Juan, PR)
2012 Stats: .293/.358/.542 at rookie level Missoula (58 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit; 6 raw; 5+ arm

What Happened in 2012: Perez played in only seven games after signing in 2011, but showed off his talents in the Pioneer League in 2012, producing more game power than people were expecting at this stage of the developmental process.

Strengths: Easy swing; very smooth and strong; already showing good power characteristics in swing; can lift the ball; both hit tool and power have 5 (or higher) projections; arm is strong and plays well behind the plate.

Weaknesses: Raw behind the plate; immature footwork/raw tool utility; swing doesn’t stay in the zone long; shows exaggerated plane; aggressive approach and big swing open him up to big miss.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Explanation of Risk: Extreme risk; very raw behind the plate (new to position); long developmental journey to maturity.

Fantasy Future: Has legit power potential at a premium defensive spot.

The Year Ahead: Perez is likely to move to the full-season level, where his long, leveraged swing and fastball-aggressive approach could lead to high strikeout totals and a low average. Behind the plate he needs a lot of work, but with improved footwork and agility and improved physical strength, he has a chance to develop at the position, making his offensive potential all the more exciting.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. A.J. Pollock
Position: OF
DOB: 12/05/1987
Height/Weight: 6’1’’ 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2009 draft, University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN)
2012 Stats: .247/.315/.395 at major-league level (31 games)
The Tools: 5 hit; 5 run; 5 glove; 5 arm

What Happened in 2012: The proletariat prospect got an early taste of major-league life after an April call-up, where he struggled mightily against arm-side pitching.

Strengths: Balanced approach; quick to the ball; makes contact; good all-around athlete; plays with purpose; 5 run; 5 overall defensive profile; good versatility; arm is average; good baseball instincts.

Weaknesses: Lacks a plus tool; below-average power; overmatched against quality arm-side stuff; lacks ideal defensive skill-set for center fielder; tweener profile.

Overall Future Potential: 5; second division starter

Explanation of Risk: Low risk; mature tools; instincts for the game; big work ethic; already played at major-league level.

Fantasy Future: Has some on-base ability and a swing for contact, but unlikely to hit for power; good baserunner, but not a big stolen base threat.

The Year Ahead: Pollock has a chance to find a home in a starting lineup, but he’s a better fit on the bench, where his defensive versatility and secondary skills will have some value. He can hit a baseball, but he’s not a power threat; but he does make a pitcher beat him, so he won’t be a free out in the lineup. It’s not a sexy profile, but never discount a player with instincts and average tools. They often find a way to make them work in game action. 

Major league ETA: 2012

Prospects on the Rise:
1.     RHP Ben Eckels: The Diamondbacks went over slot to sign the undersized right-hander in the 11th round, and he didn’t disappoint in his first professional stop. With a fastball that can already work in the low-90s and spike higher, the 18-year-old has the stuff to miss bats and jump up prospect lists in 2013.

2.     SS Jose Munoz: A second-round pick in 2012, Munoz has a promising offensive profile, and a chance to stick around on the left side of the infield With impressive size and a pretty swing, Munoz has the tools to take a major step forward next season.

3.     RHP Jake Barrett: Relievers don’t make the best prospects, but pitches with high-end arm strength are always worth watching, and Barrett fits the bill. With a fastball that can work in the plus-plus range and a hard slider that misses bats, Barrett has the arsenal and approach to move up the professional ladder and emerge as a top 10 prospect next season.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013)
1.LHP David Holmberg: A big, strong lefty with a deep arsenal, Holmberg is a likely candidate to reach the majors in 2013. His fastball isn’t a monster, but he can locate it and use his impressive changeup to force weak contact and keep hitters off balance.

2.OF Alfredo Marte: While not a household name. Alfredo Marte took a very big step forward in 2012, and positioned himself for a possible major league taste in 2013. He swings a good stick and shows above-average raw power, and despite a limited defensive profile, has the athleticism and the arm to handle a corner spot.

3.RHP Anthony Meo: Currently being developed as a starter, Meo profiles better as max-effort reliever, a spot where he can pump his potent fastball/slider combo and miss a high number of bats. After an impressive High-A campaign that featured less-than-impressive command, Meo could move fast out of the bullpen, where his stuff profiles as a very good setup man at the highest level.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)

  1. Justin Upton
  2. Tyler Skaggs
  3. Archie Bradley
  4. Trevor Cahill
  5. Paul Goldschmidt
  6. Chris Owings
  7. Pat Corbin
  8. Matt Davidson
  9. Didi Gregorius
  10. Styker Trahan

For all the talk of trading Justin Upton and of him not reaching his immense potential, he is still the best player age 25 and under in the Diamondbacks organization; and frankly, it’s not even close. We may have expected Upton to become an absolute superstar the second he arrived in the big leagues, and when those expectations aren’t met, disappointment ensues. The superstar tag may not stick, but we are still talking about a player with a 117 OPS+. He still has the ability to improve as he enters his physical prime. Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley are prospects that exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. Skaggs represents the big-league ready lefty with no. 2 upside. Bradley is the potential no. 1 with ridiculous stuff that is incredibly raw and several years from the big leagues. Both players have impact potential and that slots them ahead of a mid-rotation innings eater like Trevor Cahill who has already realized his ceiling. Paul Goldschmidt has proven me wrong more than once. I doubted his ability to become a big-league masher and he’s done just that. He is a classic middle-of-the-order slugger who should anchor the Diamondbacks lineup for an extended stretch. He ranks behind Cahill only because of the significant value of a no. 3 starter. I have remained a considerable fan of Pat Corbin even while he was passed by prospects like Skaggs, Bradley and previously, Trevor Bauer. There’s nothing flashy about Corbin’s overall prospect package, but when you look like a no. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues, that means you have considerable value. Corbin has huge value to a big-league team, and if not for Chris Owings’ profile at a premium defensive position, he would rank a notch higher.

The Diamondbacks have a quality roster with additional young talent on the way. They have young pitching that should make an impact in 2013 and they have more than one option at shortstop over the next two years with Owings and Didi Gregorius. While the Dodgers spend gobs of money and the Giants just keep putting winning teams on the field, the Diamondbacks have enough talent at the big-league level and in the pipeline to remain competitive in the NL West. –Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought…..The top of the minor league tree is bright with impact, but the quality of talent quickly loses its shine, as the depth of the system is more high floor than high ceiling.

Last year's Diamondbacks rankings

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

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