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November 3, 2008

Future Shock

Diamondbacks Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Daniel Schlereth, LHP
Three-Star Prospects
3. Gerardo Parra, OF
4. Wade Miley, RHP
5. Cesar Valdez, RHP
6. Kevin Eichhorn, RHP
7. Evan Frey, OF
Two-Star Prospects
8. Tony Barnette, RHP
9. Collin Cowgill, OF
10. Brian Shaw, RHP
11. Barry Enright, RHP

Just Missed: Jamie D'Antona, 1B/3B; Reynaldo Navarro, SS; Josh Whitesell, 1B

Ranking Challenges: Parker is an easy number one here, and Schlereth, a left-hander with true closer potential, is the obvious number two. The system drops off quickly and dramatically from there, and the fact that there are easily ten players who one could make a decent argument for in slots eight through eleven says more about the system's overall weakness than any kind of depth. For example, the 11th player on this list changed six times in the past five days.

1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
DOB: 11/24/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Norwell HS (IN)
2008 Stats: 3.44 ERA at Low-A (117.2-113-33-117), 7.74 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: Last year's first-round pick got off to a slow start under a limited workload but improved as the season wore on, striking out 39 over 33 innings with a 1.91 ERA in his last six starts.
The Good: Parker shows everything it takes to be an upper-echelon starter, beginning with a plus fastball that sits at 91-95 mph and has touched 97. He throws both a slider and a curveball, and while he throws the slider more often, many scouts think that the curve has more potential as a swing-and-miss offering. His changeup has advanced to a usable average pitch that he's comfortable throwing to left-handed hitters. His athletic delivery is smooth and repeatable, helping him with his command and control, which are both outstanding for a teenager.
The Bad: While Parker has everything it takes to be a star, he rarely flashes all aspects of that potential in the same outing. His velocity fluctuated from plus to plus-plus for much of the season, and he had a tendency to get around on his breaking pitches at times. He needs to work on the non-pitching parts of his game; he has trouble fielding balls (especially bunts), and his slow delivery makes him easy to run on.
Fun Fact: In Parker's final start of the year, he went five one-hit innings with seven strikeouts at Fort Wayne, just a few miles from his hometown of Ossian, Indiana.
Perfect World Projection: A number two starter with All-Star possibilities.
Glass Half Empty: Parker didn't throw as hard as he did in high school, he's a little on the smallish side, and while the arm is good, it's not crazy good-more of a mid-rotation type as opposed to a stud.
Path To The Big Leagues: As a young starter with impact potential, there are no roadblocks for a prospect like Parker.
Timetable: Arizona was excited about the progress Parker made both during the regular season and in the instructional leagues. There is some thought within the organization that he's ready for Double-A, but he'll likely begin the year at High-A Visalia. If things start to click, he could be ready for a big-league look by the end of 2010.

2. Daniel Schlereth, RHP
DOB: 5/9/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Arizona
2008 Stats: 0.00 ERA at Rookie-level (3-3-2-6); 2.00 at Low-A (9-3-4-14), 3.52 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: Unsigned as an eighth-round pick by the A's last year, Schlereth saw his stock rise along with his velocity, finally landing him a $1.33 million bonus as the 26th overall pick last June. He followed that up by striking out 20 in his first 12 professional innings.
The Good: Schlereth's velocity from the left side is a rare find; his fastball sits in the mid-90s, consistently touching 96-98 mph, and he knows how to work it consistently down in the strike zone. He backs that up with a very hard plus curveball that misses as many bats as the fastball. He also has an average-at-best changeup that he mixes in against righties to keep them honest. The son of former NFL player and ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, he brings a football mentality to the mound that works well in a bullpen role.
The Bad: Schlereth has a long medical track record that includes a Tommy John procedure. While he's cleaned up his mechanics considerably, his arm action remains a bit violent, and the delivery involves a lot of moving parts. He is still prone to bouts of control problems.
Fun Fact: While he didn't follow his father's footsteps in professional football, Schlereth set school records for rushing in a game and rushing yards in a season by a quarterback at Highlands Ranch High School in Colorado.
Perfect World Projection: Schlereth has the raw ability to be a closer in the big leagues.
Glass Half Empty: His ugly delivery, a track record for getting hurt, and occasional control issues mean that too much could go wrong between where he is now and the big leagues.
Path To The Big Leagues: Schlereth is a pure reliever who could move quickly, and there is no obvious candidate for "closer of the future" in the Arizona system.
Timetable: Schlereth's showing in spring training will determine his assignment. He will most likely begin the year at High-A, but the hope is for him to be ready for Double-A at some point during the season in order to line him up for a big-league audition the following year.

3. Gerardo Parra, OF
DOB: 5/6/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2004
2008 Stats: .301/.381/.413, .230 EqA at High-A (50 G); .275/.341/.419, .241 EqA at Double-A (73 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: Last year's Midwest League batting-title holder continued to hit in the California League and more than held his own in Double-A as a 21-year-old.
The Good: Simply put, Parra is a hitter, one armed with a quick bat, a textbook swing, above-average plate coverage, and a good feel for the strike zone. He's also a runner a tick above average with great instincts on the basepaths. Primarily a center fielder in 2008, he profiles as a corner outfielder in the end, and other than the bat, his arm is his best single tool.
The Bad: Parra doesn't have much power, and his slight build and one-plane swing doesn't allow for much projection in that department. Left-handers have had some success against him by busting him inside, leading to weak ground balls, and at times he gives away at-bats early in the count by being too aggressive.
Fun Fact: During his 50 games with Visalia, Parra hit .196/.295/.308 in 107 at-bats with the bases empty, but .427/.485/.539 in 89 at-bats with runners on.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday big-league outfielder who hits .300 and steals 20 bases annually.
Glass Half Empty: He's not a center fielder, and not a power hitter, which makes him a pure tweener.
Path To The Big Leagues: For now, Arizona already has a full outfield with Chris B. Young, Justin Upton, and two more years on Eric Byrnes' ill-advised contract.
Timetable: Depending on the numbers game and how many insurance policies Arizona signed, Parra could either move up to the Diamondbacks' new Triple-A affiliate in Reno, or more likely return to Double-A for a bit more seasoning.

4. Wade Miley, RHP
DOB: 11/13/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Southeastern Louisiana
2008 Stats: 4.91 ERA at Short-Season (11-11-5-11)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: This small college arm came on strong for scouts late in the year, and ended up being the fifth college lefty drafted overall.
The Good: Miley is another power pitcher from the left side with a plus fastball/slider combination. His heater is slightly plus in terms of velocity, and his slider is among the best in the system due to its considerable depth and tilt. He works both sides of the plate and stays low, giving up just one home run in 100-plus innings this year. He also occasionally mixes in a curveball, as well as a solid changeup, and he holds his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: He falls in love with his slider at times, and will need to develop all of his offerings and mix them more effectively as a pro. While his vertical control is good, his horizontal is below average, and he tends to miss the plate by too much at times. He'll need to throw his slider for strikes more often, and avoid using it only as a chase pitch.
Fun Fact: Miley is the highest drafted player in the history of Southeastern Louisiana University, only three players in school history have reached the major leagues, and those three (Kirk Bullinger, Kevin Morgan, and Carl Schutz) have combined for five at-bats and two wins.
Perfect World Projection: Miley has the stuff, the delivery, and the arsenal to be a big-league starter.
Glass Half Empty: With his control problems and dependence on no more than two pitches, he profiles better as a relief pitcher.
Path To The Big Leagues: It's far too early to worry about this.
Timetable: Miley pitched solely out of the bullpen after signing, but he'll move back into a starting role this year at one of the full-season A-ball affiliates, most likely Visalia, as Arizona prefers to start their high-pick college arms in the California League.

5. Cesar Valdez, RHP
DOB: 3/17/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005
2008 Stats: 2.53 ERA at High-A (96-88-16-80), 4.67 DERA; 4.06 at Double-A (64.1-63-23-60), 5.13 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: With three straight years of solid performance, including some nice outings at Double-A, Valdez was finally recognized as a prospect as the number of naysayers dwindled.
The Good: Valdez fills the strike zone with two offerings that generate both swings-and-misses and plenty of ground balls. He pitches primarily off of his average-velocity sinker, using it to set up his two plus changeups; an 80-81 mph classic that falls off the table, and a mid-80s version that team officials describe as "splitter-like." His curveball is a solid average offering that he uses liberally against lefties. He's a highly efficient pitcher who keeps his pitch counts low, and he has the frame and clean mechanics to become an innings eater.
The Bad: Valdez is anything but overpowering. While his strikeout rates have been solid so far, scouts expect it to drop at the higher levels and into the majors. There's little projection left in Valdez-he pretty much is what he is.
Fun Fact: In the first three innings of games for Double-A Mobile, Valdez had a 2.08 ERA. From the fourth inning on, it elevated to 6.37.
Perfect World Projection: He should be a solid back-of-the-rotation contributor.
Glass Half Empty: It's a big-league arm, but it works better out of the pen.
Path To The Big Leagues: Valdez's role once he reaches the major leagues may end up being determined more by need than by what his talent dictates, which is not uncommon for a swingman-type arm.
Timetable: Arizona feels that Valdez is ready for Triple-A, and he could get in some big-league innings this season. He's on pace to be up on the roster full time in 2010.

6. Kevin Eichhorn, RHP
DOB: 2/6/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2008, Aptos High School (CA)
2008 Stats: 6.75 ERA at Rookie-level (2.2-2-1-2)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: While he was expected to go to college, the Diamondbacks came up with $500,000 late in the signing window to grab one of the more polished high school arms in the draft.
The Good: Eichhorn is a remarkably advanced product for his age, and being the son of pitcher Mark Eichhorn (a veteran of over 500 major league games) certainly helped. He has smooth mechanics and plus command, locating his 88-91 mph fastball with relative ease. His curveball is already a plus offering, and he shows good feel for his changeup with nice arm-side deception. He's an excellent athlete with a lot of fluidity in his game who had Division I possibilities as a middle infielder as well.
The Bad: Eichhorn is both short and slight, leaving some to wonder about how much projection he actually has. Because of his height and arm angle, the fastball can be a little too true at times.
Fun Fact: Kevin is actually the third Eichhorn in professional baseball; his uncle Dave was drafted three times by the Blue Jays before finally signing, and spent six years in the minors, topping out at Triple-A in 1990.
Perfect World Projection: A solid third or fourth starter.
Glass Half Empty: He may be too small to handle the workload, his stuff may not progress, and he could end up in the bullpen.
Path To The Big Leagues: At this point Eichhorn just needs innings, and there are no concerns yet about his distant future.
Timetable: Eichhorn has the talent to handle a full-season assignment, but he may be held back in extended spring training to limit his innings count.

7. Evan Frey, OF
DOB: 6/7/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2007, Missouri
2008 Stats: .327/.401/.417, .227 EqA at Low-A (75 G); .297/.399/.402, .236 EqA at High-A (56 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The top-of-the-order catalyst posted a .400 on-base percentage across two levels of A-ball, scoring 98 runs in 131 games and swiping 37 bases.
The Good: According to one scout, "Frey just gets it." He knows his role as a leadoff man, drawing walks, slapping line drives, and stealing bases. He's the best defensive center fielder in the system, with nearly flawless jumps and routes that rev up his merely above-average speed to burner level. His effort, makeup, and baseball intelligence are nearly off the charts.
The Bad: Frey's thin build and slappy swing gives him very little power; nearly 80 percent of his hits were singles. Some question his offensive profile because he's only a 60 runner, as opposed to a true speed demon. He could stand improvements in some aspects of his little-man's game, such as bunting and hitting the other way.
Fun Fact: In the eighth inning of games for South Bend, Frey hit .552 (16-for-29), yet in the ninth inning, he was just 2-for-22 (.091).
Perfect World Projection: Frey's ceiling is likely that of a second-division starter or bench outfielder with speed.
Glass Half Empty: Without power, pitchers at higher levels will challenge him more, which could lower his on-base percentage to the point that he maxes out as a Triple-A type.
Path To The Big Leagues: The Diamondbacks don't need an outfielder right now, especially a center fielder, and Frey is at least two years away.
Timetable: In just his second full season, Frey will begin the year at Double-A Mobile. He'll move up the prospect rankings considerably if he can repeat this kind of performance at the upper levels.

8. Tony Barnette, RHP
DOB: 11/9/83
Height/Weight: 6-1/192
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 10th round, 2006, Arizona State
2008 Stats: 3.87 ERA at Double-A (153.2-143-42-133), 4.98 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This organizational soldier made a double-jump up to the Southern League, and recovered from a slow start to become the team's ace down the stretch.
The Good: Barnette has the kind of mound presence and fearless approach that scouts love, and he also has solid stuff, with an 88-92 mph fastball that touches 94, and a plus slider that he can throw for strikes or bury in the dirt. He also has a solid changeup, and mixes his pitches well.
The Bad: Barnette can be a bit inconsistent with his delivery, leading to elevated fastballs and too many home runs. A four-year college arm, he'll turn 25 during the offseason, so he's nearly a finished product.
Fun Fact: In his last nine starts of the year, Barnette went 7-0 with a 2.53 ERA, allowing just 37 hits in 53 1/3 innings.
Perfect World Projection: Barnette's stuff and his bulldog mentality leads to a nice career as a back-end starter.
Glass Half Empty: There are a number of scouts with concerns about Barnette's command who also think that his stuff would play better out of the bullpen.
Path To The Big Leagues: Barnette is not the type of talent who moves people out of the way, but rather a guy who needs to take advantage of any chance that he gets.
Timetable: Barnette will begin the year at Triple-A Reno. With a solid showing he could be on the short list for either a starting or relief gig in Arizona at some point in 2009.

9. Collin Cowgill, OF
DOB: 5/22/86
Height/Weight: 5-9/195
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2008, Kentucky
2008 Stats: .304/.415/.785 at Short-Season (20 G); .249/.346/.358, .187 EqA at Low-A (50G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: After an outstanding career at Kentucky, this fifth-round pick blasted 11 home runs in his first 16 professional games before cooling off at Low-A.
The Good: Cowgill is a maximum effort grinder who gets the most out of a good number of tools in a small package. He has a discerning eye at the plate, along with a quick, well-leveraged swing that produces loft and backspin. His smart baserunning lets his average speed play up, and he's a solid outfielder with a plus arm.
The Bad: Cowgill's frame doesn't offer much in the way of projection, and he's also as old as most seniors because of a red-shirt season due to a hand injury. Primarily a center fielder in college, he doesn't have the chops to do that in the pros, so his bat will have to pick up if he's going to be an everyday corner outfielder.
Fun Fact: Cowgill was a second-team academic All-American in 2006, with a 3.92 GPA while majoring in finance.
Perfect World Projection: He ends up as a solid but unspectacular corner outfielder.
Glass Half Empty: He's more of a bench player without enough bat to play every day for a championship-level club.
Path To The Big Leagues: For now, there's a crowded outfield in the big leagues and Gerardo Parra ahead of him on the totem pole, but there is plenty of time for things to work out.
Timetable: Despite his struggles in the Midwest League, Arizona will begin Cowgill at High-A Visalia with the hope that warm weather and a hitting-friendly environment will get the bat going again.

10. Brian Shaw, RHP
DOB: 11/8/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/210
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, Long Beach State
2008 Stats: 6.75 ERA at Rookie-level (17.1-24-7-17); 4.03 ERA at Low-A (22.1-18-6-16), 8.38 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: He was the closer for Long Beach State, and he actually pitched more innings after signing than he did with the Dirtbags, coming on strong at the end of the year.
The Good: Shaw combines plus stuff with outstanding command and control. He throws a low-90s fastball with good sink, as well as a plus slider, and when he's on his game he becomes a ground-ball machine. He has simple mechanics that allow him to locate both pitches effortlessly, and he pitches aggressively.
The Bad: At times Shaw overthrows his fastball, which is not to his benefit; while it touched 94-95 at times, the pitch had a tendency to flatten out and become elevated. He has no change up and his delivery is highly arm-centric, giving him no future as a starting pitcher.
Fun Fact: Shaw went to Livermore High School in central California, the same school that produced Randy Johnson.
Perfect World Projection: Shaw is the classic college reliever who could move quickly, but his ceiling tops out in the eighth inning as opposed to the ninth.
Glass Half Empty: He's more of a ground-ball inducing type of reliever.
Path To The Big Leagues: Arizona's bullpen is already a collection of set-up men in search of a closer, and Shaw should fit right in.
Timetable: He will likely begin the year at High-A, and his performance will dictate his path from there.

11. Barry Enright, RHP
DOB: 3/30/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, Pepperdine
2008 Stats: 4.44 ERA at High-A (164.1-185-35-143), 6.46 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This polished college product struggled early in the year, but he rebounded with a strong second half that included a 3.08 ERA in his last 12 starts.
The Good: Enright is a pure finesse pitcher who survives by mixing up four average pitches. He throws an upper-80s fastball that occasionally hits 90, and three secondary pitches (curve, slider, changeup) that all rate as average. He throws all of his pitches for strikes and at any point in the count, succeeding on the ability to paint the corners and keep hitters off balance. He has a big frame, clean mechanics, and no injury history of note.
The Bad: As a command-and-control type of pitcher, Enright has very little margin for error, and he's still adjusting to the professional level of play. He needs to be more cagey; he still gets caught trying to challenge hitters too often, leading to bad innings.
Fun Fact: As the 73rd overall pick in the 2007 draft, Enright was the highest drafted played out of Pepperdine since 2001, when the one-two starter combination of Noah Lowry and Dan Haren went in the first and second rounds, respectively.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a classic fifth starter who can give you a solid six innings every time out.
Glass Half Empty: He just doesn't have enough stuff to be a starter, but he has the moxie to relieve.
Path To The Big Leagues: Enright's ceiling might not be the highest, but most agree he'll reach the big leagues at some point in his career. That said, his exact role is still to be determined.
Timetable: He'll remain a starter for now, and will face another big test with an assignment to Double-A Mobile.

The Sleeper: Sparingly used at the University of Minnesota-and with good reason as he posted a 7.10 ERA over 64 2/3 innings in his four years there-right-handed reliever Reid Mahon now projects as a solid big-league reliever thanks to a mid-90s fastball with heavy sink and a nice slider.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Justin Upton, OF
2. Max Scherzer, RHP
3. Chris B. Young, OF
4. Jarrod Parker, RHP
5. Daniel Schlereth, LHP
6. Mark Reynolds, 3B
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Gerardo Parra, OF
9. Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
10. Wade Miley, RHP

See how much better things suddenly become when you include the guys who have already graduated to the majors? Upton still has superstar potential, and an 816 OPS in his first full season as a 20-year-old is a remarkable achievement. Max Scherzer's development of his secondary pitches has most scouts seeing him as a high-end starter as early as this year, and while Chris Young disappointed some this season, the tools still make him an annual breakout candidate.

I'm not a big Mark Reynolds believer. He's an error-prone third baseman who strikes out way too much. While 200 strikeouts per year may be fine if you're going to deliver 40-plus home runs and 100-plus walks the way Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard do, 28 and 64 do not cut it. Montero might be a second-division starter in another organization, and Petit began to find occasional success last year as a guy who depends mostly on deception.

Summary: The Arizona system is down significantly; most of last year's prospects are either in the majors or in Oakland as part of the Dan Haren deal. At the minor league level it's a rebuilding process in progress, but the organization can afford it with their glut of young, under-control talent already in the majors.


Will talks with the number seven prospect, outfielder Evan Frey, on Baseball Prospectus Radio.

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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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