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January 19, 2010

Future Shock

Diamondbacks Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Four-Star Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
2. Brandon Allen, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Bobby Borchering, 3B
4. Chris Owings, SS
5. A.J. Pollock, OF
6. Keon Broxton, OF
7. Marc Krauss, OF
Two-Star Prospects
8. Matthew Davidson, 3B
9. Mike Belfiore, LHP
10. Ryan Wheeler, 1B
11. Leyson Septimo, LHP

Four More:
12. Wade Miley, LHP: Miley was the D'backs' second-round pick from '08. He does nothing spectacularly, but a combination of solid stuff, plus command, and left-handedness has value.
13. Roque Mercedes, RHP: The former Brewer has big-time arm strength; he should reach the majors as reliever.
14. Reynaldo Navarro, SS: His tools still intrigue, but his performances remain lackluster.
15. Jordan Norberto, LHP: A little lefty with a good, moving fastball; multiple sources name him a sleeper pick.

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)
2009 Stats: 0.95 ERA (19.0-12-4-21) at High-A (4 G); 3.68 ERA (78.1-82-34-74) at Double-A (16 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: A top prospect, Parker reached Double-A in his second full season, but was shut down at mid-season with elbow soreness, which led to Tommy John surgery in October.
The Good: Parker has everything it takes to be a top starter. His sinking fastball sits at 92-95 mph, and it can get as high as 98 mph when he reaches back for more. His slider is a big-league wipeout offering with velocity and strong two-plane break, while his changeup projects as a solid, average pitch. He's a very good athlete who fields his position well, and he earns high marks for his calm demeanor.
The Bad: Parker can be more hittable than his stuff should allow for, as he tends to throw his fastball not only for strikes, but down the middle too often. He can lose command of his secondary pitches at times. He tried to rehab from the elbow issues for three wasted months before the surgery, which means he'll now miss all of 2010.
Ephemera: Only three players have ever been drafted out of Norwell High, but one is Matt Kinzer, who pitched in nine big-league games for the Cardinals and Tigers and also appeared in one NFL game as the Lions' punter during the 1987 NFL strike.
Perfect World Projection: If he comes back 100 percent, he's an All-Star.
Path to the Big Leagues: For now, it's a path back to health.
Timetable: Because of the lateness of the surgery, Parker will miss the entire 2010 season. Still, he should be in the big leagues by 2012.

2. Brandon Allen, 1B
DOB: 2/12/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/235
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2004, Montgomery HS (TX) (White Sox)
2009 Stats: .290.372/.452 at Double-A (62 G); .262/.262/.377 at Triple-A (15 G) with White Sox; .324/.413/.641 at Triple-A (38 G) with Diamondbacks; .202/.284/.385 at MLB (32 G) with Diamondbacks
Last Year's Ranking: 3 (White Sox)

Year in Review: Allen's a powerful prospect who surged at Triple-A after getting dealt by the White Sox for reliever Tony Pena, but he fell flat during his big-league debut.
The Good: Allen has a solid approach and enough bat to profile as an everyday first baseman in the majors, combining plus power with a surprisingly solid contact rate, leaving scouts to project him as a .280+ hitter with 20-25 home runs annually. He's a surprisingly good athlete for his size, and he moves well around the bag.
The Bad: Allen was eaten alive by major-league breaking pitches, as his tendency to sit dead-red was exploited by more advanced pitching. He needs to improve his glove work defensively, particularly in receiving throws and pulling low ones out of the dirt. Despite his athleticism, he's still a below-average runner.
Ephemera: Allen was especially inept against big-league lefties, against which he went 2-for-22 with 11 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He's not a big star, but he'll be a good big-league regular first baseman.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's suddenly quite blocked.
Timetable: The Diamondbacks showed that they want Allen to get more minor-league work by signing Adam LaRoche, all but ensuring Allen begins 2010 at Triple-A.

3. Bobby Borchering, 3B
DOB: 10/25/90
Height/Weight: 6-4/195
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Bishop Verot HS (FL)
2009 Stats: .241/.290/.425 at Rookie-level (22 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Arizona was on arguably the best pure high school hitter all spring, and a pitching-dominated draft dropped Borchering to Arizona with the 16th pick.
The Good: Borchering is a high school rarity as a switch-hitter with plus (if not more) power from both sides of the plate. Despite his size, he has very good bat speed, firing the barrel into the zone and allowing pitches to get deep before driving them to all fields. He's a solid, if unspectacular defender at the hot corner, but his arm is a true plus tool.
The Bad: Borchering needs to temper his approach, as he swings at too many pitches and gets a bit too focused on power at times. Scouts who saw him in the Pioneer League questioned his ability to stay at third base long-term, as he could become slow and bulky once his massive frame fills out.
Ephemera: Borchering went 12-for-33 (.364) in eight games against Billings (Reds) in the Pioneer League, but was just 9-for-44 (.205) in his other 14 contests.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a run-producing, middle-of-the-order third baseman, but the bat should still play if he's forced to move across the diamond.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's a top pick who is at least three years away, so he has time and will be given plenty of opportunity.
Timetable: Borchering is ready for a full-season assignment, and he'll begin the year at Low-A South Bend.

4. Chris Owings, SS
DOB: 8/12/91
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Gilbert HS (SC)
2009 Stats: .306/.324/.426 at Rookie-level (24 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: A top high school player, Owings surprised some by going 41st overall, and surprised more with how good he looked in his pro debut.
The Good: Owings is just a baseball player. Combing a quick, quiet swing with good hand/eye coordination, Owings laces line drives to all fields with gap power. His defensive fundamentals are outstanding for his age, as he has smooth actions, a quick transfer, and a solid arm. He's a classic baseball rat who works hard, plays hard, and gets the most out of his athleticism.
The Bad: Owings' tools don't blow anyone way. He's a bit on the small side, will never have much power, and is just a 50-55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He showed an overly aggressive approach in his pro debut, and he needs to get himself into more hitter's counts as he develops.
Ephemera: Owings is the only player ever drafted out of Gilbert High School, located in a tiny town (population: 500) in the middle of South Carolina.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a gritty everyday shortstop in the model of David Eckstein or Craig Counsell.
Path to the Big Leagues: Stephen Drew's free agency should line up well with Owings' timetable, but it's way too early to project that.
Timetable: Owings will join Borchering at Low-A South Bend, as the Midwest League's most boring team in 2009 becomes one to watch this year.

5. A.J. Pollock, OF
DOB: 12/5/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Notre Dame
2009 Stats: .271/.319/.376 at Low-A (63 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: With so many early picks, Arizona played it safe and cost-effective with its second first-round pick, nabbing the Notre Dame star who many saw as a late first-round talent at best.
The Good: The are few weaknesses in Pollock's game. He's a big athlete with a sound approach, line-drive bat, and enough power to project for 12-15 home runs annually. He gets great reads and runs excellent routes in center field, and his arm is solid.
The Bad: Pollock is an average to slightly plus runner, and has no true star-level tools, so some wonder if he can stay in center long-term, casting him as more of a tweener without enough power to profile in a corner. He expanded his strike zone too often in his pro debut.
Ephemera: A.J.'s father, Allen, was once a star rugby player at Boston College.
Perfect World Projection: Scouts are almost universal in seeing Pollock as a big-leaguer, but his ceiling is more of a second-division starter or fourth outfielder for most.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Arizona outfield is filled for now, and quite young.
Timetable: Pollock could move quickly through the system because of his polish. He'll begin 2010 at High-A, but he could reach Double-A as early as mid-season.

6. Keon Broxton, OF
DOB: 5/7/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/218
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2009, Santa Fe CC (FL)
2009 Stats: .246/.302/.474 at Rookie-level (72 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Despite inconsistent numbers, this third-round pick was one of the most discussed players in the Pioneer League during his pro debut.
The Good: Broxton's tools are clearly first-round quality. A former Division I wide receiver, Broxton is a wiry, strong, long athlete with above-average raw pop and speed with room for further projection on the power side. He's a graceful athlete who covers a lot of ground in center field, and his arm is average to plus.
The Bad: To call Broxton raw doesn't really do justice to how unrefined he is. His swing has a pronounced uppercut, and he's completely fooled by just average breaking balls, which led to 93 strikeouts over just 72 games. He also needs to improve his routes and jumps in the outfield and his base-running instincts.
Ephemera: Broxton was a 29th-round pick in 2008 by the Phillies out of Lakeland High in Florida, the same school that graduated Rod Smart, the flash-in-the-pan XFL star know for wearing "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a dynamic power/speed weapon in the mold of Preston Wilson.
Path to the Big Leagues: Broxton's potential is huge, as is his probability for flaming out.
Timetable: Borchering and Owings are significantly better prospects, but Broxton will be the most exciting player in 2010 at Low-A South Bend.

7. Marc Krauss, OF
DOB: 10/5/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/235
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009, Ohio University
2009 Stats: .304/.377/.478 at Low-A (32 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the best college hitters in the draft, Krauss lived up to his billing with a .402/.521/.852 season, and he continued to hit in his pro debut.
The Good: Krauss brings considerable offensive firepower to the plate. He's a big, muscular hitter with plus raw power, and also the ability to make consistent hard contact and a keen understanding of the strike zone. His power comes naturally, as he uses all fields and can drive the ball to any part of the park.
The Bad: Krauss' bat is his only tool, and he drew some unflattering Adam Dunn comps for his athleticism, as he's a well below-average runner who is a liability with the glove, even in left field. He'll likely move to first base down the line, and some scouts have concern about how much of his power will translate to wood bats.
Ephemera: While the school has produced several big leaguers, including Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, Krauss was the first Bobcat ever to earn Mid-America Conference Player of the Year honors.
Perfect World Projection: Krauss can be a big-league cleanup hitter, but there is no other value in his game.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like Pollack, Krauss could move quickly through the system.
Timetable: Krauss could put up some huge numbers in the California League this year for High-A Visalia.

8. Matthew Davidson, 3B
DOB: 3/26/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Yucaipa HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .241/.312/.319 at Short-season (72 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Among the top high school power prospects in the draft, Davidson took a big step forward this spring and landed a $900,000 bonus as a supplemental first-round pick.
The Good: Davidson has massive raw power, as scouts still talk about the show he put on during BP and in winning the home run derby and the Aflac All-American game. He gets strong marks for his makeup and work ethic, and he's a solid defender with a well above-average arm, as he also doubled as his high school's closer.
The Bad: Davidson's mashing style led to far too many strikeouts in his pro debut, as he's consistently pull-happy, chases too many pitches, and his swing can be a bit slow at times due to a significant load. He's only an average athlete at 18, and many believe he'll need to move to first base down the road.
Ephemera: Yucaipa High also graduated White Sox infielder/outfielder Mark Teahen and 1970s model/variety star Susan Anton.
Perfect World Projection: He has the potential to be a classic fourth- or fifth-hitter.
Path to the Big Leagues: Davidson is a bit of a project who will likely require a one-step-at-a-time development plan.
Timetable: Davidson will split third-base duties with Borchering at Low-A South Bend, but he should still get everyday at-bats by playing designated hitter and possibly gets his first reps at first.

9. Mike Belfiore, LHP
DOB: 10/3/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Boston College
2009 Stats: 2.17 ERA (58.0-59-13-55) at Rookie-level (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Among the top college relievers in the draft, Belfiore rocketed up draft charts in the weeks leading up to the draft, finally landing in the supplemental first round.
The Good: Belfiore has two plus offerings. His fastball has plus velocity at 90-92 mph with significant sink, and his slider has hard, late biting action that leads to some silly-looking swings from opponents. His sturdy build, smooth mechanics, and improving feel for a changeup had many scouts thinking he could be develop as a starter, which is what Arizona is doing.
The Bad: Many see Belfiore's two-pitch mix working better in the bullpen, but that could just be because that's a situation in which most have seen him succeed. He'll need to improve his changeup and also prove he can handle a full starter's workload. While he's a strike thrower, his control is much better than his command.
Ephemera: Belfiore gave up six of his 14 earned runs at Missoula in the first inning; he had a 1.53 ERA in all other frames.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a fourth starter or eighth-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: With multiple outcomes come multiple paths.
Timetable: Belfiore will remain a starter for now, and likely begin 2010 at High-A Visalia.

10. Ryan Wheeler, 1B
DOB: 7/10/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/220
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th Round, 2009, Loyola Marymount University
2009 Stats: .363/.461/.538 at Short-season (64 G); .345/.472/.552 at Low-A (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: This fifth-round pick looked far better than that in his pro debut.
The Good: Wheeler is a professional hitter with a downright pretty swing and above-average power to all fields. His plate discipline is nearly big-league ready, as he rarely swings at a bad pitch and always puts himself into hitter's counts.
The Bad: Like Krauss, and on a lesser level Davidson, Wheeler's bat comprises the majority of his value. He's big, bulky, and slow, and an average defender at best at first base.
Ephemera: In the ninth inning of games for Yakima, Wheeler was a remarkable 11-for-17 with three home runs, and he also went 3-for-5 in extra innings.
Perfect World Projection: Wheeler could be a good big-league first baseman in the model of Lyle Overbay or John Olerud, but baseball history is littered with college hitters who have ripped up the Northwest League, never to be heard from again.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Diamondbacks system is packed with one-dimensional sluggers, so Wheeler will need to continue to stand out.
Timetable: Depending how the rosters shake out with some of the higher picks, Wheeler will begin the year with one of Arizona's A-level squads.

11. Leyson Septimo, LHP
DOB: 7/7/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/150
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003
2009 Stats: 3.52 ERA (38.1-29-26-44) at High-A (26 G); 7.85 ERA (18.1-20-18-25) at Double-A (19 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: The converted outfielder has now struck out 10.4 batters per nine since his transition to the mound, including a 12.3 mark in his first taste of Double-A.
The Good: Septimo's pure arm strength ranks with Parker's among the best in the system. He unleashes 93-95 mph fastballs while touching 97, and the pitch features a good amount of natural sinking action. His slider has made rapid improvement and is now a crisp offering, with solid tilt and depth.
The Bad: Septimo won't be able to reach the big leagues until he harnesses his stuff, and he turns 25 in July while entering the year with less than 100 innings of pro experience. His delivery is violent and inconsistent, and he's walked 77 batters over 97.2 innings.
Ephemera: In his pro career as a hitter, Septimo hit .256/.307/.352 in 338 games.
Perfect World Projection: Septimo's pure stuff is closer-worthy.
Path to the Big Leagues: Unless he throws more strikes, there is no path.
Timetable: Septimo's spring performance will dictate his assignment to one of Arizona's upper-level teams.

The Sleeper:

A 15th-round pick in 2007, wide-bodied right-hander Josh Collmenter spots his fastball well enough to set up a solid curve and could have some big-league relief possibilities.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Justin Upton, RF
2. Jarrod Parker, RHP
3. Gerardo Parra, OF
4. Brandon Allen, 1B
5. Bobby Borchering, 3B
6. Clay Zavada, LHP
7. Ian Kennedy, RHP
8. Tony Abreu, INF
9. Chris Owings, SS
10. A.J. Pollock, OF

I projected a Griffey-esque career path for Upton at one time, and while his age-21 season was a bit behind Junior's, it was still an impressive performance, made even more so by the fact that most really good high school picks from the 2005 draft are just getting going. Parra had a nice rookie year and should get even better, although many doubt if much power will come. Zavada is a great story with an even better mustache, but he's also at his ceiling. Kennedy is a reclamation project who still has a fourth-starter's ceiling, but injuries and some yips in the big leagues have brought his stock down considerably. Also affected by the injury bug, don't give up on Tony Abreu as a nice utility player.

Summary: Poor performances and a flurry of trades leave the Arizona system as one of the emptiest in the game, as the eight year-before draftees on their top 11 is a record since I've been doing this by a wide margin. If the 2009 class doesn't develop, next year's list could be a nightmare.

Next up: the Atlanta Braves.

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

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