Feature Photo: Domingo Leyba, SS, Diamondbacks
Ed. Note: Click here to listen to Defreitas and Faleris discuss the rebuild going on in Arizona on Episode 5 of Defensive Indifference, the official Podcast of 2080 Baseball! You can also follow along as we publish reviews of all 30 teams this offseason by clicking here. And as always, follow us on Twitter and Facebook!
By Dave DeFreitas and Nick J. Faleris
After emptying the clip trying to compete in 2016, the Diamondbacks are now tasked with reloading their farm system, while simultaneously not wasting the prime years of right-hander Zack Greinke first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, or center fielder A.J. Pollock. With several big-time decisions looming, what the new front office and player development staff in Arizona do in 2017 will have a large impact on their ability to return to relevance over the next few seasons.
CREAM OF THE CROP
The Tools: 60 hit; 50 field; 55 arm; 55 speed – While not the biggest, most projectable frame you’ll see on the infield in 2017, Leyba is a physical kid who has some quick-twitch actions with plus feel for the barrel and a chance to do some extra-base damage. He creates more torque from the left side of the plate and looks more comfortable over there as well. From the right side, it’s a little more of a slap stroke, but the contact rates are still very good. Don’t expect him to show a lot of over-the-fence-type pop, but driving the gaps should not be an issue given the carry he gets on his line drives. While not a plus runner, he should still pressure the defense with his speed, and someone who can score from first base on a double. The foot speed plays up on defense and the effective range plays well enough for him to handle shortstop. The arm is above average, and he does a good job getting rid of the ball quickly.
The Profile: The lone “Cream of the Crop” representative for Arizona, Leyba doesn’t have a tool box full of plus weapons, but he does a lot of things well, and he’ll play in the middle of the field for what Arizona hopes is a highly competitive club in the next few years. Leyba profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter who will make a lot of contact and get on base at an above-average clip. The bat plays from both sides of the plate, but he’ll probably do damage from the left side.
He probably won’t steal bunches of bases, but he will pick his spots, and the above- average run shows up more when underway. On the other side of the ball, Leyba is going profile as less ‘explosive’ and more ‘steady’. He made some strides and cut back on the errors in 2016 – the footwork will play a huge role in his ability to consistently make the more difficult throws, but the athleticism suggests that he will get there.
Ultimately, the overall profile fits well at both shortstop and second base, and moving around the field makes him even more valuable on a big league roster. The impact at the plate will have to carry him regardless and if he fulfills his potential the D-backs could be looking at a Jose Ramirez (UTIL, Indians)-type player.
ON THE HORIZON
Quick Hit: With his enormous frame and herky-jerky, max-effort delivery, Miller does an excellent job adding significant angle and deception to his three-pitch mix. After two uninspiring stints as a starter, 2016 saw him transition to the bullpen full time, and after a dominant Arizona Fall League showing, he’s in very good position to impact the D-backs’ bullpen in 2017.
He pounds down in the zone with a mid- to upper-90s fastball that has great late life and can be very tough to square up. He leans heavily on the cutter/slider combo, showing better feel with the cutter. The slider is an above-average offering, getting some back-foot bite to righties, but it lacks consistency and backs up on him often, a point that will keep it from being a true plus pitch. He has feel to use the cutter back door to righties and it is the more effective secondary offering at present, however lefties have historically given him a lot of trouble—something that is likely due to a lot of his fastball’s leaking to the arm side, and the absence of a consistent breaking ball. The cutter is still a relatively new offering from him, so his feel with it will prove crucial going forward.
Miller has a lot going on with the arm swing on the back side, and it impacts his ability to get out front on time consistently. He has margin for error in the zone, as the heavy fastball can be tough to square up, but he will have to utilize the great angle and show hitters the top half of the ball to hit his ceiling. The upper-level velocity, big frame and funk in the arm action are reminiscent of former Braves late-inning reliever Jonny Venters (LHP, Braves, 2010-12).
Anthony Banda, LHP, Triple-A Reno | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 23y, 4m
Quick Hit: A touch-and-feel-type lefty with a fastball topping out in the low 90s, Banda has average stuff across the board, and he’ll need to make some strides with his control and command in order to solidify his role as a back end of the rotation piece in 2017. After a strong start at Double-A Mobile last year, Banda was bumped to Triple-A Reno in late June and also selected to participate in the MLB All-Star Futures Game in San Diego.
Banda will have to rely on soft contact and keeping the ball on the ground to be successful. He does a good job changing speeds and will dial up some chase at times, but his bread and butter is his ability to add and subtract from his stuff, and to eat innings.
He does not have match-up stuff, but he has advanced feel for his secondary that results in some swing and miss. That said, the hit per inning and three-plus walks per nine after being promoted to Reno equated to a lot of traffic on the bases, something that ultimately spells a lot of high stress innings at the major league level. The changeup is his best pitch, and a real weapon vs. right-handed hitters — something that will help him turn over lineups two-to-three times per outing. There is some value out of the pen and a chance that he could see a bump in velo in shorter stints — however where he brings the most value to the D-backs in the rotation, where he can fit the role of a number four or five starter in the rotation.
Socrates Brito, CF, Diamondbacks | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/205 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 3m
Quick Hit: A big guy with long legs and heaps of athleticism, Brito profiles more like a smaller speed-and defense profile rather than the power hitter his large frame first suggests. He has a fairly level swing plane and will get some carry on his line drives to the pull side, however he really feels for the ball on the outer half, and thus far has been unable to drive the ball with authority to the left-center field gap. Defensively is where Brito will make his money, and with the tools to be an above-average defender in center field, he can add depth to the D-back’s roster by slotting into that Role 40, OF-5 spot. He gets some lean out of the box that leads to inflated home-to-first times, and he lacks the instincts to be a real base-stealing threat, but he moves very well underway and the run definitely translates on defense. Should he begin to use the left side of the field, he could work his way into an everyday role, however the consistently low walk rates (4.1% at Triple-A and 2.1% in the big leagues in 2016) and border-line K-rates (18.9% at Triple-A; 23.7% in the big leagues in 2016) will prevent him from getting to his ceiling. That said, he has enough value on the grass to stick in “The Show” all season.
Miller Diaz, RHP, Double-A Mobile | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/230 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 6m
Quick Hit: A relatively unknown quantity as far as prospects go, Diaz is set to give Arizona some of the value they expected when they dealt right-handed reliever Addison Reed to the Mets for him in 2015. A rotation piece prior to 2016, he has always had a big arm and the ability to generate significant swing and miss. The fastball sits in the low-to-middle 90s with hard sink to the arm side and the slider has sharp ¾ break with a chance to be a plus pitch for him. The arm is very loose and quick through the slot with some deception thanks to some crossfire in the delivery. He has a strong frame with a thick lower half, but at age 24, it’s likely he’s fully developed.
He tends to be around the zone consistently, however the command in the zone is below average and he gives up more than his share of contact. He tends to create his own trouble via the walk, which is not a great combination with the high contact rates. He is yet to figure out lefties, due in part to his lack of a change-of-pace offering going away and the hard/hard repertoire may work against him if he can’t locate. However, he ‘s proven that he can keep the ball on the ground throughout his pro career and the match-up stuff should end up playing better now that he will be used out of the pen exclusively. He may not hit his ceiling due to the command issues, but there is enough stuff for him to be a positive contributor in a big league pen.
Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Triple-A Reno | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 25y, 11m
Quick Hit: A bullpen piece his entire career, Sherfy has a max-effort delivery and some funk in the arm action that works to play up the plus velocity. He has a plus fastball and makings of a plus slider still have the front office hopeful that he can limit the free passes and harness the swing-and-miss stuff for long enough stretches to impact a game, however he did not respond well to a promotion to Triple-A Reno and has been alarmingly easy to get into the air (Five home runs in 23 1/3 innings pitched in Reno).
When he’s right, he will get extended and showing plus life and sink down in the zone with late bite on a ¾ slider. Historically he has been good about keeping the ball on the ground, but the recent home run spike is reflective of how the stuff flattens out and gets very hittable up in the zone despite the mid-90s velo. At 25 years old, there isn’t more to come stuff-wise, but the arm strength is big enough to where he should get a cup of coffee at some point in 2017. He has the ceiling of a middle-inning arm, but it’s a doubtful, high-risk ceiling. Realistically, he settles in as a Role 30 on the taxi squad.
Gabe Speier, LHP, Double-A Jackson | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 8m
Quick Hit: After going in the 19th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft to the Red Sox, Speier saw himself get traded three times in 12 months traveling from Boston to Detroit in the Yoenis Cespedes (LF, Mets) trade, then from the Tigers to the Braves for Cameron Maybin (CF, Angels) and then finally landing in Arizona along with right-hander Shelby Miller last offseason. Not a guy with real big stuff, Speier has a pitch-to-contact profile who will get some swing and miss, but more relies on efficiency and high ground ball rates. As he has climbed, he has done a very good job adjusting to the level and maintaining the production, a 2.18 GO:AO ratio across four levels in 2016.
The walks look like the may be an issue going forward, however part of that has something to do with the approach on the mound, and him not giving in looking to make hitters go after his pitch. Add I the contact rates, and it becomes a bad combination that’s likely not sustainable at the major league level. He will have to learn to work ahead more often, and be a little more aggressive with the challenge pitch in order to have a successful transition. He should be in big league camp this coming March and has an outside shot to make the club as a situational lefty, but the more likely starting point will be back at Double-A – with eyes on him cleaning up the walk rates.
Quick Hit: Despite two straight seasons of rather big swing-and-miss numbers, Krehbiel was left off the 40-man roster, and will likely need some holes to open up for him to get innings in major league camp this March. In a tough Cal League in 2015, he struck out 96 in 68 innings pitched, and then followed that up with 66 K’s in 55 2/3 innings for Double-A Mobile. A stocky 6’2” with broad shoulders and a thick lower half, Krehbiel has a plus fastball to go with two average secondary offerings. He has significant deception via the low ¾’s arm slot and max-effort delivery, with the fastball sitting in the middle 90s and getting up to 96 mph. But where he really stands to make an impact is the hard, heavy sink he gets from the middle to the arm side. The slider is not overly sharp, and it will get big at times when he doesn’t stay on top, but the arm action plays it up helping to generate some chase. The changeup might be the better of the two off-speed offerings, getting hard circle dive and proving to be a weapon vs. lefties. The main knock on Krehbiel to this point has been the walks, and at 3.7 BB/9 the past two seasons, coupled with the below-average command in the zone, has him tip-toeing on the edge by relying so heavily on the strikeout to get him out of trouble.
He likely is what he is at this point, as there is not much physical projection to his mature frame. The deception does afford him some margin for error, however Krehbiel saw his fly ball rate spike in 2016 after doing an excellent job keeping the ball on the ground in 2015, something that is a bit of a red flag for a reliever who works with some traffic on the bases. That aside, this is still a kid who has averaged 10.7 SO/9 over his six-year minor league career, and who has shown aptitude to adjust to the level with varying forms of success everywhere he has been. Whether or not he will get an opportunity remains to be seen, however expect Krehbiel to start 2017 at Triple-A Reno and, should he get back to the ground balls and find a way to limit the free passes, he may fill an opening in a very needy D-back’s bullpen.
Jack Reinheimer, 2B/Utility INF, Triple-A Reno | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 24y, 5m
Quick Hit: Outside of his plus run tool, Reinheimer really has no stand out tools, but he brings a good feel for the strike zone, and he makes enough contact to where he will keep pitchers honest. He doesn’t project to show much over-the-fence pop, but driving the gaps is a distinct possibility. Defensively, he will catch what he can get to, and his utility value makes him a viable option to bridge a roster gap, though he’s a bit of a stretch to handle shortstop. The body is mature, so there is not much physical projection to speak of, but his high BABIP is evidence of some hard contact and that he won’t get the bat knocked out of his hands.
Overall, he likely lacks the offensive tools to impact a roster as an everyday ploayer, and the lack of shortstop ability will cap his defensive value. As a result, his time on the 25-man will be largely situationally dependent, but he could add some value to the back end of a roster while shuttling between Triple-A to the big leagues. Dean Anna (UTIL, Cardinals) and Cliff Pennington (2B/SS, Angels) come to mind as examples of guys with similar tool sets who have found ways to maximize the skills they do possess.
Quick Hit: In his first full pro season, Clarke turned in a very solid 149 1/3 innings performance which included a three-level climb from Class A ball to Double-A, where he made 17 starts and got the bulk of his 2016 innings. He is a strike thrower, and the 55-grade fastball shows late life in the zone while also getting some ride up when he changes eye level. He is not afraid of contact, and does a good job using the average slider and average changeup to keep hitters off balance. He does have some effort in the arm action and the mechanics can be deliberate at times, presenting him as more of a bullpen profile at the major league level right now. He has a bit of a reverse split showing slightly more success vs. lefties – most likely due to his fastball command to the glove side – and his willingness to pound inside with the cutter/slider variations. Clarke’s swing-and-miss rates took a dive at Double-A (8.6 SO/9 at High A to 6.6 SO/9 at Double-A), something that is a concern, given that much of the contact he surrenders is up in the air.
While pitching to contact can certainly be effective for someone with his command, unless he is keeping the ball on the ground the inevitable hit traffic that comes when high contact rates gets exploited when the double-play ball isn’t as much of a factor. This can result in high-stress innings, and will make it difficult for him to turn over a big league lineup multiple times. The stuff should play up a tick in shorter stints out of the pen and could allow him to get back to the better strikeout rates he showed at the lower levels. Whichever way he goes, he’ll still need to develop the changeup as real weapon to keep hitters honest. A senior sign out of the College of Charleston (SC), Clarke will play most of the 2017 season at age 24. If the changeup comes along, he could show up in Phoenix by mid-summer, and slot into the back end of the rotation. Should the club move him to the pen to expedite his effectiveness, he would compare favorably to former Nationals righty Craig Stammen (2009-15).
Quick Hit: This big-bodied lefty has some arm strength and some deception in the delivery that plays up the below-average secondary stuff. He isn’t afraid of contact, but that may be more a by-product of him being overly loose in the zone, as opposed to him trying to utilize the gloves behind him. The fastball is mostly straight, but the quick arm leads to some life in the zone that ultimately has it get on hitters a little quicker than expected, and his 6’5” frame creates generous downhill angle that helps him to keep the ball on the ground. His slider is the best of the secondary offerings and has some impact vs. lefties, however the lack of a changeup severely hinders his ability to handle righties with any kind of consistency.
Given his arm strength and ground ball rates, even a fringe-average, change-of-pace offering would do wonders for his upside. As it stands now, he is looking like a Role 30- type as a second situational lefty, but he could get to that ceiling of a Role 40 swingman if he can get more consistent with the breaking balls and develop a serviceable changeup. Felix Doubront (LHP, Athletics) would be a fair comparison at the major league level.
Matt Koch, RHP, Diamondbacks | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/215 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 26y, 1m
Quick Hit: With fringe-average to average stuff across the board, Koch looks for contact and uses the heavy sink on his fastball to keep balls on the ground. He is around the zone consistently and doesn’t walk many, averaging about 1.4 BB/9 across three levels in 2016, but he doesn’t miss many bats either, averaging just over 5.0 SO/9 over the same stretch. Where he will make his money is with his two-way fastball, showing the ability to get both sink and cut, however his extremely inconsistent command in the zone limits his ability to take advantage of the movement, and it also prevents him from getting as many ground balls as he should. The slider is on a similar plane as the cutter, running away from right-handed hitters as opposed to having hard ¾ bite. He does work quickly however, going right at guys with a feel for pitching, but he lacks a true change-of-pace pitch. The inconsistent command of the sinking action keeps him from being in the conversation as a long-term back end of the rotation option. He could see a bump in stuff should he move to the bullpen full time and be able to throw for one-to-two innings and focus on the cutter/sinker combo. He appeared in seven big league games in 2016, only two of which were starts—so Arizona may already be onboard with a full time move to a relief role heading into camp this March. Should that be the case, it is not a stretch to compare him to ultimate journeyman bullpen arm Jamey Wright (RHP, Dodgers).
Quick Hit: Muren is the epitome of ‘long and lanky’ who at 6’6” is one of the few low ¾ guys who can still get some angle to the plate. A former corner outfielder who made it to Double-A in the Astros’ organization, Muren’s first full pro campaign saw him strike out 61 over 41 1/3 innings pitched across three levels. He has limited secondary stuff, but the fastball sits in the middle 90s and was up to 98 mph on a few occasions, with significant late life in the zone. He is still a bit of a thrower and with only 41 innings under his belt, and at the ripe age 28, he is the definition of a project. That said, the mid- to upper-90s fastball has some heft to it – as evident by the 1.07 ground ball rate – and with all the arms and legs he is a real uncomfortable look for both righties and lefties. This is a guy who was originally drafted by Houston as an outfielder, so he brings a lot of athleticism and body control to the position. Should he find even fringe-average control and continue to build his arm strength, the D-backs could be looking at a bullpen contributor with matchup stuff in 2017.
Quick Hit: Coming over from Toronto in the Cliff Pennington trade in 2015, Lugo has impressed in his time as a Diamondback. A thick-bodied corner player, Lugo has at least average bat speed and has shown some natural bat-to-ball skills throughout his minor league career. He has consistently put up very good strikeout rates, sporting a 12.3% mark at High A, and then 8.5% upon his promotion to Double-A in 2016. He will spray the ball around the field and does have some bad-ball hitter in him, however, the vast majority of his damage is going to be to the pull side, and his ability to make hard contact really falls off once he is behind in the count. So while the offensive numbers he has put up thus far are impressive, his struggles versus the better breaking balls he saw in the Arizona Fall League may be an indicator that he can be pitched to out of the zone. He doesn’t have a real consistent approach right now, and he tends to give away at-bats at times. Part of that may come from him being on the younger side for the level, but his fastball-hunting plan at the plate suggests that he is relying heavily on his very good hand/eye coordination and getting fastballs to hit.
Defensively, he is going to be limited to a corner spot. The footwork at third base isn’t great, impacting his range, but the hands are average and he will catch what he gets to. He does show a 55-grade arm and while he loses some accuracy and velocity on the move at third base, if he ends up spending some time in the outfield as a super utility player it should play okay there. Ultimately, this is a guy who is going to have to hit no matter where he ends up on the field. He doesn’t project to do the type of damage required for an everyday corner guy, but if he can maintain decent OBP numbers and improve the plate discipline, there is value in his bat coming off the bench.
Sergio Alcantara, SS, High A Visalia | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 5’9”/168 B/T: S/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 7m
Quick Hit: With a chance to stick in the middle of the field and with some offensive upside as a contact, on-base type bat, Alcantara is one of the better young players the D-backs have in their system. His wirey frame has room for some physical projection and, while he is not there yet, he should soon add strength to the already smooth actions and very good body control. He shows a good feel for the strike zone, will see pitches and does not look overmatched. The bat speed is just average, maybe a tick above, but the barrel control is above average and while he is not doing much damage at the present, when the strength sets in he should find some gap power. He tends to be a little better from the left side, where he creates a little more leverage, while the right side is a little longer and more deliberate. Defensively, he has the tools to stay in the middle with a plus glove and enough arm strength to handle shortstop on an everyday basis. Should the hit tool mature as projected, he is a top-of-the-order bat at a premium position. The strength will be an issue, as without it he will have trouble keeping pitchers honest, but with a Role 40 floor, the defense could carry him, and you will eat the low-impact bat for the plus defense.
Quick Hit: After playing all of 2016 at Double-A, Westbrook was one of the younger players in the Arizona Fall League. A squat, compact kid, he doesn’t project to have a ton of power, but does display some fast-twitch actions and plays with a very good energy. He has above-average bat speed and his level swing plane and middle-of-the-field approach allow for some projection on the hit tool. That said, he is just an average runner, a tick better underway, but not an impact speed guy, which hinders an offensive profile that is already weighing heavily on the development of the bat.
Defensively, he is average at second base and will catch what he can get to, and with his athleticism, he should be able to move around the field and provide some utility value. However even that role will have its limitations, as he isn’t going to be someone you plug in at shortstop, even for short stretches, due to the below-average arm and fringy range. Overall, the bat is really going to have to carry this kid, and he will need to find the gaps on a more regular basis, as the .087 ISO he put up in Double-A last year isn’t going to get it done. He is also a bit of a fastball hunter at the plate, so his presence in the AFL shows that Arizona likes this kid and wants to see what they have. Expect him to go back to Double-A to start 2017, with an eye toward moving to Triple-A at some point in the summer. This is not the type of player who will skip a level, so best case scenario for him will be competing for a roster spot in camp in 2018—and even that is probably aggressive.
Gabriel Moya, LHP, High A Visalia | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/175 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 11m
Quick Hit: Not an overly physical kid, Moya does have some strength to his medium-sized frame and manages to get very good swing and miss despite just average velocity. The arm works very well, and he has excellent body control throughout the delivery that helps him get out front on a consistent basis. The changeup is his best pitch, with a chance to be plus with hard bottom that plays up due to the small crossfire and easy arm action. The fastball is pretty straight and in the low 90s, but it is sneaky quick and gets on hitters.
He handled both righties and lefties and showed very well in his first full season above rookie ball. Historically, he has done a great job keeping the ball on the ground, but saw the fly ball rate spike a bit once he moved to High A. But he only gave up two bombs in 44 2/3 innings in the homer-happy Cal League and the low hit totals (5.4 H/9 in 2016 across Class A and High A ball) remained consistent. Expect him to head to Double-A in 2017 and if he repeats his success there, could be ticketed for Phoenix later in the summer of 2018 with eyes on him being a solid sixth-to-seventh inning contributor.
Jasrado Chisholm, SS, Rookie Missoula | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/165 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 18y, 2m
Quick Hit: With some offensive potential and a chance to stay in the middle of the field, Chisholm is a high-upside profile that comes with significant risk. He is a good athlete and has some present strength with room to add more as the body matures. He showed some gap power in his first taste of pro ball in 2016 and with the above-average bat speed, he should see more balls clear the fence in the coming years. Where he is limited is in the approach, where he tends to hunt fastballs and is ultra-aggressive. He has good plane and doesn’t work in the air too much, however the work vs. lefties is not good and there is some swing and miss in the zone (27% K rate in 2016), so he’ll need to develop the plate discipline to avoid becoming increasingly easy to pitch to.
Expect Arizona to roll with him at shortstop for the foreseeable future because of the value an offensive player has up the middle. Should he end up having to move off of short, the value drops a bit, and the swing and miss will become even more crucial. Like fellow Bahamian Lucius Fox (SS, Rays), Chisholm signed as an international free agent to bypass the bonus slotting in the domestic draft. He likely goes in the top six rounds if he stays domestic and would have commanded an over-slot bonus to keep him from going to school. Overall, if this kid can fill out and continue to get stronger, the D-backs could have an everyday guy with 50-grade power at shortstop.
Fernery Ozuna, INF, High A Visalia |
Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 5’8”/170 B/T: S/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 1m
Quick Hit: After Tommy John surgery in 2015 and falling a bit behind development-wise, Ozuna finished 2016 healthy and should be on track for the level going into 2017. With an aggressive approach and some present strength that translates to some gap power from the left side of the plate, he looks to be a good fit for the super-utility role with some offensive upside. He is a plus athlete who runs very well and has some quick twitch to his actions, but where he is lacking is the approach and the 21% K rate is evidence of that.
He does have good balance at the plate, and while the power is better from the left side, he’ll be no pushover from the right side if he can tighten up his discipline. The energy he plays with will add to the raw tools. He should pressure the defense on the bases and should be a mild threat to swipe a bag here and there. He has the ceiling of an everyday player, but ultimately the inconsistent contact rates will likely land him in that Role 40 spot where he can move around the field. He compares well to Luis Valbuena (INF, Astros).
Ryan January, C, Rookie Missoula |
Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/198 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 19y, 7m
Quick Hit: After a disappointing senior year of high school, January played 2016 with San Jacinto Junior College and did a lot to rebuild his stock as a lefty bat with some power who has a chance to stick behind the plate. After going in the eighth round in June of last year, January showed that the confidence in his power was not misplaced by putting up 16 extra-base hits in 183 at-bats, 10 of which left the yard. The stroke works uphill a bit and ultimately the significant swing and miss will keep him from getting to much more than a 40-grade hit tool, however he does see his share of pitches, and the pop will keep pitchers honest, giving him a chance to add some on-base value.
The glove is still a work in progress, and while there is some arm strength there, the footwork is slow, which is impacting the mechanics and ultimately his accuracy. At age 19 he still has a good deal of time, so going back to the Pioneer League to focus on the glove is not a bad thing. Even though the power probably plays enough for him to move to right field, the overall value would take a tremendous hit and probably knock him down a full role. After the failed experiment that was Peter O’Brien (LF, Royals) the outfielder, expect Arizona to put in the time with this kid and give him every opportunity to continue to catch. If he can be even a fringe-average defender back there, he has a legit shot at impacting a 25-man roster down the line.
Andy Yerzy, C, Rookie Missoula | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/215 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 18y, 6m
Quick Hit: A cold weather kid drafted out of Ontario, Yerzy is next to January on this list because he, like January, has some offensive upside at the catcher position with below-average projections on the glove. Yerzy’s smooth stroke and physicality make it easy to dream on there being some power to the middle of the field, however his actions are plodding, and he is not a great athlete so there will be some difficulties in maneuvering his huge frame and keeping balls in front on a regular basis. The hands work okay and his throwing mechanics are superior to those of January, however the arm is fringe average at best and it is not a real quick release.
He didn’t show real well at the plate in AZL and Pioneer League debuts in 2016, but being only 18 and getting less amateur at-bats up in Canada, it will be a slower burn for Yerzy. He is likely a first baseman once he moves out from behind the plate, but the damage potential could be enough to make him decent option as a lefty power bat off the bench.
Tyler Mark, RHP, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/45
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 2m
Quick Hit: A very athletic kid with some present arm strength, Mark does a great job creating significant angle down through the zone in spite of his medium frame. He has very long limbs and can dial up excellent sink on the fastball when he gets out front, however his ability to repeat his release point has been an issue thus far in his pro career, and the pitch really flattens out and gets hittable above the belt. His slider will show plus with late ¾’s depth and bite, giving it the makings of a true swing-and-miss pitch for him going forward.
His solid SO/9 rate is evidence that Mark has the ability to miss bats (8.62 SO/9 at Short-Season-A and 9.12 SO/9 at Class A in 2016), but his looseness in the zone with the fastball and the inconsistency with the slider led to some high hit totals (average of 9.9 H/9 across the two levels in 2016). His splitter has a chance to be a solid third offering and should get to average, however the hard-hard profile mixed with the below-average command in the zone will make it hard for him to keep hitters off-balance enough to run through lineups multiple times.
He is not a max-effort guy, so given how well the arm works it is not a stretch to expect a little more velo to emerge, along with an increased strikeout rate, should he make the shift to the pen in 2017. He spent some time there last season (9 2/3 innings) and fared slightly better, with just over 11 SO/9 as opposed to about nine SO/9 in the rotation. Overall, his ability to generate swing and miss and to keep the ball on the ground is what will carry him going forward. Concordia is a solid but small SoCal program—with more consistent competition and a full time shift to the pen, expect Mark to make significant strides as he settles into his second full pro season.
Curtis Taylor, RHP, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/215 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 5m
Quick Hit: A cold weather kid out of Canada, Taylor has big time arm strength and is still growing into his massive frame. He has the upside of a late-inning arm with a chance for two plus pitches to go with an average changeup down the line. The fastball has been 91-to-94 mph – and up to 96 mph (one report had him up to 99 mph) – while the slider shows average right now with tight ¾’s bite that should develop into a 55-grade offering, and sit in the middle 80s as he builds up his arm strength. He is a little bit behind development wise given the lower innings totals that cold weather kids often face and he is not a tremendous athlete—however he throws strikes with a heavy ball and the mechanics are relatively compact and low maintenance.
With pro instruction and a consistent training regimen, Taylor should continue to build arm strength and develop as a real asset for Arizona going forward. It would not be a surprise to see Taylor move to the rotation full time in 2017, if for no other reason than to get him more innings to allow the stuff to mature. If the strike throwing and ground balls continue, there is no reason he can’t find success as a three-pitch guy in the rotation – however with his arm strength he does not need to stay there to have value at the big league level. There is a lot to like here and Taylor could end up being one of the better fourth-round picks from 2016.
Mark Karaviotis, SS/2B, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/185 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 2m
Quick Hit: After forgoing his senior season at Oregon to sign as a 19th-round pick and begin his pro career, Karaviotis torched Rookie League pitching and made his presence felt in short-season ball. He missed significant time his junior year at Oregon due to an undisclosed injury, but seems fully healthy going into 2017.
He does not have any plus tools and isn’t going to wow anyone with double-plus athleticism, but he is a good athlete and is a grinder who is comfortable making adjustments. He has some feel for the strike zone and uses the whole field—the bat speed is just average, but he has feel for the barrel, is a good situational hitter, and can pop one from time to time. He isn’t going to stick as an everyday shortstop, but can play there for a stretch if needed, with the game clock playing up the average arm strength. He plays with good energy and is the type of player who should get the most out of his tools and continue to get opportunities.
Luis Alejandro Basabe, 2B, Class A Kane County | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 5’10”/160 B/T: S/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 4m
Quick Hit: While his twin brother Luis Alexander Basabe (CF, White Sox) found himself in the middle of the White Sox-Red Sox blockbuster trade involving Chris Sale (LHP, Red Sox), Luis Alejandro himself is no stranger to switching organizations, as he was part of the deal that sent Brad Ziegler (RHP, Marlins) to Boston last August. Luis Alejandro is a fair bit more comfortable from the left side of the plate, showing more balance and above-average bat speed while looking much more restricted from the right. The swing plane lends itself to line drives, but he doesn’t run as well as his brother. He is far from a base clogger at a 50-grade run tool, but it does not translate that well to his range on the dirt, and he will struggle to stay in the middle of the field.
He did not fare well post-trade, but benefit of the doubt goes to the 20-year-old as the first time being traded is jarring, especially when he’s spent his entire pro career alongside his brother. Ultimately, the offense is going to have to carry the profile, and while he may not hit for a ton of power, he has feel for the zone and has gotten on base everywhere he has gone (.375 OBP in 2016). He has the bat speed, at least from the left side, to still impact the ball and drive the gaps, even though he doesn’t project to have much over-the-fence presence. He will need to move around the field to have value and he is a good enough athlete to handle both second base and a corner-outfield spot. So even thought his brother is more of the impact prospect at present, Luis Alejandro does have value as a utility player who’s bat could effectively bridge a gap at the big league level.
Marcus Wilson, CF, Class A Kane County | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/175 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 4m
Quick Hit: After being taken with the D-back’s CBB pick in 2014, Wilson has made strides as an overall player in his approach at the plate and his feel for the game. He still has some swing and miss in the zone, but the on-base progression has been impressive for a young player (from .357 OBP in 2015 to .387 OBP in 2016). He has a fairly level swing plane and looks to use the middle of the field, but the significant hip travel saps his power vs. better pitching.
His above average to plus run tool will help him leg out some hits, and the improved instincts on the bases make him a legitimate threat to run. Defensively, he has the tools to stick in center field and showed improved first-step quickness in 2016. That all said, he stands to get challenged a lot more as he advances, and unless he starts to impact the ball more and do some extra-base damage, the OBP will fall off, and his value would also fall to that of an extra outfielder. We are still talking about a 20-year-old kid here, so there is some time, and Wilson has plenty of room to add good weight and strength. However, should the damage not show up, the D-backs could be looking at someone who is ultimately comparable to Keon Broxton (CF, Brewers) at the major league level.
Anfernee Grier, CF, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 21y, 2m
Quick Hit: A raw athlete with plus run and the tools the handle center field at the major league level, Grier turned a strong collegiate career at Auburn into a CBA pick in last June’s draft. With a wirey, slender frame Grier has some room to add strength, and given that his development on the diamond was stunted a bit by his time on the gridiron, there is reason to be optimistic about what he will bring to the table in a couple years. Grier has above-average bat speed, however he lacks feel for the strike zone and has significant effort in the stroke, which not only forces him to open the front side early, but also does not lend itself to great bat control in the future.
He is an above-average athlete, but the actions are a bit forced and they don’t project to smooth out a great deal. The tools and athleticism likely had Arizona’s seeing flashes of Lorenzo Cain (OF, Royals) and some late-bloomer status when they took Grier so high. However, Cain didn’t play college ball and was already showing some feel for the barrel and was getting on base at age 21. Grier also spent three years with one of the top collegiate programs in the country and did not see tremendous growth as a player over that stretch. It’s far too early to write off the projection after just 89 pro at-bats, but Grier has a ways to go to make good on his high draft position.
Jon Duplantier, RHP, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/225 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 5m
Quick Hit: With a plus fastball that can get up to 96 mph and a chance for an above-average curveball, the Rice product has some weapons to work with as he starts his pro career. He is a big, physical guy who gets some angle and whose quick arm generates life on the plus fastball late in the zone. He is max effort, however, and the herky-jerky mechanics and soft front side make it hard for him to consistently hit his spots. He is athletic enough to calm down some of the effort and his 45-grade changeup could be enough of a change of pace to help him turn over lineups as a rotation piece.
Injuries, however, have been a significant issue for him, missing a large chunk of time in 2015 at Rice with a shoulder strain and then being shut down with an elbow after just one outing as a pro last season. Considering that the raw stuff plays now, and the effort levels add a certain level of discomfort to the hitters, it may make the most sense to leave him in a bullpen role to both keep him healthy and to play down the poor command by throwing in shorter stints. If he is healthy going into the 2017 season, he is a guy who could miss bats at an above-average rate and rise rather quickly as a potential late inning power arm, but ultimately the injury bug will keep him from hitting his ceiling.
Quick Hit: After a breakout 2015 campaign that saw the burly 2015 fifth-round pick strike out 13 hitters-per-nine innings with a BB/9 rate of 2.9 and H/9 rate of 5.0, Burr found the hitters in the Class A Midwest League to be a different animal. He saw both his swing-and-miss rates as well as his consistency throwing strikes take a tumble. A variety of injuries no doubt contributed to the step back, so if he’s healthy going into March it’s not going to be a surprise to see him round back into form. He was already a reliever at ASU, and at age 22 the max-effort profile doesn’t leave much room for projection, so he likely is what he is stuff-wise.
The fastball is a plus offering that will touch 97 mph, while the power curveball has a chance to miss bats if he can find any sort of consistency with it. He will get some cut on the fastball to the glove side, but other than that it is quite straight, so dialing in the breaking ball or adding some sort of a change-of-pace offering will be critical to his ability to get hitters out in the big leagues. Since there isn’t a whole lot else expected to emerge with Burr, he is someone who could shoot through the system rather quickly and position himself for a debut in 2018 if he can stay on the field and shows his 2015 form early this spring.
Justin Donatella, RHP, High A Visalia | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/236 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1, 2016): 22y, 3m
Quick Hit: With his long legs and athletic delivery, it is easy to dream on this kid consistently offering up a bowling ball to hitters and being a ground ball machine. He has some effort, but it is smooth and he has shown a consistent ability to throw strikes as a pro. That said, the location in the zone leaves a bit to be desired and he has been on the easier side to get into the air. With his tremendous angle and the sink he gets on his 55-grade fastball, he should be keeping the ball on the ground more often. But he tends to cut himself off a bit, not getting extended as much as he should which causes him to have issues locating to the glove side, as evident by the reverse splits (lefties hit .196 while righties hit .264 in 2016).
The fastball gets very hittable up in the zone and without a plus secondary offering (45/50 slider) the poor command in the zone will bite him as he advances. He managed to put up pretty good overall numbers in a tough Cal League environment, but the combination of a below-average strikeout rate (6.9 SO/9 in 2016) and the fly balls will make it hard for him to turn over lineups with much efficiency. If he can better utilize his angle and the life he gets on the fastball down in the zone, he would have value as a middle guy in the pen, ala Trevor Cahill (RHP, Cubs).
Mack Lemieux, LHP, Short-Season A Hillsboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1, 2016): 20y, 3m
Quick Hit: An athletic, high-waisted lefty with a strong lower half, Lemieux has a very quick, easy arm through his high ¾’s slot and should settle in with two average pitches and at least a usable changeup. The fastball sits 88-to-92 mph, but it doesn’t have a whole lot to it. While the arm works well, it is fairly straight with limited life in the zone and there is limited deception in the delivery. Lemieux doesn’t have a ton of filling out left to do, but there is some baby fat on the frame and it would not be surprising to see him add a mile-per-hour or two with the deeper training aspects of the pro game. The slider has a tendency to get big and sweepy, but he has variations with it and also works with a usable cutter to the glove side. He is able to use both in the zone, so he has some feel for spin that plays it up slightly. The changeup is a third pitch for him, but he shows solid average on occasion, and it is an offering that will loom large for him going forward as he has little else to keep right-handed hitters honest.
There is not a ton of urgency to Lemieux’s game right now and this may be a case where the smooth mechanics and arm action will work against the player since he is not doing much to make hitters uncomfortable in the box. That all said though, it is really tough to sleep on lefties with arm strength and repeatable mechanics. If he can develop the changeup and utilize the cutter versus righties, he should be able to miss the barrel more often and taper the high contact rates. Expect Arizona to continue developing him in the rotation going in to 2017, but he likely finds himself in the pen by the time he gets to Double-A.
|1. Domingo Leyba, SS, AAA||6. Socrates Brito, CF, MLB||11. Jon Duplantier, RHP, SS-A|
|2. Jared Miller, LHP, AAA||7. Gabriel Moya, LHP, High A||12. Curtis Taylor, RHP, SS-A|
|3. Anthony Banda, LHP, MLB||8. Jasrado Chisholm, SS, Rk.||13. Jamie Westbrook, 2B, AA|
|4. Miller Diaz, RHP, AA||9. Fernery Ozuna, INF, High A||14. Ryan January, C, Rk.|
|5. Sergio Alcantara, SS, High A||10. Tyler Mark, RHP, SS-A||15. Gabe Speier, LHP, AAA|
Much has been made about the D-backs gutting their system in order to add talent at the major league level and compete in what they saw was a relatively open N.L. West division, but the failure of said plan and the subsequent fallout led to an upheaval in the front office. As they stand now, the next big move they make is far more likely to be one that brings young pieces back to their system rather than a move to add another impact piece to the big league club. While it is easy to second guess personnel decisions when things don’t work out, you have to remember that prospects are just that, and their asset value is determined as much by the return they can bring back in trade as it is by their potential to contribute to the big league club. While it is not easy to rebuild a system that has experienced a gap in their talent pipeline, there will always be multiple avenues to add prospects in a given season.
It is hard for Arizona to go into complete rebuild mode due to the impact players they currently have on their MLB roster. Between Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb, they have a formidable middle of the order, and with Zack Greinke and newly-acquired Taijuan Walker, they have their ace and number three starter. However, the cupboard has a lot of other bare shelves, and barring some sort of large overachievement from their ancillary players, they are going to be best off moving at least one high-value big leaguer to reload. The silver lining here is that they have multiple options that could bring back a significant haul with a correctly-timed trade.
The most valuable name is probably Goldschmidt, and given that his team-friendly deal is up after the 2019 season, the bulk of that value now lies in what he can bring back to the organization in terms of prospects. As one of the top five offensive producers in the game, dealing him should net three-to-four high-end pieces and allow ‘Zona to significantly shorten the rebuild. Furthermore, while Goldschmidt will be 32 at the end of his deal, he’ll still will command a large contract via free agency, which is money likely better spent locking in a younger piece, assuming the team has a more sustainable model in place by then. Pollock is another piece who could bring a significant return and who, going into his age-29 season, doesn’t necessarily make sense to extend if his next two years are going to be spent on a roster that is a few years from realization.
Greinke seems more likely to stay put for a couple reasons: one, his large contract and off year in 2016, and two, even if he is not the guy he was in 2015 in L.A., he is still one of the better options on the bump in the N.L. and a significant veteran presence who could impact the middle of the rotation once the next D-back’s frontline guy emerges.
So while things may appear grim in the desert, should general manager Mike Hazen and his staff decide to flip the switch, they could rather quickly turn the D-backs into one of the better farm systems in the game. There is no real rush to deal their top two big league players, so expect them to let at least the first part of 2017 to play out before looking to sell high.
While trades are one way that Arizona will be able to reset things, also expect them to rethink how they have approached the draft and international signings in recent years. Expect them to be much more active on the international side with newly-minted international scouting director, Cesar Geronimo Jr. and take full advantage of their international spending capabilities. Also expect them to take on a bit more risk in the draft with high-upside, younger players. You don’t really ever draft for need, rather you draft the best available player, so the new crop of draft picks and J2 signees over the next few years will ultimately determine their strengths and weaknesses.
As it stands now, the system is full of support and depth-type position players with limited-upside arms who will likely be contributor, but not impact players at the major league level. Jared Miller is close to big league ready, but Domingo Leyba isn’t likely to impact the lineup until 2018, with Sergio Alcantara another 12-months-or-so behind him. There is no denying that the system is thin, but they do have a large number of Role 40-type contributors who over the next two-to-three years will provide valuable depth behind the frontline names on the major league roster. For them to compete again in the next two years while their big names (Goldschmidt and Pollock) are still around will take guys like Miller, Anthony Banda, Miller Diaz and Socrates Brito hitting their ceilings. If that doesn’t happen, then Arizona is likely looking at very lean 2017-to-2019 seasons with a chance to parlay those bad seasons into strong drafts, and hopefully into a shot to be competitive again in 2020.
Email Mailbag@2080Baseball.com to submit a question to DeFreitas and Faleris for inclusion in our next mailbag. Tag your tweets with #2080DbacksChat to discuss on Twitter!