The Prospector

2015 Prospect Outlook: The Twins PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 30 December 2014 00:06

Frustrating injuries seemed to be the recurring theme for an organization with some of the game’s better prospects. Both Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano looked like potential mid-season call-ups prior to their injuries and now must prove they are healthy, can stay healthy and have their games back in respective order.

The Twins did at least receive some support with Danny Santana and Kennys Vargas claiming starting jobs at shortstop and DH. Josmil Pinto was slated to take over for Joe Mauer, but he struggled early and was demoted and is now behind Kurt Suzuki, at least temporarily, on the depth charts.

The Twins know they have a fair amount of talent that is getting close to MLB ready, but they are trying to remain competitive at the same time by signing veterans like Torii Hunter, Ervin Santana and Tim Stauffer, biding time for their potential roster upgrades from their farm system.

Stock Rising: Jose Berrios, a 2012 supplemental first rounder, has to be at the top of the Twins’ long-term pitching depth charts after crushing A+ and holding his own at Double-A at 20 years of age. Berrios has already shown the ability to pound the strike zone as well as a deep repertoire full of potential plus pitches, including his changeup. Berrios has a shot at advancing to Triple-A as soon as the start of this year with a chance at a mid or late-season call-up. He’s a possible #2 or #3 starter.

Jorge Polanco received a cup of coffee with the big club in 2014, but will spend most of 2015 in Triple-A, looking to unseat Danny Santana or Brian Dozier from their starting jobs. Polanco is a disciplined hitter, making frequent contact with gap power, profiling as a doubles hitter with a ceiling of high single digits home runs. He can play second or short effectively and could develop into a prototypical number two hitter with a chance to be similar to another Polanco, Placido.

19-year-old Lewis Thorpe pitched his way to full season A-ball, posting a 10.1 K/9 over 16 starts before spraining his UCL. Fortunately, the youngster does not require Tommy John surgery, yet. The lefty already has three pitches but is likely on a slow path to the Majors given his youth and inexperience.

Steady as it Goes: Alex Meyer, a 2011 first round pick, never got the call in 2014. The righty made 27 starts in an up and down Triple-A season, posting a 10.6 K/9, but also a 4.4 BB/9. The lanky righty has top of the rotation stuff but struggles with mechanics given his 6’9” frame. Meyer is regularly in the upper nineties and can hit triple digits, has a plus slider and a very workable changeup. The righty has an outside chance of winning a rotation spot this spring and if not, he will certainly be on the short list for a call-up. Regardless of whether he remains a starter or is converted to late-inning relief, Meyer should certainly be in your plans in AL-only formats.

Miguel Sano, perhaps the finest pure power hitting prospect in the game, missed all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. It has long been thought Sano’s ultimate destination will be first base. At 21 years of age, he’s already over 235 pounds and though naturally athletic enough for his present spot at the hot corner, he simply doesn’t have the necessary range. Defense aside, the righty is a patient, power hitter, drawing a lot of walks but also whiffing frequently. He's unlikely to ever hit for much average, settling in the .240 to .260 range with plus power. Sano is most likely to return to Double-A or perhaps even A+ ball to get the rust off and he wouldn’t even be old for that league.

2012 first round pick Byron Buxton is a bit ahead of Sano in his recovery from injuries, seeing some action in the Minors and the Arizona Fall League. Prior to 2014, Buxton was the consensus top prospect in the game, displaying well above average speed, centerfielder skills, plus power potential and a very advanced approach. All of this remains true for Buxton, who is even younger than Sano, turning 21 earlier in December. Double-A is likely his destination for the beginning of 2015 with a modest chance of a big league call-up.

Trevor May made nine starts with the Twins in 2014, getting hit fairly hard, albeit over a small sample. With a strong spring, he still has a chance to make the opening day rotation. The former Philly lacks a standout pitch, having issues with command and allowing a good deal of fly balls. However, his four-pitch arsenal are all at least average quality and he has been able to get swings and misses at every level of play. He still could be a number four pitcher long-term.

Adam Walker has hit 25 or more homers in both of his full seasons of professional ball and will seek to add a third in Double-A in 2015. At 23, he was about a year too old for his league and the same will be true this year, but the power is legitimate. As with most right-handed power hitters, Walker needs to cut down on the strikeouts quite a bit to be considered as more than an organizational player, let alone a possible platoon or MLB starter.

Stock Falling: Kohl Stewart is listed here but with the caveat he has a better chance than many others to reverse course. The 2013 first round pick dealt with fatigue, pitching through his first full professional season, along with shoulder issues sapping his velocity and reducing his K/9. Stewart, who turned 20 after the season ended, is very much a work in progress with middle of the rotation upside.

After showing a good deal of early promise, Eddie Rosario may have stalled a bit this season. Now 23, Rosario had trouble adjusting to Double-A pitching, showing an aggressive approach, for the first time struggling to make contact. When on his game, Rosario is a possible .280+/8-10 HR/10-15 SB candidate. Right now, he may end up being passed over in favor of other prospects.

Max Kepler, 21, like Stewart and even Rosario, has a chance to turn things around. The 6’4” lefty has plus tools, projecting to hit for power while continuing to show good bat speed and contact-making skills with a fair amount of selectivity. If the power emerges, there could be a player worth getting excited about here as a .280+/20+ HR threat.

Rule-5 Selection: The Twins took a chance on Braves farmhand, J.R. Graham. Graham has spent three seasons at Double-A, watching his K/9 drop a point a season as a starter, and a change in role may be in order. He’s often been seen as a reliever with a heavy fastball and plus slider, giving him a fair chance to stick with the Twins.

2014 Draft Picks of Note: The Twins drafted Michael Cederoth in the third round of the 2014 draft. The righty is a project as a very hard- throwing starter with a good curve but mediocre at best mechanics and command of his secondary stuff. The former San Diego State pitcher could begin 2015 in A+ ball where the Twins will see if he can stick in the rotation. If not, he has enough of an arm to be a force in the pen.

The Twins were targeting hard-throwing college guys in this draft. Their second round pick, Nick Burdi, was a college closer who can reach triple-digits to go along with an impressive slider. The Twins advanced him as far as A+ ball. If he stays a reliever; he could absolutely fly through the system as many college closers often do. There is some talk, given a decent changeup, that they may want Burdi to try his hand in the rotation.

The Twins did not stop there with college relievers, drafting Jake Reed, who made it as far as the AFL and could begin 2015 in Double-A. Reed compiled nine saves at three minor league stops and projects as a possible right-handed specialist in the Majors.

First round pick, brother of Dee and son of Tom, Nick Gordon had a good debut in rookie ball. Like his brother, Nick is expected to stick at shortstop. Unlike Dee, he does not profile as a speedster. He's larger with more punch in his bat and could be at least a 15-15 threat down the road. Next year he’ll get his first taste of full-season ball.

Next week, we check out the Cleveland Indians.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 December 2014 19:58
2015 Prospect Outlook: The White Sox PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 23 December 2014 00:03

After finishing 16 games under .500, the White Sox have been one of the busiest teams this off-season, both on the free agent and trade fronts. This is not surprising considering the youth and rawness of most of the Sox’s prospects who are not nearly ready to make a contribution at the MLB level.

Stock Rising: Carlos Rodon was selected third overall in this past year’s amateur draft and has not disappointed. The lefty throws in the mid-nineties and features a wicked slider and plus changeup. While Rodon could still use a bit more polish in terms of commanding his excellent stuff, there is talk that he could advance to the Majors as early as this spring in much the same capacity as former first round draft pick, Chris Sale, who spent his first year in the bigs as a reliever before moving to the rotation permanently the following season. Rodon should be near the top of your draft lists in AL keeper league formats.

Francellis Montas made excellent strides in 2014. The 21-year-old pitched at two levels and showed he is more than just a flamethrower and in fact has multiple weapons in both a slider and changeup that he can throw for strikes (2.0 BB/9). The righty will move up to Double-A where the quality of his changeup will be tested. Prior to this year, most saw Montas, who can attain triple digits on his fastball, as a potential reliever, and while that may still be the outcome, there is now potential for more than that.

Steady as it Goes: Infielder Carlos Sanchez received a long look last September after spending 2013 and 2014 at Triple-A. Still just 22 years of age, Sanchez has nothing left to prove in the Minors and is penciled in to be the Sox’s opening day second baseman. While Sanchez may indeed have little left to prove in the Minors, his ceiling is fairly low and there are holes in his game, including having marginal power and an aggressive plate approach. Long term, he profiles best as a utility guy. On the positive side, Sanchez does bring decent speed to the table and should crack double digits in steals if given enough plate appearances.

Carlos Sanchez owners will need to keep an eye on Micah Johnson, the former ninth round pick also saw time at Triple-A in 2014. Despite battling some hamstring problems, the speedy lefty displayed some gap power and his exceptional speed when on the field. More interestingly, Johnson has also shown a more balanced approach, drawing walks and understanding his role as a potential leadoff hitter. If he can stay healthy, Johnson is easily a 30-plus stolen base candidate, if not better.

At just 19 years of age, it is way too early to dismiss Trey Michalczewski, but it is also hard to get very excited about him. A switch-hitter with a good, quick swing, Michalczewski is rather raw in his plate approach, swinging and missing far too often. On the positive side, the former seventh round draft pick is not overly aggressive at the plate, plays good enough defense to stay at third long-term and is already displaying gap power that projects to develop into double digits, if not twenty-plus HR power long-term. He’ll see more action at A+ ball in 2015. For the time being, there are too many “ifs” here to recommend him for most keeper leagues.

2013 first round pick Tim Anderson burst onto the scene with 24 steals in 301 plate appearances, and he showed excellent all around tools that could make him a double digits HR/30-plus SB threat long-term. While his tools are exciting, the righty’s approach showed itself to be extremely raw, despite hitting .297/.323/.472 with a near 2.0% walk rate and strikeout rate close to 23%. He’ll be young for Double-A and barring a change in approach, it is likely to expect him to struggle a bit at this level. I was tempted to place him into the Stock Falling category but decided that was a bit premature given his success in A+ ball and the fact that he really hasn’t come close to failing at any level of play yet. It is best to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Continuing a theme, fellow 2013 first round pick Courtney Hawkins spent a second season in A+ ball, though for a 20-year-old this is far from a bad thing considering he was still young for the league. Hawkins actually improved his selectivity, cutting down on his strikeouts by 10% while still showing the type of power that could make him a 30 home run threat down the road. Still, the righty strikes out close to 30% of the time and further work is required. He’ll move up to Double-A, though a third tour of duty at A+ ball really would not be a bad idea either. Hawkins is walking a fine line between potential everyday right fielder and Triple-A roster filler.

Tyler Danish is well thought of, but he is just not a high ceiling guy. He generates groundballs with his plus sinker, changes speeds exceptionally well, and throws strikes and commands the ball well. These are impressive feats for any pitcher, let alone a 20-year-old in A+ ball. The righty will move up to Double-A and he will be one of the younger pitchers in the league, but do not be surprised to see the K/9 drop a point.

Spencer Adams enjoyed an impressive Rookie-League debut after being drafted from a Georgia high school this spring with 59 K’s in 42 innings alongside four walks. The righty is already throwing in the mid-nineties and has at the very least a fastball/slider combo that could make him a high leverage reliever long-term. As with many young pitchers coming out of high school, the art of changing speeds is something to be learned. He will first turn 19 this coming spring.

The White Sox pursued Michael Ynoa as a key part of their Jeff Samardzija deal and were happy to get him. The former top A’s prospect moved to relief last season after several seasons of dealing with injuries. The 6’7” 23-year-old is still a power pitcher with multiple plus pitches and it showed in his 12.6 K/9 at A+ ball last year. Control is still very much an issue, but Ynoa may indeed have a future as a late-inning reliever and is worth watching.

Stock Falling: Trayce Thompson turned in a clone of his 2013 campaign, showing solid tools with double digit home run output and eclipsing the 20-steal mark while walking about 10% of the time. The skills to be a legitimate centerfielder with plus offensive tools are there, but his swing has more holes in it than Swiss cheese and remains uncorrected. He’ll get his chance at Triple-A this season but has a lot to prove and may be on the bench/platoon player path to the Majors.

Erik Johnson looked like a sleeper coming into 2014. He pitched well in September of 2013 and won the #4 spot in the rotation this spring only to get absolutely rocked out of the rotation. He continued to get hit hard in Triple-A and ended up on the DL due to shoulder fatigue. Considering his K/9 dropped over three points since 2013, the shoulder injury is not all that surprising. A return to the White Sox rotation, given full health, is not out of the question, but he’ll have to earn it back through his Triple-A performance in 2015. Keep in mind that Johnson does have a solid four-pitch selection and multiple swing and miss pitches, so there is reason to keep him on your radar as a possible free agent pickup.

Chris Beck was drafted in the second round with the idea that he’d develop into a middle of the rotation starter. Instead, multiple reports have indicated his stuff has declined in terms of both velocity and movement since his college days. The righty made it to Triple-A in 2014 and managed a 7.6 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9, but he now looks more like a #4 starter at best and may have difficulty getting strikeouts in the Majors.

Next week, we continue our look around the AL Central.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 December 2014 09:25
2015 Prospect Outlook: The Tigers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 00:00

The Tigers took the AL Central yet again only to get knocked out of the playoffs by the Orioles in the first round. On the young talent front, Nick Castellanos stuck it out for the year as their starting third baseman while Eugenio Suarez saw significant action as did catcher Bryan Holaday in a back-up capacity. Castellanos’ rookie season was less than impressive, regressing in his plate discipline. To be fair, the righty does not turn 23 until 2015, so a struggle should not have come as much as a surprise. The righty did show some doubles power and has shown better contact skills in the Minors, so 2015 will provide an opportunity for those two skills to come forth. Relievers Evan Reed and Ian Krol also came up to provide significant contributions and both look to stick in the bullpen during the coming season.

In the most shocking move to the Tigers farm system, they dealt their top prospect, Devon Travis, to the Blue Jays for one of the best examples of great tools, lack of skills in Anthony Gose.

Stock Rising: Steven Moya hammered 35 homers in Triple-A and another five in the Arizona Fall League this year. That output was eye opening enough to see his stock rise. The power is legitimate and there’s more than enough athleticism here for him to handle right field. The question is – will the lefty hit or get on base enough to warrant keeping his power bat in the lineup? Moya is a notoriously aggressive hitter, frequently walking less than 5% of the time and striking out close to 30% of it. Moya will move up to Triple-A and could see significant action with the Tigers in 2015, but his best long term role likely looks to be as a platoon player.

20-year-old Domingo Leyba enjoyed quite a year in A-ball. Granted it was just 116 at-bats, but he did hit .397. A switch-hitter, Leyba is an excellent contact hitter with a quick bat and while aggressive, he has a good feel for the strike zone. In time he could develop gap power and may be a 5-10 HR, .280+ type at second base. He may move up to A+ this coming season.

Hernan Perez is a player without any standout tools but is indeed a player with good baserunning instincts, a solid glove at second or short and a contact-making approach (89% at Triple-A) that allows him to hit for average. He made it to the Majors late last season and could open 2015 as a utility player who might be able to fill in as a starter in a pinch.

Former Yellow Jacket, Buck Farmer, advanced from A-ball all the way to the Majors in one season, skipping over A+ ball along the way. This is not that surprising when you consider Farmer will turn 24 this coming February and that his age and experience warranted a challenge. The righty is a fairly hard thrower with two solid complimentary pitches and should begin 2015 in Triple-A, so a call-up as a fourth or fifth starter is possible along the way, but that is likely Farmer’s upside unless he can further refine his command of his secondary stuff at the higher levels.

2013 second-round pick Kevin Ziomek may have jumped ahead of the team’s first-round pick, Jonathon Crawford, on the Tigers’ depth chart. The 6’3” lefty dominated A-ball with a 2.27 ERA, 11.1 K/9, and 3.9 BB/9. These were the kind of numbers expected of Crawford, who has higher quality and higher velocity offerings. The results though are of an experienced college lefty and while he has two to three potential MLB pitches, he’s probably more of a fourth or fifth starter at the MLB level given no real standout plus pitch and mediocre control.

Undrafted free agent Joe Jimenez made a splash in short season A-ball as a reliever with a 13.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. At 19 years of age, he’ll move up to A-ball next year but could conceivably rocket through the system given his plus fastball/slider combination.

2013 fourth-round pick Austin Kubitza dominated the West Michigan League with 140 strikeouts in 131 innings and just 98 hits allowed. The righty is essentially a one pitch pitcher with a tremendous heavy sinker that results in weak ground balls or strikeouts. He’ll need more pitches at the higher levels, but at the very least there is a lot of potential here as a reliever.

Steady as it Goes: Last year, I described James McCann as a possible starting catcher with “strong catch and throw skills.” I also liked his contact-making skills and emerging power which was readily apparent in his doubles production. McCann spent almost all of 2014 in Triple-A and transitioned well to the next level generally, but overall showed no growth with his bat and in fact walked less and struck out more frequently. So like last year, McCann could eventually be a starter, but it will mostly be on the strength of his glove. The former second-round pick profiles as a better ball player than fantasy weapon.

Derek Hill was drafted in the first round out of high school this year, so it really can only be “steady as it goes.” His production over the tiny sample was underwhelming but he is a player with plus-plus speed and superior centerfield skills. A year of full A-ball will really show us what the Tigers have in Hill, but right now he profiles as a no-pop speedster who may possess enough bat speed and contact skills to warrant a starting job down the road.

Lefty Tyler Collins played 2014 in Triple-A and received a late season call-up. Mediocre at best defensively, left field is Collins’ likely long-term home. The former sixth-round pick has high teens to twenties HR potential and is patient enough to draw a walk, though by the same token is not likely to hit for average. Collins is a borderline platoon starter/bench player for the Tigers in 2015.

Stock Falling: Harold Castro entered 2014 as a toolsy, projectable second baseman with plus foot speed and a quick bat. The 21-year-old played at A and A+ ball, hitting for average, but showed little to no power and an overly aggressive approach (less than 4% walk rate) that will not hold up at higher levels of competition.

2013 first-round pick Jonathon Crawford had a decent, but unremarkable first full season as a pro in A-ball. Over 23 starts, he posted just a 6.2 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9, both unimpressive feats for his pedigree and experience. Crawford is primarily a pitch to contact, ground-ball inducing pitcher but needs a third pitch in order to start getting more swings and misses. He was originally drafted with the idea of becoming a middle of the rotation work horse but is now looking like a back end of the rotation pitcher.

Next week, we continue our look around the AL Central.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 December 2014 10:11
2015 Prospect Outlook: The Dodgers PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 02 December 2014 00:00

The Dodgers competed to achieve the second best record in the National League in 2014 only to fail to advance as far as desired in the playoffs. Their deep, veteran roster provided few opportunities for rookies to obtain significant playing time with only one player, utility infielder Miguel Rojas, losing his rookie status.

Other more prominent prospects such as Joc Pederson made brief appearances but it was not yet their time.

Stock Rising: As far as improving youngsters go, Joc Pederson is a great starting off point. He was the consensus top prospect in the system last year but has actually only improved on that if that’s even possible. The 22-year-old lefty was an unheralded 11th round draft pick who has developed into an excellent all-around offensive and defensive threat. In the lower minors, Pederson showed a patient approach that he was able to combine with his power and speed to hit for average, but as he has become more focused on the long ball (33 HRs in Triple-A), the strikeouts have increased, but so at least have the walks. The biggest obstacle is the array of injury-prone veterans currently ahead of him on the depth chart. Provided Pederson can once again cut down on the strikeouts, he’s a possible .280-plus, 25 HR, 30 SB player. On the other hand, if the strikeout rates remain high and if Pederson continues to have difficulties versus lefties, then we might be looking at more of a .260s to .270s hitter.

2014 first round draft pick Grant Holmes enjoyed a very solid pro debut, striking out 33 batters in 30 innings while walking only seven. At this point, the 18-year-old is already a two-plus pitch power pitcher and is working hard to develop his off speed stuff. He’ll pitch in full season ball in 2015.

Jose De Leon, a 24th round pick from 2013, turned some heads in the Pioneer League this season with a mid-nineties fastball and a 4:1 and 21:1 K/BB ratio in his two minor league stops. He struck out a combined 119 batters in just 77 innings with his fastball and slider and like Holmes, is making good strides with his change. He’ll move up to full season ball as well and could be moved aggressively as a 22-year-old.

Alex Verdugo had an interesting debut. The 2014 second round pick is already showing extremely advanced plate discipline at 18 years of age and collected more walks than strikeouts, making contact nearly 93% of the time and hitting .347/.423/.518. It remains to be seen just how much power Verdugo will develop, but so far we have a doubles hitter with excellent bat speed and strong fundamentals on the basepaths (8- for-8 in SB attempts) and at the plate.

18-year-old catcher Julian Leon emerged in the Pioneer League, showing the basic competencies to remain behind the plate while also showing some decent power (12 HRs in 264 PA) and an ability to draw walks. He produced a .332/.420/.565 slash and should now be taken seriously as a catching prospect for the Dodgers, though his ETA is well off in the future.

Steady as it Goes: Julio Urias maintained his status as the top arm in the Dodgers system with another 11+ K/9 season, this time at A+ ball. The young lefty has earned praise for his mature command of multiple pitches and ability to change speeds and offer a variety of looks. His overall control was not as great as his first full season, but one really can’t complain about a pitcher who first turned 18 late in the minor league season and who posts an 11.2 K/9 in A+ ball with three to four potential plus pitches. He’ll move up to Double-A this season and is on pace to be in the Majors before he turns 20.

At 28 years of age, Alex Guerrero should already be holding down L.A.’s starting second base job. Injuries and freak incidents held him back to just 258 plate appearances. Over that time, Guerrero showed above average power for a middle infielder with 15 homers while making fairly consistent contact, but he also showed an extremely aggressive approach that will not translate well in the OBP department at the MLB level. His bat should play at the MLB level, but like Pederson, a path to playing time must be found given that Dee Gordon is ahead of him on the depth chart and Corey Seager is climbing fast to the Majors.

Speaking of Seager, the 2012 first round draft pick is living up to his billing, tapping into his power as a 20-year-old, adroitly handling both A+ and Double-A despite being young for both leagues by hitting around .350 at each level with a combined 20 home runs. While Seager has a level, quick swing, his aggressiveness and increasing strikeout rates are not going to allow him to maintain a batting average anywhere remotely as high as it has been, but the power is projectable and he could end up a 25-plus HR hitter or better in time. Seager’s defense is still considered solid enough to stay at shortstop, but at 6’4” and as a player likely to fill out further, a move to third is likely in the cards somewhere down the road. Heading into 2015, he’ll remain at shortstop and could be starting in L.A. before the year is out despite his youth.

Chris Reed pitched at two levels in 2014 and kept his ERA under 4.00, but he continues to struggle to throw strikes and command his pitches. A 2011 first round pick, Reed has a good fastball/slider combination that may see him move to a loogy role long-term. He’ll start 2015 in the Triple-A rotation and could see some time in the Majors.

Scott Schebler continues to mash, hitting 28 home runs after driving out 27 the season prior. The lefty is overly aggressive at the plate, and strikes out frequently, but he has power aplenty and might make a good bat off the bench for the Dodgers. He’ll move up to Triple-A in 2015 and will likely spend it as roster filler.

Stock Falling: Zach Lee was coming off a solid Double-A campaign in 2013, but despite his 8.3 K/9, his stuff was and still is considered solid, but not overpowering. Originally a first round pick, Lee has not quite lived up to his billing and further declined in his Triple-A debut, dropping nearly three points on his strikeouts while walking a batter more per inning and generally getting knocked around with a 5.38 ERA. Unless he suddenly develops a pitch that he can really get some swings and misses on, Lee will end up a back end of the rotation starter.

Urias’ teammate, 22-year-old Chris Anderson, posted a 9.8 K/9 in A+ ball. The former first round pick throws plenty hard and has a good slider but is inconsistent with most of his offerings and has to develop an offspeed pitch that is workable. The righty will move up to Double-A with Urias, but he could be pushed to a relief path before long.

Key Injuries: Ross StriplingTommy John surgery. Won’t return until mid-2015 at the earliest. Profiles as back end of the rotation starter. Chris Withrow  - Tommy John surgery. Mid to late 2015 return. Still has possible future as a high-end setup man given his upper nineties fastball and plus slider.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 December 2014 03:36
2015 Prospect Outlook: The Diamondbacks PDF Print E-mail
The Prospector
Written by Rob Leibowitz   
Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00

The Diamondbacks had the dubious honor of having the worst record in the Majors in 2014, good for the #1 overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. That may be one of the few highlights of the season, though A.J. Pollock started to fulfill his potential and rookies Chris Owings, Ender Inciarte and David Peralta all played significant roles as did pitchers Vidal Nuno (after coming over from the Yankees), Chase Anderson, Evan Marshall and Mike Bolsinger, to name a few.

Since we’re now firmly amidst the offseason, these articles are more than a post-mortem. They are now an outlook and will focus on that aspect from here on out.

System Graduates: Chris Owings made the Majors last season and claimed the second base job this year. The righty showed flashes of his double digit HR and SB potential over 332 plate appearances, but he also continues to be an overly aggressive hitter who needs to improve how often he makes contact at the MLB level. Striking out 20% of the time and OBPs bordering on .300 are not long-term starter skills. In fact, Owings falls into that category of potentially being more valuable from a fantasy standpoint than from a real baseball standpoint.

It was thought Chase Anderson might move into a middle relief role last year, but he came back a starter after injury in Double-A and impressed with his strike-throwing ability and made 21 starts with the D-backs, most impressively bringing his strikeout rates along for the ride. (8.3 K/9). Anderson accomplished it by changing speeds rather well, armed with a solid curve and two changeups. Going forward, he projects well as a #3 or #4 starter.

Evan Marshall accomplished what was expected of him and more, throwing harder and keeping the ball on the ground (though 61% of the time was better than expected). Where he exceeded expectations was in his ability to actually throw strikes and command his pitches. He’ll continue to be a setup man as long as he can keep doing that.

Ender Inciarte and David Peralta head into 2015 with the intention that they will both see significant playing time in left field despite both being left-handed hitters. Prior to the season, neither player was considered much of a prospect and in fact both were more on the organizational player path at the beginning of the year. However, Inciarte’s speed and disciplined, contact-oriented approach make him viable as more than a platoon player, making it likely he will see significant action against lefties. His skills have translated well at each new level of play, so it actually would not be surprising in a second go around for Inciarte to actually improve in the OBP department. Peralta, 27, also has a fair history of making contact and gap power. Overall, the former Cardinal's role and production may not hold up as well as Inciarte’s given a more aggressive approach and less defensive versatility.

Like Peralta and Inciarte, Mike Bolsinger was nowhere to be seen on the prospect radar even after 17 fairly solid Triple-A starts in 2013. The righty improved on that in 2014 and subsequently earned a promotion where his walk and strikeout rates barely altered in the transition with a .355 BABIP and acute homeritis destroying his ERA. Bolsinger is actually a dominant ground ball pitcher who throws strikes, so the issue is clearly a command one. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be an opening in the Diamondbacks rotation for him in 2015, so he’ll have to bide his time and wait for some spot start opportunities or injuries.

Stock Rising: Jacob Lamb retained his rookie status by a mere three at-bats. The former 6th round pick has enjoyed solid back to back campaigns, including a .318/.399/.551 slash at Double-A with 14 homers. Given a history of fairly high (low to mid-20%) strikeout rates, the batting average is not likely to move up with him to the Majors as seen in his 37 games with the D-Backs. What is likely to come along, in time, are his walk rates. Lamb is a patient right-handed hitter with upper teens to low-twenties home run power and an above average glove and arm for third base. For now, Lamb will spend a good deal of 2015 in Triple-A with Aaron Hill (coming off a very disappointing year) ahead of him on the major league depth chart.

Lamb is not the only third baseman in Arizona’s system whose career is on an upswing. Brandon Drury hit 23 home runs between A+ and Double-A ball while hitting another three in the AFL. Like Lamb, Drury is more than capable of handling the defensive demands at third base. Drury’s better power and bat speed, however, translate into above average contact-making skills which could make him a .280s or better hitter at the MLB level. Of the two, Drury has the higher ceiling and is more likely to man the hot corner for them long-term.

Steady as it Goes: Aaron Blair, the Diamondbacks' 2013 supplemental first round pick, remains on target to eventually join the starting rotation. The righty has a plus fastball/change-up combination and an average curve that he can all throw for strikes. The fastball is a quality sinker that induces plenty of groundballs as well. In eight Double-A starts, he managed an 8.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 and could easily move up to Triple-A to begin next year and has a shot at joining the rotation depending upon the circumstances. While he does not have the highest ceiling of the Diamondbacks young starters, he may be the safest bet of the bunch.

Braden Shipley was taken in the first round ahead of Blair and still projects as having the higher ceiling given three pitches with plus potential. Upon reaching Double-A, over a small sample, his control wavered a bit and his command within the zone can be shaky, resulting in a fair share of homers allowed in the past season. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he can be a #2 or more likely a #3 starter. He is more likely than Blair to retain higher strikeout rates at the MLB level given the separation between his mid-nineties fastball and plus changeup.

Sergio Alcantara repeated Rookie ball. The 18-year-old has a good glove for short and an intriguing approach, but he lacks punch and any outstanding offensive raw tools at the moment. Probably on the utility man track to the Majors, but there’s a ton of time here for him to turn things around.

20-year-old Stryker Trahan had an up and down season. The lefty has a great throwing arm and was tried out in right field, but he continues to see action behind the plate too. His long-term role at this time is still in flux. Trahan’s best tool is his power as he hit 19 home runs between two levels and profiles as a possible 25-plus HR hitter at his peak if he can continue to make contact. He showed some patience and contact skills in low A-ball, but in route to hitting the majority of his homers at full season A-ball, he also ended up striking out over a third of the time. That rate, however, is well out of context with what Trahan has done in the past, so there still remains plenty of room for optimism.

Peter O’Brien, acquired from the Yankees this season, showed tremendous power with his former team, but he also continued to show he is not a catcher long-term and that he is an aggressive hitter who frequently strikes out. The righty’s best path to the Majors is probably as a right-handed platoon player and emergency-only backstop.

Nick Ahmed’s game rebounded in his second season with the Diamondbacks, though not really in much part to any change in skill, but rather a significant fluctuation in BABIP from a surprising .266 in 2013 to an on the high side .352 this year. A plus defender, this second round pick has decent speed, doubles power, and makes frequent contact. Still, the sum total of the package is likely a utility player.

Stock Falling: One has to drool over Archie Bradley’s stuff, but his struggles at every level this season with his command demonstrate he is not yet ready to take on a big league starting role. When on his game, this is a pitcher with three absolutely dominant pitches and ace potential. However, it’s hard to be an ace when you get knocked around everywhere. Barring some significant improvement, it's starting to look like a move to the bullpen might be in the cards.

2012 supplemental first round pick Mitch Haniger came over as part of the Gerardo Parra deal from the Brewers. Like Parra, Haniger is a tweener who can play effective defense, make contact, and can even steal the occasional base. But he's neither a speed burner nor a dominant threat in the power department and needs to start changing some of those doubles into homers as was originally expected of him when drafted.  He has shown decent on-base abilities in the lower Minors and he’ll need to show that again in Triple-A this season if he is going to be more than a fourth or fifth outfielder type. There are too many “ifs” here to highly recommend him for fantasy league purposes.

Key Injuries: Jose Martinez made just two starts this season due to a fractured right elbow. Still, he has very good potential if he can show the same stuff when he returns.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 08:56
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