This is my first practice in making a top-prospect list, and it was certainly an experience. The biggest thing I struggled to deal was how to rate a prospect who perhaps was near the top of the list last year, but had a mediocre year in '09 in relation to some of the newer kids just taken that have had fewer years in the system, and hence fewer challenges to the majors, especially with a class of kids from the '09 draft who haven't proven much in professional baseball yet, but who many are already trying to crown as the top prospects in the system. As an example, Mark Hallberg was a guy who was rated in the top-10 amongst D-Backs prospects prior to this season, but he absolutely tanked in '09 at Mobile, and he isn't on this list at all.
So, after a few weeks and a few major changes to the list, I think I wound up with a pretty solid compilation, although certainly the difference in a slot or two should not be nit-picked (please :-P). Admittedly, the publishing of a few top-prospects lists by the likes of BA and a few other independent sources has been extremely helpful to me, but at the same time I tried to keep my own opinions deeply ingrained in this piece, especially with regard to a couple of guys who I'm not especially high on despite being against the popular consensus. Another thing to point out - a lot of my analysis comes from statistics, with just a little bit of scouting research done to try to keep a little semblance of balance. But I'll be the first to admit that I haven't personally scouted any of these guys, although I hope to get the chance to when the South Bend season starts next spring.
1) RHP Jarrod Parker - Depressing as it is to see a guy who is the consensus #1 prospect in the organization prior to '09 need TJ surgery, the year could have gone much worse for Parker. Parker absolutely dominated the two levels he pitched at, and when he finishes his rehabbing from the surgery, he will be put in Reno in short order, likely around age 22, which is still young for that level. One site I've read said that at one point in the season they felt that Parker was the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. That's ahead of Matusz, Bumgarner, everybody. And, thankfully, this type of surgery is no longer a reason for plummeting a kid with that kind of stuff's value too far down.
2) 1B Brandon Allen - Allen is technically still a prospect, and even though his major-league debut wasn't marvelously impressive, his minor-league numbers made the gap between him and Parker a lot smaller than many would think. Heck, during that "unimpressive" time in the majors, the guy still showed us that he has some legit major-league pop in his bat and some shockingly-good glovework and footwork at 1B. It's a matter of figuring it out how not to strike out for this kid, and given his young age (he will be 24 all next year), I'm of the mindset that there's a good chance that he can, with a 30-HR ceiling as a great possible reward for our patience. The only issue is that he's stuck at the top power position defensively, but he has the offensive ability to be an everyday player there.
3) 3B/1B Bobby Borchering - Borchering is young and raw, but he has immense power potential and the ability to become an all-time-great hitter. Everyone has heard the standard Chipper Jones comparison, although Borchering is less apt defensively, but has greater power potential than what Chipper has demonstrated in his career. If he can work on his defense to the point where it's definitely passable at third in the majors, his value spikes and he's one of the best prospects in baseball. A good first full-season in the minors next year would make him a #1-quality prospect in the #2 position on the D-Backs list, with Allen likely to lose prospect status and Parker still holding down the #1 spot with his ace potential and a more advanced level (since it would take about 30 knee-blowouts in the upper levels for Borchering to reach AAA in '10).
4) OF Cole Gillespie - The biggest concern for me about Cole Gillespie is the fact that his big numbers outbreak came once he arrived in Reno. A few things that help to ease some of my concerns are the fact that a lot of his value comes in walk rate, something that Reno does not too dramatically affect, the fact that some of his jump was due to some BABIP regression from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, and the fact that he has continued to put up great numbers in the Arizona Fall League against some good pitching, the only guy amongst the D-Backs' AFL participants to really stand out, with Tom Layne putting up the second-most-impressive AFL stint. Should make the Opening Day Roster, especially now that two of the guys he was competing with for that spot, Trent Oeltjen and Alex Romero, are now in the Brewers' system the Astros' system, respectively.
5) 1B Ryan Wheeler - An absolutely remarkable season, and I guy who I'm insanely high on. This is a kid who turned 21 mid-season, and held OPS's of .999 in Low-A and 1.024 in Mid-A. An absolutely legitimate power bat at first-base, and looks like a guy who will absolutely blast through Visalia, if the organization even bothers to assign him there. Frankly, I'd rather they just skip the unnecessary stop and throw him into the fire at AA to start the season. It's odd thinking that a guy we just drafted as a rookie with the 156th pick, in the fifth round, in '09 (and a fairly young one at that, 20/21 isn't typically a polished college star at that draft slot) could start 2010 as Mobile's everyday first-baseman, but he deserves it, as the other option, now that Ryne White (who didn't really deserve a promotion to AA anyways) is out of the way, are the incumbents Bryan Byrne, who will be 26 next season and is an organizational-depth guy at this point after proving he couldn't hit PCL pitching, leading to a re-demotion to AA, and Sean Coughlin, who will be put in Reno after an injury-shortened but great season at Visalia and Mobile. I've heard some suggesting that he'll be put at South Bend, but Wheeler is too advanced a hitter and has amazing strike-zone discipline. If anybody in the system is ready to be pushed aggresively through the system, it's Wheeler. Leads to a really interesting question as to what the FO will do with Allen and Wheeler once Wheeler is major-league ready if Allen has established himself as an everyday major-league first-baseman.
6) LHP Michael Belfiore - An absolutely dominant year vaulted Belfiore above three guys drafted ahead of him - A.J. Pollock, Matt Davidson, and Chris Owings - on my list. The guy showed that he has the stuff to be an absolute monster, and can legitimately start. Really looking forward to seeing both where the organization puts him (I'm thinking Mid-A with the potential for a mid-season call-up, as a straight assignment to the hitter-friendly Cal League scares me, and Yakima would be pointless), and how he is able to fare next season against more advanced hitters. Also played 1B for Boston College, so he has the potential to be yet another good-hitting pitcher for the Diamondbacks, although he isn't going to light up Chase Field's outfield bleachers like Micah Owings.
7) CF A.J. Pollock - A lackluster first season for the polished Notre Dame product (Go Irish!) slid him down the rankings a little bit, but his defensive ability in center field and his ability to make contact, having just been ranked both the top hitter for contact and the best outfield defender in the D-Backs system by BA, keep him in my top-10. The fact that he played well enough to earn himself a likely promotion to Hi-A to start next season means he doesn't plummet (see - Matt Davidson), as he won't be stuck repeating a level to start 2010. Already polished in terms of limiting his strikeouts, but could stand to up his walk rate. He has the skills already, but for some reason he just didn't demonstrate them consistently in South Bend. If he can in Visalia, a well-known hitter's league, he could find himself vying for a mid-season promotion to Mobile to set himself up to start 2011 at Reno and much higher on this list.
8) SS/2B Chris Owings - Owings is a guy with the potential to be an impact middle-infielder with the bat, which lands him comfortably within my top-10. The biggest question for me is if his defense can stick at shortstop, one of the most demanding defensive positions. If he moves to second-base, his bat isn't quite as valuable. But with a great Instructional League showing according to "top-scout" Conor Jackson, it'll be interesting to see what Owings will be able to do next season, at South Bend and perhaps at Visalia around mid-season. The defense is an issue, and if I felt it was a certainty that could definitely stay at short he would be rated higher, but nonetheless he remains a great prospect. One concern I've heard voiced about Owings, though, is that even though he is solid across the board in terms of tools, he doesn't have any skills that stand out as plus.
9) OF Collin Cowgill - Another solid season for the small man with large power, this year in Visalia, merited both an invite to the Arizona Fall League and his almost guaranteed placement in Mobile for next season at age 24. A guy who does everything - gets on base, hits for power, even has speed on the basepaths (11 SB: 4 CS). But there are certainly questions, beginning with the overload of major-league OFs, or minor-league OFs who are ahead of Cowgill in the system. EByrnes will be out of Arizona in 2011, but the Snakes will still have Co-Jack, Parra, Gillespie, Upton, and CY as major-league-caliber OFs in 2011, with Cowgill expected either late 2011 or 2012.
10) RHP Bryan Augenstein - Both additions to lower-level organizational depth and injuries combined to ruin what looked like a year in which Augenstein would jump into the top-5 of the D-Backs' prospect rankings after some absolutely bogus AA production, and at the young age of 22 years old. But Augenstein has always had some injury risk with his throwing motion and the stress it puts on his elbow, and the fact that these issues are already cropping up is certainly concerning for his future, causing him to slide down the rankings (he would be fifth or sixth otherwise). He's probably the second-choice candidate for the #5 rotation spot, and I could imagine Augenstein, Rodrigo Lopez, or perhaps a major-league bullpen guy like Aaron Heilman or Esmerling Vasquez being the designated injury fill-in in 2010. Still has the best command in the system, and gets some good sinking motion on his fastball.
11) RHP Wes Roemer - Displayed his dominance over the California League, no small feat considering its hitter-friendly nature, early in the season and earned a promotion to Mobile, where he put up a solid season for the BayBears. Had an ERA just over 4, which was as good as any of the other arms in the BayBears rotation not named Augenstein or Parker. Has a slider that will get major-league hitters out with a little more polish and a few more years of experience. He also is young, as he will be 23 for all of next season. I hear incessantly about guys like Belfiore and all of the young first-round picks from the '09 draft, but yet very little about Roemer, a sandwich-round pick from just a couple years back who hasn't faltered in his development.
12) LHP Tom Layne - Tom Layne began the season near the bottom end of the Diamondbacks' top-50 lists, but absolutely dazzled during his time in Visalia, both as a starter and in relief, leading up to his promotion to AA-Mobile to fill a rotation spot after Jarrod Parker was shut down. He just wrapped up his stint in the AFL playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions, and if you remove one bad outing from Layne's AFL stint, he threw 12.1 innings and allowed just two runs, for a 1.46 ERA. However, that one bad outing saw him get just one out and allow just 5 earned runs, shooting up his overall AFL ERA to 4.97. Still a solid stint, in my opinion the second-best amongst the D-Backs at the AFL, and it positioned him to start next season either in the suddenly-empty rotation at Mobile, and provides an option for the Reno rotation or bullpen if needed due to injuries either at AAA or in the majors. Also is left-handed, the importance of which is emphasized by the fact that every candidate for the D-Backs' 2010 rotation throws right handed (Haren, Webb, Jackson, Kennedy, Buckner, Augenstein, Mulvey, and Valdez are all RHP's).
13) 1B/C Sean Coughlin - A guy that I almost completely neglected until the D-Backs affiliate of Scout.com recently named him their 2009 D-Backs Organizational Hitter of the Year (although picking Coughlin over Wheeler was still a minor travesty). He flew under the radar a bit because he broke his hand after just 77 games this year, 27 at Visalia and 50 at Mobile, and because his stint at Visalia wasn't all that special, as he posted just a .776 OPS in a hitter's league. However, upon his promotion to Mobile, Coughlin exploded, seeing his OBP shoot up 99 points, and his slugging 42 points, for a .917 OPS. He only played 17 of his games as a catcher, indicating that his defense there wasn't exactly impressive, with the rest at 1B or DH, where that type of production is expected, but the production was encouraging enough that the team felt comfortable in letting Josh Whitesell become a free agent.
14) CF Ollie Linton - Ollie Linton is precisely the type of player that fans love to watch play. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter who is great at drawing walks, with a BA of .295 and OBP of .394 last year at Visalia to demonstrate this. He plays fantastic defense in center field, perhaps the best outfield defense in the system, stole 28 bases last year, and even has some pop, slugging .399, with 28 doubles, 10 triples, and a homer amongst his 145 hits. His great season and Evan Frey's return to mediocrity resulted in Linton dramatically overtaking Frey as the best leadoff-hitter prospect the Diamondbacks have, and perhaps has set Linton up to contend with A.J. Pollock to be the eventual heir apparent to Chris Young. Even though most will tell you that Pollock is the guy who is going to take over that position come 2013, don't be shocked if Linton is there and Pollock winds up as a 4th OF that year. Probably a guy I'm a little over-high on, but his numbers, especially in getting on-base, make him look to me like a possible Chone Figgins-type offensive producer with great defense in center.
15) OF Marc Krauss - I think people putting him in the top-10 on their lists are a little over their heads, although they appear to be the vast majority. IMO, they are particularly under-valuing defense, especially for an NL club like Arizona that builds its success around pitching (and maybe I'm taking Krauss' system misfit too much into account). Krauss likely is a 1B or DH, unless whatever team has him is ok with his bat's value being diminished by his outfield butchery, a la Adam Dunn. The power in his bat is certainly legitimate, and qualms about how Krauss would deal with the transition from aluminum bats and crappy MAC pitching to wood bats and professional pitching appear to have been completely suppressed.
16) 3B/1B Matt Davidson - Yes, he just put up an abysmal season in Low-A, and has fallen behind a plethora of other guys in the system, even a ton of guys picked this year, but there's only so far down you can list a guy like Davidson, given he was picked in the 1/2 Sandwich Round and was 18-years-old for all of last season, making him still young for his level. We wanted to see more, but the power potential in Davidson's bat is still there, and it's still real. Limited to the power positions defensively, and of the two will more than likely be at 1B, but he has the capability to put up everyday power totals at that position. If he can demonstrate his real potential next year in his first full-season of professional baseball, and he'd better hope he does with Wheeler and Goldschmidt having climbed above him in the system and Wheeler already looking like he has a brighter future than Davidson IMO, you can rest assured he'll be a top-10 guy next season, but for now I couldn't justify ranking him above too many people who have already proven more than Davidson in the system.
17) RHP Kevin Mulvey - Supposedly major-league ready at the time we acquired him from the Twins, but while Billy Buckner demonstrated this fact clearly in his time at the end of the season, Mulvey pitched poorly. Acquired for Jon Rauch at the deadline, Mulvey didn't show anything to suggest that the team should rely on him for a rotation spot next season, leaving the team in a quandary for whether or not anybody other than perhaps Bryan Augenstein can be counted on for emergency starting duties next season, and leading to the team going out and getting guys like Rodrigo Lopez for extra fifth starter options. Needs to have a great start at AAA to possibly merit a mid-season call-up to fill in for a rotation injury or an unexpected Buckner suck demonstration. He is going to be 25 next season, so time is starting to run out if he's going to wind up starting in the majors.
19) RHP Trevor Harden - In his second professional season at just age 21, he very quickly demonstrated in six starts that he was better than the Midwest League, and fared well in the hitter-friendly California League, although he did see a noticeable drop in his metrics. Should be in Mobile to start next season at just 22 years old with much of the AA rotation graduating to AAA (Augenstein, Torra, possibly Enright and/or Roemer mid-season). Also, he doesn't have an injury history, and possesses an effortless delivery and throwing motion according to scouting reports. Throws 93 MPH, and racked up K's in his brief stint at SB, as he has for most of his career. One of our higher-upside starting arms.
20) SS/2B Pedro Ciriaco - I've been talking up Ciriaco as a top-10 guy for a while after he put up good numbers for a defense-oriented shortstop at AA, but as I've been checking up on his winter-league stats from time to time, I've flip-flopped more than John Kerry, from wanting to jam forks in my eyes to wanting to put Ciriaco back in the top-10. Ciriaco originally started hot at the AFL, causing me to start spouting torrents of man-spunk (sorry for that mental image, everbody, especially the ladies) and praise in his direction, but he eventually tanked to a .614 OPS in his overall AFL stint. My first thought was, "Ok, the AFL has good pitching and is just a small sample, so he'll do better in the Dominican Winter League to redeem himself, right?" Well, the first time I checked Ciriaco's DWL stats, he had accumulated a .588 OPS. ::gags::
21) CF Keon Broxton - Boom/bust type who strikes out far too much to be any higher than he is here. Ridiculous five-tool potential and the best athlete the Diamondbacks have in their system, but patience really needs to come if he's going to reach the show. One thing that isn't an issue, however, is his glove, which comes naturally to Broxton because of his athletic ability. Could be what CY has thus far failed to become, a power machine who plays excellent center field defense, can stretch doubles into triples, and makes pitchers uneasy whenever he is on the bases. Stay tuned here, 2010 could absolutely vault him up the prospects list, or it could remove him from it (see - Tyrell Worthington, picked in the fifth round in 2007, also rated as the best athlete in the system by BA, but now out of the system after tanking in Yakima at the start of '09). Will just turn 20 in May, and probably will be sent to Yakima next season to start a slow development and ascension through the minors.
22) LHP Wade Miley - Moving from the high-risk high-reward Broxton to a safe-bet low-ceiling type, Miley is a guy who is expected to reach the majors, but has a ceiling of a solid 5th, maybe a passable 4th starter. Nevertheless, he has value strictly because of the arm he throws with and his high-probability of reaching the major leagues. He hasn't hit any major stumbling blocks along his path to the majors, and nothing has changed about his prospect value since he was drafted other than the already-slim chance of him flaming out in the minors decreasing with every level he is promoted to. We'd have liked to have seen more strikeouts this year, but I'll wait another season to see if his metrics recover before hitting the panic button unlike some other reports I've seen.
23) LHP Zachary Kroenke - Unlike Roque Mercedes and Leyson Septimo below, Kroenke isn't known as a guy with back-of-the-bullpen potential. But he isn't a straight LOOGY either, as he threw 72.1 innings in just 34 relief appearances and 2 starts last year at AAA in the Yankees' system, and he's major-league ready after carrying a sub-2 ERA in '09 (and a higher, but still solid FIP). We took him in the Rule 5 Draft, undoubtedly as a left-handed arm to compliment Clay Zavada in the major-league 'pen in both multi-inning relief and as a guy who will occasionally have face a tough lefty or two in a pseudo-LOOGY role, which will be especially important for Arizona this year since their rotation will consist of five RHP's, and because our left-handed arms in the minors are all a year or more away from being ready for the majors. If Kroenke can show that his stuff will work against major-leaguers, Ian Kennedy will not be the only 2009 Yankee minor-leaguer who has a significant role for the D-Backs in 2010.
25) C John Hester - At one point I had him in the early teens, but Hester winds up down because of his age (which I had already taken into consideration at the previous ranking, actually), 26-years-old, and mostly the fact that it appears less and less likely that the organization will be able to create space for him on the roster by moving incumbent backup Chris Snyder. The guy was just named to the Topps AAA All-Star Team after an offensive explosion in Reno, despite a career reputation as a defense-first catcher whose offense needed to catch up to the defensive advancement. Capable of being a major-league backup today IMO, it's just a matter of whether or not we'll be able to let him be one, or if Snyder's balky back will prevent the team from getting anything for him. Sadly, we may not be able to utilize what is a very rare commodity, a cost-controlled, major-league ready backup catcher who would make $400k for the foreseeable future.
26) RHP Cesar Valdez - He was considered to be major-league ready last year, but injury struck at exactly the wrong time for Valdez this season. Just when the team needed another starter to permanently remove Yusmeiro Petit from the rotation after the trial and failure of Bryan Augenstein, and Valdez had been in the middle of a solid season at Reno, where it is notoriously hard to put up a sub-4 ERA, he wound up on the disabled list. The team sent him to the AFL to try to get some extra innings in post-injury, but he has gotten shelled in his time there, posting a 10.50 ERA in 12.0 IP. However, his most important metric, his GO/AO ratio, has held at a solid 2:1 in the AFL, and the three home runs in 19 hits allowed screams "flukey" for a ground-ball control freak, and lends us to believe that the AFL's hitter-friendly nature and thin air really hurt Valdez. Will be competing with Augenstein, Mulvey, and Buckner for just one spot in the rotation to start next season, although I can't see Valdez beating out any of them except maybe Mulvey. Could see us dealing him at some point mid-season to a team looking for a flier on a major-league-ready arm if we could get a bullpen piece in return (a la the Mulvey-for-Rauch deal, but with us giving up the prospect).
27) LHP Patrick McAnaney - Sure, he posted a disappointing season in Hi-A this year, but let's not forget a few things. 1) The California League is a hitter's league, so some slight regression was in order (although not necessarily to the extent we saw). 2) He posted a 0.89 ERA across two levels in 2008 with a WHIP just above 1 while striking out almost a batter per inning, a.k.a. the numbers of a Roman (or Greek, I don't discriminate) God. 3) He's a legitimate left-handed starting pitching prospect with some good upside, which are exceedingly rare. A bounce-back year next year along the likes of what Roemer put up this season, a brilliant start in Hi-A followed by solid performance during the majority of the season at AA, would shoot McAnaney back up the prospect list in a flash.
28) RHP Joshua Collmenter - I didn't have Collmenter on my list for a really long time, but I've seen a few reports recently that are extremely high on him (one had him ranked #12 in the system, absurdly high for Collmenter's age/level pairing), and as the list has slowly expanded from 15 to 20 to 30 to 40 prospects, Collmenter found his way on here. Led the D-Backs system in total strikeouts in '09 (over one per inning) as a 23-year-old in Hi-A, which is too old for the level, but nonetheless an impressive feat. Amongst BA's '09 list of best tools in the D-Backs system, the best of each individual type of pitch was as follows: "Best Fastball: Jarrod Parker / Best Curveball: Jarrod Parker / Best Slider: Jarrod Parker / Best Changeup: Josh Collmenter."
29) C Rossmel Perez - Is supposedly already a plus defender at catcher, which is often enough in itself to merit a long major-league career. Problem is, Perez's bat is just so absolutely awful that his defensive value cannot be moved past Mid-A. He can get on-base moderately ok, especially for a guy who just turned 20 in late-August, having drawn 30 walks (to 31 strikeouts) in 353 at-bats. However, he also had an ISO of .045, hitting just sixteen doubles with no triples or home runs amongst his 96 hits in 2009. But, playing a premium defensive position, and playing it well, at his young age makes him a guy to keep an eye on, as he may start to rise meteorically if he can find any semblance of a bat. But until he is at least comfortably below-average-to-fringe-average offensively rather than straight-up awful, I can't put him much higher than here.
30) RHP Barry Enright - His ERA dropped from 2008 to 2009 across the hardest jump in the minors, Hi-A to AA, from 4.44 to just under 4, although the difficulty spike is reduced in our system by the hitter's-league-to-pitcher's-league transition from the Cal League to the Southern League. However, Enright's stock fell because of an alarming decrease in strikeout rate. His K/9 fell from 7.8 to 5.9, a legitimate worry for someone thought of as one of the top pitchers in the system in '08. Still young, and very advanced for his age, but that rate is going to have to bounce back up if he's going to regain his status as a top-10 prospect. If he can, of course, he'll vault back up the list, but don't expect his ERA numbers to remain this good if he continues to flirt with two K's every three innings and dependence on the good favor of the Baseball Gods.
31) RHP Eric Smith - A second-round pick from the '09 draft, and a guy you hear less about than the Borcherings, Belfiores, and Wheelers of the system, despite the fact that the organization loves him, and he was a big part of the SilverHawks' playoff run last year despite arriving in South Bend just 25.2 innings into his professional baseball career. Didn't have great raw numbers in Missoula, with a 4.21 ERA, but his 2.3/1 GO/AO ratio probably indicates that much of his struggles had to do with some horrible infield defense in the rookie-league. Yet, at South Bend, his metrics worsened to pretty awful levels (2 HR in 16.1 innings, with 16 hits, 6 walks, and 10 strikeouts), but he lucked his way into a 2.76 ERA. Is another one of the "fast-rising" college arms that the D-Backs have a huge habit of taking in the earlier rounds. You'd like to see us go for a high ceiling every now and then, but you can't complain with what Smith put up last season in his first taste of pro ball.
32) RHP Roque Mercedes - Of the organization's top-2 high-upside pure relief arms (now that Daniel Schlereth has been traded), Mercedes dramatically out-performed his Mobile teammate, Leyson Septimo at Mobile. Both are fairly old for their levels, with Mercedes having been held up in A-ball for a few too many years, and Septimo having failed as an outfielder before being converted to pitcher and starting the development process over, but yet both have blazing heat and giant K-rates that give the back-of-the-bullpen potential. Also, both started the 2009 season in Hi-A, although Mercedes did so in Milwaukee's system, and earned promotions to AA with fantastic performances at that level. But while Septimo fell apart after a solid start, Mercedes was able to stay afloat throught his entire stint in Mobile to the tune of a solid 3.32 ERA in 19 innings, setting himself up for a quick promotion to AAA in 2010 if he performs similarly to start the year in Mobile.
33) LHP Daniel Taylor - Really put in some fantastic work near the end of the season at Yakima, earning Northwest League Pitcher of the Week honors once, as detailed in the Draftee Report that was just put up today. Ridiculous K/BB ratio and great WHIP lead me to believe that the already-solid 3.53 ERA he accrued may have perhaps been negatively-impacted by some very bad fortune for Taylor, and his FIP/ERA split indicates this as well. Will be 22-years-old for all of next season, is a lefty, and will begin 2010 as perhaps the ace of the South Bend SilverHawks' rotation. A great find for his draft position, and if he can show that last year's position is something that can be maintained, or even built upon, he will find himself joining guys like Belfiore at the top of the system's arm prospects. A guy I'm pretty high on and expect to shoot up the list in '10, especially with the throwing arm and instant success at a moderately-challenging starting level.
34) LHP Leyson Septimo - Had such a promising start to the season at Hi-A, and was named to the World Team of the Futures Game. However, almost immediately after that Futures Game appearance, Septimo was promoted to AA and, although maintaining his amazing K-Rate of more than one per inning, his walk rate jumped by a factor of one-and-a-half, as he gave out 18 free passes in 18.1 innings. That pretty much explains all by itself how Septimo's 3.52 Visalia ERA shot up to 7.85 at Mobile. If he can reign in his control, there's no denying that Septimo has electric stuff and a rocket arm. However, because he failed as an outfielder before being converted to pitcher and starting his development over again, he has to get a move on getting up through the system, as he's already 24. To make matters worse, Septimo had an awful debut in the Dominican Winter League, where he needs to start rebuilding his confidence and control, for the Aguilas Cibenas, walking two, giving up one hit and two runs while getting nobody out in his first appearance. Could be an impact closer-upside guy, but could also flame out of baseball before you can say "one hundred miles per hour."
35) OF Cyle Hankerd - Put up a passable-to-decent year at Mobile despite the absolute offensive suck around him (translated: no lineup protection), and he'll get a chance to break camp at Reno, where he ought to be able to put up some decent numbers. Draws his share of walks and has decent but not great power, but strikes out just a little too much to allow that to translate into great offensive output. Cutting back on those K's just a little would allow Hankerd to absolutely explode, especially given how much his power could manifest itself in the power-happy confines of Reno and the PCL. Don't be shocked if you see this kid closer to the top of the list next summer, and ready to fight to take over the spot Eric Byrnes will leave behind on the big-league squad.
36) SS/2B Taylor Harbin - Harbin, like Hankerd, really has only one thing stopping him from being great - strikeouts. It's rare to find a guy who plays in the middle infield yet clubs 14 home runs in a minor-league season as Harbin did for Visalia, but he also was retired on strikes an astounding 91 times. But, if he can limit those strikeouts, he may be an absolute power monster at a non-power position, a la Dan Uggla without the horrific defensive struggles. Perhaps we got a glimpse of just how good he could be in his short fill-in stint in Reno at the end of the season, when, in 21 at-bats, he struck out just once, and while the sample size is small and luck was there, he carried an impressive .381/.435/.619 line, with three doubles and a triple in just six games. The power is legitimate, but the discipline is missing.
38) RHP Chase Anderson - Another guy fresh out of the '09 draft, racked up 48 K's in 45.1 innings, although mostly as a reliever, probably to keep his innings down after a college season at Oklahoma, especially given his scarily-small 6'1'' frame that rares back and throws 93 MPH. If he can stay intact, he has some serious potential, most likely in the bullpen to save his arm and keep his velocity up. The metrics all check out so far, although admittedly we're only dealing with a small sample size of innings.
39) RHP Charles Brewer - A 12th-round pick from UCLA in the '09 draft, scouting reports I've read have said that Brewer has benefited from leaving the Bruins, where the coaches tried to tinker with his delivery with the results typically being pretty bad. Back to his high-school form, Brewer struck out ten per nine innings at Missoula in '09, and while his age is a tad high for the level, he has a chance to be a really good find. Has the frame to end up starting, and actually had a significantly lower walk-rate as a starter, but also had a higher K-rate out of the 'pen, and we picked a lot of guys who we want starting ahead of Brewer. It'll be interesting to see what the FO decides to do with this kid, but it's a good dilemma for the organization.
40) 1B Paul Goldschmidt - Everything to say about Goldschmidt has already been said. The guy demolished the Pioneer Rookie League at an age at which guys who are considered good prospects are supposed to demolish the Pioneer Rookie League. He could be placed either in Mid-A South Bend or Hi-A Visalia to start next season, likely depending on what the organization does with Ryan Wheeler, and how he fares then will almost completely dictate what prospect value he has. The power is certainly there, but at higher levels and against more advanced pitching than what Goldschmidt went up against in Rookie-ball, a huge power swing isn't going to be enough. Also stuck at 1B defensively, so he's going to need to translate a lot of that '09 production to his next stop in the system.
Also, because the D-Backs have a good history with prospects from their Dominican Summer League affiliate, I've written up a few blurbs on some of the names you might hear out of the DSL. However, since I know very little about the DSL, I didn't feel it wise to try to fit them into the actual top-40 list.
- SS Antonio Sepulveda - Played in just one game for Missoula this year after coming over from the D-Backs DSL affiliate, and collected two RBI in his only hit. Supposedly turns 18 on the last day of 2009, although given the suspicious nature of ages for Latin-American prospects, this particular date strikes me as curious. BA ranked him as the fastest baserunner in the system, so I feel it's a safe assumption to say that Sepulveda has the kind of quickness to stay at shortstop and perhaps develop into a good defender there. Otherwise, he's clearly extremely raw, although the fact that he is already playing in the US at 17 is encouraging, unlike...
- CF Jeremia Gomez - Admittedly, these two guys are at this point of the list because frankly I have no idea where they slot, as I have exactly zero knowledge of the DSL, but tacked them on at the end because of the D-Backs' good history of getting major-league talent from their DSL team. BA ranked Gomez's outfield arm as the best in the system, however, so he'll find a way to make himself a good defender at some outfield position. Hit just .266, but still got on-base at a .351 clip, hopefully a sign of a little bit of patience, and displayed impressive power with a .424 SLG, totaling a .775 OPS. Is going to turn 19 in February, at least according to whatever documents we have, so he has time to develop, although I could see the organization trying to bring him to the US next year to get some at-bats against some better competition.
- OF Jose Jose - Jose Squared (greatest nickname ever) has a lot of issues right now. After striking out in over half of his at-bats in '08, he struck out 78 times in 169 at-bats in '09. But Jose (and you don't know if I'm referring to his first or last name there :-P) is mentioned here because of his remarkable power ceiling, and if he can ever shorten up his swing a little, you could see some special things from him. That power potential is what netted him a $150k bonus from the D-Backs, and he has the raw tools to be great, but really needs to get a move on getting himself straightened out, as he'll turn 20 next season and still is wallowing away with sub-.200 BA's in the DSL.
Wow, admittedly, while an absolute ton of work and a process that began around the time Zephon and I were writing our first '09 draft reports and has carried on half-way through December, this has been an amazingly fun experience for me. Honestly I'm already looking forward to seeing how things shake up for next year's list due to the unusual circumstance of so many lower-level guys at the top of the rankings who are going to find their first full-season of tests in 2010. Hope that, if nothing else, this gives you an idea of the bulk mass of guys we have in our system, even if you disagree with most of the rankings themselves. ;-) And, with the finale of our gigantic collaboration, I'd like to take the opportunity that I have to write a conclusion to an article to thank Zephon for being great to collaborate with despite this task being a lot of stress and a lot of work, and to everyone who has made our effort worthwhile by commenting and creating some darned interesting dialogue on all of these pieces.