IHSB's (soon ft. Zephon) 2010 D-backs Top-50 Prospects List: The Back End (#41-50)

With this being the third post, if anyone was going to bother reading the standard intro stuff, they have already.  So, let's just skip that nonsense.  You know the drill by now - I rate prospects with all of the skill and precision of the amateur I admit that I am, and y'all tell me where I messed up, because it's bound to have happened plenty of times.

This week, I finally delve into the actual top-50 portion of the list.  Granted, if even one of these prospects becomes a solid big-league contributor, that's a good success rate.  But while it's hardly the meat of the list that people are likely more looking forward to, there are some useful parts to be found here.  There are lots of potential 'pen arms on this list (and eight arms overall), and we all know firsthand how much of an area of need that is for us.  Further, my 2011 Dark Horse prospect is sitting at #43 on this list, and it's not strictly because of his name... I think.

Zephon joined up in this last week to offer his perspectives on the players I had listed.  While I hope to have him continue doing so, even on this week's post, I messed up big-time and sent him the list just two days ago, and he couldn't get around to providing his insights on all of the guys.  Whenever he gets around to the list, I'll add his thoughts in short notice to provide the second perspective that these lists should have.

So, apologies to Zephon - I'll get you next week's list within the next couple days.

 

41 - RHP Ryan Cook - 6/30/1987 - 23 years old - Highest Level: Double-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: NR

Acquired by the D-backs in the 28th round of the 2008 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Hi-A: 20 games (20 GS), 108 1/3 IP, 4.24 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 100:36 K:BB, 3 HR, 56.7% GB-Rate / AA: 3 games (3 GS), 18 2/3 IP, 2.89 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 12:10 K:BB, 1 HR, 65.0% GB-Rate / AAA: 1 game (1 GS), 5 IP, 10.80 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 5:2 K:BB, 1 HR, 31.3% GB-Rate.

Cook does one thing, but he does it really well: throw a sinker.  He has consistently produced absurd ground-ball rates at each level he’s been in the minor leagues, and even gets his share of strikeouts (7.69 K/9 IP overall in ’10).  If he can keep his walks down, there’s no reason why the 2008 27th-round pick cannot continue to be successful beyond A-ball.

His secondary offerings are rather lacking, so they will have to improve in leaps and bounds over the next few years if he is ever going to start in the big leagues.  Without adding those pitches, he still profiles nicely as a Chad Qualls-type (the good version) reliever who can come into the game in the thick of a jam and induce a GIDP.


42 - LHP Cody Wheeler - 8/19/1989 - 21 years old - Highest Level: Short-Season A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: N/A

Acquired by the D-backs in the 5th round of the 2010 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Short-Season A: 3 games, 3 IP, 6.00 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 4:4 K:BB, 0 HR, 57.1% GB-Rate.

Wheeler was selected by the D-backs in the 5th round of the 2010 MLB Draft after a superb career at Coastal Carolina, in which he compiled a fortunate, yet still pretty impressive, 30-1 record.  He only received a handful of innings in pro ball this year, for Yakima, but should claim a spot in South Bend’s rotation to begin 2011, despite there being some heavy competition for those slots.  Going forward, his 5’11" frame is a concern, but the team is clearly high on Wheeler based on the high draft selection.

 

43 - C Raywilly Gomez - 1/25/1990 - 20 years old - Highest Level: Short-Season A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: NR

Acquired by the D-backs as a Free Agent; Debuted for the DSL D-backs in 2008.

2010 Stats - Short-Season A: 56 games, 185 PA's, .270/.341/.365, 6 2B, 3 HR, 13:18 K:BB, .312 wOBA, .268 BABIP, 31% CS-Rate (courtesy of B-R).

If only there was a direct relationship between the awesomeness of a prospect’s name and the likeliness of future major-league success.  It’d be hard to beat Raywilly Gomez.  But even in the real world, where names and baseball skills fail to have such a correlation, Gomez is a nice dark horse prospect going into 2011.  He’s BABIP-dependent at the plate - a hard player to strike out but simultaneously refusing to draw walks.

His power rates as "meh" for now, and his wOBA isn’t going to blow anybody away.  However, he is just 20 years old, and if he can stay at catcher, a position he moved to prior to the 2010 season, he could become a hot name in a couple of years.  So far, the defensive results have been encouraging, at least as far as his arm is concerned, with a solid 1/3 of potential base-stealers being thrown out.

 

44 - RHP Kyler Newby - 2/22/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: AA - IHSB’s ’09 rank: NR

Acquired by the D-backs in the 50th round of the 2004 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AA: 31 games (11 GS), 88 2/3 IP, 3.45 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 104:28 K:BB, 11 HR, 40.0% GB-Rate.

Kyler Newby had an odd season, with good overall rates, but strange starting/relief splits – he had better rates and results in the rotation than he did in the bullpen.  His big-league role will be as a reliever, and although age is beginning to creep up on the former 50th-round pick, his resurgent 2010 campaign has once again made him a candidate to join the D-backs bullpen as soon as next year if he can impress at Triple-A Reno.

Newby’s ’09 season, in which his K-Rate dipped to just 6.35 strikeouts per nine innings of work at Double-A Mobile, left worries that Newby’s prolific rates in A-ball were not going to translate to more advanced hitters.  However, Newby took a blowtorch to the Southern League his second time around and assuaged most of those fears.  It tells you a lot about Newby’s bat-missing skills that he, a fly-ball pitcher with just a 40% GB-Rate, had an alarming HR/FB of 11.2% and still managed an FIP below 3.50.

As a matter of fact, it now appears as if the ’09 season was the fluke year of Newby’s career.  It is the only year outside of his injury-shortened 2007 season, in which he worked just over a dozen innings, that Newby has not struck out at least one batter per inning of work.  By year since 2005, Newby’s K-Rates per nine innings (by minorleaguesplits.com’s totals, which differ from milb.com’s) are as follows: 14.37 (’05 - Yak), 12.59 (’06 - SB), 6.14 (’07 - Vis), 11.16 (’08 – Vis), 6.35 (’09 – Mob), and now 10.22 (’10 – Mob).  Those are some nice numbers.

 

45 - LHP Leyson Septimo - 7/7/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: Triple-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #34

Acquired by the D-backs as a Free Agent; Debuted for a D-backs US affiliate in 2005.

2010 Stats - AA: 26 games, 28 1/3 IP, 4.13 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 37:23 K:BB, 1 HR, 44.4% GB-Rate / AAA: 16 games, 17 IP, 11.12 ERA, 7.67 FIP, 20:30 K:BB, 2 HR, 46.9% GB-Rate.

Septimo was largely dominant at Double-A in 2010, with the exception of a weeklong stretch in which he totally lost his control.  He was subsequently promoted to Triple-A, with the intent of seeing him get some innings in against stiffer competition before a possible September call-up, since Septimo is already on the 40-man Roster.

Unfortunately, that one disastrous week at Double-A became the norm at Triple-A, as Septimo completely lost himself.  Just look at those Triple-A numbers - 30 walks in 17 innings?  It’s not Jason Neighborgall-territory, but it’s certainly not pretty.

Honestly, Septimo has far more potential than this ranking would seem to suggest with his raw stuff.  It’s serious closer stuff.  It’s just hard to justify having someone who has no grasp for where the ball is going when it comes out of his hand much higher on the list, especially when his ceiling is still in the bullpen.  Nonetheless, if you’re yearning for ninth-inning potential in the D-backs’ system, Septimo is your guy.

Going into the off-season, the D-backs have an interesting situation with Septimo.  Is he still worth the 40-man Roster spot he currently is taking up?  Would another team take him in the Rule 5 Draft if he were made available?  How close do they really think he is to harnessing his control?

 

46 - RHP Jeffrey Shields - 2/22/1990 - 20 years old - Highest Level: Rookie - IHSB’s ’09 rank: N/A

Acquired by the D-backs in the 7th round of the 2010 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Rookie: 12 games, 16 2/3 IP, 3.78 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 14:11 K:BB, 0 HR, 53.8% GB-Rate.

Just because I know nothing about a guy and he barely played this year doesn’t mean I can completely forget about him, right?  Shields was taken in the seventh round of the 2010 MLB Draft, and threw only a handful of relief innings for Missoula this year.  But that fairly high draft status alone lands him on this list.  Depending on what happens in instructs and minor league spring training, Shields could vouch for a starting rotation slot at South Bend, though there is a ton of competition for those slots.

 

47 - 2B Mark Hallberg - 12/9/1985 - 24 years old - Highest Level: Triple-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: NR

Acquired by the D-backs in the 9th round of the 2007 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AAA: 121 games, 454 PA's, .263/.349/.349, 24 2B, 3 3B, 1 HR, 47:51 K:BB, .322 wOBA, .301 BABIP*.

Hallberg was two completely different players during 2010 – a horrible one before the All-Star Break, and an awesome one after the All-Star Break.  Before the break, his OPS was below .600, and his future ceiling appeared to be Augie Ojeda: a defensive replacement who could play any non-first base position in the infield.

After the break, though, his OPS was close to 1.000 - for the first time, Hallberg’s bat came alive in the upper levels of the minor leagues.  While his previous struggles in Double-A and earlier in this year don’t scream for optimism, it’s not as if Hallberg has never been successful at the plate in the minors.  For those who may not remember, Hallberg was amongst the organization’s top prospects just a few years ago in A-ball.  Any sign that his bat is clicking against more advanced pitching is a reason for hope.

 

48 - LHP Daniel Taylor - 7/25/1987 - 23 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #33

Acquired by the D-backs in the 21st round of the 2009 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Low-A: 7 games (7 GS), 39 IP, 3.69 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 30:8 K:BB, 2 HR, 47.4% GB-Rate / Rookie: 1 game (1 GS), 8 IP, 1.13 ERA, 0.45 FIP, 11:0 K:BB, 0 HR, 55.6% GB-Rate / Hi-A: 19 games (19 GS), 100 2/3 IP, 5.81 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 90:23 K:BB, 15 HR, 47.4% GB-Rate.

After dominating the Northwest League in ’09, Taylor cruised through his original assignment to South Bend, making just seven starts for the SilverHawks before being promoted to Hi-A.  Unfortunately, that’s where Taylor hit a wall.  He still got his strikeouts – 90 in 100 2/3 innings at Hi-A – but was brutally victimized by the home run ball, allowing 15 homers.  However, this was largely due to an 11.5% HR/FB rate, and his BABIP of .367 at Visalia wasn’t helping him, either.

Thankfully, those numbers will likely regress as Taylor leaves the bandboxes of the Cal League, and aside from being a little fly-ball happy, his other rates are fabulous.  His short, 5’11" frame offers some worry, but Taylor made a full minor-league season’s worth of starts this year, throwing almost 150 innings.  Strangely, Taylor is much more effective against right-handed batters than left-handed batters: his 71:13 K:BB against righties is far better than his 19:10 K:BB against southpaws.

 

49 - LHP Tom Layne - 11/2/1984 - 25 years old - Highest Level: Double-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #12

Acquired by the D-backs in the 24th round of the 2007 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AA: 26 games (26 GS), 149 1/3 IP, 3.74 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 91:57 K:BB, 9 HR, 60.7% GB-Rate.

So I got a bit over-excited by a good Arizona Fall League display last year.  Layne’s strikeout rate, walk rate, and splits don’t profile him as a starting pitcher going forward.  How dramatic are his splits?  Against righties in 2010, Layne had a 58:49 K:BB ratio (99 1/3 innings).  Against lefties in 2010, that ratio improved to 33:8 (50 innings).  That’s dramatic.

So that essentially makes Layne a LOOGY who can come in, get a big bopper or two to ground out to the right side where there are three infielders waiting on a shift, and call it a day.  However, in a division with Adrian Gonzalez, that’s a nice piece to have.

Layne is probably somewhere at or around his ceiling, considering he’s going to turn 26 this November, so the next two Spring Trainings will likely be his only chances at the majors.   But considering that his competition for the LOOGY role at the moment consists of Jordan Norberto, Mike Hampton, and Zach Kroenke, Layne definitely has a shot.

 

50 - LHP Jordan Norberto - 12/8/1986 - 23 years old - Highest Level: MLB - IHSB’s ’09 rank: NR

Acquired by the D-backs as a Free Agent in 2004.

2010 Stats - AAA: 21 games, 29 1/3 IP, 3.07 ERA, 3.44 FIP, 38:19 K:BB, 2 HR, 48.0% GB-Rate / MLB: 33 games, 20 IP, 5.85 ERA, 6.38 FIP (using FanGraphs’ more precise FIP, not my rough  calculation), 15:22 K:BB, 3 HR, 39.3% GB-Rate.

Note: Norberto only made the cut after the Cardinals claimed RHP Bryan Augenstein, who was ranked #45, off of waivers.

Norbero is what he is.  He’s a lefty reliever who won’t be able to stick in the majors on any winning team until he can control where the baseball is as it is crossing home plate.  The stuff is certainly impressive, and he has gotten some big outs for the D-backs this year, but he has also taken a stick of dynamite to some tame situations.  At the big-league level, LOOGYs are not supposed to walk the only batter they’re in to face.

The stuff is there, though, for Norberto to be more than a lefty-specialist.  Honestly, Norberto should not have seen the major leagues last year.  He really should have started 2010 at Double-A Mobile, the same level he had struggled immensely at in 2009.  But the big-league team needed a left hander because Josh Byrnes hadn’t found one, so all we can hope for now is that Norberto doesn’t become timid in his next crack at the big-leagues, hopefully after spending 2011 at Triple-A or until he walks fewer than four per nine innings…

 

* Certain stats from minorleaguesplits.com, including all minor-league GB-Rate figures for pitchers, and some BABIP figures.

** Major-league GB-Rate figures from fangraphs.com.

*** FIP calculation is ( ( (3*BB) – (2*K) + (13*HR) ) / IP ) + 3.2

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