The Snakepit 2010 D-backs Top-50 Prospects List - Part 1: Falling Off the List

After months of excessive work, stat-crunching, scouting report-scouring, and video clip-finding, I now have for you all my Top-50 Prospects List for the D-backs organization.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that this list is not perfect - far from it, as a matter of fact - and I'll also be the first to admit that I probably have some pretty serious disagreements with what I imagine is the general perception of the industry (this obviously being because I have very little idea what the perception of the industry is, as I'm no professional at this).

But if you want a feel for some of the more obscure names we have down on the farm, or a few extra details on your favorite prospect or two, I think this will be the place for you to go.  Also, hopefully it will serve simply as a place where the general state of the system, or any players of interest, can be discussed.  Preferably ad nauseam, because, well, I love prospects discussions.

The rest of the foreword nonsense, plus the actual prospect fun, after the break.

You know what's great about being in Dublin?  I can wake up at 2 p.m. since I have no classes on Thursday, go to post this on the 'Pit, and I'm actually being quite punctual for you West Coast American folk.  : )

As per my Formatting Survey FanPost, this is going to be broken up into ten (subject to change, I s'pose) installments.  First will be "Part 1: Falling Off the List (a.k.a. Where I Messed Up Last Year)," whether because I had ranked them horribly a year ago (which is certainly the case every now and then, as I'll freely admit) or because of a lackluster year in the system.  This will be the longest post (ten prospects fell off of my '09 list), so there will hopefully be something to discuss right off the bat.

Next, I'll post "Part 2: Missing the Cut," a few players in the system that landed just outside of the top-50 on the list, vaguely within the 51-60 region - this will be the shortest post, since I have smaller blurbs written about them rather than the anecdotes I have about the other prospects.  Then, "Part 3: The Top-50" will begin with two posts of ten prospects each, #41-50 and #31-40, followed by posts of five prospects each, #26-30, #21-25, #16-20, #11-15, #6-10, and finally #1-5.

Hope y'all enjoy the work, and I'm looking forward to hearing the responses and seeing these kids in action in 2011.

 

Part 3: Falling Off the List (a.k.a. Where I Messed Up Last Year):

1B/C Sean Coughlin - 5/14/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: AAA - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #13

Acquired by the D-backs in the 13th round of the 2007 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AA: 53 games, .237/.316/.333, 6 2B, 3 HR, 32:16 K:BB, .299 wOBA, .296 BABIP* / AAA: 29 games, .191/.277/.360, 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 23:11 K:BB, .284 wOBA, .222 BABIP*.

The first thing that should be said about Coughlin is that some of his poor batting performance may be attributed to a series of hand injuries that he has had to deal with.  Hand injuries are often known to sap a player’s power, which was Coughlin’s best tool.  Without that power, pitchers could be much more aggressive in their approach, which hindered Coughlin’s walk-drawing abilities, and almost completely sapped his offensive skill set.

That’s unfortunate, because Coughlin was destructive at the plate when he was healthy a year ago.  Further, Coughlin’s defense is nothing to call home about, as he is more of a first baseman than a catcher.  This essentially means that if Coughlin is given another year in the D-backs’ organization to right the ship, he’s going to have produce right off the bat, or it may mean the end of his career.  If his hand is healthy, though, there should be no reason why he cannot return to his mashing ways of 2009.

 

OF Cole Gillespie - 6/20/1984 - 26 years old - Highest Level: MLB - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #4

Acquired by the D-backs in the Felipe Lopez trade; Acquired by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 3rd round of the 2006 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AAA: 69 games, .288/.394/.477, 14 2B, 6 3B, 8 HR, 49:44 K:BB, .381 wOBA, .329 BABIP* / MLB: 45 games, .231/.283/.365, 8 2B, 2 HR, 29:7 K:BB, .279 wOBA, .297 BABIP.

I really thought that Cole Gillespie was going to be good.  After all, the guy was considered by some to be close to a top-100 prospect in baseball before he sustained an injury with the Brewers before the '09 season (Scout.com had him ranked #56 in '08 - look at some of those names he's ahead of...).  Even if you didn’t trust how his overall numbers would translate from the PCL, an OPS above 1.000 against left-handed pitching would surely make him an effective platoon-partner, right?

Well, unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case, as Gillespie simply was never able to hit at the big-league level.  The team tried to pair him up with Gerardo Parra, but that unfortunately ended up as one of the most futile corner outfield platoons in recent memory.  Not even the occasionally-flashy defensive play could make up for an OBP that low, and Gillespie's performances produced negative WAR by both FanGraphs' and B-R's calculations.

Gillespie returned to Triple-A, and didn’t return to the big leagues until the Triple-A season was over.  It says a lot that the D-backs could have called up Gillespie on September 1 with Brandon Allen, but decided to leave him in Triple-A for the Aces' last handful of games.

 

OF Cyle Hankerd - 1/24/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: AAA - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #35

Acquired by the D-backs in the 3rd round of the 2006 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AA: 78 games, .245/.354/.354, 9 2B, 4 HR, 30:24 K:BB, .329 wOBA, .272 BABIP* / AAA: 7 games, .400/.500/.600, 3 2B, 1:3 K:BB, .477 wOBA, .429 BABIP*.

Hankerd was on my ’09 list because of everything he had done prior to his 2009 season at Mobile, such as his Hawaiian League MVP honors from a few years back.  Unfortunately, he has pretty much stalled out at Double-A, due to a combination of poor defense, increasing age, and not enough offense.  He performed well in Triple-A this year, but of course that was a mere seven-game sample.  The 78-game sample of suck from Mobile is much more convincing.

 

RHP Trevor Harden - 9/1/1987 - 23 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank:

Acquired by the D-backs in the 14th round of the 2008 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Hi-A: 2 games (2 GS), 9 IP, 8.00 ERA, 7.76 FIP, 7:1 K:BB, 4 HR, 27.0% GB-Rate.

Unfortunately, Harden’s year was over almost as soon as it began.  Harden came into the year as one of the best starting pitching prospects in the system, throwing 93 MPH with an easy delivery.  But after just two starts and nine innings of work with an explosion of home runs, Harden was put on the 7-Day DL and not heard from again.

I’ve been scouring the web to find out what his injury entails, but have had no success.  Whatever it is, it’s cost him, at the very least, a year of development, and now he’s going to be a 23-year-old starting 2011 in Hi-A (if he gets back on the field at all).  Harden's going to have to return in top-form right off the bat to get himself to Double-A and remain on a steady track through the minors.

 

LHP Zach Kroenke - 4/21/1984 - 26 years old - Highest Level: MLB - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #23

Acquired by the D-backs in the 2009 Rule 5 Draft; Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 5th round of the 2005 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AAA: 40 games (9 GS), 97 1/3 IP, 3.51 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 69:39 K:BB, 5 HR, 43.6% GB-Rate / MLB: 3 games (1 GS), 6 2/3 IP, 6.75 ERA, 8.30 FIP, 2:4 K:BB, 2 HR, 2 HR, 50% GB-Rate.

Kroenke was 23rd on last year’s list, high for any relief pitcher, because of his supposed status as the D-backs’ only real option for a left-handed reliever at the big-league level.  I assumed that this meant he would be given plenty of opportunities to thrive and be given tons of lefty-on-lefty matchups.  It was a ranking due to need rather than pure ability.

But we all know what happens when you assume…  Kroenke lost out on the big-league gig to Jordan Norberto, who only ranks above Kroenke on the list because of age.  While Norberto floundered during his stops at the big-league level, Kroenke had a strange season at Triple-A.  Middling as a reliever for the Aces for most of the season, Kroenke suddenly turned into early-90’s Steve Avery when he went into Reno’s rotation, despite having last started in 2006 in A-ball.

He eventually received a September call-up from the D-backs, but didn’t do anything with it that inspires hope that he’ll be a reliable lefty reliever for 2011.  Losing out on your best opportunity for a job to someone who had never posted an ERA below 7 at any level above A-ball doesn’t leave a promising career outlook.  And, no, a 1:2 K:BB ratio through five innings of a luck-driven start does not count as "doing something that inspires hope."

 

CF Ollie Linton - 4/7/1986 - 24 years old - Highest Level: AA - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #14

Acquired by the D-backs in the 13th round of the 2008 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AA: 125 games, .304/.411/.382, 12 2B, 5 3B, 3 HR, 100:63 K:BB, .443 wOBA, .397 BABIP.

First, allow me to say that I had Linton vastly over-rated a year ago.  I just wanted someone not from the ’09 draft in the top-15 who wasn't named Jarrod Parker or Brandon Allen.  But he was still a good prospect at that time, with an OBP and SLG both right around .400 from a center fielder.

Unfortunately, Linton’s power completely disappeared at Mobile.  While the batting average still looks shiny, it’s held up by Linton’s second straight year of absurd BABIP’s, despite not having an absurd line drive rate.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think that Ollie has magic BABIP-regression-defying powers, and find it hard to believe that he can continue to strike out this much and not hit for extra bases while still having value at the plate.

Also, that wOBA looks marvelous, but too much of it is derived from singles, walks, and HBP’s to be sustainable in the upper levels.  The singles will diminish with BABIP regression, and the walks and HBP’s will diminish because pitchers in the majors won’t need to throw around or at Linton since he has no power.

On the plus side, Linton’s speed in the field and plus defense will always be valuable, and that athleticism in the field is translating itself to base-running - Linton was much more successful in his stolen base attempts in the second half of the season than he was in the first half of the season.  But, unfortunately, the ceiling here is a backup outfielder, and the overall outlook is a lot like Evan Frey’s.

 

LHP Pat McAnaney - 3/11/1986 - 24 years old - Highest Level: AA - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #27

Acquired by the D-backs in the 8th round of the 2008 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - Hi-A: 5 games (5 GS), 29 IP, 2.48 ERA, 1.58 FIP, 42:8 K:BB, 1 HR, 47.8% GB-Rate / AA: 22 games (22 GS), 110 1/3 IP, 5.30 ERA, 3.86 FIP, 95:53 K:BB, 8 HR, 42.5% GB-Rate.

After 2009 had gone swimmingly for McAnaney, with plenty of strikeouts and solid results in the hitter-friendly Cal League, 2010 did not go quite according to plan.  McAnaney spent just one start at Visalia before heading to Mobile when Matt Torra was promoted to Reno, and promptly hit a brick wall. He still missed bats at Double-A, but couldn’t limit free passes and found himself allowing a ton of home runs.

He wound up being demoted at the end of the year, as the organization felt that Ryan Cook would provide better results in the BayBears’ rotation as they made a push for the playoffs.  McAnaney absolutely demolished Hi-A upon his return there, going, if I recall correctly, seven innings with fourteen strikeouts twice.  That showing may have bought McAnaney a last lease on pro baseball life, as it may have encouraged the D-backs to give him another shot at Double-A next year.

McAnaney serves as a warning sign for the likes of Charles Brewer or Chase Anderson, because McAnaney was in almost the exact same position last year as those two are in now.  Though McAnaney was one year older than Brewer or Anderson is now, he had been successful for two years in the minors up to the Hi-A level.  Now, it’s hard to classify McAnaney as a serious prospect.

 

RHP Roque Mercedes – 9/28/1986 – 24 years old – Highest Level: AA – IHSB’s ’09 rank: #32

Acquired by the D-backs in the Felipe Lopez trade; Signed by the Milwaukee Brewers as a Free Agent in 2004 (I think...).

2010 Stats - AA: 38 games, 53 2/3 IP, 4.36 ERA, 4.08 FIP, 45:24 K:BB, 5 HR, 41.3% GB-Rate.

That Felipe Lopez trade looks a lot worse now than it did just one year ago.  Not only did Cole Gillespie struggle in the big leagues, but Mercedes, who had put up solid numbers at Double-A in a brief showing there in ’09, has struggled immensely there in 2010.  Considering the value that Flip had at the time, I'm betting that there were offers out there that would already have looked better for us.

Control was the biggest issue for Mercedes, whose walk totals were reminiscent of his attempts to start in the Brewers organization.  With Double-A having so many other options for relief arms, like Bryan Shaw, Bryan Woodall, and perhaps Joshua Collmenter, Mercedes is going to need to have a good start to his 2011 campaign to reach Triple-A quickly and catch up.  If he cannot, he could find himself slapped with the organizational filler label.

 

RHP Kevin Mulvey - 5/26/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: MLB - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #17

Acquired by the D-backs in the Jon Rauch trade; Drafted by the New York Mets in the 2nd round of the 2006 Rule 4 Draft.

2010 Stats - AAA: 27 games (27 GS), 156 2/3 IP, 4.65 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 109:60 K:BB, 11 HR, 50.3% GB-Rate / MLB: 2 games, 3 IP, 6.00 ERA, 13.20 FIP, 1:2 K:BB, 2 HR, 30.8% GB-Rate.

Upon being acquired from the Minnesota Twins for Jon Rauch last deadline, it was believed that Mulvey was a leading candidate to assume a fifth starter role for the D-backs in 2010.  He received a handful of starts for the D-backs down the stretch in ‘09, and while they didn’t go as planned, he was still a candidate for the gig heading into Spring Training.  There, sadly, it all collapsed on Mulvey.

Mulvey failed to earn a job out of Spring Training, beat out by journeyman Rodrigo Lopez.  Then, in his time at Triple-A Reno, he couldn’t stand out from the crowd of Kris Benson, Cesar Valdez, and Billy Buckner, who all were called up from Reno to start for the D-backs in 2010 while Mulvey remained in the minors.  Even when those three (and Dontrelle Willis) flamed out in the majors, the D-backs were higher on Barry Enright at Double-A Mobile than they were on Mulvey at Reno, and the Red Viper has not given up his rotation slot despite some ugly peripherals.

Even when Mulvey was given a relief opportunity at the big-league level, he couldn’t get the job done.  At this point, Mulvey is what he is – a AAAA spot-starter or spot-reliever who is a serious candidate to be let go in the off-season as well as a mortal lock to be outrighted from the 40-man roster.

 

RHP Cesar Valdez - 3/17/1985 - 25 years old - Highest Level: MLB - IHSB’s ’09 rank: #26

Acquired by the D-backs as a Free Agent; Debuted with the D-backs for Yakima in 2006.

2010 Stats - AAA: 20 games (18 GS), 97 2/3 IP, 5.90 ERA, 4.42 FIP, 92:49 K:BB, 12 HR, 52.7% GB-Rate / MLB: 9 games (2 GS), 20 IP, 7.65 ERA, 4.70 FIP, 13:10 K:BB, 2 HR, 56.2% GB-Rate.

What do you get when you mix a pitcher whose stuff profiles best in relief with a pitcher who looks completely uncomfortable when put into the bullpen for the first time?  You get Cesar Valdez, a prospect who looked a lot more illustrious last year, coming off of injury, than he does now, since he is now coming off of an absolutely miserable season.

His change-up, which has impressive fading action, could be a plus out-pitch if only his sinker could sit from 91-93 MPH, which would make him a back-of-the-rotation mainstay.  But, since his sinker instead sits in the upper 80’s, his 83-MPH "change-up" doesn’t mess with the timing of opposing hitters enough.

So, with the lack of a true out-pitch as a starter, it would appear that Valdez would be nicely suited for a relief role.  This would allow him to amp up his sinker velocity, which, combined with his change-up and three-quarters arm angle, should make him extremely difficult for right-handers to hit.  But, sadly, we all saw how that worked out.  He never looked comfortable coming out the ‘pen.

Unfortunately, this all added up to Valdez being DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster for a 26-year-old Double-A catcher.

 

* 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

 

That's all for Part 1 - Next week will be "Part 2: Missing the Cut."  I'm hoping within the next week or two to have Zephon provide a little insight on the weekly post, as I feel a second opinion is always extremely beneficial for these lists, and he, of course, knows his D-backs prospects.  Also, look out for the minor league roundtable at some point in the future, as the man, the myth, the legend, John Sickels has agreed to chime in!  Should be very interesting.

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