We'll start at the bottom and work our way up. Several new names made their way onto my Top 30 list, particularly some of our international prospects, deferring to the enlightened minds of the some of the top prospect evaluators. Pitchers Jose Martinez and Silvino Bracho and shortstop Sergio Alcantara are a few of the names that have made it onto my Top 30 and will thus be included in the previews. Americans Colin Bray and Brad Keller make their first appearances so those are names to look for. So with no further ado let's get started.
30. Silvino Bracho, RHP, 21 - Bracho was a somewhat unheralded international signee out of Venezuela in 2012 but he's done nothing but perform since then. He started out in the Dominican League at the age of 19 and was borderline special pitching exclusively out of the bullpen. He's not a particularly big kid at 5-11, 180 but according to some translated Caribbean baseball writeups I found he touches the mid-90s with his fastball and has the workings of an effective slider.
In the DOSL in 2012 he made 20 appearances and struck out 30 while only walking 5 in 21 innings for a sporting 0.32 ERA. That earned him a promotion to the states where he spent 2013 as the closer in Missoula and performed even better in a notable hitter's environment. In 26 innings he converted 11 saves and struck out 38 while only walking 3 for a ridiculous 12.6 K/BB ratio. He spent the winter pitching in the Venezuelan League where he threw 21 more innings, striking out 28 and walking 6, though he did give up three long balls.
He's on the older side for an international signee and will turn 22 this July. He'll likely be ticketed for full-season ball in South Bend and if he keeps producing he could make his way to Visalia by season's end with the hope of looking at Mobile for 2015. There aren't many scouting reports on this kid that I could find but he did have the Venezuelan writers buzzing about his ability to go all the way. We'll see about that. First things first.
29. Colin Bray, CF, 20 - Bray was a 6th round pick out of Faulkner State College in Alabama in last year's draft. He spent his freshman season riding the pine for South Alabama before transferring to junior college to get more playing time. In 2013 at Faulkner State Bray hit .406 with 6 doubles, 3 triples and 2 home runs while stealing 15 of 16 bases. He has good size at 6-4, 190 and reports say he's an outstanding center fielder. That fit right into the Dbacks' philosophy of drafting up-the-middle athletes and earned him the 6th round selection.
He was assigned to Missoula where he got his first real test of quality opposition and he fared pretty well. His triple slash of .276/.341/.373 wasn't anything eye-popping, but for his first full season manning a premium defensive position it was acceptable. His strikeout rate of 20% showed he wasn't overwhelmed either and with his size and a full off-season of training and development, he has plenty of room to improve. I expect him to be South Bend's starting center fielder this year and given he won't turn 21 until mid-season he's right where he belongs. Still lots of upside for this toolsy athlete.
28. Anthony Meo, RHP, 24 - After an eye-opening first professional season in 2012 for Visalia Meo was on everyone's radar as a potential middle-of-the-rotation starter in the not-too-distant future. He actually out-pitched fellow draft classmate Andrew Chafin in 2012 and he earned the promotion to Mobile ahead of Chafin. But that all came undone with a totally forgettable season in 2013 that started in Mobile and finished back in Visalia in the bullpen no less.
It was always thought that Meo might ultimately be better as a reliever with a good two-pitch repertoire consisting of a low-to-mid-90s fastball and an effective slider. His control deserted him when he started the season in Mobile's rotation and he couldn't get anyone out. He was eventually demoted back to Visalia after 8 starts and moved to the bullpen. Things started out well enough there as he allowed just 4 runs over his first 11 outings covering 14+ innings. But then the bottom fell out as he allowed 18 runs over his final 9 innings. The miserable season threatened to drop Meo off the prospect list entirely.
I'm giving him one more chance to work out his issues and return to the hard-throwing reliever he's capable of becoming. Sometimes when a bad season starts spiraling downward there's just no getting it back. A nice long rest in the off-season combined with some work on whatever mechanical issues were ailing him should give him a fair shot at a bounce-back season. It's hard to say whether he'll start out in Mobile or Visalia, but regardless he'll need to start throwing strikes again to recapture the magic. His career is in jeopardy and we'll see if he can handle the pressure of resurrecting it.
27. Jamie Westbrook, 2B, 18 - Local product Jamie Westbrook put together a fine first professional season straight out of Basha High School in Gilbert to show he's capable of working his way into the upper echelon of Dbacks prospects if things continue on that path. He was drafted in the 5th round of last year's draft and was immediately assigned to the Arizona Rookie League where he played second base alongside fellow prospect Sergio Alcantara.
Westbrook was expected to be drafted in the 3rd round and when the 4th round came and went he thought he was headed to Pepperdine on a baseball scholarship. But then the Dbacks called and made him an offer to be taken in the 6th round which he indicated he would accept. When the Dbacks' interest threatened to get the Braves involved they decided not to risk waiting until the 6th and took him in the 5th. Westbrook doesn't have any one tool that stands out but he does a little bit of everything well. He's not very big at 5-9, 170 but he has a little bit of pop, he's an above average defender, he's a good (not great) baserunner and he has good plate discipline.
He posted an .840 OPS in 40 games for the Dbacks' Rookie League team which earned him a promotion to Missoula for the final month of the season, where he managed a .658 OPS. He'll likely earn a full-time gig at second base for Missoula this season and given he won't turn 19 until June, he should be in a perfect spot to show he's more than just another gritty, diminutive middle infielder and is a true prospect that brings a number of positive elements to the game. Very intriguing prospect for now.
26. Ender Inciarte, OF, 23 - Inciarte burst onto the scene in 2012 with an outstanding campaign split between South Bend and Visalia in which he managed a .797 OPS with 46 stolen bases and excellent outfield defense in both center field and right field. He impressed so much that the Phillies selected him in the Rule V draft with the intent on promoting him to the big leagues for the balance of the season. Most prognosticators thought that was a bit of a stretch and it proved correct when Inciarte was offered back to the Dbacks.
The Dbacks took him back and assigned him to Mobile where he spent the entire season mostly manning center field. Unfortunately Inciarte took a step backwards when his on-base skills eroded to just .327, not enough for a no-pop, table-setting speedster. He did steal 43 more bases but that's not enough to overcome such a poor OBP. Consider the Dbacks just traded away a similar center fielder in Adam Eaton who regularly posted OBPs in the mid-.400s and you get the picture.
This will need to be a bounce-back year for Inciarte if he's going to stay in the Top 30 and looking at his history it's a little hard to say that's more likely than not. He's already 23 so there's not going to be tons of time for him to win the hearts and minds of Dbacks management. One thing in his favor is there aren't any other prospects like him that are ahead of him currently. So he'll be given every chance to perform and take over where Adam Eaton left off. But there are several guys behind him that could easily surpass him this year and relegate him to the lower rungs. It's up to him to prevent that.