Dbacks 2014 Prospect Preview 21-25

Zeke Spruill is ranked #24 on my pre-season prospects list - Rick Yeatts

Part 2 of 6 on my latest Top 30 prospects. Some unfamiliar names in this group though ones you should start to get used to hearing about.

25. Ben Eckels, RHP, 20 - Eckels has put together two solid though unspectacular seasons to begin his baseball career. He was drafted in the 11th round in 2012 and after a rocky start in the Arizona Rookie League put together a very good stretch to finish the season where he allowed 3 runs over 30+ innings with 35 strikeouts. In 2013 he skipped over Missoula and was sent to the Northwest League competing against mostly seasoned college players and had a solid campaign posting a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts at the age of 19.

Unfortunately his K rate dipped down below 7.0 and he took advantage of a favorable BABIP of .264 in posting a very good H/9 of 7.0. All-in-all it was a good, not great, season and was something to build on. It should set him up for a rotation spot in full-season South Bend this year where his innings will be increased to something north of 100 and he'll have every chance to make a statement about his future as a real prospect. Scouts say he has an advanced change-up to go along with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, and if he can develop that third pitch he has a real chance. He's still one to watch closely.

24. Zeke Spruill, RHP, 23 - Spruill is one of those pitchers that teams like having in reserve but if they end up needing him it typically means things are not going well. He's your classic sinkerball, pitch-to-contact pitcher that gets a ton of ground balls--put a good defense behind him and he can be effective. He got his first taste of the majors last year and didn't exactly impress, though he wasn't downright horrible either.

He's only 23 so you can't write him off just yet. Unfortunately I'm afraid he's just a tad short of having good enough stuff to expect him to command a regular spot in a big league rotation. He started off 2012 in Mobile and was terrific, which earned him the big league spot start and a couple of relief appearances last year when McCarthy and Cahill missed time. He also held his own in Reno for the second half which is where he'll likely spend most of 2014. He's still a prospect but I fear he'll find himself lower on the list in the near future rather than higher.

23. Brad Keller, RHP, 18 - For a 17-year-old fresh out of high school, Keller put his name on the list with a very good season in the Arizona Rookie League. Last year's 8th round pick made 12 starts for the Dbacks and posted a 2.22 ERA with 61 Ks in 56 innings. The walks were on the highish side but his 6-5, 230 pound frame portends lots of projection. He did get a cup of coffee in Missoula at the end of the year and is likely headed there for 2014.

Most high school pitchers don't take to the kind of workload Keller managed last year and that's where his size, arm strength and work ethic are paying off. Keller has a 3-pitch repertoire with a low-to-mid 90s fastball that may have room for more velocity as his body and mechanics mature. He's been a great find for the Dbacks scouting department and looks like last year's draft's sleeper pick. Looking like a real find so far.

22. Jose Herrera, C, 17 - Herrera was the top rated catcher in last year's international signing group and was rated #10 overall when the Dbacks landed him with a $1,050,000 signing bonus last June. He was only 16 at the time and didn't play any affiliated baseball after signing, probably because the Dbacks didn't want to get his service time clock started too early. He's a switch hitter who was originally a third baseman and has only been catching for the last two seasons. But scouts say he's more than good enough to stay at catcher with a strong arm and quick feet.

Baseball America projects him to hit with power due to a natural lift in his swing but questions whether he can hit for average. We're anxious to see him play and odds are with that kind of signing bonus he's likely to start his career in the Arizona League rather than the Dominican League. It's nice to see the Dbacks able to compete on a more level playing field with the big boys due to the new rules for international free agents. He's still a big unknown at this point but he's just getting started.

21. Chuck Taylor, OF, 20 - Taylor struggled in his first professional season out of high school after being drafted in the 4th round in 2012 as many high schoolers do. But he took a significant step forward in 2013 with a very good season in Missoula when he posted a triple slash of .291/.385/.414. He can play all three outfield positions and does a little bit of everything. He doesn't have big power or major stealing speed but he will hit a few balls out, he will steal a few bases.and he will play good defense. He didn't get to play any center field last year due to the presence of Colin Bray.

He's on the smaller side at 5-9 but he's solidly built at 185 and can drive the ball into the gaps with authority while using his good speed to leg out the extra base. The lack of a stand out skill will keep some from getting overly excited about Taylor but he kind of reminds me of Gerardo Parra with his body type and general all-around skills. His career is just getting started and he'll need to keep moving forward to stay high on the prospect list, but all signs point to that possibility being wide open.

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