6. Jake Barrett, RHP, 22 - It was thought Barrett might be a candidate to win a bullpen spot as early as this year, but things look a little crowded there for the moment so he will likely start out in Reno. Since being drafted in the 3rd round out of Arizona State Barrett has plowed through three levels in two seasons with 2013 being his real breakout year.
He throws in the mid-90s with a sharp breaking ball and a put-away splitter not unlike J.J. Putz's offerings. He also demonstrates terrific control for such a hard thrower wth just three walks in 24 innings in Mobile last year against 22 strikeouts. He also collected 29 saves with a tiny 1.23 ERA between Visalia and Mobile.
He's got future closer written all over him and along with Matt Stites should be on standby for the first sign of any bullpen bobbles. It's a pretty high ranking for a reliever which might say more about the organization's lack of impact prospects at the moment than anything else. Still, Barrett figures to be a good one and a dependable piece of the Dbacks bullpen for the next 4-5 years once he gets the call.
7. Stryker Trahan, OF, 19 - We've spent the past two years discussing whether Trahan will remain a catcher as he continues his ascent up the minor league ladder, Well, that question was answered a few weeks ago when it was announced that he has officially been moved to the outfield. I seriously thought about dropping his ranking as a result of that but considering how few impact corner outfield prospects the club has I left things be for now.
Trahan has yet to play on a full-season club since being drafted in the 1st round two years ago, no doubt due to the team's intent to teach him the finer points of catching. Somebody probably decided his offensive development was being delayed with so much emphasis on defense and it was now or never to get him going.
Trahan has shown very good plate discipline to date and a few hints of power potential. But he really hasn't broken out as a hitter yet, so a full year in South Bend with offense his primary focus, and we should find out in a hurry how much offensive potential he really has. I expect to see a good season out of Trahan, maybe something like what Brandon Drury did last year. That should re-open some eyes about him and get him on his way.
8. Andrew Chafin, LHP, 23 - It's been interesting to see what a radical change Chafin was able to manufacture between his 2012 season in Visalia and his 2013 year in Mobile. In 2012 Chafin started out the year almost unhittable with some monster strikeout games. But he fell back to earth when his control deserted him. He began 2013 in Visalia but was promoted to Mobile in May and really put together a fine season.
What was interesting was how he lowered his BB/9 from 5.1 in 2012 to 2.9 in 2013. But his Ks dropped as well from 11.0 to 6.2. That's quite a change and is cause for both celebration and concern. I'm going with the glass half full theory that he simply had to get his control issues worked out first or was never going anywhere. With that part of the equation seemingly solved, we'll be looking for the strikeouts to start ratcheting back up without his control deserting him again.
If he does that he'll jump back into the discussion as a future big league starter within the next couple of years. There's always been talk that he's destined for the bullpen with his solid fastball/slider repertoire, but he has much more value as a future starter so let's hope that third and/or fourth pitches develop and he can stay there. I expect he gets another go at Mobile to continue working on all that.
9. Aaron Blair, RHP, 21 - Blair is classically built for pitching at 6-6, 230 and he didn't disappoint in his first pro season after being drafted with the supplemental 1st round pick in last year's draft. He pitched alongside Braden Shipley in both Hillsboro and South Bend and had very good (not great) numbers across the board. He has a solid 3/4 arm delivery with a low 90s fastball, the makings of both a slider and a curve, and an advanced changeup that gives him a lot to work with as a starter.
He's noted for being a bulldog on the mound that could turn him into an intimidating, innings-eating force in due time. Scouts love his easy arm motion and project that he should be a durable sort with a low risk of injury. He doesn't grade out as a future ace but could easily become a future 2 or 3 if he keeps developing his secondary offerings. He may start out as high as Visalia this year since he already made an appearance in South Bend last year.
Visalia is typically a true proving ground for young pitchers, but it also can be a confidence killer in the way the PCL is. He might get hit some early on there but he should be able to push through that given his solid foundation of pitches and mechanics. I see a potential 2016 arrival for this big strong right hander.
10. Jimmy Sherfy, RHP, 22 - Sherfy has been mostly overlooked by the other prospect rating folks, maybe because he was a late signer after being drafted in the 10th round and holding out to the last minute to try and get a larger signing bonus. The Dbacks didn't bite and Sherfy got the slot bonus of just $100,000. Maybe he took that slight and made it a chip on his shoulder because he was electric the rest of the summer. He posted a whopping 15.1 K/9 between Hillsboro and South Bend alongside a solid 2.1 BB/9.
He spent the previous two years as Oregon's closer featuring a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a plus-plus slider. He kind of reminds me of a more violent version of Sergio Romo. He has a slight build like Romo at just 5-10, 160 and he has an extremely violent pitching motion, which causes many to worry if his arm will actually hold up. While it's held up so far, all he does is strike people out. He might be one of those guys you simply need to fast-track to the show because his arm only has so many bullets in it. No point in wasting a couple of seasons in Reno proving himself over and over.
I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Sherfy pitching in the big leagues sometime next year. I know that sounds crazy but he's already 22 and if he keeps doing what he's been doing in Visalia and maybe even Mobile this year, he could shoot right past Barrett and Stites. Romo gets by with that one unhittable pitch. Sherfy might be that kind of pitcher too. Or he could blow his arm out. Did I really just say that? Just trying the reverse jinx thing. If I say it, it probably won't happen.