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IHSB's 2010 D-backs Top-50 Prospects List - Back in the Desert Edition (#1-5)

So, yeah, this took forever to get up.  Woopsies.  Finals hit me like a freight train and before I knew it baseball was sadly on the back-burner in lieu of the fascinating subjects of Corporate Finance, Modern Philosophy, Irish History, Macroeconomics, and Marketing.  Then, of course, I had to pack my life into two suitcases and a backpack and get ready to head back to the US, which was a nightmare in itself that only narrowly escaped a full-scale catastrophe.  My flight to Chicago was the last flight to leave Dublin Airport before the entire thing shut down for the day, and pretty much nothing was leaving today either, which would have meant Christmas in Dublin and a depressed IHSB.

Then, since we had had a huge delay in Dublin, I missed my connection in Chicago to get to Phoenix, which meant crashing at a friend's house (from the Dublin program - thankfully she lived about 10 minutes from O'Hare) for the night and trying again today.  I finally got in this morning to Phoenix, and am (unsurprisingly) exhausted.  Considering that it's been over two weeks since my last post, this thing needs to go up already.  So here it is, the final part of this absurd series of posts, and the prospects that y'all should really note as the possible saviors of this team.

1 - RHP Jarrod Parker - 11/24/1988 - 21 years old - Highest Level: Double-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #1

2010 Stats - Did Not Play: Tommy John Surgery

Video link

Still the undisputed #1 prospect in the system despite last year’s Tommy John Surgery, particularly due to the apparent success of the surgery and rehabilitation process.  Parker is the only guy in the system who has #1 ace potential.  He is a serious competitor who wants to be on the pitcher’s mound for nine innings every game - just look at the last year of his Twitter account for an idea of how badly he wants to pitch.

Pre-surgery, Parker had a blazing mid- to upper-90’s fastball, good feel for off-speed offerings, particularly his biting slider, and exceptional command and control for his age.  He does all three things that can make a pitcher successful: misses bats, limits walks, and keeps the ball on the ground.

Recent reports from Double-A pitching coach Dan Carlson and word out of the Fall Instructional League are all encouraging.  Since Parker returned from the surgery, his stuff is apparently as crisp as ever, his control looks just fine, and his throwing mechanics and delivery are cleaner than they were prior to the injury.  (As a side note, everybody who goes to Double-A appears to love Carlson – remember all of those raves from Barry Enright?  Sounds like we have a keeper.)

The organization has taken a conservative approach with Parker’s return thus far, and will continuing the same trend this off-season.  They decided to send him to their own Fall Instructional League, which is usually reserved for lower-level prospects, rather than the Arizona Fall League so that Parker’s innings can be monitored closely by D-backs pitching coaches.  While this approach has left both fans and Parker himself anxious to see him in high-pressure professional innings, it should allow the team to have fewer worries when they let go of the reins sometime in 2011 after likely starting him at Double-A Mobile.

 

2 - LHP Tyler Skaggs - 7/13/1991 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Low-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: N/A

2010 Stats - Low-A (Angels): 19 games (14 GS), 82 1/3 IP, 3.61 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 82:21 K:BB, 6 HR, 51.8% GB-Rate / Low-A (D-backs):  4 G (4 GS), 16 IP, 1.69 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 20:4 K:BB, 1 HR, 52.4% GB-Rate.

Video link (Take note of the long leg-stride - this video is a bit dated and this stride has probably been shortened considerably)

The centerpiece of the package the D-backs received in the Dan Haren trade, Tyler Skaggs has #2 starter potential.  His curveball is already a plus pitch - every time I listened to a Skaggs start online, there were multiple mentions of a "nasty curveball," usually as he had just finished K’ing somebody.  His fastball sits in the low 90’s, but Skaggs is very projectable and could add another 3 MPH or so on his fastball as his body fills out, which would give him a second plus pitch.

As a matter of fact, there was a Fanpost a while back on the ‘Pit from youngguns about Skaggs already hitting 95-96 on the gun.  I can’t confirm this, but if it’s true, it’s awesome (provided his mechanics are in check).  I do know that he used to have an extremely long stride in his delivery (see video for further details), so perhaps shortening that up a bit could have provided him with some extra balance, repeatability, and zip.

His change-up is a work in progress, but it still has a chance to be an average or better big-league caliber offering.  On the down side, young, thin-bodied arms like Skaggs always bring with them some risk of injury as their bodies add weight and innings, and Skaggs is a couple of years away from the big-leagues - though he's actually much closer than you'd expect for someone at his age and level, as he has surprising polish.  Look for Skaggs to start at Hi-A Visalia and, provided that all goes well, end the year at Double-A Mobile.

 

3 - 3B Matthew Davidson - 3/26/1991 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #16

2010 Stats - Low-A: 113 games, .289/.371/.504, 35 2B, 3 3B, 16 HR, 109:43 K:BB, .389 wOBA, .354 BABIP / Hi-A: 21 games, .169/.298/.268, 1 2B, 2 HR, 25:12 K:BB, .261 wOBA, .227 BABIP.

Video link

Davidson vaulted up the rankings by exceeding all expectations and crushing the Midwest League in his first full season of professional baseball at the sprite age of 19 years old.  Sure, he struck out quite a bit, but he also drew plenty of walks and since he crowds the plate, he gets hit by a fair share of pitches.  As a result, Davidson is already quite the on-base machine.

It’s often said that doubles as a teenager turn into home runs in a player’s physical prime.  If that’s the case, 40 homers isn’t an unreasonable ceiling for Davidson, as he already has the ability to routinely fill the power gaps.  Further, Davidson’s ability to hit for average was far more advanced that he had been given credit for going into the ’09 draft – it was Bobby Borchering who was supposed to be the guy hitting close to .300, but Davidson who actually did it.

Davidson’s defense is somewhere between okay and rough at the moment, though as he fills out he may lose some lateral mobility, which would make it increasingly difficult to stick at the hot corner.  While perhaps unrefined, his arm is a true plus tool, evidenced by his days as a pitcher in high school (wearing #51 like his favorite player, Randy Johnson).  I suspect that Davidson’s defense was an area of focus during his time at the Fall Instructional League this off-season, and it'll be interesting to see where Davidson and Borchering both play defensively for the Rawhide to begin 2011.

I’m not concerned about the Visalia batting line - after all, remember what Davidson did in his short little sample for Yakima at the end of the ’09 season?  Throw in some inevitable BABIP regression (.227 BABIP for Visalia) and I fully expect to see Davidson succeed in the Cal League in 2011.  The problem is that he's going to need to have a monstrous power bat if he wants to be a big-time big-leaguer in the event of a move to first base.

 

4 - SS Chris Owings - 8/12/1991 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Low-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #8

2010 Stats - Low-A: 62 games, .298/.327/.447, 19 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 50:9 K:BB, .336 wOBA, .355 BABIP.

Chris Owings could very easily be argued for the second slot on the list - it isn't everyday that you find a legitimate shortstop prospect (I'm looking at you, Wilmer Flores) with as much potential as Owings.  Has a pretty swing that produces nice contact, posting great batting averages to make up for his current lack of walk-drawing, though the team certainly hopes he’ll develop some more patience.

For those concerned about his BABIP, minorleaguesplits.com’s luck-and-park-adjusted numbers (back when the site was up, of course) for Owings may provide some reassurance – .280/.306/.429 – not a huge drop-off from a teenage shortstop in full-season baseball.  Has great pop in his bat for a shortstop, and should develop a tad more power as he matures.

Some fear that Owings will have to move to second base at some point his career.  I watched him at the beginning of the year when South Bend scrimmaged Notre Dame, and his arm certainly had its shaky moments in that game.  However, reports throughout the year since then have come back with his defense at short being just fine.  Even if a move is necessary, though, Owings would have the bat and a plus glove for second base.

Missed a ton of the season due to plantar fasciitis, but the injury isn’t expected to have long-term effects, and the team simply took a conservative route and let Owings heal.  He’ll start playing again this fall in the D-backs’ Fall Instructs.  It’s hard to dub him the successor to Stephen Drew already, though, since he’s pretty far off.  We likely will need a stop-gap solution once Drew hits free agency or is moved until Owings is ready.

 

5 - 3B Bobby Borchering - 10/25/1990 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Low-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #3

2010 Stats - Low-A: 135 games, .270/.345/.423, 31 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 128:54 K:BB, .339 wOBA, .330 BABIP.

Video link

Borchering had a disappointing overall campaign at South Bend in 2010, though there have been plenty of bright spots late in the year.  He boasted a .894 August OPS and a .796 OPS after the All-Star Break (compared to .727 prior to the All-Star Break).  Further, he posted more doubles, triples, and home runs in the month of August than in any other month.  Then, to cap off the year, Borchering blasted another pair of homers in six September contests.

It was believed at the start of the year that Borchering had a better chance of sticking at third-base long-term than Matt Davidson did, though reports have started swaying in Davidson's favor over the last year.  Unfortunately, both players are likely to start 2011 at Hi-A Visalia, so once again they will likely have to split starts at third base, diminishing either's likelihood of sticking at the position.  In 2010 Davidson and Borchering would alternate between third base and designated hitter, but there is no everyday DH slot in the Cal League, so expect to see both players man first base, or possibly left field, regularly unless the organization needs to give Ramon Castillo at-bats there.

Like Davidson, Borchering has plenty of arm strength to man third base, but his lateral movement and throwing accuracy are developing.  Unlike Davidson, Borchering already looks like an NFL linebacker, so worries about significant loss of lateral movement as his body fills out aren’t as prevalent.  Despite Borchering’s slow start to the season, his scorching finish and tool set still make him a good prospect.

 

That wraps up the list.  Boy, oh boy.  A few thoughts:

1) No way I'm doing 50+ guys next year.  For one, it's impractical since any minor league farm system is only likely to produce a handful of big-leaguers.  For two, I don't think it really matters if I have Raywilly Gomez ahead or behind Kyler Newby.  For three, having that long of a list sucks out interest in a hurry.

2) I think I'm going to trim it down to a top-30 (i.e. Sickels' book), and perhaps a list of "ten other names" in some un-ranked order.  Let me know if you all think that would be better, because I feel like I could focus on getting it properly polished and making sure that I'm not making any huge errors.

3) I can't wait to watch MiLB.tv this year.  Visalia and Mobile are going to be awesome squads to watch.

4) Just imagine Opening Day for Mobile - Jarrod Parker starting, Goldschmidt at first, Pollock in center, Krauss in left, Wheeler at third, and Munson/Ortega setting-up/closing.  Awesome.  And Visalia?  Try Skaggs starting, Davidson/Borchering at third/first/left, Owings at short, and perhaps Broxton in center if the D-backs get particularly aggressive.

5) Reno will be tolerable this year, finally.  Sure, Brandon Allen will be gone, but Miley, Collmenter and Cowgill give that squad some legitimate prospects to keep an eye out for.

 

Hope you all enjoyed it, and thanks for the discussion.  Bring on the Jarrod Parker Era.