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Diamondbacks Minor Leaguers in Review: South Bend Outfielders

As we discussed in the infielders review, there weren't a lot of exciting bats in South Bend this year. The most interesting outfield prospect got promoted mid-season in Ender Inciarte, and what was left behind just doesn't give any warm and fuzzies about the future.

Tom Belza was the best of a pretty average group of South Bend outfielders.
Tom Belza was the best of a pretty average group of South Bend outfielders.
Arizona Diamondbacks

The lack of quality bats in South Bend probably explains why they didn't make the playoffs. This will change in 2013 as a host of upside hitters will descend upon Indiana and give us a better outlook. It's not that the South bend outfielders were outright terrible or anything. As a group they did some fairly decent things. The issue is more from a prospect perspective in that I don't see anyone on this list that I can get behind continuing to progress much more than another level or two. I only project one of these to advance to Visalia and three of them to repeat, but even that's not realistic because there won't be that many jobs available so somebody on this list might not survive the cuts. That being said let's look at what we have.

OF Tom Belza, 23, .260/.334/.387
Plus Stat: 80 RBI Minus Stat: .387 SLG
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 43rd Round
Considering he was drafted in the 43rd round, Belza has more than held his own as a solid minor league player. There wasn't anything sexy about his stat line but 80 RBI is 80 RBI. So he was a reliable bat on a team devoid of reliable bats. But a .387 SLG for a 1B/LF just isn't going to cut it. I'd say it's 50/50 whether he gets to move up to Visalia. Even though he was productive he's dangerously close to being relegated to a backup job fairly soon. But give him credit for exceeding expectations so far.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: AA

OF Kerry Jenkins, 23, .279/.349/.411
Plus Stat: .437 SLG at SB Minus Stat: 0 SB
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 38th Round
Another college bat drafted at the same time as Belza, Jenkins missed the first half of the season and actually had a decent second half. But it still wasn't enough to get excited about. Corner outfielders posting less than .800 OPS at Low A at age 23 just don't have a big future. Jenkins was a reliable player and I'd give him slightly better odds than Belza of moving up to Visalia.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: AA

OF Brian Billigen, 22, .311/.429/.447
Plus Stat: .920 OPS in AZL Minus Stat: .693 OPS in SB
Acquired: 2012 Undrafted Free Agent
Billigen wasn't drafted and signed with the Diamondbacks soon after the draft and started out in the AZL. He did just fine there posting a .920 OPS in 100 ABs, though that's to be expected for a 22-year-old in low rookie ball. He got promoted to South Bend after the AZL season ended and got in 8 games with the Silver Hawks. We learned just enough about Billigen to know he's earned a place somewhere next year. We won't know much else about him until then.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: AA

OF Marc Bourgeois, 23, .252/.297/.429
Plus Stat: 10 HR Minus Stat: .297 OBP
Acquired: 2011 Undrafted Free Agent
Another semi-reliable minor league ballplayer. Nothing sexy or exciting. He did hit 10 home runs so there's that. I'm finding it hard to make a case for him commanding a starting job somewhere at the A level. He may have to go backwards to Yakima to play regularly or be resigned to being a backup in 2013.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: Low A

OF Chris Ellison, 23, .240/.309/.329
Plus Stat: 34 XBH Minus Stat: .309 OBP
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 39th Round
Yet another of the late 2011 draft of college outfielders who are at least holding down a job in A ball. Ellison played almost every day and patrolled both CF and RF effectively. But like the others he also showed a disappointing bat and just didn't earn himself any kind of serious baseball future with his 2012 season. He did manage a nice collection of XBH on the year but there's really nothing to get excited about here.
2013 Projection: Low A South Bend
Ceiling: High A