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Diamondbacks Minor leaguers in Review: Visalia Infielders

Okay, now we're getting into some guys who are worthy of serious discussion. Once a prospect makes it to High A he now has a chance to go all the way. The odds are still against him in general but they had to do something good to get this far. Visalia had a lot of interesting prospects this year and it was somewhat surprising to me that the team didn't perform better because there was some talent on hand.

1B Jonathan Griffin has taken a path similar to Goldschmidt's and he just keeps hitting.
1B Jonathan Griffin has taken a path similar to Goldschmidt's and he just keeps hitting.

The infielders as a group comprised a pretty solid bunch. Chris Owings started the year in Visalia but after tearing it up he spent the second half of the season in Mobile. I don't know that there's any sure-fire Major Leaguers on this list but it is populated by guys who will be getting promoted, so they're still risers. it is safe to say that some of them still have a real chance. Let's take a look at who they are.

1B Jonathan Griffin, 23, .304/.366/.523
Plus Stat: .523 SLG Minus Stat: 108 K
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 21st Round
A poor man's Paul Goldschmidt, Jonathan Griffin has done nothing but hit and hit for power in his first two professional seasons. 28 HRs, 105 RBI and an .889 OPS are all numbers that say he's a really good hitter. They're not quite Goldy numbers but suffice it to say he'll be in Mobile next year. He actually got a late-season call-up to Mobile and in 5 games posted a 1.346 OPS with 2 homers in 16 at bats. Griffin is a giant of a man at 6-7, 250 and while it's tempting to think he's a pure slugger whose strikeouts will go up as he climbs the ladder, that hasn't happened yet as he managed a not-so-horrible 20% K-rate while hitting all those bombs. He drove in the lone run in Mobile's Championship game with a solo home run. Obviously his path is blocked by Goldy so he'll probably get traded at some point, but if he keeps improving maybe he'll become a usable trade chip.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

2B Gerson Montilla, 22, .287/.347/.452
Plus Stat: 14 HR Minus Stat: None
Acquired: 2008 Venezuelan Free Agent
Montilla had a breakout year in 2012 and he is now a legitimate prospect. After toiling at the lower levels for a couple of years in 2008 and 2009 without doing much, the team tried him at Mobile and Visalia in 2010 where he was clearly in over his head. In 2011 he was sent back to South Bend and had his best season to date. But 2012 he really broke out with an excellent 1st half in South Bend that earned him a mid-season promotion to Visalia where he played even better. Montilla does a little bit of everything. He's a pretty good fielder at second base, he hit 14 home runs, he stole 10 bases, scored 82 runs and drove in 73. His BB/K ratio was really good at .59 as well. Next year comes the true test where he should be manning 2B for Mobile. He kind of reminds me of Carlos Baerga who posted eerily similar minor league numbers, with the major difference being Baerga was 2 years younger. So I'm not saying he's going to be Baerga, but he's that kind of player. One to keep watching.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

3B/2B Garrett Webber, 23, .297/.340/.467
Plus Stat: .807 OPS Minus Stat: 8 E in 32 games at 3B
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 22nd Round
Webber was taken one round after Griffin and while he's no Griffin, he is an infielder that broke out with the bat somewhat this year. He started the season at 2B and then moved to 3B with the arrival of Montilla. He's not much of a fielder and he played 46 games at DH, so that will likely be a limiting factor for him. But he did hit 14 home runs and was on a torrid hitting stretch in August with a .947 OPS. Granted the California League is a hitter's league and the lack of a solid position really cools me on his future prospects. But he'll likely go to Mobile, who didn't have a reliable third baseman, and see how he can handle that. He's still a prospect and he did what he needed to do this year to keep moving, so we'll keep watching him, even though I consider him a long shot.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

1B Yazy Arbelo, 24, .236/.313/.490
Plus Stat: 21 HR in 200 AB at Visalia Minus Stat: 32% K-Rate at Mobile
Acquired: 2010 Draft - 26th Round
Arbelo is the epitome of a pure power hitter. No defense, lots of strikeouts, massive power. Being he was 24 this year and had to spend most of the year at Visalia because he couldn't quite handle Mobile, the odds are against him. But, wow, what he did in 200 at bats in Visalia was impressive, hitting 21 home runs in those 200 at bats. That's an elite level rate of home runs. If he wants to be taken seriously though he'll need to do that in Mobile next year, or at least something close to that, because he is a horrid defender at 1B. He's probably not long for the National League and he'll eventually get moved to an AL club who can turn him into a full-time DH. Can he go all the way? Probably not, but the power numbers are impressive and you can't teach natural power like that.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: AAA

SS Michael Freeman, 25, .309/.377/.389
Plus Stat: 30 SB Minus Stat: .389 SLG
Acquired: 2010 Draft - 11th Round
Freeman is a nice baseball player who will probably always be a tad under-appreciated. He had a very nice season, much better than his 2011 campaign at South Bend. He even got promoted to Mobile to play for them during the playoffs and did well. The downside is he's already 25 and hasn't yet made it out of A ball. He's another who will be in Mobile next year and he'll probably hold his own there. He's got a good glove, he gets on base and he steals bases. I'll still give him an outside chance of earning a few cups of coffee in the Majors as a utility guy. He can't be totally written off just yet.
2013 Projection: AA Mobile
Ceiling: Major League

C Raywilly Gomez, 22, .273/.351/.377
Plus Stat: 1.08 BB/K Minus Stat: .377 SLG
Acquired: 2007 Undrafted Free Agent
Gomez has been a solid organizational catcher since being signed as a free agent 5 years ago. He puts up respectable BA and OBP numbers year after year with OPS numbers in the low .700s. But he's about to get run over with the wealth of rising catching talent in the organization. He doesn't have any power to speak of and his arm is below average. He'll probably be reduced to a backup role somewhere in 2013 as there isn't any magic hiding in his talent pool anywhere.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: AA

3B Carter Bell, 22, .259/.328/.348
Plus Stat: .60 BB/K Minus Stat: .348 SLG
Acquired: 2011 Draft - 29th Round
Carter was a nice college player but in two years he hasn't shown that he's got enough of anything to be a serious prospect. He's short on power, and while he doesn't strike out a lot, he just doesn't hit with any authority. He's currently playing in the Australian Winter League and he's not doing much impressive there either. He won't be going much further than he's already gone.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: High A

C Tyson Van Winkle, 24, .249/.299/.347
Plus Stat: .690 OPS Minus Stat: .690 OPS
Acquired: 2009 Draft - 10th Round
A little more was expected out of Van Winkle when he was taken in the 10th round of the 2009 draft than what he's given them so far. He's had a tough time earning a regular job at any of his stops along the way, and it's unlikely he'll earn a regular spot anywhere next year. He'll be a depth guy only next year, if that.
2013 Projection: High A Visalia
Ceiling: High A