Law seems to put a lot of emphasis on having multiple players in his Top 100 Prospects list. Given there are 30 teams and 100 prospects, a mid-level organization would have 3 prospects on the list. Upper-tier orgs would have 5-6 and lower-tier orgs would one or none. The Dbacks have three players on Law's just-released 2014 Top 100, they being Archie Bradley (#9), Braden Shipley (#25) and Chris Owings (#72).
This off-season's trades of Matt Davidson and Tyler Skaggs (not to mention Adam Eaton) has depleted the top of the list and is thus the primary culprit in our plummet from the top third into the middle third. The expected graduations of Bradley and Owings will only deplete it further and threaten to drop us into the lower third. Of course every year your team should be expected to graduate one or two players from your minor league system onto your major league roster. The key to a good farm system is to replace them every year. It's not easy to replace 5 or 6 top prospects in a single year and I'm not sure the Dbacks have the horses to do that this year.
Let's take a gander at who our top candidates are to jump up and perhaps take a spot on next year's Top 100 list.
1. Jake Lamb, 3B - Lamb did get an invite to the Arizona Fall League and held up well hitting .300, though with a rather high K rate. If he hadn't missed almost half of last season to injury he might have worked his way onto the bottom of the list. He'll be in Mobile this year and his presence in the system probably had a lot to do with the team's willingness to trade Davidson. Lamb is a sure-handed defender at third and could probably even move to second base if needed. Internally I'm thinking he's being penciled in for a regular 2015 or 2016 starting spot in the infield. A good season next year in Mobile could accelerate that and should land him on law's Top 100 next season.
2. Aaron Blair, RHP - Blair actually out-pitched Shipley last season though some of Shipley's struggles were likely to due to some grip changes the club was working with him on. Law had Shipley highly rated going into the draft so it's no surprise to see him land high on his list. Blair, being a second round choice has to do more to get noticed by guys like Law. He'll likely be in the same rotation with Shipley in Visalia this year so he'll get every opportunity to jump up and get that notice. Blair can't be considered the same kind of high-upside guy like Shipley just yet, and his college record doesn't portend him to be special on the surface, but he has a pitcher's body, easy gas on his fastball, and the tools to become very good. Time will tell.
3. Andrew Chafin, LHP - Chafin broke onto the minor league scene with a bang in his first full pro season, posting huge strikeout totals and dominating the competition. He hit a huge wall with his control soon after and didn't earn a promotion to Mobile in the off-season. But he got one early in 2013 and proved he could get his control "under control." It cost him strikeouts but that was still an important first step. I suspect he gets ticketed for Mobile yet again to see if he can maintain the improved control, get his K-rate back up around 9 or so, and most importantly remain a starter. if he can do those things he'll regain some of his lost prospect luster and likely end up in the Top 100. If they move him to the bullpen his value will plummet. The first couple of months should reveal his future pretty quickly.
4. Justin Williams, OF - Williams is one of the club's most intriguing prospects. He was drafted at the tender age of 17 and zipped impressively through two rookie leagues before landing in South Bend at an incredibly young age. He projects for both power and average though we haven't seen much of the power yet in terms of home runs, just doubles. Similar production next year in South Bend could easily vault him into the Top 100. The organization is short on upside outfielders so he fills a badly needed void.
5. Stryker Trahan, C - This needs to be Trahan's year. He's now spent two full seasons in low level rookie leagues as he continues to work on his defensive skills. We'll know by the end of the year whether he stays at catcher or gets moved to the outfield to try and accelerate his hit tools. He has a better chance of landing on the Top 100 if he stays at catcher and starts hitting a little more than he has to date. He'll get a taste of advanced pitching for the first time next year though signs say he should handle it, and hopefully some of his projected power starts to emerge. This is a huge year in his development to say the least.
A few other long shots to jump up and grab a spot on next year's list include...
Brandon Drury, 3B
Daniel Palka, 1B
Jose Herrera, C
Joe Munoz, SS
Michael Perez, C
But that would require pretty serious jumps in production for that to happen.