20. Sergio Alcantara, SS, 17 - Alcantara was a 2012 international signing from the Dominican Republic who commanded a $700,000 signing bonus just after his 16th birthday. With that kind of signing bonus the team elected to bring him to America for his first professional season which he spent playing shortstop in the Arizona Rookie League.
For a 16-year-old playing professionally for the first time in a strange land Alcantara more than held his own. He didn't dominate offensively or anything but he wasn't overwhelmed by any means posting a .718 OPS and flashing some good leather with a great arm, according to several scouting reports.
He's not very big listed at 5-10 and 150 and so there wasn't any power on display yet, but he showed impressive plate discipline for such a young player walking 44 times while only striking out 36 times. Another bonus is he's a switch-hitter. It's anyone's guess how far he can go but that was an impressive start. He should land in Missoula next season as a 17-year-old and be the everyday shortstop. Lots to like about this kid's potential.
19. Andrew Velazquez, SS, 19 - Two years older than Alcantara and three levels above him Velazquez is making a name for himself as well. He started in the Arizona League at the age of 18 where he dominated in 2012 but mostly played second base due to the presence of 2nd round pick Joe Munoz. The 2012 7th round pick spent the first 2 weeks of 2013 in Missoula before he was bumped up to South Bend, presumably so he could play shortstop everyday since Munoz was also in Missoula.
Velazquez held his own for such an advanced placement hitting .260 with a .655 OPS. The question remains whether he will continue to play shortstop or get pushed over to second base with so many shortstop prospects in the organization. Scouting reports suggest he has the skill set to play shortstop long term, and with second base becoming a much more offensive position, his future is obviously brighter at short.
He also has very good speed with 29 steals in his first two seasons. My guess is he spends another year in South Bend as I don't think he's physically ready for the big jump to the California League. Hopefully his offense can take another step forward, which he'll need to do to rise to the top of the organization's deep roster of young shortstops.
18. Nick Ahmed, SS, 23 - Ahmed was rated the top defensive shortstop in all the minor leagues last year. Pretty heady stuff for one of the pieces acquired in the Justin Upton trade. The problem isn't his defense but his offense. He did not have a good year offensively for Mobile last year after putting up two decent offensive years in rookie ball and the High A Carolina League after being drafted out of UConn in the 2nd round in 2011.
He absolutely needs to take a significant jump offensively if he expects to pass Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius in the organizational pecking order, who are younger and the same age as Ahmed respectively. Ahmed says he can hit and just had a bad season last year but the proof is in the pudding. Granted he didn't get any BABIP help with a miserly .266 last year but even that's not enough to make up for a .613 OPS.
His low K rate of 13.2% suggests improvement is certainly possible, and given that he's a great defender he can get away with a little less offense than some other shortstops. I'll put his target OPS in 2014 to get any serious consideration as a ML shortstop at .750. It's on him now.
17. Daniel Gibson, LHP, 22 - Gibson was drafted in the 7th round of last year's draft as a left-handed reliever and all he did last year was show he's the real deal. He allowed just one earned run in 14 games for Hillsboro before getting promoted to South Bend where he allowed one run in 6 more games there. He finished with a 0.64 ERA in those 20 games with 27 Ks against 10 walks over 28 innings. He pitched exclusively in relief for the Florida Gators in college where he was especially tough on lefties as he features a riding fastball in the low 90s to go with an effective slider.
He could easily be a designated loogy for the Dbacks in a couple of years. There's a good chance Gibson sees his development accelerated to see how quickly he can get to the majors and I wouldn't be surprised to see him placed in Visalia next year. That will be the true test whether he's good enough to go all the way. All signs currently point to the fact he has a bright future as a lefty specialist.
16. Jose Martinez, RHP, 19 - I must confess I jumped Martinez up in my rankings based almost exclusively on other's opinions and rankings. I've been well aware of Martinez for the last two seasons but when Baseball America rated him the Dbacks' #6 prospect last season everyone seemed to follow suit and bumped him up too. The scouting reports love his lightning quick arm that generates a mid-90s fastball and a nasty, hard-breaking curveball.
While the results haven't quite matched those scouting reports there is plenty to like about Martinez and clearly someone in the organization that knows a lot more than I do thinks so too. He was cruising along in 2012 dispatching hitters in the Dominican League when almost out of nowhere he was brought over to America and inserted into Yakima's late-season pennant and playoff push as one of its starters in the Northwest League. He didn't do badly but the limited results weren't anything eye-popping either.
He started 2013 in the same place and produced some more middling results in 10 starts. I've seen scouts tout his impressive .156 BAA as a sign of his potential but they fail to mention his extremely beneficial .179 BABIP. He's also on the smaller side at 6-1, 160 though he still has some room to grow. He turns 20 in April and should be in the South Bend rotation to start the year. He still has a ways to go yet in my opinion and now everyone is watching after the BA hype put him on the map. We'll see what he does with it.