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State of the Diamondbacks farm: Middle infield

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We continue our pre-draft tour of the Arizona Diamondbacks farm system, with a look at second-base and shortstop.

Gerson Montilla represents the Rawhide, back in 2013.
Gerson Montilla represents the Rawhide, back in 2013.
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The middle infield is an area where the Diamondbacks do have question-marks. Can Nick Ahmed climb past the offensive event horizon? Will Chris Owings ever learn to take a walk? Is there a trade partner out there for Aaron Hill? With the trio combining thus far for close to replacement level (0.1 bWAR, -0.1 fWAR), there's certainly room for improvement at the major-league level. So, what do we have in the Arizona farm system?

Second base

Triple-A Reno
  • Mike Freeman - August 4, 1987 (11th round, 2010), .333/.384/.442
    The main second baseman with the Aces is Jamie Romak, but he was already covered on the corner infield. Freeman has been the Aces' super-utility guy, seeing playing time at all three outfield positions as well as both sides of the middle-infield, and has hit a solid .317 since his promotion from Mobile in the middle of last year. His plate discipline has slid a little from last year, when he had 21 walks and only 25 K in 71 games for Reno, but his walk-rate is still better than Owings. Not hard, I know... Also of note: he's 11-0 in stolen bases at the AAA level.

Double-A Mobile
  • Gerson Montilla - November 13, 1989 (international free agent), .228/.316/.416
    Similarly, Brandon Drury has played a fair bit at second for Mobile, but was covered at his main position, third-base. If we're looking for an emergency pitcher, we may want to stick clear of Montilla, who threw against Montgomery in April. He faced 11 batters, retired two, and gave up eight runs for a career ERA of 108.00. Fortunately, he can hit better than he can pitch. Or, at least, take his base, with a walk rate of 10.5% so far, that has helped cover a drop in his batting average with Mobile this season compared to last, from .271 to .228.

High-A Visalia
  • Jamie Westbrook - June 18, 1995 (5th round, 2013), .277/.327/.383
    Still a teenager, albeit for only about another three weeks, Westbrook has been holding his own, despite being one of the youngest on the Rawhide roster. Indeed, Jamie's OPS so far has actually increased a bit over last year's number at South Bend, going from .689 to .710. A local kid, he was born and grew up in Gilbert, and hit .434 in his senior year at Basha High School, but having committed seven errors in 32 games so far, seems that his defense may need to keep up with his bat.

  • Fidel Pena - July 19, 1991 (international free agent), .296/.362/.432
    No player in the D-backs farm system has appeared at more spots this year than Pena: including DH, seven in total, playing every position bar catcher and first. This is his second stab at Visalia, having started there last year, before being sent down to South Bend, and this one is going better, with his OPS up from .627 in High-A for 2014, to .794 at the same level this year. He has already walked more times than last season, in about half as many games, though he's now a bit long in the tooth for the level.

A-ball Kane County
  • Fernery Ozuna - November 9, 1995 (international free agent), .188/.212/.301
    With the departure of Alcantara, whom we'll get to later, Ozuna is currently the youngest player across our four farm affiliates; he'll be 19 for the entire 2015 season. On that basis, his struggles at the plate are unsurprising, but a K:BB ratio of 34:4 this year is certainly striking. On the other hand, two errors in 32 games at second is not bad at all for the game, and his F% has been going the right way since he first played for us in 2013, as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League.

Shortstop

Triple-A Reno
  • Danny Worth - September 30, 1985 (minor-league free agent), .328/.410/.489
    A former 2nd-round pick by Detroit, Worth played part of five seasons there before being let go, after posting a .588 OPS in 135 games at the major-league level. He has been enjoying the favorable hitting climate of Reno, after signing with the D-backs in December. Seems we weren't the only one, and another team apparently wanted him as a pitcher. For, fun fact: Worth throws a knuckleball, and appeared twice in mop-up duty for the Tigers during 2014, striking out Michael Choice and Leonys Martin.

  • Cody Ransom - February 17, 1976 (minor-league free agent), .188/.230/.275
    Yeah, more than three years after his final appearance for us, the Mesa kid is still playing. having last appeared in the majors during 2013, with the Cubs. But that's a hideous OPS, especially playing in Reno - the resulting OPS of .505 is the lowest of anyone with a meaningful number of PAs currently on the farm. The chances of him making it back to the major-leagues with Arizona seem extremely slim.

Double-A Mobile
  • Raul Navarro - February 5, 1992 (international free agent), .252/.353/.282
    After two seasons in Visalia, Navarro made the step up to Mobile, and the decline in his offense is perhaps unsurprising, his OPS being down from .789 last season to .635 this year. But he's still young for the level, and the upside remains there. May need to work on his base-running skills a bit though; after stealing 18 bases for the Rawhide in 2014, Navarro has been caught five times in seven attempts with the BayBears.

  • Sean Jamieson - March 2, 1989 (from A's for Stephen Drew), .250/.377/.359
    Got a late jump on the season, not appearing in his first game until the beginning of this month, though the reason is vague - the only report I found said it was "with an injury," though this may have been a hangover from the equally-vague issue that cost him the second half of 2014 as well. Still, it doesn't seem to have slowed him down much, Jamieson showing good plate discipline, with as many walks as strikeouts (12) so far this year. However, he is now one of Mobile's elder statesmen, and it's not clear how much higher his ceiling goes.

High-A Visalia
  • Domingo Leyba - September 11, 1995 (from Tigers for Didi Gregorius), .220/.245/.260
    Like fellow teenager Ozuna, Leyba is struggling at the plate, though having hit .397 in Low-A ball last year, you can see why the Diamondbacks wanted to challenge him a bit more. Despite an extremely free-swinging approach resulting in less than one walk per week, he had a solid start, hitting .281 in April and bringing comparisons to Erick Aybar. However, Leyba's May line has been a much less impressive .155/.209/.179, though there's no denying he's extremely young for the level. Team VP De Jon Watson said after the April, Leyba has been "holding his own, and he looks really good out there," so we'll see how the next young future Derek Jeter or whatever develops.

A-ball Kane County
  • Ryan Gebhardt - October 5, 1991 (17th round, 2013), .282/.333/.328
    Gebhardt started the season with Mobile, but found himself dropped all the way back to the Cougars, after posting a .616 OPS at Double-A. That was in contrast to a 2014, where he prospered with Visalia after being promoted to High-A, batting .356 with a .809 OPS in 43 games for the Rawhide However, the move has allowed Gebhardt to concentrate fully on being a shortstop, rather than splitting time between there and second-base, as he had to do at Mobile.

  • Sergio Alcantara - July 10, 1996 (international free agent), .113/.169/.127
    At first glance, I thought Alcantara had been released, not having played since May 1, and no longer appearing on the Cougars' roster. Given a start which made Nick Ahmed's look good, going 8-for-71 with four walks and one extra-base hit. it seemed possible. However, turns out we haven't given up on an 18-year old described as a great defender with an "amazing" arm; he was sent back to extended spring training. Said Cougars manager Mark Grudzielanek. "The organization feels really high on him. He has a huge upside. He's a good kid. He's going to get it done."