The Diamondbacks added INF Domingo Leyba, INF Ildemaro Vargas, LHP Anthony Banda, RHP Jimmie Sherfy, INF Dawel Lugo, and INF Jack Reinheimer in order to protect them from the Rule V Draft. Leyba, Banda, Sherfy, Lugo, and Reinheimer were no-brainers, as I included them as prospects with the potential to play for the major league club in 2017. In order to make room, the team designated RHP Dominic Leone, OF Gabriel Guerrero, 1B/OF Kyle Jensen, C Tuffy Gosewisch, LHP Edwin Escobar, and RHP Tyler Wagner. Gosewisch, Escobar, Leone, and Wagner were claimed by other MLB teams.
Banda, Leyba, Lugo, and Sherfy are Top 10 prospects in the organization coming into 2017. All four had big 2016 seasons that put them on the MLB radar for potential contributors for the foreseeable future. Banda had a solid season pitching for both AA Mobile and AAA Reno, also getting exposure on the national stage in the Future’s Game. Banda offers a three-pitch mix: a low 90s fastball, a sharp curveball that is his primary out pitch, and a change-up that flashes average. He could use a bit more fine-tuning in Reno, but he’s pretty much proven that he’s ready for MLB action sooner rather than later. His upside is limited and projects as a #4 starter, but will keep the ball in the park, limit walks, and get a decent amount of strikeouts.
Sherfy put himself on the map after stalling in AA Mobile to the point where they demoted him back to Visalia to get his confidence back. Sherfy features a mid 90s fastball with a lot of life and a downward tilting slider that while inconsistent will flash as a plus pitch. He finally conquered AA with an amazing 2016 run where he converted his first 30 save opportunities and allowed a total of 1 run in his 32 IP. Some of that is luck, but the strikeout rates were 45.7% and 42.5%. Sherfy hit a bump in the road late in the season at AAA Reno, whether that was fatigue or injury, but I’m not too worried about it long term. Sherfy probably needs a year in Reno to prepare himself for the majors, but he looks like a September call-up unless he impresses in camp like Jake Barrett did in 2016.
Leyba and Lugo are probably starting 2017 in AA Jackson. Both players had a big year in 2016 as Leyba was able to experience a jump in walk rate that bolstered his above average contact skills. Lugo showed growth in power potential, although the California League. The good news was post-promotion that both players were not overmatched for arguably the biggest jump in the minor leagues (A+ to AA), as Leyba increased his walk rate even further and Lugo did not experience a giant drop off in offensive production. The true test for both of them will be repeating that level of excellence in 2016 in order to earn a cup of coffee with the MLB club in September. Both players project to be at 2B, although Lugo’s plus arm makes him a candidate for the OF since 3B is locked down through 2020.
Ildemaro Vargas is probably a guy that snuck underneath the radar for a lot of fans and the prospect industry since he washed out of the Cardinals system by 2014. The Diamondbacks signed him in 2015 and he solid since. After a .321/.385/.438 (140 wRC+) season in Class A Kane County, the team gave him an aggressive assignment in AA Mobile. He held his own with a .276/.325/.372 (102 wRC+) in 83 games and earned an All-Star berth before a promotion to AAA Reno. There he posted a Reno-esque slash of .354/.418/.449 (138 wRC+). Now I don’t think the .372 BABIP translate at the next level, but he has a good approach with more walks than strikeouts in each of the last two seasons. Vargas doesn’t have a standout tool, and his long term projection is considered a utility infielder like Phil Gosselin.
Jack Reinheimer came to the Diamondbacks organization as part of the trade that netted the Diamondbacks their catcher Welington Castillo and Guerrero, who was DFA’d to make room for him. Reinheimer is a jack of all trades type SS that doesn’t stand out at anything but isn’t terrible at anything either. His offensive production up and down the minor leagues isn’t anything special and he has average tools defensively at SS. In terms of who the SS would be in the future, I don’t think he has any chance of beating out both Nick Ahmed and Chris Owings barring some major unforeseen circumstances such as a sudden power surge at the plate considering he had 37 XBH in Reno (Owings had 51 in 2013, Ahmed 34 in 2014, both posted better ISO in Reno than Reinheimer). He’s probably likely to be a late-inning defender at 2B when the team is protecting a lead considering he has a better glove at SS than Owings and Segura.
The Diamondbacks lost a decent prospect that had strong reliever potential, everyone’s favorite gasoline pourer, the team’s 3rd string catcher, and another lefty getting claimed on waivers. Jensen was also DFA’d, but if he can pass waivers would be critical minor league depth although the team gave 1B to Gosselin when Paul Goldschmidt needed an off day. Personally, I like the idea of making Chris Herrmann the backup 1B and an extra OF because he bats left-handed and broke out offensively. Given the catching situation, I think barring a FA signing to the MLB roster that Herrmann will be a backup catcher.
Of the group that’s gone, the biggest loss to me was Tyler Wagner. Even though his stuff declined a bit in terms of velocity, he was decently effective in an innings-eating role in late April and minor league depth before suffering a horrific lat muscle injury that ended his season in May. Personally I thought he had a legit future as a back-end reliever like he was in college even though he made significant progress as a starter in the minor leagues. The Diamondbacks have another prospect that can handle the role in Matt Koch, although Koch is going to need to refine his cutter in order to be a quality reliever.
Dominic Leone was a throw-in in the deal that got the Diamondbacks Castillo, Reinheimer, and Guerrero. Castillo has been the team’s primary catcher and has been a decent player with a jump in power thanks to Chase Field’s large gaps and hitter friendly environment, his issues with pitch calling and receiving the ball are a concern with a pitching staff that posted an ERA above 5.00. Leone had a decent 2014 as a middle reliever, but has been terrible since. The problems pre-date his stint in Arizona, although that exacerbated it. With plenty of relievers needing his roster spot and more upside, he was basically expendable. Jared Miller and Jimmie Sherfy are pitching their way towards the big leagues, with the former putting up an amazing Fall League campaign that should parlay him into a fair chance of competing for a bullpen spot.
In the minor league ranks, Guerrero is another prospect who isn’t able to maximize his tool set. He has the tools to be a very good defensive outfielder, but can’t consistently hit advanced level pitching in the upper minors. While 2015 could make the case of poor batted ball luck, the 2016 campaign furthered the narrative of his inability to hit although they gave him a shot in AAA Reno after a decent start at Mobile. While Guerrero has youth on his side, turning 23 in December, time is running out for him. 2017 will likely be his last year in the Diamondbacks system if he isn’t claimed and doesn’t put up in a third attempt, similar to Sherfy in 2016. Perhaps a demotion to Visalia and playing in a better ballpark for hitters in Jackson, TN (The Hank was murder for fly ball hitters not named Paul Goldschmidt) might make things better. In the mean time, we might see Guerrero near the bottom or completely off of prospect lists.
The Diamondbacks put 6 prospects near or are MLB-ready on their 40-man roster, each of them having a strong 2016 season that put them on the map. Other top prospects such as Taylor Clarke and Jared Miller, who I included as potential 2017 contributors (Clarke as a late season reliever to manage his innings workload, Miller as a weapon out of the pen), but don’t need to be added to the 40-man roster. This probably won’t even be the 40-man roster after the Winter Meetings as trades are made and players DFA’d after the Rule V Draft is finished. Anthony Banda probably has the best chance of the players added to the 40-man roster to debut for the Diamondbacks in April.