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Five Prospects That Will Surprise in 2016

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Players that didn't appear in Baseball America's Top 10 and MLB Pipeline's Top 30 Prospects that I believe will have a strong 2016 season and improve their stock over the course of the season.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks lack a blue-chip prospect in their farm system, but they have a handful of prospects underrated by the industry. If you regularly tune in to the Snakepit, these prospects are very well-regarded by John Baragona, who ranks four of these five prospects in his Top 25. All of these players are projected to start at least as high as Class A-Advanced or higher, where the true prospects begin to separate themselves from the pack. A strong 2016 from these five prospects and there's a better than 50% chance that these players will become MLB regulars in the future.

Brad Keller (11): Keller is a 20 year old prospect with MLB upside. He's already passed the full season hurdle with a strong season for the Kane County Cougars. Keller went 8-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a 109/37 strikeout to walk ratio in 142 innings. The strong control numbers are encouraging for a young prospect that's set to hit the upper levels of the minors. Keller uses a sinker-change combo to generate a ton of ground ball outs, but his breaking ball is a distant 3rd pitch. Keller has a similar body type to former Dbacks Cy Young Award-winner Brandon Webb, the question of whether Keller beats his #3 starter projection is how his slider develops as well as how dominant the sinker really is.

Jamie Westbrook (4): Despite a terrific 2015 campaign in the California League, Westbrook did not make BA's Top 10 prospects for the Dbacks or the top 10 2B prospects for MLB Pipeline. If you use KATOH as a way to project his future value, it's very strong. Westbrook is 20 years old and will likely start 2016 in AA Mobile, which means he's well ahead of the curve. KATOH has Westbrook as the #13 prospect on his 2015 numbers alone for career WAR before 28. However, given his age and less data that's an unfair advantage, but when you factor in 2014 and change the criteria to the 6 years of control he stills ranks in the top 50 at #49. If Westbrook hits in Mobile in 2016, he's arguably the Diamondbacks top positional prospect, even if Brandon Drury spends the entire year in the minors.

Todd Glaesmann (Unranked): Glaesmann was the main return when the Diamondbacks dumped Heath Bell's salary following the 2013 season. He retired for a stretch then returned to action and hit well in the upper levels of the Diamondbacks system. The team has a need for a potential right-handed bench bat in the outfield to complement David Peralta that has the athleticism to be able to play all three outfield spots on any given day. Even though his numbers can be inflated by playing in Reno, he hit .286/.327/.551 off of a sustainable .316 BABIP and posted a 129 wRC+. He's my dark horse candidate to make the Dbacks 25-man roster off the non-roster list.

Zac Curtis (25): Curtis is a small guy at 5'9" 180 that doesn't have overpowering stuff with a fastball that sits 92 MPH, but he makes things work. With the ability to consistently command his 92 MPH fastball, Curtis is able to limit his walks and rack up strikeouts at a prolific rate. Curtis has often sent the batter back to the dugout in frustration after looking at Strike 3, piling a 36.4% strikeout rate in Kane County in 2015 after getting 38.5% in Hillsboro after leading NCAA pitchers with 136 strikeouts in 2014. Curtis will start 2016 in Visalia, but I would not be surprised if the season ends with him wearing a Dbacks uniform in September.

Austin Byler (16): Byler has a lot of proving to do after being hit with a suspension for amphetamines use. He needs to prove that his great numbers in Missoula were not a fluke, but I do expect him to jump all the way to Visalia like top college prospects. The California League favors hitters like him who walk and have genuine power like Byler, who posted a 17.3% walk rate and a .338 ISO in the Pioneer League. Byler delivers genuine left-handed power with good enough contact skills to tap into it, a trait this organization lacks. Byler will miss the first 50 games of the year, so he has roughly 70 games to prove that he is a legitimate prospect since there are plenty of 1B/Corner OF types that can hit with power that wind up flaming out because of a lagging hit tool.