The Diamondbacks otherwise barren farm system will be receiving a boost in the upcoming MLB Draft, but we also shouldn’t overlook the performances of players that have done well this year. We start with
OF Marcus Wilson: C+ to B-
Wilson got off to a hot start in the month of April, slashing .362/.470/.696 in April with 6 doubles, a triple, 5 homers, a 14/14 BB/K ratio. Wilson also posted a .400 BABIP in the month of April, so it was expected that his numbers would ultimately regress a bit. In May, Wilson still put up a productive .275/.367/.435 slash with 3 doubles, a triple, and 2 homers and a 9/20 BB/K ratio. While the strikeouts and walks have trended in the wrong direction a bit in May, he was still able to produce a 128 wRC+ after a month producing a 222 wRC+. The whole season picture looks good for Wilson, who’s developed a bit slower than anticipated.
Wilson’s strong numbers at the plate and solid baserunning numbers, with 7 steals in 10 attempts, in what is noted as a pitcher-friendly league is a good sign for future development. In terms of age, Wilson is about 4-5 months younger than the average age in his league, so it’s not a case of an older and more mature player beating up on younger competition. The combination of a double digit walk rate and base-stealing speed makes Wilson a potential top of the order hitter in the future. He still has a long way to go before he gets to the majors though and a lot of things can go wrong in that time frame. Wilson is on track to finish 2017 in Visalia, repeat the level to start 2018 with a quick promotion if he has a strong first half, then ultimately reach the majors in September 2019 in his Age 22 season. The Dbacks will have to add him to the 40-man roster after the 2018 season.
RHP Jon Duplantier B- to B
Duplantier is a prospect I’ve been high on since the team drafted him in the 3rd round of last year’s draft. Duplantier slipped from potential first round status to the middle of the 3rd round due to concerns over a shoulder injury that caused him to miss the 2015 season. He then pitched 111 innings in 2016 before signing with the Dbacks, with the team shutting him down due to the significant increase in workload. In the early stages of 2017, he’s been the Midwest League’s best pitcher. He’s made 10 appearances (9 starts) that spanned 5 or more innings and has pitched scoreless ball in 7 of those appearances and allowing 0 earned runs in 2 more appearances.
Duplantier is a full year older than the average age for Midwest League pitchers, so it should be no surprise to see him dominating on the mound. He’s produced a 62/11 K/BB ratio in 54 1⁄3 innings and when batters have made contact, he’s produced a 54.9% ground ball rate. Given the advanced age and dominant performance, the organization should promote him to Visalia and pitch in a more difficult league for pitchers. I would not be surprised if he finishes the year in AA Jackson. His 3 pitch arsenal, fastball, curveball, change-up is pretty solid with the fastball and curveball being very effective in the early going. The change-up could be the difference for Duplantier being a #2 vs. a #4 starter at the MLB level.
RHP Jimmie Sherfy C+ to B-
Sherfy put behind a tough end to what was a breakthrough 2016 campaign. Sometimes taking one step forward requires taking 1 step backwards then 2 step forwards. Sherfy has been off to a dominant run in the Reno bullpen after being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. Sherfy has appeared in 17 games, pitching scoreless games in 15 of them. The long ball has been an issue, with 3 homers allowed in 18 2⁄3 innings. Sherfy had been primarily a ground ball pitcher prior to this season, so the sudden change in batted ball profile is also somewhat concerning since his ground ball rate is down over 10% compared to last year. The change in batted ball outcomes could also be a change in approach on the mound under a new regime, where Sherfy is encouraged to pitch up in the zone with his fastball.
At the same time, Sherfy has also tightened up the command. He’s got 23 strikeouts to 1 walk on the season, both of which being great signs because he’s got a low walk rate complementing a high strikeout rate. Sherfy has no doubt put himself on the map for a potential promotion and it could be sooner rather than later. Right now, there isn’t an opening in the bullpen for Sherfy to get a promotion and early on could be seeing mop up and middle relief action before eventually working himself into high leverage situations. His current projection is that of a set-up man, but I think he could very well close.