Spring Training has started, which means it’s time to reveal my Top 30 organizational prospect list. I’ll start with a reverse countdown in groups of 5, which means there will be 6 total posts. Most evaulators have a consensus on the top prospects in the organization, although I’m all for talking about some of the lesser known guys in the organization that might have an MLB future. The Diamondbacks farm is nowhere near the top half across MLB but they do have a few diamonds in the rough in the system that are intriguing if those guys hit their best case projection.
#26 Ryan Atkinson: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher. Atkinson was a pickup from independent ball in 2016. In 2017, he pitched across 3 different levels and posted overall solid numbers. His control numbers took a step backwards once he got to AA late in the year, but that can be attributed to the year he took off between college and pro ball and 2017 being his first year with 100+ innings since college. His overall arsenal features a low 90s heater which he can cut and sink pretty well, a curve, and a change-up. The change-up is the better secondary pitch. His delivery is very repeatable and smooth and on good days he has three above average pitches, so there is starter potential. 2018 will make or break him as a prospect as he faces competition closer to his age level (25 in May) in AA and AAA.
#27 Colin Poche: Left-Handed Relief Pitcher. The Diamondbacks elected to make Poche a relief pitcher in 2017 and that resulted in monster numbers. He posted a K/BB of 81/19 across 50 innings to go with a 1.25 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. Like Atkinson, Poche may have taken advantage of younger competition and should be sent on an aggressive assignment to AA to start the season. The strikeout and walk numbers are electric, but Poche slipped in the 2016 draft due to Tommy John surgery the previous year and a reduction in stuff in his draft year. I don’t have any velocity readings for his fastball, but his go-to-pitch is a late-breaking curve that is a nightmare for left-handed hitters to face. Poche hides the ball well in his delivery, so his upside is somewhere from a matchup lefty in the bullpen to possible middle inning guy. Not as much upside as Jared Miller as a reliever, but a lot to like if he can push into a strong 2018.
#28 Jhoan Duran: Right-Handed Starting Pitcher. Duran is one of those pitchers where there’s more projection than tangible results right now. He pitched all of 2017 with Hillsboro where he saw a lot of mixed results. Duran needs to continue to add muscle to a 6’5” 175 frame before getting into full season ball. His stuff can be a tease with a low 90s sinker that reaches the mid 90s, leading to a very high ground ball rate in his career. He flashes a solid curve and change-up at times, but as with a lot of 20 year old prospects there is a lot of inconsistency.
#29 Ildemaro Vargas: Infielder. Vargas as a prospect has pretty much plateaued but is on the list because there is some utility for him at the MLB level. Vargas’ calling card is versatility, as both a switch hitter and a utility infielder. Defensively he’s competent at 2B, 3B, and SS with 2B being his best position. Vargas doesn’t hit for a lot of power, but he’s very good at making contact and not giving away at-bats. Vargas projects to be a player of a similar mold to that of Daniel Descalso, although Descalso was a better prospect going up the Cardinals system.
#30 Christian Walker: First Baseman/Outfielder. Walker will be competing with a bunch of other players, but he does provide a skill set the team could very much use and that’s right-handed power off the bench. Walker is not a good enough athlete to be an outfielder at Chase and obviously 1B is Paul Goldschmidt’s so there isn’t a path for regular ABs. With Yasmany Tomas slated as the current starting left fielder, which may or may not change depending on what J.D. Martinez or some of the other MiLB outfield signings do, Walker has a shot at a bench role. However, if Walker fails to secure a job in Spring the Diamondbacks will have to expose him to waivers since he is out of options.