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Diamondbacks Prospects: Top 10

The players that rank at the top of the organization and could be the the face of future Diamondback teams.

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

After a long break between the 11-30 prospects, I will reveal my Top 10 players on my preseason prospect list. The players listed here are ones I have high hopes for being able to progress up the system quickly and help build the next core of players going into the next decade. At the same time, a lot of the younger guys have strong boom/bust profiles, which could be a problem for the organization long term. These players will likely be coming up as the current team’s core of players start to age and/or hit free agency.

#1: RHP Jon Duplantier. Duplantier had a breakout year as a prospect, dominating two A-ball levels to the tune of a 1.39 ERA and a 165/42 K/BB ratio in 136 innings. He has the full mix of pitches, all of them playing average or better with above average command. Fastball sits low 90s with a good amount of sink, which generates a solid ground ball rate, paired up with a solid curve and slider. Change-Up is the one pitch that still needs a lot of development in the minors, especially when he faces more age-appropriate competition in AA. 2018 will test his abilities as a prospect and could better paint the picture of his likely projection whether it’s a frontline starter or middle of the rotation guy. ETA: June 2019

#2: 1B Pavin Smith. I’m not sure what the Diamondbacks saw in Smith when they drafted him, but the organization was very high on his abilities. Smith comes with excellent strike zone discipline (more walks than strikeouts in his summer debut) and the ability to hit baseballs hard. The biggest concern about his future projection is game power, which didn’t show up in his summer debut that much. I think the issue isn’t lack of raw power but rather a launch angle issue, which can be corrected with the team tinkering with his swing and Smith being able to recognize which pitches he can turn on and hit over the fence. His floor is a high-OBP and solid defender at 1B, but can the projection beat the floor? ETA: September 2019

#3: C Daulton Varsho. Varsho may be one of the better picks from the 2017 Draft as an athletic catcher with solid skills all-around. Varsho is a very mobile defender behind the plate and did a good job throwing out basestealers despite concerns about arm strength. Varsho has the upside of a middle of the order bat with the ability to drive the ball to all fields. His summer debut was a smashing success with a solid walk rate, low K rate, and good power numbers. Athletically Varsho profiles well for a lot of positions if the team decides the bat is too valuable to play for 450 PA as opposed to 650 PA as a 2B/LF type, although I think the team will continue to develop him as a catcher. ETA: June 2020

#4: CF Marcus Wilson. Wilson went from untapped potential to a borderline Top 100 prospect over 4 seasons in the Diamondbacks system. His 2017 was a mini-breakout, which was dampened by various injuries and pitchers adjusting to him in the 2nd half. The power is still developing as Wilson fills out his frame, but produced 35 XBH in 447 PA. Wilson is also a potential 30 steal threat with plus speed and high OBP skills. Unless Grier flames out as a prospect, Wilson’s likely ticketed for a corner OF role but is certainly capable of handling CF full time if necessary. Wilson profiles well for the #2 hitter role as a guy with good speed, OBP skills, and developing game power. ETA: June 2020

#5: RHP Taylor Clarke. Clarke showed this Spring he’s ready for a future call-up this season. His stuff doesn’t jump off the page, but he has excellent command of three slightly above average pitches. Clarke profiles as a fly ball pitcher, so the installation of the humidor should help him at the MLB level. Last season Clarke earned a promotion to Reno and after a terrible debut game, which I now dub as a right of passage for pitching prospects, actually held up well there decently with a 3.14 ERA/4.87 FIP. He’ll start 2018 in Reno again, but really he’ll be biding his time until an opportunity to pitch at the MLB level opens up during the season. ETA: June 2018

#6: RHP Taylor Widener. Widener was recently acquired in the Steven Souza/Brandon Drury trade that also sent LHP Anthony Banda, who would have slotted here, to Tampa. Widener profiles almost similar to Banda in terms of ability, which is why I made the 1-for-1 swap. Widener had been previously marred by various ailments in college, but was healthy for 2017 as he pitched 119 innings over 27 starts. Once healthy, the fastball shot up to the mid 90s and he complements that with a solid slider and a developing change-up. Command and control need to improve in 2018 as he faces stiffer competition in AA. His floor is a late-inning guy (think Archie Bradley), but if things go the right way in 2018, his ceiling is a middle of the rotation guy. ETA: September 2020

#7: 3B Drew Ellis. Ellis was the Diamondbacks 2nd round pick in the most recent draft class, more a traditional right-handed slugger that will walk and strike out a lot. Ellis’ summer debut was pretty solid, although he went into a bit of a slump in August which makes the numbers look pretty average. Despite the slump and an unsustainably low .258 BABIP, Ellis produced a .227/.327/.443 slash, which graded out as a 110 wRC+. The biggest question for long term projection is where he’ll play defensively and if he has the range to stick at 3B. Solid plate discipline in addition to plus raw power that he can tap into on a pretty consistent basis gives Ellis a high ceiling as a middle of the order hitter with 30 2B/30 HR profile. Pretty much all that’s left in his development is getting him reps in the minors, but he should fly up the system quickly if he continues to hit well. ETA: August 2020

#8: SS Jasrado Chisholm. Chisholm missed a major portion of the 2017 season due to a torn meniscus that required surgery to repair. Chisholm has 5-tool potential at shortstop, although his game is still physically developing. Even with the lost year, Chisholm is on the right side of the age curve. Strike zone discipline is the biggest area of concern with very high strikeout rates (27% in 2016, 31.2% in 2017), especially for a guy who doesn’t have a lot of over the fence power. Chisholm best tools are his speed and glove, which profile to make him a plus defender at a premium defensive position. If Chisholm is able to make a full recovery from knee surgery and not lose a step, then the question becomes how much bat is the team getting from him. ETA: June 2021

#9: C Andy Yerzy. Yerzy saw a huge year in the Pioneer League, putting up a .298/.365/.524 slash with solid strikeout (18.1%) and walk (9.6%) rates for a guy who has plus power potential (.223 ISO). His defense behind the plate also improved dramatically with increased reps, although there’s still a lot of work for him in that area. He should be ready for full-season ball in 2018 and how he does in Kane County could determine how fast or slow he develops as a prospect. ETA: September 2021

#10: OF Kristian Robinson. Robinson is the top player from the Diamondbacks’ most recent international signing group and he has a lot of untapped potential. Robinson is long at 6’3” and has a lot of room to add muscle to his frame, which should help out in the power department. Robinson’s tool set profiles as a corner, although given his age and good running speed overall he could wind up in CF. Robinson will likely climb the list with more data and there’s less projection for him as a prospect. Robinson probably will start playing in the states next season (2019) after a year in the Dominican Summer League. ETA: September 2022