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Diamondbacks Prospects: Stock Up

Which Diamondbacks prospects have improved their standings over the first third of the minor league season?

With the calendar getting ready to flip into June, we’re roughly a third of the way into the minor league season. At this point, there is enough of a sample to see if a player is going to take a step forward or behind. This article will focus on players that have greatly improved their stock as a prospect over the first two months of the 2018 Minor League season.

Most Improved Prospect: Visalia 3B Drew Ellis

My biggest concern going into the season for Ellis was he was going to develop a strikeout problem. That has not been an issue with a 15.9% strikeout rate and a 11.8% walk rate in Visalia. The improvement in plate discipline has also improved his triple slash to .258/.348/.460 through May 25th, which is a solid total although I’d like to see those numbers climb up. Early in the season, Ellis dealt with a balls in play slump with a .220/.312/.439 slash in April with a .222 BABIP. In May, the batted ball luck changed with a .338 BABIP while maintaining similar strikeout and walk rates. To me, that’s a sign of a mature young hitter knowing that in the end everything evens out over the course of the year so most of my concerns about him as a hitter have evaporated this year.

Ellis talks about his approach at the plate with our own Wes Baier:

“My approach offensively is definitely to be on time with the fastball. I feel like if I’m on time with the heater, then it’s easier to recognize off-speed. I kind of strayed away from that a little but this season and and I haven’t felt like myself. The last few games I’ve really concentrated on that approach and I feel way more comfortable and feel like myself again.”

Ellis is a heavy fly ball hitter, which is an excellent batting profile for a slow-footed, plus-power type hitter. His HR/FB ratio sits at 9.7%, which is shockingly low for a player with his tool set but given he’s hit 14 doubles vs. 6 homers it could be a case where the ball is landing between the outfielders and the fence. Due to the fly ball heavy batted ball profile, Ellis’ BABIP projection should be right around league average (.295-.305) while carrying a .260/.340/.450 line at the plate with 30 2B and 20 HRs. Any additional improvements later in the year and/or next year in AA could have him knocking on the door for a shot at the MLB roster. The only big question for him as a prospect is where his long term defensive home is, whether it’s 3B or 1B. Obviously you can’t rate a hitter’s defense by simply looking at fielding percentage, you have to watch the player in action to get a feel for how he defends the position.

Other Stock Up Prospects

  • Jackson RHP Jon Duplantier: It’s hard to go any higher when you’re the consensus #1 prospect in the organization, but Duplantier has passed his first AA test. His ground ball rate has improved to just a shade under 60% while maintaining solid strikeout (28.5%) and walk (7.6%) rates after making the most difficult jump in the minors. There was little doubt that Duplantier was an impact prospect after the monster year he had last year against younger competition, but him taking another step forward cements him as a building block piece for the organization and a potential budding ace.
  • Visalia C Daulton Varsho: After a monster debut season, Varsho’s power numbers have taken a step backward but overall I think he’s improved as a hitter. Line drive and fly ball numbers are higher than last year with a 3% jump in both walk and strikeout rates. In addition to his solid bat at the plate, I’m not as concerned with his ability to stick behind the plate as I was when the Dbacks ended up picking him unless the team loves his bat more than his ability to catch. In addition to being a solid receiver and thrower behind the plate, Varsho also is a legitimate stolen base threat with 14/16 successful stolen base attempts.
  • Kane County SS Jazz Chisholm: Last year was a lost year with knee surgery ending his season after just 109 plate appearances, but he’s making up for lost time this year. This year, he’s added power to his offensive game with 20 XBH on the season (11 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR) while maintaining a double digit walk rate. As he adds more muscle to his frame, I could see the power surge being a permanent addition to his offense. There’s still a lot of swing and miss in his game with a strikeout rate of 25% although that number is trending down. Given he’s only 20, the improvements to the plate in addition to his reputation defensively he could develop into one of the game’s premium prospects.

Under the Radar Guys

  • Visalia RHP Emilio Vargas: Vargas was a bit of an unknown, but his strikeout rate has gone through the roof this year, exceeding 30%. Control numbers overall aren’t great, which screams bullpen conversion project in a year or two, but the high strikeout rate is intriguing.
  • Visalia C Dominic Miroglio: Miroglio was the team’s 20th round pick in the previous draft, but he’s been keeping pace with Varsho up the ladder. While not as talented a hitter, he’s been putting up solid numbers in the Pioneer League last year and the Cal League this year.