The third installment of the midseason prospect list will cover the infielder prospects of the Diamondbacks farm system. The infield is where the system has the most depth, even without signing top draft pick Matt McLain.
- Pavin Smith, 1B, Visalia Rawhide (High A): Smith’s first full season in the minors has not gone as planned. On the year, he’s batting .229/.328/.370 with 13 doubles, 1 triple, and 9 home runs in 341 PA. Those totals are disappointing overall, especially given his draft pedigree and why MLB Pipeline dropped him out of their Top 100 at the midseason checkpoint. It seems like he’s also trying to drive the ball more with a jump in fly ball rate and pull rate according to Fangraphs. However the problem is line drives are turning into fly balls, not ground balls. He’s posting a 14.6% line drive, which in itself isn’t unsustainable moving forward nor is his .242 BABIP unless he’s completely lost his swing. He’s walked 41 times and struck out 44 times on the season, so batting eye is clearly not the issue on balls vs. strikes. Moving forward he needs to get the ball in the air (49.4% is unacceptable for a player with poor speed) and work on strike zone discipline (knowing which pitches he cannot swing at in the zone). Smith very much is adverse to striking out, which is somewhat of a fault as that means he’s putting pitcher’s pitches into play for outs. He’ll likely have to repeat Visalia at Age 23 in 2019, as the team has stopgap prospects at 1B should Paul Goldschmidt walk after 2019 or be traded.
- Jazz Chisholm, SS, Kane County Cougars (A): After repairing a torn meniscus, Chisholm got off to a blistering start in Kane County to the point where I thought he’d be a midseason promotion. However, with more time his weaknesses showed up and have been getting exploited. The tools are there, as he’s got the chops to stick shortstop that’s solid at barreling up baseballs. The problem has been mostly strikeouts, a lot of them, and not enough walks to overcome that. On the year to date, he’s posting a .244/.311/.472 slash with 17 doubles, 4 triples, 15 home runs, and 8 stolen bases in 341 PA. The batted ball profile in terms of ground balls and pulled ratios are very solid, especially for a player who can drive the ball from the left side of the plate. Looking at L/R splits, Chisholm struggles mightily vs. LHP where’s he’s hitting .155/.205/.268 with 5 walks and 25 strikeouts. Looking at his L/R splits overall the production is not there against LHP, so he may ultimately just be a platoon option at SS. The biggest keys are developing plate discipline so his weaknesses don’t get exploited in the upper minors and getting better against LHP in order to develop into a starting SS.
- Drew Ellis, 3B, Visalia Rawhide: Ellis’ numbers in Visalia have mostly stabilized overall and has been very consistent at the plate. He’s cut down on the strikeouts (19%) while not torpedoing his walk rate (9%). The batted ball profile is solid for a player with plus raw power with a low ground ball rate. Ellis’ BABIP tends to fluctuate a bit, but that’s not because of poor process. On the year he’s batting .248/.323/.437 with 29 doubles and 10 home runs in 347 plate appearances. The XBH ratio is solid, but it also seems like Ellis is having one of those years where the ball is not carrying over the fence. Unless he completely craters in the final 6 weeks of the minor league season, I would call his year a success and he should be in AA next season. The things he needs to work on moving forward is improving defensively at 3B while also showing he can lay off borderline pitches against tougher competition.
- Domingo Leyba, 2B, Jackson Generals (AA): A bad shoulder injury wiped out his 2017 season, but he’s making up for lost time in 2018. He’s posting a .291/.363/.436 slash with 9 doubles, a triple, and 5 home runs in 201 plate appearances, so the numbers are mostly consistent with his 2016 output at the plate. The lack of power in his game may end up in him playing more of a utility role vs. starting 2B, although I won’t rule out the latter. The team is currently committed to Nick Ahmed at SS with Marte likely moving over there when Ahmed leaves, so 2B seems to be Leyba’s position of the future. Now that’s he’s mostly recovered from the shoulder problem, Leyba should see some action with the MLB team this September. If he can develop more power, even in the form of doubles and triples, he should become a regular 2B or super utility player (i.e. Daniel Descalso).
- Kevin Cron, 1B, Reno Aces (AAA): At this point, Cron is just waiting for a big league call-up although with Paul Goldschmidt under team control for the rest of this year and next year, there really isn’t an opportunity for him. In the meantime, Cron has tortured PCL pitchers to the tune of a .325/.376/.604 slash with 16 doubles and 17 home runs in 240 PA. The walk rate is still a bit down from last year where he walked 9.5% vs. 7.9% this year, but the strikeouts are also down. While he’s waiting for a shot at the MLB club, hopefully the walk rate continues to climb (mostly due to PCL pitchers probably electing to pitch to him with they don’t have to) without sacrificing from anywhere else in his hitting profile. Cron is a candidate for a September call-up and likely will be added to the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 Draft.
- Geraldo Perdomo, SS, AZL Dbacks (Rk): Underestimate Perdomo at your own peril, especially if you’re a catcher. Perdomo’s putting up a .313/.412/.446 slash with 4 doubles, 2 triples, and a homer in 97 PA. On top of the high OBP, he’s also shown an affinity for stealing bases as he’s 13/14 in stolen base attempts. Perdomo doesn’t have blazing speed, but there’s little wasted movement in his actions. The same holds true at the shortstop position, where’s he’s gotten the bulk of the playing time there despite another really good SS prospect on the roster with him. Every publication incorrectly lists him as a RHH, he’s either a LHH or a switch hitter based on some of the video I’ve watched of him. If he can develop more power in his bat while not sacrificing what is clearly advanced plate discipline for his age and level, he could develop into a starting shortstop 4-5 years down the road.
- Blaze Alexander, SS, AZL Dbacks: Blaze Alexander would be the starting shortstop if not for Perdomo. Alexander’s most noteworthy trait is his arm at shortstop, although it also profiles for 3B. He’s been bouncing around the diamond with almost an equal amount of starts at 2B, SS, and 3B. The Diamondbacks picked him up in the 11th round and signed him for $500k, which was the 5th highest bonus in the draft class just behind Jackson Goddard (3rd round). The early returns have been promising as Alexander is producing a .357/.507/.429 slash with 4 doubles in 75 PA. The high OBP is buoyed by a 20% walk rate (!!!), which is pretty amazing since the MLB Pipeline report of him said he had a lot of swing and miss in his game. The high walk rate is very encouraging to start, even though it won’t end at 20%, but likely double digits. Moving forward, his goal will be to add more weight (up to 190 pounds before reaching the upper minors) and continue to develop power without having to sacrifice what’s already solid plate discipline.
Fringe Prospects: Ildemaro Vargas, Jack Reinheimer, Christian Walker, Eudy Ramos