About to celebrate his 21st birthday this Friday, shortstop Jazz Chisholm is no stranger to the pages of this blog. Hailing from Nassau in the Bahamas, Jazz had a breakout season in 2018. After hitting .244/.311/.472 with 15 homers in 341 PA for Kane Countey, Class A ball, he earned a promotion to Advanced A+ Visalia, and in 160 PA mashed 10 more homers while hitting .329/.369/.597. Not done impressing for the year, he went on to the Arizona Fall League where he wowed scouts and prospect junkies alike with his stellar defense, dynamic baserunning, and oh by the way hit .442/.489/.767 in 47 PA
The only obvious flaw in this young man’s game is his propensity to strike out, which he did a whopping 157 times while taking just 43 walks in his 548 PA’s across the three leagues this year. He will be facing more advanced pitchers in 2019 in AA Jackson, and he will be challenged to maintain his forward momentum. However the team is obviously fast tracking him, as evidenced by the Fall League appearance and the spring invite. I’m sure if he has any kind of success in 2019, he will be called up in early September at the latest. If you get a chance to get out to any of the spring workouts or games, look for this player. He is FUN to watch.
A California native, catcher Tyler Heineman was drafted out of UCLA by the Houston Astros in the 8th round of the 2012 draft. He hit well in the low minors, batting .358 in short season A-, and then hit .286 with 13 HR and a .837 OPS in the California League. However the bat stalled once he got to AA & AAA, posting respectable batting averages, but the power completely disappeared, and the OPS fluctuated between .664-.714. After the 2016 season he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent 2 years in the Brewers organization, and it seemed like he did well enough to earn a shot with the major league club, but that chance never came and he was released at the end of 2018
Heineman has a strong defensive reputation, at least in terms of throwing out baserunners, which he has done to the tune of 43% in his minor league career. He also had very good pitch framing numbers in Houston, although that backslid with Milwaukee. So it should be no great surprise that the Diamondbacks signed him as a minor league free agent.
He is not a candidate to make the opening day roster, but teams need at least 4-5 catchers in Spring Training. (There are a lot of bullpens to be thrown by all the pitchers in camp, and of course plenty of split squad games too.) It’s also notable that Tyler’s brother Scott is an outfielder in the Rangers organization.
Wyatt Mathisen was drafted as a catcher out of high school by the Pirates in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. A RHB, he got off to a promising start in rookie ball, batting .295 with a .795 OPS, but struggled mightily both at and behind the plate in 2013, batting just .228 with no homers. The Pirates, clearly unimpressed with his work as a catcher, moved him to 3rd base starting in 2014.
Over the next 4 seasons, playing mostly 3b, with a little 1b sprinkled in, he hit for decent batting averages, usually around .270-.280, but with very little power, just 13 HR in over 1400 PA. Also somewhat error prone, he has just a .935 fldg % at 3b. However in 2018, playing mostly at 1b, he had his best year at the plate, batting .261/.363/.440, .803 OPS with 10 HR in 323 PA. It wasn’t enough to gain him a spot on the Pirates 40 man roster, and he became a minor league free agent at the young age of 24, and then signed by the Diamondbacks this off season.
It is a low risk move for the Dbacks to see if his power improvement in his age 24 season is for real. In fact he had battled injuries in several of his previous minor league seasons. And he owns a career 9.5% walk rate and just 16% K rate, both numbers better than minor league averages. Perhaps the now 25 year old will be one of those nice surprise stories.
Daulton Varsho is another favorite here at the pit among the folk that enjoy following prospects. Taken with the 68th overall pick of the 2017 draft, Varsho has impressed in each of his first two seasons. He hit the ground running in Hillsboro , batting .311/.368/.534 .902 OPS and doing well behind the plate, throwing out 32% of baserunners. He also gave a hint of his baserunning prowess swiping 7 bags. Bypassing the Midwest league in 2018, Varsho was promoted to Advanced A+ Visalia, and despite missing some time with injury, put up a very solid .286/.363/.451 .813 OPS, 121 wRC+. With 11 HR in 342 PA. He also stole 19 bases while getting caught just 3 times.
On the strength of that season the team sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He showed off his athleticism, speed, and overall good play in that league, although he did slump the second half of the fall league season and ended up with just 2 extra base hits in 77 PA as he hit.262/.377/.308 .685 OPS
Look for Varsho to start the year in AA Jackson in 2019. It’s possible we see Varsho before September callups if the team moves Avila at the deadline or if injuries open up slots. But most likely the team’s plan is to have him come up in September and then compete for a spot on the 25 Man roster in 2020. One thing to look out for in spring is whether or not Varsho is asked to play any other positions besides catcher, as with his athleticism he could easily man another position as a way to get his bat in the lineup. But for now, he is a catcher, and he is doing fine back there.