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Diamondbacks Farm Update: April 2019

Taking a look at prospects whose stock has improved or dropped over the course of the first month of the minor league season.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With just a bit over 3 weeks into the minor league system, we have a decent sample size to work with in regards to the prospects at their respective levels. Hitters will have roughly 100 plate appearances, starting pitchers about 25 innings, and relievers about 15 innings on the season to date. While those sample sizes certainly aren’t large enough to paint the picture, we’re getting closer to the point of stability (R-squared of 0.5 or better) for strikeouts and walks. There should be a much clearer picture a month from now where batted ball numbers begin to stabilize as well.

Stock Up

  • RHP Jon Duplantier (Preseason #1): Diamondbacks fans have now gotten a good firsthand look at Duplantier and the early returns are definitely encouraging. He offers the full arsenal of pitches although primarily relies on a devastating sinker and curveball combo while mixing in a quality slider and average change-up. Also the most notable thing is Duplantier also has that great presence on the mound, which was tested against the Chicago Cubs in that 15 inning marathon. Duplantier alertly was able to cut down a streaking Willson Contreras at home on an attempted steal when Carson Kelly lobbed a ball back to the mound and also pitched out of a bases-loaded, no out situation without letting the ball leave the infield. The combination of ground balls and the ability to miss bats makes him a prospect worth keeping around long term. His overall numbers between the majors (8 IP, 7/3 K/BB) and AAA (8 23 IP, 10/7 K/BB) don’t look great on paper, but there’s no denying either that he belongs on the Dbacks roster if he could get an opportunity to stick.
  • 1B Kevin Cron (Preseason #28): Cron seems to have the same problem that Christian Walker had when he came up through the Orioles system. A guy who deserves an MLB everyday chance, but blocked by an All Star or a player on a breakout. Cron seems to fit in the latter, although how long Christian Walker can sustain his breakout could determine if Cron has a future in Arizona. He’s putting up an absurd .363/.458/.863 slash in 98 PA for Reno, good for a wRC+ of 202. I don’t think he’ll sustain this blistering pace, which is kept up by a .340 BABIP, 37.9% HR/FB rate, and a 26.6% LD rate. I expect those numbers to regress towards his career averages, although Cron has shown a potential high BABIP skill while also putting up a 17/13 K/BB ratio to start the season so I do think he’ll put up strong numbers when the batted ball profile inevitably regresses or PCL pitchers stop pitching to him if they haven’t already.
  • SS Geraldo Perdomo (Preseason #16): Perdomo is not hitting for power, but is producing a .780 OPS in Kane County on the back of quality on-base skills. His ISO has dropped to .106 in his first taste of full season ball, but is producing a .417 OBP thanks to a 17.9% walk rate and a 15/15 BB/K ratio in his first 84 PA. Perdomo has always been a high OBP talent, the only question about ceiling is how much power he brings to the table. The stolen base production has taken a bit of a hit, after stealing 24/30 last season he’s started off the season 5/8, but I still project him as a plus baserunner anyway. While there hasn’t been a power breakout yet, he’s 19 and producing a 137 wRC+ in full season ball and that’s worth noting once he fills out his 6’2” frame to about 195-205.
  • RHP Josh Green (Preseason Unranked): Green was a 14th round pick in last year’s draft, but is producing in the Cal League in his first full season. Green doesn’t miss bats, as evidenced by a 12.6% strikeout rate, but he doesn’t walk hitters and an extreme ground ball pitcher (67.8% career rate). There isn’t starting pitcher upside in his profile due to the inability to miss bats, but the chances he develops into a major league pitcher have drastically improved. I can see him developing into a Brad Ziegler type pitcher if things work out.
  • RHP Ryan Weiss (Preseason Unranked): Weiss had a solid debut season with Hillsboro, showing he can miss a few bats (22% K rate) and limit the walks and homers. He’s doing the same for Class A Kane County, where the ground balls have increased while maintaining solid strikeout and walk rates. He doesn’t miss bats at an exceptional rate, but limits the free passes and keeps the ball in the park so he’s got bottom of the rotation upside. Weiss will have to keep the ball on the ground to be a successful starter down the road and he has the tools to be that type of pitcher.
  • 1B Pavin Smith (Preseason #8): Smith struggled in the Cal League last year as he became too pull-happy to try to force his power and hit into too many shifts for outs. This year, Smith started off slow over the first week but has rebounded nicely. While the average hasn’t improved much, the power has as Smith is putting up a .250/.353/.486 slash in his first 85 plate appearances for Jackson. I’d like to see him hit more line drives moving forward, although he might never hit for a high line drive rate over a significant sample which could limit his BABIP potential. Regardless, .250 with good OBP (16/12 K/BB ratio) skills and solid power (.236 ISO) is a good combination to have, even if that is an average starter profile in the majors.
  • OF Anfernee Grier (Preseason Unranked): Grier struggled with injuries and poor performance in his first trip to Visalia, but his second stint has gone much better. The power has taken a step forward with 8 XBH and a .177 ISO in 78 trips to the plate while the walks have come up to 18% vs. a 26% strikeout rate. His season numbers to date are .290/.423/.468, which is an encouraging sign to say the most although it’s propped up by a .415 BABIP. The BABIP is not sustainable, especially when factoring a 61% fly ball rate and a 14% line drive rate. Grier is on the older side as a prospect with 2018 being a lost year and him being 23 this season. The high walk rate and increasing power combined with plus speed gives Grier a much stronger chance of reaching the majors as a 4th OF type than it looked a year ago.

Stock Down

  • RHP Taylor Widener (Preseason #2): Widener has really struggled after a strong AA season. On the season to date, he’s allowed 23 runs on 31 hits and 10 walks in 19 23 innings over 5 starts. The Pacific Coast league is definitely a tough adjustment, especially for a pitcher who relies on his slider as much as Widener does. He hasn’t had that one good start yet and has gotten blown up in his last two starts, so I do wonder if the challenge is too difficult for him. I believe the poor start actually could help him develop as a prospect, as when you’re staring at an ERA of 10.53 he knows that he’ll have to make adjustments or watch Duplantier and Clarke get opportunities to start before him. I do believe his stuff will play better at the MLB level than Reno though, so it’s too early to make judgments on him.
  • C/1B Andy Yerzy (Preseason #18): Yerzy looks overwhelmed at the plate in his first go in full season ball, hitting .091/.167/.130 in 84 PA with Class A Kane County. That comes with a 32% K rate and a 6% walk rate and only 3 doubles for his extra base hit totals. The team moved him off the plate to develop the bat more, but it has not yielded positive results yet. The downward trend in peripherals as well as the steep drop in production at the plate relative to what he’s posted in short-season stints is definitely a cause for concern. I was hoping after a solid season in Hillsboro the bat was going to develop further, but it’s starting to look like Yerzy is turning into a bust. Hopefully the bat gets started up over the next month.
  • RHP Jose Almonte (Preseason #24), LHP Cody Reed (#27): Neither pitcher has thrown a pitch for the Diamondbacks in 2018 or 2019.
  • OF Tra Holmes (Preseason #26): It looks like it’s curtains for Holmes as a prospect, who is putting up an abysmal .113/.233/.194 slash in 73 PA to start the season. Given that Eduardo Diaz has finally learned how to draw walks this season combined with Alek Thomas also being on the roster, the outfield is getting too crowded for Holmes, who will see fewer opportunities than Thomas and Diaz.

*All Stats are updated through April 29, 2019