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Michael’s Midseason Top 30 Prospects

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Taking a look at the Diamondbacks farm system going into the 2019 MLB Draft

MLB: New York Mets at Arizona Diamondbacks
Duplantier once again headlines the current group of top prospects in the Diamondbacks farm system.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Diamondbacks farm system has made some improvements in the 2019 season, most of them coming from players who the Dbacks picked up in the 2018 draft. Some of the high school talent the Diamondbacks have taken in the past two drafts are really start to show up on the radar, both position players and pitchers. Of the Top 30, 19 of those prospects were acquisitions under the Mike Hazen front office. 17 of those players were originally signed by this front office, 2 others were picked up by trades.

  1. RHP Jon Duplantier: Duplantier has bounced back and forth between the Reno rotation and the Diamondbacks bullpen, although Luke Weaver’s elbow injury has opened the door for him to win a rotation spot for the rest of 2019 and beyond. Dup has pitched to a 3.18 ERA with a 16/7 K/BB and a 47.7% ground ball rate in his first 17 MLB innings. Duplantier relies mainly on his sinker, slider, and curveball to get outs, although he’ll also mix in a 4-seamer and change-up to give hitters different looks. Command is the big issue at play, if he can iron out the walks there is a chance Duplantier develops into a top of the rotation pitcher with a floor of a #3 starter otherwise.
  2. C Daulton Varsho: Varsho’s bat continues to make strides, as he’s handled the promotion to the pitcher-friendly Southern League very well with a .259/.341/.462 slash (138 wRC+) with 8 doubles and 8 home runs. The peripherals are mostly strong as well with a 14% strikeout rate and 8% walk rate, the only thing that seems to be keeping his battling line down is a .262 BABIP thanks to his line drive rate being cut in half from 22% to 12%. Varsho hits the ball nearly even to all fields and has good gap power. He’s also liable to steal on teams that don’t pay attention to him, with 6/7 stolen base attempts being successful. The only question with Varsho is if he can remain at catcher. He’s a solid receiver behind the plate and calls a solid game, but the poor throwing arm has caught up to him as runners have been successful on 26/31 SB attempts vs. 49/78 last season. The bat and athleticism profile for a LF or 2B role, so there will be other places to put him on the diamond to keep him in the lineup.
  3. RHP Taylor Widener: Widener has struggled with the video game-like atmosphere of the PCL, pitching to a 9.71 ERA, 50/23 K/BB, and surrendered 10 HR in 11 starts. One of those starts did include a 5 IP, 1 R, 8/2 K/BB start, so there is hope that Widener will figure things out. I don’t think Widener is as bad as his AAA numbers suggest, as he’s a year removed from being the most dominant pitcher in the Southern League. Widener will sit low 90s with the fastball, attacking the top of the zone for swings and misses and fly ball contact. He complements the fastball with a plus slider and a so-so change-up.
  4. OF Alek Thomas: I had pretty high expectations for Thomas and was still blown away with his production in Kane County. Thomas is putting up a .306/.388/.486 slash (149 wRC+) at 19 years old in the Midwest League at a premium defensive position in CF. The strikeout and walk rates are fairly solid at 21% and 11% respectively. Thomas has plus speed, which shows up in his XBH rate and defense, although not quite yet on the basepaths as he’s 5/9 in stolen base attempts. Thomas is a candidate to be tested in the Cal League not too long after the draft and could end up being a Top 100 prospect next season with a good showing there considering age, position, and offensive profile.
  5. OF Kristian Robinson: Robinson hasn’t played a game yet in 2019, but has a lot of untapped potential. After a solid run with two separate rookie levels (AZL and Pioneer Leagues), Robinson seems destined to join the short season affiliate Hillsboro when their season opens up. He has loud tools, with the potential for 25+ HR power and solid defense in CF or elite defense in RF.
  6. RHP Taylor Clarke: Clarke is another pitching prospect who will get looks to see if he can stick in the rotation long term. Clarke has made 3 starts in the majors, two good (@Tampa Bay, @San Francisco) and one bad start (@COL) overall. Due to small sample sizes, Clarke has a 5.19 ERA on an 11/5 K/BB ratio in 17 13 innings over 4 appearances. Clarke commands the ball fairly well with a solid 4-seamer that sits 92-93 and tops out at 95 with late arm-side run. His slider is his best secondary pitch, but he also mixes in a curveball early in counts and change-ups to LHHs. His upside is that of a #4/5 starter although in short stints could be a mid 90s throwing reliever with a solid enough slider (Think Yoan Lopez?) if starting doesn’t work out.
  7. INF Jazz Chisholm: Chisholm has loud tools, but an overall inconsistent game. He has plus power, but struggles to make contact resulting in a 36% strikeout rate in AA. He has 11 HR and walks about 12% of the time, but the lack of consistent contact has resulted in a .193 BABIP and a strange year overall for the 21-year-old phenom prospect. His slash is .167/.284/.414, which translates to a 107 wRC+ but also raises legitimate concerns about his ability to project as an MLB hitter. Part of the BABIP drop is a result of a 22% infield-fly rate, which is easily higher than any other season. I hope it’s not a case of him selling out for air contact because his speed plays well on line drive contact and the big dimensions of the Chase Field outfield. The second half of the year will be interesting to see how he is able to adjust and improve. If the bat ever improves, we’re talking about a potential above average SS defensively with solid game power, which is about the same value Nick Ahmed provides to the Dbacks today (elite defense and a wRC+ in the 90s).
  8. OF Jake McCarthy: I had high hopes for McCarthy, but he’s had a really bad start to the season and is currently on the DL. McCarthy projected as a potential above average bat with elite baserunning and solid defense in CF, but his strikeout rate in Visalia jumped up to 30% in 104 PA. Even with a solid .355 BABIP, that translated to a .234/.308/.340 line with just 6 doubles and 2 triples. With Thomas likely headed for Visalia soon, it might be a good idea for McCarthy to get consistent playing time in Kane County to prove good health and improve his confidence for a second run at Visalia in late 2019/early 2020.
  9. SS Blaze Alexander: Alexander has had to share an infield with other prospects such as Buddy Kennedy and Geraldo Perdomo, although they’ve found a way to keep all of them on the field. After a HBP in Spring delayed his start to early May, Alexander started off the season well before getting mired in a slump. Despite swing and miss issues at the plate, Alexander is capable of hitting for power and drawing walks to put up solid OBP numbers. His plus arm profiles for almost any position in the diamond, in case he does have to be moved from SS due to other prospects beating him to the spot.
  10. RHP Matt Tabor: Tabor has made 6 starts for Class A Kane County and has looked excellent so far. He’s sporting a 2.63 ERA and a 29/4 K/BB ratio in 24 innings, which is a good sign for the former 3rd round pick. Tabor utilizes a fastball, slider, and change-up, fills up the strike zone, and has a pretty solid feel for attacking hitters from the mound. The fastball sits in the low 90s while he can reach back for 96 with a plus change-up and developing slider. Tabor projects as a middle of the rotation arm if the slider turns into an above average pitch or a bottom of the rotation arm without it.
  11. RHP Emilio Vargas: Vargas’ breakout season hit the brakes in 2019, due to ineffective starts and a trip to the DL. Despite solid control numbers, Vargas has been hit hard and has shown to be susceptible to the big inning. Overall he’s pitched to a 5.50 ERA in 7 starts (34 13 IP) with a 35/5 K/BB ratio. 3 of those 7 starts have been total disasters, although they account for 16 of the 21 runs he’s allowed on the season to date. He features a low 90s fastball and an above average slider, which could play up in a bullpen role if needed there, which allows him to miss bats. Vargas has the floor of a late inning reliever similar to Yoan Lopez although if he can develop a reliable change-up has the profile for a bottom of the rotation starter.
  12. SS Geraldo Perdomo: The power hasn’t shown up yet in 2019, but he’s still been a very productive hitter overall. Even without the power, he features a 17% strikeout rate vs. a 15% walk rate which has turned a .244 average into a .380 OBP and a 111 wRC+ at 19 years old. Despite the lack of blazing speed or power, Perdomo has continued to be a solid defender at SS and a reliable OBP source in Kane County’s lineup with the ability to steal bases. Perdomo hasn’t been quite as successful in year’s past, swiping 12/17 after being successful on 24/30 attempts last year. The high walk rate makes him a solid fit as either a leadoff or #8 hitter in the Dbacks lineup.
  13. 3B Drew Ellis: Ellis’ over the fence power hasn’t developed yet in the minors, but his bat has taken steps forward in 2019. Ellis is using more of the field and hitting fewer pop-ups which has correlated to a .362 BABIP in AA so far. The jump to AA has also resulted in a jump in both strikeout and walk rate, although the ratio is still pretty consistent with last year’s numbers. Ellis still has 20+ HR power potential, although having a 40+ doubles player in the middle of the order with solid plate discipline is still a welcomed bat. The bat will have to be above average in the majors as defensively he’ll either be a below average 3B or an average 1B, which would likely give him a negative on the defensive end.
  14. 2B Andy Young: Apparently Young and Tim Locastro discuss batting strategy as Young has been plunked by 18 pitches already this year after getting hit 27 times in 2018. The high HBP rate buoys an otherwise unimpressive 43/13 K/BB ratio. Overall he’s putting up a solid line of .254/.366/.420 in 203 plate appearances for Jackson, which is good enough for a 137 wRC+. Young has the upside of an everyday 2B with the potential to be an offensively minded utility guy who can fill in at 1B and 3B as well. With Ketel Marte’s move to center field all but permanent, the team certainly has room for Young to join the team next season.
  15. RHP Levi Kelly: Kelly was not supposed to be pitching in full season ball this year, but a month of excellent performances forced his way into being assigned to Kane County. There he has been solid, pitching to a 3.46 ERA and a 36/12 K/BB ratio in 26 innings for the Dbacks Class A affiliate. Kelly primarily sits in the low 90s (91-93) but can reach up to 96 with the fastball and complements that with a plus slider. He’s also developing a curveball and splitter to help balance out the repertoire. Like Tabor, Kelly has a more mature mindset than your typical 20-year-old prospect.
  16. 1B Pavin Smith: It has not been great for the former 7th overall pick, as Smith has struggled a lot for his minor league career relative to expectations. Smith was touted as an advanced bat that could quickly rip through the farm system as a strong hitter and above average defensive profile at 1B with corner OF versatility, but that has not happened yet. He’s putting up a .228/.327/.392 slash (114 wRC+) in Jackson, but relative to expectations that’s not exactly doing well. Smith doesn’t strike out much and walks at a fairly exceptional rate thanks to good eye discipline, but hasn’t barreled up enough baseballs to project as a potential above average bat, which is what he’ll need considering positional constraints. There’s a decent chance Smith will develop into a good hitter, but I’m not holding my breath on that one.
  17. RHP Jackson Goddard: Goddard pretty much has been the same pitcher in Kane County as he’s been for most of his career. He’s tough to square up and misses bats at a solid level, but also struggles with walks. The command will have to improve for Goddard to project as an MLB starter, although the potential for at least 2 plus pitches (fastball, slider) gives him the potential floor of a reliever at the MLB level. Overall he’s pitched to a 2.53 ERA and a 45/21 K/BB ratio in 46 13 innings over 11 starts for Kane County.
  18. 1B Kevin Cron: Cron has broken into the majors finally, starting off hitting 4/14 with 4 doubles and many tattooed baseballs along the way. Before that, he was putting up ridiculous numbers in Reno with a .339/.437/.800 slash (189 wRC+) with 21 homers. Cron is partially blocked by Christian Walker, a former 1B prospect who never really had the chance to get everyday ABs until this season, which stunts his development overall. Cron projects to be a well above average bat in the middle of the order long term while being merely OK at 1B. If the early MLB returns are any indication, Cron is going to smash a lot of baseballs. It will be the plate appearances where he’s not squaring them up that will determine his ceiling as a hitter.
  19. RHP Yoan Lopez: This will be the last time you see Lopez on any prospect list, as he’s settled into a back-end relief role for the Dbacks. Lopez does a good job of going downhill, as evidenced with his fastball when he drives it to the bottom of the zone. The fastball sits 94-96 while Lopez can reach up to 98, but it’s fairly straight and easy to square up when the ball is up in the zone. He complements that fastball with a swing-and-miss slider, which has developed into a true out pitch for him while teams have barreled up his fastball. Due to the lack of a swing-and-miss fastball, I’m not so confident in projecting Lopez as a potential closer although Holland has been able to ride his slider to a potential All Star season for the Dbacks this year.
  20. OF Alvin Guzman: Guzman was the #16 international prospect on MLB Pipeline for the 2018 signing period and signed for $1.85M by the Dbacks last year. Guzman has a slender build at 6’1” 165, although he projects to add about 30 pounds to that frame by the time he reaches the majors. He’s currently assigned to the DSL Dbacks2 in the Dominican Summer League for his Age 17 season. He’s not quite as big, strong, or advanced as Robinson was coming out in 2017, but Guzman projects to have a nice speed/power combo as he fills out.
  21. C/1B Andy Yerzy: The Dbacks finally moved Yerzy out from behind the plate and the early returns were poor in 2019. Every batting stat for Yerzy completely cratered when playing for Kane County, putting up an abysmal .104/.176/.144 slash in 136 PA before the organization pulled the plug on him. That was quite the surprise after showing incremental progress at the plate each year from 2016-2018 in short season affiliates. This almost sounds similar to how the Dbacks were unable to develop catcher prospect Stryker Trahan, a former first round pick in the 2012 draft who never was able to get past A ball in 5 years in the Dbacks system. Yerzy needs to show something in 2019 and 2020 to prove that he’s capable of contributing at the MLB level otherwise the team is cutting bait.
  22. RHP Matt Mercer: After a dominating debut year with Short Season Hillsboro, Mercer has been inconsistent for Class A Advanced Visalia. Mercer has been hit hard by the hitter friendly league, which has resulted in a 5.25 ERA and a 44/19 K/BB ratio in 9 starts (36 IP). Mercer sits in the mid 90s with the fastball with a solid change-up but hasn’t developed a reliable breaking ball, which will be a big point in his development and potentially the difference between starting and relieving at the MLB level.
  23. 3B Buddy Kennedy: Kennedy’s first taste of full season ball has been very successful, as he’s been the second most reliable hitter in that lineup behind Thomas since joining Kane County in early May. Overall he’s putting up a strong .316/.380/.482 slash (142 wRC+) with a 16% strikeout rate, 9% walk rate, and a .362 BABIP. Coming off seasons of .368 and .361 BABIPs in two separate rookie ball affiliates, his 2019 total is definitely reasonable. I believe there will be more over the fence power left in his bat as he continues to mature and add about 10 pounds of muscle between now and his debut, but even if that doesn’t happen he still has a favorable hitting profile considering age and production.
  24. 2B Jose Caballero: I admit I have a soft spot for fast guys with quality on base skills. Caballero is amongst the stolen base leaders in the minors with 28/35 stolen base attempts being successful. There isn’t much power projection and he’s limited defensively to 2B and perhaps OF moving forward, but there is always a use for fast guys who can draw walks and steal their way into scoring position. Overall he’s putting up a .264/.385/.393 slash (129 wRC+) as Visalia’s primary leadoff hitter with a 12% walk rate and 20% strikeout rate. I’d like to see that strikeout total come down simply because putting the ball in play more will allow Caballero to use the one elite tool he has more consistently.
  25. RHP Jimmie Sherfy: Sherfy has been on the shuttle between Reno and Phoenix the past two seasons and while the MLB results have been mostly solid in terms of preventing runs, the inconsistent control has kept him from locking down an MLB bullpen spot. Part of the issue is in his last 26 MLB innings he’s put up a 26/10 K/BB ratio, although that’s also come with a 1.38 ERA over that span. Sherfy still sprays the ball around the strike zone despite having two swing and miss pitches in his arsenal, especially that 80 MPH slider. The lack of consistent command and control limits Sherfy to a middle innings reliever, which in itself is not a valuable bullpen spot overall.
  26. RHP Kevin Ginkel: Ginkel has been one of the best relievers in the minor leagues the past two seasons, putting up a 144/19 strikeout to walk ratio in 94 23 innings between AA Jackson and AAA Reno. A change in his delivery in the 2018 season has resulted in improved stuff, command, and ability to recover from outings, which makes him a more valuable bullpen prospect. Ginkel is ready for a promotion to the MLB bullpen once he comes off the MiLB DL. His upside is either an 8th inning setup man or potential closer due to the ability to miss bats and limiting free passes.
  27. RHP Ryan Weiss: Weiss is a harder-throwing Josh Collmenter basically, although the latter experienced more success in the minors to this point. A former small school draft pick with a catapult-like delivery, Weiss gets downhill with his fastball, cutter, and curveball pretty well, which has resulted in a 54% ground ball rate. However, the lack of a true swing-and-miss pitch limits his upside to a swingman a la Collmenter.
  28. 2B Domingo Leyba: Leyba is having a decent season with AAA Reno, putting up a .298/347/.537 slash (114 wRC+) while splitting duties at SS and 2B. Given the team’s depth at those two positions and blocked by Ildemaro Vargas as the utility infielder off the bench, there really isn’t much room for Leyba to contribute long term. At the same time, he’s only one injury away from potentially seeing MLB action with Wilmer Flores out until the All Star Break with a fractured toe and Ketel Marte turning into the Dbacks everyday CF.
  29. RHP Matt Peacock: Peacock relies on a low 90s sinker, which has resulted in an absurd 76% ground ball rate in AA. He also utilizes a slider and change-up although both pitches significantly lag behind the fastball. Given his age, relative closeness to MLB, and higher upside arms about to catch him, a potential move to the bullpen is something the Dbacks could consider to get his arm in the majors. Given his former history as a starter, Peacock could do the McFarland role of eating up innings as well as bridge the gap between starters and the back-end of the en.
  30. C Dominic Miroglio: Miroglio is your quintessential defense-first catching prospect who’s done enough with the bat to remain a prospect with a .247/.337/.326 slash (98 wRC+). After feasting on younger pitching early in his career, Miroglio has held his own in AA despite being the obvious backup to top prospect Daulton Varsho there. Miroglio doesn’t offer much in the power department, but sprays the ball around pretty well to all fields and is a tough strikeout. He probably won’t be much more than a backup or 3rd catcher with the Diamondbacks overall although considering Varsho’s potential defensive utility, that might not be much of a problem.