The Diamondbacks under-promised and over-delivered in this deadline, both a bit of both buying and selling. All the moves had the starting rotation in mind, as the team has an extra capable starter in the organization, but also stocked up their farm system a bit. Here’s a bit of a recap of which prospects joined and were dealt in on the final day for trades.
IN: RHP Zac Gallen, RHP Corbin Martin, RHP J.B. Bukauskas, Seth Beer, INF Joshua Rojas
OUT: INF Jazz Chisholm, INF Jose Caballero
Dbacks say goodbye to their highest upside prospect above A ball
While Chisholm’s 2019 season hasn’t gone that smoothly, at the end of the day we’re still talking about a shortstop prospect who has quite a big ceiling with the bat and the ability to stick at the position. Chisholm had 25-30 HR potential with a solid walk rate, so his ceiling at the MLB level is certainly an above average bat with the arm and hands to stick at the toughest position to play other than catcher and pitcher. At the same time, there were some pretty bad warts in his game, particular when his strikeouts spiked and his overall quality of contact is down. I get the feeling he’s selling a bit for more power than he needed to. Trading Chisholm had to be a tough decision for the front office because he was the one impact player prospect who was going to arrive before 2022, which is where I see the Dbacks next big contention window starting.
At the same time, the Dbacks have a pair of SS prospects in Kane County in Geraldo Perdomo and Blaze Alexander. Perdomo has gotten the bulk of the starts at SS on that roster and is expected to stick there long term had Chisholm not beaten him to the punch. With Chisholm out of the picture, the SS position becomes very uncertain following the 2020 season when Nick Ahmed is set to hit free agency.
Seth Beer acquisition creates logjam of bats without a defensive position
Beer’s long term position has been the question that’s followed him ever since he stepped foot at Clemson in 2016 as a 19-year-old. Beer has alternated between 1B (77 starts) and LF (52) in the Astros system, although is very limited for either position long term. He lacks the foot speed to play LF, especially in the NL West where the outfields are more cavernous than Minute Maid Park. At the same time, his 1B defense is a total work in progress and to the point where it will likely delay his potential call-up to 2021 at the earliest. However, no one is questioning his ability to hit, with a .307/.401/.535 minor league slash and strong showings at the plate at every stop. The question then becomes is the bat valuable enough that you hope to just deal with the grind of him learning 1B? I think the answer is Yes.
The team has another player with a similar issue in Kevin Cron and Yasmany Tomas, who is another slugger who is unable to play a defensive position adequately. Both Cron and Tomas have been in the year in AAA while Christian Walker and Jake Lamb have gotten opportunities at the MLB level. Walker is able to handle the 1B position defensively better than everyone else mentioned and adds value as a baserunner as well. Lamb is a proven bat with enough competence at both corner infield positions to keep him in the lineup as well vs. RHP. Tomas is clearly not in the Dbacks long term plans anymore, given the team only brought him up for 15 PA when Cron was not available for those ABs due to an injury he’s currently rehabbing.
JBB and Martin are upside plays for SP prospect depth for 2021 and later
Both Bukauskas and Martin are unlikely to contribute much to the Diamondbacks before the 2021 season. The former struggled with injuries in 2018 before posting a stinker season with Houston’s AA affiliate. The latter saw a cup of coffee with the Astros this year, as they’ve looked to many options for the #5 spot in their rotation behind Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Wade Miley. Unfortunately after getting sent down to the minors, Martin would tear the UCL in his right elbow and require Tommy John surgery. The surgery itself was on July 3rd, which puts the timetable for his return at either September 2020 or Spring Training 2021. However, the upside for both pitchers are as a #2 starter. Given that both Taijuan Walker and Robbie Ray are due to reach free agency after the 2020 season, it appears the Dbacks are gambling on both pitchers replacing Walker and Ray in the rotation long term.
As an extra side note, if JBB is unable to fix the consistency issues as a starter I think he makes for an interesting closer candidate with 3 pitches that project as plus. It’s also possible a change of scenery could do him good, as was the case for Luke Weaver and Carson Kelly this year. Also given that Martin will likely accrue a season of service time on the MLB DL, the team will only get five years of him contributing instead of the full six. However, if Martin proves to be a reliable middle of the rotation arm, that is hardly a significant issue.
Dbacks have a Top 5 Farm System, but window to compete for the division won’t be until 2022
While the system itself lacks any bonafide All Star level talent, especially after moving on from Chisholm, it is deep with players who project as potential MLB regulars. There is a small hint of star power in the system between Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson, Corbin Carroll, and possibly Brennan Malone as well. However, those players are all teenagers are more than 2 years (Thomas, the other are at least 3 years away) removed from being considered MLB contributors.
The rest of the system has guys who won’t necessarily be stars, but will contribute at least potentially average starter upside or better within in the next two seasons. The players who already have contributed to the Dbacks in 2019 include Jon Duplantier, Taylor Clarke, Alex Young, Kevin Cron, and Domingo Leyba although they’re all in AAA for now. Gallen will also be contributing to the 2019 team. Going into next year they will have those six players plus Taylor Widener, Daulton Varsho, Andy Young, and possibly Josh Green and Seth Beer as well as potential prospects to impact the roster in 2020.
The lack of high-end impact talent to reach the team before 2021 could be an issue for contending between now and Opening Day 2022, the next realistic window for NL West contention, but the impact talents already on the roster are controllable past 2022. Ketel Marte is cost-controlled through 2024 for $37.2M, Carson Kelly is controllable through 2024, and Luke Weaver through 2023, so those guys will be around when Thomas, Robinson, Carroll, etc. make it to the majors in that timeline. Between now and then, you just keep hoping the front office continues to make smart deals and not ruin both the present and future outlooks of the team.