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Michael McDermott’s Top 30 Prospect List for 2020

Kristian Robinson has the potential to be the next Face of the Franchise for the Diamondbacks

The biggest challenge for Mike Hazen when he accepted the General Manager and chief baseball operations decision making roles was to rebuild the farm system. In 3 short years, he’s built the farm up from barren to very respectable. The system itself is mostly full of role players and boom/bust prospects with sky-high ceilings. The farm is deep with outfield talent with a lot of speed, high IQ baseball players on the infield, and a bunch of power righties that could end up as mid-rotation starters or back-end bullpen guys. The system lacks for having the prospect talent that the Dodgers can roll out every year, but it has come a long way. One of the areas where Hazen has excelled at is being able to acquire prospect talent in trades, the most notable being Ketel Marte three offseasons ago. Marte at the time was barely scratching the surface of his potential and was arguably rushed to the majors, but under the right develop and tutelage has blossomed into a superstar level player with enough versatility to handle three up-the-middle positions.

It started with a very strong 2017 International Free Agent class that features 3 players that made the list, including 2 in the Top 15 and the best prospect overall. Hazen followed that up with a solid, but not spectacular 2017 Draft that doesn’t offer a high ceiling but mostly role guys with HS pitcher Matt Tabor having the best ceiling of that class. The 2018 draft followed a similar suit, with the team missing on their top draft choice (went to college) but landed a couple interesting players that dominated A ball in 2019. Then in the 2019 Draft, the team had an opportunity to really stock up the farm with 7 picks on the first day to bolster the farm and hit a home run.

Here’s the list:

  1. OF Kristian Robinson: Robinson offers the most upside in the system by far, with the potential for 5 above-average to plus tools in the outfield. He stands at an imposing 6’3” with more room to add muscle to an already sturdy 210-lb frame. While he didn’t get the full season assignment in 2019, he completely obliterated the Northwest League in just 44 games at Age 18. Robinson hit .319/.407/.558 with 9 homers (171 wRC+) and was 14/17 on stolen base attempts before the organization eventually promoted him to Kane County in late July. Robinson profiles as a mostly three true outcomes hitter: strikeouts, walks, and home runs and may eventually outgrow the CF position. He has the arm to handle RF, which will end up being his likely final destination defensively. Hit: 40, Power: 60+, Run: 55, Defense: 55, FV: 55, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Mid 2023
  2. C/OF Daulton Varsho: Varsho spent the entire season with the AA affiliate in Jackson and was arguably their most consistent hitter throughout the entire season with a .301/.378/.520 slash in the pitcher-friendly Southern League. While he’s been developing as a catcher, his future there is very uncertain due to being a below average receiver with a fringy arm behind the plate. Couple that with the emergence of Carson Kelly, who was above-average at framing, throwing out runners, and hitting and the team doesn’t need to have Varsho be an everyday catcher for the foreseeable future. His bat plays at the top of an MLB lineup where he can put himself in scoring position via the stolen base or an extra base hit. Varsho has average raw-power but his ability to plug the gaps plays up in the big dimensions of Chase Field and other NL West Ballparks. Varsho figures to start the year with AAA Reno, but could see himself in the Diamondbacks everyday lineup sooner rather than later. Hit: 55, Power: 50, Run: 55, Defense: 40+, FV: 55, Risk: Medium, ETA: Mid 2020
  3. OF Corbin Carroll: Carroll was the Diamondbacks first round selection in this year’s draft, falling due to lack of imposing stature. The bright side for the Diamondbacks is the emergence of smaller stature players going on to be major impact players (Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor all being about 5’9” 175) at the plate. Carroll profiles as a leadoff hitter with strong OBP skills and is a burner on the basepaths, which could add up as a 30+ SB threat year in and out. His speed translates well in the field, where Carroll projects to be an above-average to plus defender in CF which would allow Robinson to move over to RF. While he’s older than your typical HS prospect, his advanced approach at the plate will allow him to zip up the system faster. Carroll should start the year with Kane County and could end up finishing in Visalia with a good year. Hit 60, Power 45, Run 65, Defense 55+, FV: 50+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Mid 2023
  4. RHP Corbin Martin: The Diamondbacks elected to sell high on Zack Greinke, acquiring Martin and three other prospects with two of them still on this list. Martin will not pitch most of 2020 due to Tommy John surgery in July, but the Dbacks will still have the full 6 years of control for him. I expect him to complete the rehab process just as the minor league season is ending in late August and could see a few games with the MLB club to close out the season. Before the surgery, Martin featured a full mix of pitches: mid 90s heater with a 12-6 curve, high 80s slider, and a high 80s change-up than average. The 2020 outlook for Martin will be seeing the stuff bounce back to where it was pre-surgery. Afterwards, the team will have to build him up to a full starter’s workload of around 160-170 innings over the next 2-3 years. If Martin’s stuff is able to recover 100%, he profiles as a 2-3 starter. Fastball 60, Curveball 50, Slider 55, Change-Up 55, Command 50, FV 50+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Late 2020/Rotation ETA 2021
  5. INF Geraldo Perdomo: While the power numbers took a step backwards for Perdomo in 2019, everything else took a major step forward. He did enough to convince the organization to part with a high-ceiling prospect Jazz Chisholm to pick up Zac Gallen and finished the year with strong showings with A-Advanced Visalia and in the AZ Fall League. The first thing that stands out is his baseball IQ, both at the plate and in the field he’s advanced compared to his peers. Perdomo has posted double digit walk rates at every stop and uses that to his advantage as he’s racked up 49 stolen bases the past two seasons. Perdomo isn’t flashy with the glove, but is very consistent at the shortstop position and should arrive not too long after Nick Ahmed reaches free agency after this season. He’s still growing into his body, so it will be interesting to see if there are any power gains in his Age 20 season in AA. Hit 55, Power 40+, Run 55, Defense 55, FV: 50, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Early 2021
  6. OF Alek Thomas: Thomas busted out with a strong season with Kane County, hitting .312/.393/.479 with solid walk and strikeout rates to go along with it. After a promotion to Visalia in late July, Thomas scuffled a bit with the more advanced competition. His feel for hitting is still advanced, especially for his age and I see him bouncing back in his second look with Visalia next season. Thomas will also need to improve his baserunning, as he had too many outs on the bases as a result of overaggressive decision-making on the bases. Even with those two warts, I’m still bullish on him developing into a regular outfielder although he’ll likely end up in LF long term barring Carroll or Robinson busting in the upper minors. Hit: 60, Power 40, Run 60, Defense 55, FV: 50, Risk: Medium, ETA: Late 2021
  7. RHP J.B. Bukauskas: Bukauskas was originally drafted by the Diamondbacks out of high school in 2014, but went to college and was drafted by the Astros 3 years later. A car accident limited him to 14 starts in the regular season and ultimately accumulated 83 innings between the minor league season and the Fall League. The following season, he struggled with consistency as the walk and hit rates spiked with the Astros AA affiliate, which led to him being included in the Greinke trade. JBB got lit up in 2 starts with Jackson before the organization shut him down after 92 innings on the year. His long term future is still a bit in doubt, given he’s only eclipsed 100 innings once in 3 years (2017). Another concern with the organization could be that he doesn’t consistently command his stuff enough to be an effective starter, which limits his upside to being a back-end arm. That’s not necessarily a bad outcome, as a high-end reliever is almost as valuable as a #4 starter these days. Fastball 65, Slider 70, Change-Up 60, Command 40, FV 45+, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2020
  8. RHP Jon Duplantier: Duplantier is in somewhat a similar boat as JBB, although with less risk and less upside. Injuries limited Dup to roughly 80 innings, which is disappointing coming off a season where he missed 2 weeks for a hamstring injury, then another 6 for biceps tendinitis. In 2019, he was shuttled up and down between Reno and Arizona with an inconsistent role and ended up missing 2 months with shoulder inflammation and decreased velocity. I still believe it’s a bit early to give up on Dup as a starter, but if he’s unable to push at least 120 innings in 2020 I think the team will have to just move him to the bullpen where I think he’d thrive in a back-end role. Fastball 60, Slider 60, Curveball 55, Change-Up 50, Command 45, FV 45+, Risk: Medium, ETA: Early 2020
  9. RHP Matt Tabor: To no one’s surprise, Tabor dominated full season ball after showing strong peripherals with short season A Hillsboro the year before. While his fastball is average at best, his slider and change have developed into swing and miss pitches. Tabor’s numbers with Kane County were absolutely ridiculous: 95 IP, 26.8% K rate, 4.2% walk rate, 15.0% swinging strike rate. He profiles as a #3/4 starter with his stuff as is, but any gains made with the fastball (still has yet to physically mature although he’s already 21 so time’s starting to run out on that) and you can bump him up a spot in the rotation. Fastball 50+, Slider 60, Change-Up 65, Command 55, FV 45+, Risk: Medium, ETA: Mid 2022
  10. 1B/DH Seth Beer: Beer can hit, but the issue is a long term defensive position due to a lack of athleticism in his lower body. He tore up the ACC then later tore up the lower minors as expected and reached AA in just his first full season. Beer was then traded with Martin and JBB in the Greinke deal, and he struggled a bit after the trade in a 100 PA run with Jackson. The team elected to give him a longer lock in the AZ Fall League, where Beer put up a respectable .315/.375/.452 slash against other top prospects. Due to the lack of positional flexibility in a National League organization, Beer is going to have more trouble sticking on a roster compared to Christian Walker, who is superior with the glove and on the bases. Beer will have to hit his way to an MLB starter role with Walker and another potential MLB-ready prospect at that position looming. Hit 55, Power 60, Run 35, Defense 35, FV 45, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Late 2020
  11. RHP Brennan Malone: Malone fell out of the first round in the 2019 Draft for some reason, but was taken with the very next pick afterwards and signed for slot value for the 33rd pick. Malone is your classic power RHP with a 6’4” 210 from the HS ranks, perhaps the most volatile draft demographic, that hits mid to upper 90s with the fastball and a power breaking ball. In his draft year, Malone developed a better feel for his slider and change-up after struggling to command his curveball. The fastball/slider combination both feature as potential plus pitches, which could present a second possible outcome of being a back-end reliever or middle of the rotation arm depending on if he can develop a 3rd quality pitch. Patience will be key as the Diamondbacks develop Malone in the complex in extended Spring Training for a couple years before sending him to full season ball. Fastball 65, Curveball 45, Slider 60, Change-Up 50, Command 45+, FV: 40+, Risk: High, ETA: Mid 2024
  12. RHP Levi Kelly: The plan was originally to develop Kelly slowly, but he was so dominant in Spring Training that they just sent him to Kane County in May. After improving his body in the offseason, Kelly also developed a splitter to go with a low 90s fastball and a wipeout slider. Kelly was equally as dominant as Tabor with Kane County, putting up a 30.9% K rate and a 9.6% walk rate. In the span of one year, Kelly has transformed himself from a 8th round overslot guy with minimal upside to a pitcher with MLB upside and a non-zero chance of ending up in the rotation. I still think he’s more likely to close games than start them at the MLB level, but until Kelly proves he can’t start the team should continue to send him out there every 5th day. Fastball 55, Slider 60, Splitter 50+, Command 45+, FV 40+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Late 2022
  13. LHP Blake Walston: Walston is still mostly a projectable pitcher, but fits the Hazen mold of a high-spin FB/CB combo. Walston stands at a very slender 6’4” but is also a very loose athlete with plenty of room to add to a 175-lb frame in the future. The fastball velocity was inconsistent, ranging from mid 80s to low 90s. I believe we’ll see gains on the fastball when Walston has more time with a professional strength and conditioning program and could easily shoot up the prospect boards in a couple years. Patience will be important with Walston, we might not see much in gains in next couple seasons. Once Walston gets into full season ball and is closer to 200 lbs., we should get a better idea of what kind of pitcher the Dbacks have going up their system. Fastball 45+, Curveball 65, Change-Up 50+, Command 50+, FV 40+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Late 2023
  14. RHP Drey Jameson: Jameson is a tough projection, although I lean more towards fireman/closer than starter. Everything about his physical profile screams reliever: Rail-thin 6’0” frame and high effort delivery that’s tough to repeat consistently. With those two limitations in mind, Jameson was able to maintain his stuff deep into starts in college and has 4 pitches that could project to be above-average to plus pitches. If Jameson is able to add muscle to his 165-lb frame and smooth out his delivery without a dropoff in stuff, his chances to stick as a starter improve dramatically. Fastball 65, Curveball 60, Slider 60, Change-Up 55, Command 40+, FV 40+, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2022
  15. INF Liover Peguero: Peguero started the year with Rookie ball affiliate Missoula and put up a .364/.410/.559 slash in 160 plate appearances before spending the rest of the year with Hillsboro. While he didn’t have the same success at the more advanced level, he held his own enough that he may see a full season assignment as the Kane County shortstop. One hole in his swing is he makes a lot of ground ball contact, which limits his effectiveness as a hitter. Once we see him making more air contact, Peguero may emerge as a breakout prospect on the infield. Hit: 50+, Power 40+, Run 55, Defense 55, Risk: Medium-High, FV 40+, ETA: Mid 2024
  16. OF Wilderd Patino: Patino compares very well relative to other prospects his age physically, but hasn’t been able to consistent tap into his raw tools at the plate. Patino has above average raw power, but puts the ball on the ground too much to utilize it. He has enough speed to handle CF and be a baserunning terror, so the bar for him to even be a 4th outfielder is pretty low in the power department. If Patino is able to make changes to his swing path and induce more air contact, he goes from a 4th OF prospect to a potential regular CF. Hit 45+, Power 50+, Run 60, Defense 55, FV 40+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Late 2023
  17. INF Blaze Alexander: Alexander put together an acceptable season with Kane County. While strikeouts will always be a large part of his game, Alexander walks enough and in the past flashed potential plus power to keep developing. He also spent a lot of the season playing positions other than shortstop as the team was looking to get Perdomo reps at SS and Buddy Kennedy at 3B. Due to the plus arm, which MLB Pipeline graded out at 80, I could see him developing into a 3B/RF type long term. His long term fit will depend on if his power returns to 2018 levels. With Perdomo likely starting 2020 in AA and likely to get his MLB chance within the next 18 months, Alexander should get an opportunity to play SS everyday with Visalia and see if he can stick there. Hit: 40+, Power 50+, Run 50, Defense 40+, FV 40+, Risk: Medium-High, ETA: Early 2023
  18. RHP Taylor Widener: Which pitcher is Taylor Widener closer to? The pitcher who dominated the Southern League in 137 IP with a 31.9% strikeout rate and 7.8% walk rate or the pitcher whose stuff backed up in 2019 and got promptly shelled in Reno basically in every start. The former is more of the profile of a #3/4 starter while the latter is more of a #5 starter/swingman. If Widener is closer to the latter, then the team is going to have a problem with where to put him because Reno is not a great spot for him because we’ve seen that movie before. If his stuff doesn’t bounce back, then the only realistic option is to see how he’d handle a bullpen role and hope the shorter outings causes the stuff to go back to 2018 levels. Fastball 45+, Slider 45+, Change-Up 50, Command 45, FV 40+, ETA: Mid 2020
  19. RHP Luis Frias: Frias is another pitcher who profiles as either a middle to bottom of the rotation starter or a late-inning reliever with a lot of volatility between the two potential outcomes. Frias sits in the mid to upper 90s with the fastball and throws the full mix of secondaries. The splitter is the only secondary pitch that may turn out to be above-average to plus, which would likely limit his upside to a late-inning reliever. After a couple years learning how to pitch in Short A, Frias finally broke through in 2019 by throwing enough strikes to get by hitters. That saw him get promoted to Kane County down the stretch where he posted respectable numbers. Frias will start 2020 at Kane County, where he’ll need to continue to develop his breaking ball to be a reliable 3rd option for him. Fastball 65, Curveball 45+, Slider 50+, Splitter 55, Command 45+, FV 40+, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2022
  20. INF Andy Young: Young may be the least talked about piece coming back from the Paul Goldschmidt trade, but Young is knocking on the door to an MLB opportunity. He profiles as a stocky, yet sturdy middle infielder whose calling card is power. The team invested in a similar player last season with Wilmer Flores, but perhaps they elected to move on because of how well Young progressed between AA and AAA. Young strikes out quite a bit, but overcomes that with the ability to crush balls on the inner and middle thirds of the plate and a high OBP driven by crowding the plate and getting hit by pitches. With 26 roster spots on the MLB roster, that could be the opportunity Young needs to develop into a reliable RH infield bench bat. Hit 45, Power 55, Run 45, Defense 40, FV 40, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Early 2020
  21. OF Dominic Fletcher: The younger brother of Angels infielder David Fletcher, Dominic was drafted by the Diamondbacks with the extra draft pick they received in the Paul Goldschmidt trade. Fletcher was assigned to Kane County off the bat partly due to Corbin Carroll hitting the AZ League pitchers so hard that they moved him up 2 levels to Hillsboro. Fletcher spent time between all 3 outfield positions and put up a .318/.389/.463 slash for the Dbacks A ball affiliate. He will likely start the year in Visalia and how he performs there could end up determining if he arrives in 2021 or 2022. Fletcher has above average pop and hits the ball in the air consistently enough to tap into it, although I see him more as a 40+ doubles than 20+ homers at the MLB level. However I don’t think he needs too much seasoning in the minors to be even just being the LH part of a corner OF platoon. Hit 50, Power 55, Run 45, Defense 50, FV 40, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Mid 2022
  22. LHP Tommy Henry: Henry profiles as your classic innings eating #4 starter with the ability to command 3 pitches for strikes. Henry’s stuff appeared to tick up in the non-conference part of the recent college season before dipping in conference play while playing through a minor injury, that turned off some organizations. The good news for Henry was the stuff ticked back up again during Michigan’s run to the College World Series finals, which put him back on the map as a Day 1 pick. Henry is another high-spin 4SFB/CB combo pitcher that Hazen loves adding although his change-up is projected to be merely average. Being already 22, Henry doesn’t have much projection left in his stuff so he might be on the fast track to the majors with an aggressive assignment to Visalia in 2020. Fastball 50, Curveball 60, Change-Up 50, Command 55, FV 40, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Mid 2022
  23. 1B Pavin Smith: While Smith will be remembered much as probably one of the two biggest missed opportunities in the Hazen/Ladnier regime, Smith is looking less like a bust than he was a year ago. After struggling in the first half, Smith hit over .300 while flashing average pop and more walks than strikeouts. Smith has decent enough mobility to be a platoon/bench player at 1B and LF, but given the team has Christian Walker, who had no major platoon splits, at 1B for the foreseeable future, it’s unlikely he gets regular action 7there. It’s possible they could try to platoon Smith in LF once David Peralta reaches free agency, but you have to hope Smith hits enough to offset any negative defensive value there given how difficult NL West outfields are to play. With elite pitch recognition skills, I could see Smith turning into a Daniel Descalso type hitter who you put in a high-leverage situation where a walk or single would be a devastating outcome for the opponent. He doesn’t have Descalso’s positional flexibility due to being a left-handed thrower, so that does limit his utility. Hit 60, Power 45, Run 40, Defense 40, FV 40, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Late 2020
  24. RHP Ryne Nelson: Nelson just recently became a full-time pitcher and flashes brilliance at times but also shows he has a long way to go. Nelson hits upper 90s with a wipeout slider as his primary out pitches although his change-up and curveball significantly lag behind. This screams late-inning reliever, where Nelson could dominate in short stints with his two plus pitches. Nelson’s ability to miss bats and get batters to beat the ball into the ground make for a great fit in what I call the “Fire Man” role where you’re inheriting baserunners and need to either get a strikeout and/or double play to escape the inning. Fastball 65, Slider 70, Change-Up 45, Command 40, FV 40, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2023
  25. RHP Josh Green: Green doesn’t have near the electric stuff as other pitchers on this list has, but has a more realistic shot at a rotation spot than most of them. Green doesn’t miss bats, but limits free passes and doesn’t give up fly ball contact. Every time he started I kept seeing Green go 5-6 innings and no more than 2 ER in the box score when he was ground-balling the California League to death. 2 out of 3 balls in play against Green have been ground balls. Green projects to be an innings-eating #4/5 starter at the MLB level and should take over a rotation spot once Robbie Ray and Mike Leake reach free agency. Fastball 50, Curveball 50, Slider 50, Change-Up 55, Command 60, FV 40, Risk: Medium-Low, ETA: Mid 2020
  26. INF Buddy Kennedy: Kennedy can hit, the question is where he plays defensively. He is similarly built and has similar tools to Andy Young. Kennedy is more doubles than home run power compared to Young, which does limit his upside with the bat. Given the team has higher profile prospects on the infield as a whole, Kennedy’s path to a regular role appears to be blocked as well as a limited roster fit as a RH bench bat due to a lack of a fieldable position. Hit 55, Power 50, Run 35, Defense 35, FV 40, Risk: High, ETA: Mid 2022
  27. RHP Kevin Ginkel: The Diamondbacks cycled through various bullpen options, but no other reliever was more consistent than what Ginkel provided the team down the stretch. Ginkel’s fastball doesn’t jump off the page, but has an elite slider that is equally devastating to hitters on both sides of the plate. He also throws off the hitter’s timing with a funky delivery where he comes set all hunched up then rocks back before releasing from a high arm slot. The release point allows him to stay on top of the ball, especially on his slider and change-up when he’s going for swings and misses. Ginkel’s ability to miss bats will be pivotal for him to establish a regular role in the back-end of the Dbacks bullpen in 2020 and beyond. Fastball 55, Slider 70, Change-Up 55, Command 45, FV 40, Risk: Low, ETA: Early 2020
  28. INF Domingo Leyba: Leyba still does have an option remaining thanks to the Dbacks being granted a 4th option year for him, as Leyba was struggling with shoulder problems that wiped out the second half of 2017 and the majority of 2018. Leyba is competing for a utility infielder job, seeing action at 2B, SS, and 3B in the past. The other players he’ll be competing with are Ildemaro Vargas and Josh Rojas. Rojas has the best roster flexibility with all 3 options remaining and the ability to play a corner outfield position somewhat competently due to speed. Leyba has similar positional flexibility to Vargas, who has done very little at the MLB level to suggest he’s worth keeping so far. Of the three players, Leyba has the best hit tool and is the toughest out. It will be interesting to see how he fares in the competition for what will likely be the 26th and final roster spot. Hit 55, Power 40, Run 45, Defense 45, FV 40, Risk: Low, ETA: Early 2020
  29. OF Jeferson Espinal: The big name from the 2018 International Free Agent class was Alvin Guzman, but a different outfielder from that class has emerged from the DSL instead. Espinal crushed the Dominican Summer League before seeing a late-season promotion state-side with the AZ League team. Espinal is a long stash play who will be more than 4-5 years away from reaching the majors best-case scenario. However, he profiles as a potential everyday CF, especially if he continues to make strides with the power and discipline parts of his hitting. He’ll likely see a run in Extended Spring Training which will likely determine if he’s going to stay in Arizona or end up with a more aggressive promotion to Missoula. Hit 40+, Power 50+, Run 60, Defense 50+, FV 35+, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2024
  30. RHP Justin Martinez: Martinez is another member of that 2017 class that features Robinson, Patino, and Jorge Barrosa. Martinez struggled in his first taste of action in 2018, but something clicked this year and he’s throwing more strikes. Martinez hits mid 90s with the fastball and has a pretty solid feel for commanding a slider to RHH. Martinez will need to iron out a few things to improve command and his secondaries before moving on to full season ball, but a RHP that hits 98 with a mostly clean arm action is one worth following. Fastball 60, Slider 50+, Change-Up 45+, Command 35+, FV 35+, Risk: High, ETA: Late 2024