One of the major feathers in General Manager Mike Hazen’s cap has been his ability to be able to re-stock the farm system without ever having to torpedo his team’s chances of competing for the postseason. From selling high on players such as Jean Segura, Paul Goldschmidt, and Zack Greinke combined with solid drafting the past three seasons, Hazen has been able to inject life into a previously barren farm system ravaged by promotions and poorly-conceived trades by his predecessors. With the season now just weeks away, Baseball America has released their farm system rankings for each organization (subscription required). Coming in at the #10 spot was the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here’s their summary of the team’s farm system:
In my estimation, that ranking feels just about right compared to the rest of baseball given most of the elite talent in the system projects to be at Low or High A to start the 2020 season. When Hazen took over the job, he inherited the 28th ranked system on BA. The system has made steady improvements, going up to 26th in 2018 and 21st in 2019, but the big leaps came after the season started thanks to a couple of the top prospects having breakthrough years and having a boatload of picks entering the 2019 draft.
The strength of the farm system is at the position player group with a very risky set of pitchers. The team currently has five players in Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospect List: Daulton Varsho (53), Geraldo Perdomo (72), Kristian Robinson (74), Alek Thomas (87), and Corbin Carroll (90). All five are position players and coming off very successful 2019 campaigns that saw improvements at the plate and with the glove. They’ll need to continue to improve as they move up the system in order to develop into MLB-ready contributors although they each have very high and exciting ceilings to dream about.
The pitching side of the system isn’t necessarily great, even with the rest of the Top 10 rounded out by pitchers. Corbin Martin seems like the safest bet to contribute in an MLB rotation in the next 3 years although that assumes that he has a successful return from Tommy John surgery. Blake Walston is the most interesting prospect, filling in at the #6 spot for the organization. Walston had already made significant gains in the 2019 season after signing, beefing up to 197 pounds for Instructs last month and seeing his velo jump into the low 90s. Kelly sped up the process in his development, improving his physique and learning a splitter to better round out his repertoire before dominating Low A. He’s still a significant reliever risk due to a max-effort delivery and the lack of a consistent 3rd pitch, but I won’t count him out until he struggles for an extended period of time. Frias is pretty much in the same boat as Kelly although I think he has more dominant stuff but a tougher time commanding it.
Assuming a lot of things go right, a year from now we could be taking about a Top 5 system with essentially the same group of players headlining the system in addition to whoever they pick up in the June draft and July 2nd international signing period. Hazen himself has iterated the point that having an elite farm system is not the end goal, as his job is measured more by the organization’s success at the MLB level, but having a top farm system makes the path to success easier either as future contributors or as assets to move in order to improve the MLB club. Let’s hope that the team is successful on both ends, as it appears the Dodgers don’t appear to be going away any time soon.