Chase Field remains empty, but several Arizona Diamondbacks prospects showcased their talent during the intrasquad scrimmages.
Arizona faces the San Diego Padres on July 24 to begin a shortened 60-game season. Its Opening Day roster will shrink from the 60-player pool to a 30-man roster when the season begins.
Two scrimmages remain before the regular season starts, and here are four key takeaways from the Diamondbacks’ talented farm system.
Daulton Varsho’s defensive versatility
Limiting Daulton Varsho to a catcher may be a disservice at this point. The 24-year-old started four games in center field with Double-A Jackson last season. The D-backs have experimented with his defensive flexibility during the intrasquad games, he’s patrolled center field and played catcher.
The son of former MLB outfielder Gary Varsho, Daulton shares his dad’s supreme power and athleticism. He made a leaping catch in center field and followed it up with a line-drive base hit to right field in his next plate appearance. He also recorded a triple and home run during the intrasquad scrimmages.
Varsho ranks No. 76 overall in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. He was reportedly set to start the year in Triple-A Reno before Minor League Baseball was canceled and MLB’s 60-man roster took effect. Varsho now has a chance to crack the D-backs’ 30-man Opening Day roster and develop in the major leagues.
Levi Kelly’s powerful stuff takes center stage
Levi Kelly made quite an impression in Single-A Kane County last season with a 2.15 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 22 starts. The right-hander opened more eyes during his impressive outing on the mound July 13.
Kelly, 21, pitched two hitless innings with four strikeouts. His fastball touched 97 mph to go along with a mid-80s slider that proved to be an effective off-speed offering against lefties. He struck out Jake Lamb with a backfoot slider, and his fastball had late movement to force a swinging strike three from Trayce Thompson.
Kelly hasn’t seen Double-A yet, but he’s introduced himself to the big league team thus far. His powerful fastball-slider combination kept opposing batters off guard all night. He is an intriguing arm in Arizona’s system that has been on a meteoric rise in the minor leagues.
J.B. Bukauskas struggles with command and velocity
While Kelly showcased his velocity-packed arsenal, right-hander J.B. Bukauskas had command and velocity issues during the scrimmages. His fastball sat between 90-92 mph, which is typically lower than his usual mid-90s offering that’s reached 97 mph.
J.B. Bukauskas is sitting 90-92 right now, which is down for him. Usually in the mid-to-high 90s— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) July 14, 2020
Along with his dip in velocity, Bukauskas had trouble locating his slider, which translated to three walks in his last outing. He didn’t showcase his deceptive changeup much, either. The 23-year-old was one of four prospects Arizona acquired in the Zack Greinke trade deadline deal to the Houston Astros.
Bukauskas pitched seven innings over two starts with Double-A Jackson last season, but his struggles on the hill during the scrimmages were a bit concerning. With his explosive repertoire and command issues, it will be interesting to see if he develops into starter or a reliever coming out of the bullpen.
Wyatt Mathisen displays opposite field power
It’s a rare occurrence when a lesser-known prospect turns heads after a single plate appearance. But infielder Wyatt Mathisen did just that with his opposite field blast against fellow Triple-A Reno teammate Taylor Clarke.
Wyatt Mathisen dingered off Taylor Clarke— Zach Buchanan (@ZHBuchanan) July 16, 2020
Mathisen, 26, was added to Arizona’s 40-man roster after his impressive showing with the Reno Aces last season. Injuries derailed his blistering May and June, but finished the year with 23 homers and 61 RBIs in 87 games.
A right-handed batter, Mathisen has a high leg kick to generate power within his load. He tinkered with his swing in the minors, and it was on display in the scrimmages. If he keeps making contact to all sides of the field, his power can do the rest.
BONUS: Alek Thomas faces Madison Bumgarner
The Diamondbacks’ present and future collided when highly touted outfielder Alek Thomas faced Madison Bumgarner.
Thomas, MLB Pipeline’s No. 49 ranked prospect, took his cuts against the lanky southpaw. Bumgarner ultimately got the best of Thomas, jamming him with an inside fastball to force a fly out to left field. Zach Buchanan of The Athletic gave D-backs fans a treat of what the organization has in store.