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Diamondbacks Farm System Review: An opening

Let’s take a look at the roaring twenties Baby Backs!

The Reno Aces celebrate a win during the Reno Aces vs the... Photo by Ty O’Neil/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

My name is Spencer (known here as SpencerSpice – Yes there is a reason, no you don’t get to know it yet, sorry). I reached out to the SnakePit after getting the opportunity to review some of the 2021 DBacks. Jim broached the idea of a FanPost for me, so I started contemplating what type of story I may want to research and post.

I landed on a farm system overview and personal prospect rankings: because, well it interests me. I expect a lot of you, like me, have become much more interested in the farm system in the last couple of years. For me, the interest in the draft and farm started when I lived in Missouri and my friends talked about the Cardinal-baseball devil magic. That organization’s unbelievable ability to find talent in late rounds of the draft is practically legendary (they are far too proud of that fact in my personal opinion, but they also have 4 World Series appearances in the 21st Century with 2 wins, so….).

I really started paying attention to the draft in 2017 (no doubt bolstered by a good MLB team and my dead-end job working 3rd Shift alone in a building made for 25,000 people). At that point, it was really just the first round. 2018 was a boring year because we didn’t sign McLain, but Toronto’s farm was starting to blossom with a bunch of players with baseball dads, so I got mildly excited about some dude named Alek Thomas because his dad was a conditioning coach for the White Sox. I figured that was going to be the closest thing we got to players like that (spoiler alert, I was pretty much right).

By the time June 3, 2019 rolled around though, I was invested. I learned all the ins-and-outs of the draft rules, comp rounds, etc. We’d traded Goldschmidt and received a pick for him, which would be the final chance to recoup value. Plus, there were plenty of articles all about the sheer number of picks we had, how teams in the past hadn’t actually done all that well with so many picks on night one, and I wanted Mike Hazen and co. to prove them wrong. I wanted all 7 of our picks to be MLB regulars. I was determined to make it happen. Jury is still out obviously (zero have debuted to date), but 5-6 out of 7 looking likely to at least get a shot at MLB time is impressive enough with some hindsight (I’m excluding Brennan Malone because he is a Pirate now and had some injury/effectiveness issues and am iffy on Dominic Fletcher because he’s having some issues with AA). That doesn’t even count later picks from 2019.

Enough about the draft and my excitement over it though. Back to my FanPost! In the following weeks, there will be an additional 5 articles posted in this thread, each focusing on a different aspect of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system. I looked into rankings/exposés from MLB.com, Baseball America, Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, Prospect1500, and theAthletic. All except theAthletic and MLB.com had a post 2021-draft AND first of 2022 ranking, so I used those and the post draft MLB.com ranking as well. This gave me a large group of names through which to comb. I then reached out to some friends to ask their opinion on what stats most interested them (thank you Austin, Blake and Pete). Combined with their feedback and my own interests, I settled on the following:

  • Pitching: ERA, WHIP, K’s, BB’s, Innings Pitched, and Pitches Per Inning Pitched
  • Hitting: Average, OBP, OPS, K’s, BB’s, and Home Runs

These stats are a mix of generic (and somewhat outdated) ones as well as lesser-used stats that I deemed important/interesting. I would’ve loved to include ERA+/OPS+, but that kind of data doesn’t seem to exist for MiLB quite yet, and I do have a day job, so calculating myself wasn’t in the cards, apologies. If you feel so inclined, please calculate them yourselves and enlighten us in the comments: I’m always ready to learn something new and potentially change my opinion on a young guy (positively or negatively).

For each article, you can expect a brief section about the prospect, how they arrived in Arizona, position, age (January 2022), stats, etc. I also decided to answer two questions about each prospect.

  1. Where will they play in 2022?
    No shot at MLB time
    Upper Levels of Minors (AA/AAA) – small chance at MLB time
    Upper Levels of Minors – better than 50/50 odds at MLB time
    Upper Minors – small/medium shot at MLB cup of coffee
    MLB – Opening Day/exhaust prospect status
  2. What is their place in 2024/2025?
    Upper Levels of the Minors (AA/AAA)
    Arizona Diamondbacks MLB team
    Trade Candidates – sad but honest
    Possible Busts – no one wants to think about it, but they are far too prevalent to ignore the option

To be fully forthcoming, I have a rather unique view on the future of baseball starting rotations. I think the Diamondbacks should adopt a system of piggybacking their mid-rotation types on a five-day schedule. This way you only really ever expect a 4-inning outing and you have another “starter” ready to go by the fifth (if the first guy is going strong, lovely you get a little extra out of him). You also then swap the pitchers for the next game (i.e. Merrill Kelly starts the top of the First and pitches until the Fifth, when Madison Bumgarner then “starts” and five days later, Madbum starts with Kelly “relieving” him for the Fifth) so nobody gets hot and bothered about number of starts versus relief appearances. Assuming you have an ace and a true innings-eater, this means you have 8 starting pitchers and only 4-5 relievers, but you should only require 1-2 relievers per game still, so ideally they get enough rest as well. For this reason, you may not see as many “trade candidate” answers for our pitchers as you might expect.

The merits/detriments of such a system could be a future post in and of themselves. There are some obvious questions about relief use, closing, usage if one piggy-backer goes longer, etc. I only mention the idea to preface the opinions I offer in answer to my own made up questions. Muhahahahaha.

I looked into 63 players to make these posts. Only 39 of them will receive answers to my questions and a listing of stats (I mistakenly had Taylor Widener listed as a prospect still; he would’ve made my goal of 40). I figured 39 was a good number, more than most lists of 10-30, but I’m not Fangraphs, so slightly less than them. However, my final rankings will include all 63 names, because I researched 63 people, goddammit, I wanna include them all in some fashion. Please remember all of this is simply based on my own opinion. I’m not a baseball expert. I’m not a statistician. I’m just a fan who loves the Diamondbacks. I have a thick skin, so no holds barred with alternate opinions/stats that contradict mine. But when I ignore you, know that I am doing so intentionally!