With the season coming close, I thought I would drop in my top prospect list, with 20 of the best prospects in the system entering the 2022 Minor League season. My criteria in the Top 20 is players who have made it to Minor League camp this Spring, so that excludes this year’s International Free Agent class. I tend to grade higher based on the role I have projected for them when they make it to Arizona. Other factors such as risk-assessment, ceiling, and distance to the majors I use as tiebreakers for prospects with similar grades
You can also check out the list that Spencer provided if you want to compare the two. If you have any questions about a specific player and their respective ranking in the comments below and I’ll try to answer as many as possible.
- OF Corbin Carroll: The D-backs 1st round selection in the 2019 Draft, Carroll has an advanced approach at the plate conducive for him to post a strong on-base percentage. He projects to be a classic leadoff man who can get on base and create havoc on the basepaths as well as play good defense in center field. A shoulder injury wiped out almost all of his 2021 season, which will set back his arrival to 2023. Seeing how overmatched High A pitching was in 23 plate appearances, I think AA will be a more considerable challenge for him. Carroll only has 215 PA in pro ball, so there is a small chance they send him to the Fall League this year to try to make up for lost reps in 2021.
- SS Jordan Lawlar: Lawlar, arguably the highest ceiling prospect in the 2021 Draft, fell to the D-backs laps and were able to sign him away from Vanderbilt. Just a few games into his pro career, Lawlar suffered a torn labrum that required surgery although less severe than compared to Carroll’s. Lawlar is a smooth athlete, which translates well on the dirt and at the plate, and should be able to easily stick at shortstop defensively. Lawlar looks to be pretty close to his pre-draft weight of 180 lbs, so he’s still more projection than present-day physicality. Power will be the last tool that develops, especially as his retools his swing to get the ball in the air more. His current swing is oriented more towards spraying line drives from foul line to foul line, but as he fills out to 200+ we should see gains in both extra base hits and home runs.
- OF Alek Thomas: Thomas is a consensus Top-50 prospect who will likely start the year in Reno while the team gets a more thorough evaluation of Daulton Varsho and Jake McCarthy in the outfield. Thomas doesn’t have a textbook swing, which features a big leg kick and a hips before hands approach, but his athleticism allows him to barrel up a lot of baseballs and spray line drives all over the field. With the exit velocities he puts up, I think there is a chance of getting more power out of his bat with a small swing change. He should be up by June 15th and finish the year as a starting outfielder. Long term he projects to be an above-average regular in left when Carroll arrives a year later.
- SS Geraldo Perdomo: Perdomo was pressed into MLB duty before getting a look at AA and it was no surprise he was overmatched. He struggled for the first half of the year before getting sent back to the complex to fix his swing. A strong month of hitting in AA resulted in him getting promoted late in the year and he looked much better in his second run. A switch hitter with excellent plate discipline and the ability to put up strong baserunning value, the bar with the bat is pretty low to stick. He’s still better from the left side vs. the right, but given he’ll see a 2:1 split with the left side against MLB pitchers I’ll bet on him. I still think he could use some seasoning in Reno in ideal conditions, but he’s one Nick Ahmed injury from being called up again. After the trade deadline, the team really should give Perdomo an extended run as the everyday shortstop to see if he can stick.
- RHP Ryne Nelson: Nelson was a stuff over command reliever at Oregon, but had the body type and the stuff to convert to a potential starter. 2021 was a big breakthrough year as Nelson was healthy all year and made significant strides in his command, enough that he’s a very safe projection to stick in the rotation long term. He relies on a mid 90s fastball that is very effective up in the zone, two breaking balls, and a splitter-like change. He likely starts the year with Reno, waiting for an opportunity to start later in the year. I have him coming up no later than August 1st, as the team should open up a spot in the rotation for him to showcase his talents. Overall I see a potential profile for a #2/3 starter, with higher odds towards being a #3 than a #2, if the command continues to improve and he works more on starting ahead in the count so he can force hitters to chase his nasty stuff.
- LHP Blake Walston: Nelson wasn’t the only starter to make significant strides in 2021. Walston’s stuff has been up and down, but he was able to dominate Low A before getting a more appropriate challenge in High A. Fastball sits around 90, although I project him to get a velocity bump as he fills out his lower half more. Any significant velo bump will drastically change his outlook from a #4 to even as valuable as a #2 starter. Walston features the full repertoire although his breaking ball is further ahead than his change-up at this point. Walston should start the year in High A and could finish in AA with a good year.
- RHP Brandon Pfaadt: Pfaadt was originally a 5th rounder under-slot pick, but dominated younger competition at both Low and High A before finishing the year in AA. Nothing jumps off the page in terms of stuff, but Pfaadt could wind up featuring 4 average or better offerings with the command to make it all work. Fastball sits low 90s with a complementary slider and change-up combination to attack hitters. He’ll likely start 2022 in AA, but could be a late-season option in the rotation if the team is ravaged by injuries.
- RHP Drey Jameson: Jameson has arguably the best pure stuff in the organization, starting with a plus heater and two good breaking balls to work with. The change-up is a decent 4th pitch. Given his success as a starter at High A and AA last year and perhaps the best overall athlete in the system, I’d handicap his odds of starting in 3 years at 50%. The combination of being only 6’0” 165 to go with a violent delivery have me concerned about his ability to hold up long term as a starter, but the overall stuff, high-end athleticism, and continued success should afford him more opportunities to start. If not, he automatically becomes the best reliever prospect by a country mile with a good chance of developing into an excellent late-inning arm if not the closer. He should start the year in AA to give the organization more of a sample size to evaluate before a promotion to Reno and eventually the majors at the end of the season.
- RHP Slade Cecconi: Cecconi had a very weird 2021 that included an elbow issue that shut him down for two months and inconsistent stuff in the AZ Fall League. The ability to maintain stuff has been an issue plaguing Cecconi even before getting drafted by Arizona 33rd overall in 2020. Health and conditioning will be critical in Cecconi’s development as a starter, otherwise he’s slated to be a one inning reliever in the back-end of the bullpen. When on, you see him hit mid 90s with a lot of life on both the 4 and 2 seam fastballs, a plus breaking ball, and a useable change-up. When off, you see a much different pitcher on the mound, someone who is more of a #5/Swingman profile than a potential top of the rotation arm. 2022 is a critical year of development as he’ll want to finish the year in AA and get at least 100 innings under his belt.
- OF Kristian Robinson: Two years ago, Robinson was arguably the prospect in the D-backs organization with the most upside. That has not changed despite Robinson losing his Age 19 and 20 seasons to COVID then having to deal with the fallout of a poor decision to punch an Arizona highway patrolman. With both those things behind him, Robinson is back in camp and will be able to resume his development. The talent is there, but it may take him some time to get back in the groove of things. He has the ceiling of a 5-tool outfielder, although a position change to right seems likely with Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll closer to the majors. The D-backs were willing to gamble on his upside, adding him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. 2022 will be about getting back into the routine while next year will be the year to challenge him.
- 3B Deyvison De Los Santos: De Los Santos terrorized the complex league at the age of 18 and then was promoted to Low A, where he put up a respectable 101 wRC+ in 160 PA. The biggest carrying tool is raw power, which could be enough to get him a look at the big leagues, while hoping the other tools develop along the way. De Los Santos has the classic power hitter build, measuring in at 6’1” 229. There’s a high chance he’ll have to move across the diamond to 1B, but the upside with the bat is what matters more.
- RHP Bryce Jarvis: A giant uptick in velocity allowed Jarvis to rocket all the way up to the first round in 2020, but he’s had trouble finding consistency in pro ball. Given his competitiveness and baseball IQ, he will eventually figure it out and develop the consistency necessary to be a mid-rotation starter. He had good showings in Hillsboro before an oblique injury and a rough bump in Amarillo put a damper on a somewhat encouraging 2021 season. When on, he can command 4 above-average offerings and put up some pretty impressive starts. The key in 2022 will be consistency, something that wasn’t there when he was challenged in AA.
- LHP Tommy Henry: Henry had an up and down year in Amarillo’s homer-happy environment, but the overall package is there for a bottom of the rotation starter. Henry features the full repertoire, with all four of his pitches grading to be roughly around average with good enough command to make it work. Fastball sits 90-93 with close to MLB average spin rates, with a mid 70s curveball that he can use to jump ahead of hitters, a low 80s slider that his best off-speed delivery, and a developing change-up. Henry’s secondary pitches miss enough bats that I think he’ll develop into a solid #4 starter down the road.
- RHP Luis Frias: Frias has intriguing stuff, but occasionally struggles with command lapses. His 6’3” 245 frame and downhill delivery allows him to drive the ball down in the strike zone, where I think he’d be the most effective. When he puts it all together, Frias has the upside of a mid-rotation arm who can command up to three above-average pitches (FB, slider, split-change). I think the command issues could end up moving him to the bullpen, where he has the stuff to be a back-end arm should starting not work out for him. I think Frias opens up the year in Reno and waits for an opening in the rotation, while perhaps offering some length out of the pen as a moveable arm.
- 3B A.J. Vukovich: Vukovich had a very encouraging first year in the pros, putting up 99 wRC+ between Visalia and Hillsboro at the age of 19 at roughly a 3:2 PA split. Despite having a body type more common for basketball, Vukovich has a really smooth and compact stroke at the plate where I think he’ll hit if the pitch recognition improves. That area was exploited when he jumped to High A, which saw his walk rate plummet to 2%. . 2022 will be a big year for him in his development, both in his ability to make adjustments to off-speed/breaking pitches as well as his ability to stick at 3B. Presently I’m not bullish on his ability to stick there with both his body type, but he has plenty of time to figure it out if the bat continues to develop.
- SS Manuel Peña: The D-backs signed Peña out of the Dominican Republic last year and he brings a lot of future upside on the infield. Peña stands at a very imposing 6’1” 175 and already is showing some ability to drive the ball in the gaps. There’s plenty of room for him to grow and establish more future power in that bat. With the presence of Lawlar and Perdomo ahead of him, shortstop might not be his long term defensive home, but I think he has the ability to move around the infield where needed.
- SS Ryan Bliss: Bliss is a short, but smooth athlete who would be a solid defender on the dirt and provide enough pop to be a solid bottom of the order bat against RHP or a top of the order hitter vs. lefties. Due to an average arm, I think he winds up moving to second base long term. His swing is modeled a bit after 2013 MVP Andrew McCutchen, so I’ll be curious to see how he performs in High A this year. I have him as a sleeper prospect in the system if the bat, particularly the power tool, takes a big step forward.
- RHP Joe Elbis: Elbis was another complex standout that finished the year in Low A. At 6’1” 150, Elbis has a lot of future projection left, as he’s listed at 150 pounds, to go with already solid enough present-day stuff and control on the mound. Elbis looked solid in his first go-around in Visalia and perhaps could get the aggressive assignment of Hillsboro with a good Spring. Any sort of velocity bump and a big year that sees him pitch well in Hillsboro and Elbis will be up there with the top group of pitching prospects, if not leading them.
- C Adrian Del Castillo: The D-backs select Del Castillo after a poor junior year caused him to drop from top of the first round to being a Competitive Balance B pick. An offense-first catcher who’s more hit over power presently, Del Castillo will need to work on his receiving in order to stick behind the position. His overall game would be a nice complement to Carson Kelly, but the latter will not likely be around when Del Castillo gets opportunities at the MLB level in a couple years.
- 1B Seth Beer: The addition of the DH likely gives Beer more opportunities to get into the MLB lineup. A mediocre showing in Reno combined with the lack of athleticism necessary to field a position had his long term future with the D-backs in doubt. Depending on how Spring shakes out, Beer may be seeing another run at Reno and will need to hit his way into the MLB lineup. A good spring could have him be a regular at the DH spot to start the season.
Players that could be called to help the MLB roster
I already published an article of prospects who could be contributors, but I left a few names out that were outside my Top 30 that could get a look. Some will be repeat names over the previous article, but this is more comprehensive.
- OF Jake McCarthy: Has an inside track to a roster spot coming out of Spring as perhaps a platoon option in CF or RF. Hit tool will decide if he’s a platoon option or a 5th outfielder.
- SS Jeison Guzman: Guzman is a former Royals prospect who got squeezed out by the impending arrival of Bobby Witt Jr. While not on the 40-man roster presently, he presents a depth option at the position if Nick Ahmed were to have more injury problems and the team doesn’t want to rush Perdomo to the majors again.
- OF Stuart Fairchild: An option to start at any OF spot against lefties. Plenty of opportunities given how left-handed heavy the current OF setup is. Likely the ceiling of a 4th-5th OF as the second half of a platoon with David Peralta or McCarthy.
- C/OF Cooper Hummel: Picked up at the deadline and could be a useful 3rd catcher with some positional versatility that includes both corner outfield spots. Average pop at the plate with good plate discipline makes for an interesting bench profile at the plate.
- C Jose Herrera: Bat finally jumped from awful to not awful, which would be enough to make him a capable backup. A switch hitter, although better from the left side, he could compete for a backup role now and push Daulton Varsho to full time outfield.
- OF Dominic Canzone: His profile is a dime-a-dozen as a platoon option who can hammer right-handed mistake pitches. Could wind up being a platoon option for a short while but likely gets pushed out for superior talent. Should be on the 40-man roster by the end of the year.
- RHPs Humberto Mejia, Matt Tabor, and Edwin Uceta: Low ceiling, but moveable starting pitchers that could be injury fill-ins during the middle of the year.
- RHP Levi Kelly: If healthy, could vault himself back into prospect status as a potential weapon in the back-end of the pen. Two years ago was hitting 96 regularly with a plus-plus slider, so a return to that form would be a welcomed sign.
- RHP Mitchell Stumpo: Stumpo showed decent stuff in the AZ Fall League, hitting 94-96 MPH with his 4-seamer with high spin rates and a decent slider. Stumpo could be a solid middle to medium leverage reliever in the pen long term.
Lower level prospects we should keep an eye on
These guys will likely be in A ball or the complex level, but they either have one eye-popping tool or could be in the Top 20 in a couple years.
- 1B/C-OF Neyfy Castillo: Big time power from the right side of the plate, but can he make enough contact when he deals with superior secondary stuff as he climbs the ladder? He’ll get a look at Hillsboro, although he’ll need to cut the strikeout rate to well below 37% as opposing pitchers are more able to throw off-speed and breaking stuff effectively.
- SS Juan Corniel: 6’1” but skinny shortstop that switch hits with some feel to hit and decent pop. Depending on how the bat develops could be another Perdomo or could be a defensive-minded utility infielder.
- RHP Jacob Steinmetz: 3rd rounder in the past draft, Steinmetz is already 6’5” 220 with good athleticism and already two pitches that flash future plus viability (FB, Curve). Still stands to fill out north of 230 pounds, perhaps seeing him maintain his stuff or a velo bump down the road. Will likely need another year before stepping into full season ball in 2023.
- OF Jeferson Espinal: Espinal is still growing into his 6’1” frame and his hit tool backed up a bit in Low A. At one point, the team brought him back to the complex to work on his swing and it did result slightly better production but not much better in terms of making consistent content. He will likely repeat Visalia at the age of 20 and will need to hit his way into Hillsboro to stay on track as a prospect.