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An Unorthodox Diamondbacks Prospect Ranking

Will Santa ever come to town?

Jordan Lawlar races to third base during Game 4 of the World Series. Hopefully, he will race back to the series as quickly as possible
Run as hard as he might, Jordan Lawlar is unlikely to ever find himself atop this prospect ranking
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

There are approximately 952 various rankings of prospects in the world, and it seems entirely superfluous to add yet another to the mix. Plus, it is the day before Thanksgiving. I can barely remember what day of the week it is, let alone expect people to read much of what I have written, especially if it is serious. So enjoy a little bit of humor, and then enjoy the holiday.

To that end, as I rank prospects I will not be ranking them according to the five tools. Ranking prospects is a foolhardy task, particularly according to such standards. This week, the top-ten Diamondbacks prospects, ranked according to how fun their names are.

What’s in a name? There are a number of things that make up a good baseball name. It should be fun to say. Alliteration always assists. Having extra names can give extra points. The ability to make puns based off of a name helps. Here is a write-up of the best names in the organization. Limited baseball information is included, but this is supposed to be fun. NB: nicknames that the player does not actually go by do not count. So Ivan Melendez does not appear on this list, although he has a 60-grade nickname (which would be 80-grade if it were ordered so that it did not bring to mind a sinking ship. Titanic Hispanic > Hispanic Titanic.)

10: Slade Cecconi, RHP, Arizona

Cecconi made his debut August 2nd and was a valuable arm down the stretch for the Diamondbacks. He made a couple of appearances in the NLCS as well. But with his rookie status still intact, he is still eligible for prospects lists. He reached his first strikeout thanks to replay review, which is probably a first. His Instagram picture has him in the purple and teal throwbacks, which is enough to put him over the top to get on this list. Apart from his name being fun to say, it appears that Slade has no middle name. At least, none is listed on his profile on Baseball Reference.

9: Ricardo Caldera, C, ACL

Caldera is a catcher who was signed out of Venezuela and was a bit old for the complex league last year. His sub-.600 OPS also means that he won’t get much prospect buzz, but his name means that he gets to be on this list! It’s fun to say. Ricardo is already fun, but to follow that up with Caldera? Close to perfection. It’s not exactly alliterative, but the hard-c sound in Ricardo meshes nicely with Caldera. Plus, if he were to develop into a power-hitter, his name is set up nicely for references to volcanoes.

8: Blaze Alexander, SS/3B, Reno

Alexander may be the best-known prospect on this list, and would be in one of the top-two spots if it was being rated by perceived baseball ability. But it isn’t. And let’s be honest, Blaze would be a much better name for a pitcher, although he does have one of the stronger arms among Diamondbacks position players. He took a bit of a step back last year, but still has plenty of time for development, plenty of pop in his bat, and is solid defensively. His full name of Blaze Chanee Alexander adds a bit to the oddity factor but really isn’t that fun to say, on the whole.

7: Mervin Fell, RHP, DSL

Fell has all of seven appearances in the Dominican Summer League, and at the age of 20, he’s a bit old for the level. Still, there has been some success with the Diamondbacks finding late bloomers for pitching depth. As far as the name is concerned, there is huge boom-or-bust potential here. Given that he shares his first name with the Sheriff of Rottingham in Robin Hood: Men in Tights it stands to reason that he might struggle a bit with the English language, or wind up with everyone laughing at him. If he ever were to pull a Chad Qualls while leaving the mound, the poor guy would never hear the end of it. On the other hand, if he were to develop a nasty breaking pitch, batters might find him a fell opponent, and he might fell many by the strength of his stuff.

6: Christian Montes De Oca, RHP, Amarillo (and Salt River Rafters)

Montes De Oca is 24, and kind of came out of nowhere to be the primary closer for the Texas League champions. He didn’t pitch in affiliated ball until his age-22 season. Since then, though, he has succeeded at every level, albeit with a rather long name. A season in Reno awaits, and if he shows the same level of promise there that he has thus far, he could be in the bullpen in Phoenix sooner rather than later. If Montes De Oca reaches the major leagues, as he seems likely to do, at least for a cup of coffee, he will become one of a small number of recent Latin American players who did not sign until their 20s and still made it.

I will also note that he is not the same Christian Montes De Oca listed on Perfect Game, who went to high school in El Paso and played first base for Montana S&T. They are basically the same age and size, but they do not particularly resemble one another and the Diamondbacks signed the pitcher while the batter was still active in college. Don’t let Google confuse you.

5: Gino Groover, 3B/DH, Hillsboro

Gino is apparently short for LuJames, Groover’s actual first name, but we can all be thankful that he goes by Gino, which makes for nice alliteration. Plus, he can really get in a groove at the plate, based on his ten game hit streak to start his professional career. He would up collecting hits in 20 of 27 games last year, and reached base in a couple others. He is one of a group of players that the Diamondbacks are hoping can develop into legitimate major league third basemen, but so far none of them are really showing the promise to do so. Groover committed four errors in 181 innings, so it was not as bad as it could have been, but he clearly needs some work in the field. But he’s a solid bat already, and he’s right handed, which is something the team has lacked in the minors in recent years.

4: Gunnar Groen, RHP, Amarillo

The 6’6” right handed pitcher born in London has an even more excellent full name, of Gunnar Jack Austen Groen. The fact that “Gunnar Jack” sounds like it should be the nickname of a World War II airman or possibly an eighteenth-century pirate adds to the appeal. There’s also the alliteration aspect. Groen played his college ball at Pepperdine, and then went to the independent leagues. He spent one season in the American Association and was pitching for Ogden in the Pioneer League when the Diamondbacks signed him in 2022. He was on the roster for Great Britain in the 2023 World Baseball Classic, but I don’t believe ever appeared in a game. Since he’s reached Amarillo, there’s always the chance that he becomes a part of the bullpen at some point in 2024, but it’s a long shot. Still, not many players born in London (or the UK in general, for that matter) have ever reached the major leagues. In fact, just ten players born in the UK have appeared in the majors in the integration era. Of those, only Chris Reed, who appeared in two games with the Marlins in 2015, was born in London.

3: Jakey Josepha, OF/1B, ACL

A skinny teenager from Curacao, Josepha (who is listed at 6’2” and just 135 pounds) hit three home runs and posted an .877 OPS in his first stateside action last year. He should be vaulting up regular prospect lists in addition to having a solid 65-grade name. His full name is even better: Jakey Jair Isaiah Josepha. It would be even better with pre-17th century spelling, as Iakey Iair Isaiah Iosepha. Except then, if he had glasses, his nickname would be “eight eyes”.

2: Modeifi Marte, 1B, ACL

Marte is a first baseman from the Dominican Republic who came stateside for the first time this last summer and posted a .915 OPS in the complex league. He walked almost as many times as he struck out, and apparently has some speed, as he hit three triples and stole four bases. He turned 21 in July, so he is older than the top Dominican prospects, but as we have seen already in this list, the Diamondbacks sometimes find late bloomers internationally and get good results.

1: Gemil Santa, RHP, ACL

We round up this list with the only name in the organization currently to which I would give a 70-grade, a name which gives joy to boys and girls throughout the world. Unfortunately, it has also given joy to opposing batters, as in two professional seasons, Santa has given up 65 runs in 63 innings. He’s also walked 59 and hit 15, so that’s more than one gift baserunner per inning. That’s not to say that the organization should retire Santa to the North Pole; he’s also struck out 72 batters. There is obviously potential here, and we should definitely root for Gemil, who would make for one of the more entertaining bobbleheads should he ever turn into a star.

Furthermore, his middle name, Richell, is close enough to Rich Hill to make him a popular figure in certain baseball circles. One would hope, however, that he never acquires the nickname of Dick Mountain Santa. That would seem a bit too far.