There is no doubt that Druw Jones is still ranked amongst the top Diamondbacks prospects and all prospects across the nation. The ceiling is still there, but shouldn’t we be worried? Ever since Corbin Carroll had the shoulder injuries, no Diamondback fan sleeps well until we see a couple of years pass by without Corbin crossing his arm and reaching with his hand behind his shoulder.
Maybe the same thought will haunt us in our dreams as well once we get to see Druw Jones in the major leagues. If he ever makes it.
Druw’s injuries have been a major hurdle for the young outfielder thus far. Just a couple of days after his draft signing he took some swings and injured his shoulder, requiring a “arthroscopic posterior labral repair” with a projected 8-9 months of rehabilitation period. With Jordon Lawlar having undergone the same procedure in the past and Corbin Carroll something similar, it looks like the Diamondbacks have had some real bad luck with their top draft picks and injuries.
This February Jones was on track again and healthy to start the season in Visalia. Jones had 46 plate appearances in Class A, with a miserable .175/.283/.200 batting line before hitting the injured list again on April 19 with a quadriceps strain.
The outfielder didn’t return into action until June 13, when he started a rehab appearance in the Arizona Rookie Leagues, appearing in 20 at bats for both Diamondbacks Red and Black team. It was once again an uninspiring performance with a .167/.286/.167 batting line, not something you’d expect from the second overall pick of 2022, however small the sample size might be.
After his 4th game in the Rookie leagues he once again disappeared from the field and at that moment it was said Jones was suffering a “hamstring injury” and expected to miss a few weeks. A couple of days ago the Diamondbacks announced Druw Jones was moved to the 60-day IL and gave no specific timeline of return.
Druw Jones is still young, just 19 years old, and will turn 20 this year. However, it is likely Jones won’t return this year but if he does, he will have just a limited amount of bats. It could be that the Diamondbacks do not prefer the risk and have him rather heal completely again and start fresh in 2024. That in itself would already be a message no one would like to read: yet another prospect whose health we will have to worry about for the time being.
Just like every prospect, Jones needs those at bats, also highlighted by his prospect breakdown on FanGraphs:
So far Jones has looked very rusty in the batter’s box — his breaking ball recognition has been especially poor — and fantastic on defense. - Eric Longenhagen on FanGraphs in his 2023 assessment of Druw Jones.
With those early struggles in his hitting approach in mind and the concern about his health, we have to be cautious with our expectations.
A meteoric rise is unlikely and the injuries add volatility to Jones’ profile, a profile that still features among the highest ceilings in the minors, that of a power-hitting center fielder with an elite glove. - Eric Longenhagen on FanGraphs in his 2023 assessment of Druw Jones.
Seeing how Jackson Holliday has slugged his way up to Double A this season it is clear that the Orioles made the right move in picking him as the first overall pick in the 2022 draft.
While Druw Jones’ 60 day IL placement is a hit in the face, there was also some good news coming out of the minor leagues: the return of Landon Sims.
Sims was the 34th pick in the 2022 draft, who was already out with an UCL at the time he got drafted. The TJ surgery wiped out his final year at Mississippi State and cost him money, as it was likely he would have been a higher pick if he had been healthy and pitching in 2022. The Diamondbacks are slowly building him up, having him start but go just 1 inning in the Rookie leagues. He was all dominant there, pitching 6 scoreless innings of which 4 hitless, except for a final outing where he gave up 3 runs. On FanGraphs they do make note of low velocity, but just like with Kristian Robinson, for now you probably have to be happy he is back and stays healthy.
Just a couple of days ago he was moved to Visalia where he had a rough start. Longer term he probably shifts to the bullpen.
More good news comes from several performances in the Rookie leagues. Michael McDermott already noted the positive vibes coming from several international signings: Christopher Torin, Jansel Luis and Ruben Santana. All three were “notable” signings in 2022 with Santana getting the biggest bonus of the 3 of them ($750,000).
Jansel Luis has especially been making a big impression. He achieved a .856 OPS in the ACL and is currently adapting to the environment in Visalia, while just 18 years of age. Definitely a kid to keep an eye on and FanGraphs has him in the Top 10 prospect list.
Christopher Torin is right behind him. The Venezuelan infielder achieved a similar OPS as Luis, .864, and got a recent promotion to Visalia as well. Ruben Santana is hitting for a decent .808 OPS too and while he is still in the ACL, who knows if he will get his first taste of Class A soon as well.
It isn’t easy to highlight the performances though, because you don’t really know most kids, and you have to look for some promising stats, combining it with the age the player has. Riquelmin Cabral, for example, dominated the Rookie leagues with a 1.159 OPS, with just 6 strikeouts in 46 plate appearances. But he was older than the rest in the league, 20 years old, and logically has been moved as soon as possible to Visalia, where his OPS has been cut in half after 116 plate appearances. The same can be said about Kenny Castillo, although he turned just 19.
As you see kids disappear from the Top 30 lists, like Manuel Pena, our top international signing of 2022, so you see other ones who might make it onto a list next year.
Take Adrian de Leon, a catcher with pop, who has a .971 OPS with a healthy walk rate. Another possible future name is Alberto Barriga, who is making a name with an unstainable but spectacular .414/.457/.586 batting line and just 5 strikeouts in 35 plate appearances.
Finally, on the hitting side, a personal favourite of mine: Jakey Josepha. Kid from Curacao, who played the last two years in the DSL, and this year has been dominant at the complex league with a .389/.471/.556. He turned just 19 and will surely head to Visalia next year.
Our top international signings of 2023 are performing as well: Gian Zapata ($1,500,000) owns a .275/.361/.608 triple slash in the DSL, but strikes out in almost a third of his at bats. He is only 17 though. Jeremy Rodriguez ($1,000,000) is holding his own as well with a .261/.377/.400.
On the pitching side the highlights aren’t many. Lots of pitchers struggling with command and/or hard hits. However there are a few ones who might be able to contribute positively, but it has been a while since the Diamondbacks had an interesting international pitching prospect.
Venezuelan Cesar Jimenez was already good last year and this year he has stepped up his pitching even more. A 6-1, 170lb kid, who just turned 18, with a strong 4.50 K/BB who is getting converted into relief. His command has improved quite a bit and the result is a tiny 1.59 ERA and 2 saves in the DSL. His compatriot Jose Aguirre has a similar profile and has an impressive 13.5 SO/9 but struggles with his command from time to time. He has improved a lot though this year, so maybe a new trend is appearing.
Finally we mention the performance of Junior Sanchez. He is a 17 year old Dominican starting pitcher. In 7 starts and 30.1 innings thus far he has a nice 2.07 K/BB, but what impresses most is the 1.09 WHIP and 0 homeruns he has given up. He could be one of very few international prospects that might stay in a starting role.
But you have to be fair, though, there isn’t much to be enthousiastic about at the lower levels. Perdomo is the only “recent” international signing (2016) that has been able to achieve success at the highest level, and one of very few to even make it. Jorge Barrosa could become the next one, although it remains to be seen if he can be something more than a 4th or 5th outfielder.
What is your take?
Are you worried about the talent at the lowest level?
This poll is closed
Yeah, performances at Class A and Rookie leagues these past years are worrisome.
No, I really don’t worry. Talent will flow anyhow.