Diamondbacks Minor League Roundup: A Winning Week

Jesus Valdez #17 and Deyvison De Los Santos #13 of the Amarillo Sod Poodles high fives before the game against the Arkansas Travelers on August 19, 2023 in Amarillo, Texas. - Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Overview: 3-1

Reno, Amarillo, and Hillsboro all won their series this week, with Hillsboro currently on a five game win streak. Visalia had their chances, but failed to salvage a split.

Batting Prospect of the Week: Deyvison De Los Santos, 1B/3B, Amarillo

De Los Santos is coming around. He went 13-for-25 with 7 of the hits for extra bases, including 3 home runs. That gave him an OPS for the week of 1.600. He has been tearing up the league since his time on the development list (OPS of .991 since returning) and I expect that he will be given a taste of Reno soon, possibly as soon as the coming week.

Pitching Prospect of the Week: Landon Sims, RHP, Visalia

I was torn between giving this spot to Sims or to Blake Walston, who also put together an excellent game for the Aces, but Walston’s high pitch count led me to give the nod to Sims, who put together his best game as a professional. He worked 3.1 innings, struck out 4, and allowed 1 hit and 1 walk. Sims has largely been disappointing since returning to action, but he is finally showing signs of coming around, and given his upside and the relative lack of high-upside arms in the system, that’s a necessary thing for the organization.

Reno Aces

Tuesday: Reno 9, El Paso 4

Aaron Sanchez struggled, giving up 3 runs in 2 innings. But Chihuahua’s pitching struggled even more, with Jay Groome walking 6 and Drew Pomeranz, on rehab assignment, walking 2 and taking the loss. Pavin Smith homered off of Pomeranz, and Adrian Del Castillo and Jorge Barrosa each had 2 hits. Five relievers combined to allow just 1 run on 4 hits across the final 6 innings, without walking a batter.

Wednesday: Reno 15, El Paso 3

The Aces rode a 10-run 5th inning to victory and gave Blake Walston his 10th win on the season. I was critical of Walston earlier in the week, pointing out some issues that Statcast data reveals with his pitching and questioning whether or not he can fix the walk issues that he’s had this year. So of course he went out and posted a season-high 8 strikeouts against only 3 walks, giving him more strikeouts than walks on the season. He still threw a lot of pitches (94 in 5.1 innings) but it was an encouraging sign. Offensively, Emmanuel Rivera hit a home run and Jake McCarthy hit two doubles that left the bat at over 100 mph. McCarthy and Rivera were joined in the three-hit club by Pavin Smith and Jorge Barrosa. Jordan Lawlar was held hitless but scored 2 runs.

Thursday: El Paso 12, Reno 8

Both teams basically held batting practice for 9 innings, with the Aces picking up 17 hits and the Chihuahuas picking up 19. They also combined to walk 9 times and strike out just 16. 17 of 18 batters got hits, including all Reno batters. But despite getting a full album’s worth of hits, the Aces entered the bottom of the 9th trailing 12-1. After a strikeout, Jake McCarthy picked up his third hit of the game and scored on Jordan Lawlar’s third home run at AAA. Kyle Lewis singled, Tristin English singled for his third hit of the game, Philip Evans walked, Ali Sanchez picked up an infield single to make it 12-4, Diego Castillo doubled to make it 12-6, before Sergio Alcántara struck out. Jorge Barrosa then doubled in Sanchez and Castillo and McCarthy walked, but Lawlar fanned to end the game. Kyle Backhus was the pick of the pitchers for the Aces, picking up his third scoreless appearance since being promoted from Amarillo.

Friday: Reno 9, El Paso 8, 10 innings

It was a bullpen game for the Aces, with Nabil Crismatt getting the start. It was a tight 4-3 lead after 5 innings, but Drew Pomeranz’s second rehab appearance of the week went even worse than his first, as he gave up 4 runs in the 6th. Adrian Del Castillo and Jake McCarthy both managed hits off of the left handed pitcher, which is always an encouraging sign. McCarthy and Jordan Lawlar both had 4 hits on the day, and Kyle Lewis and Jorge Barrosa each had 3 hits, as the Aces posted 17 hits. However, Tyler Ferguson and Andrew Saalfrank gave up 4 runs in the top of the 7th, and Justin Martinez was unlucky to blow the save in the top of the 9th, as he surrendered a single that went off of Lawlar’s glove into left, then gave up a wild pitch to move the runner to second and another single to tie the game. Lawlar had a chance to walk things off in the 9th, with two runners aboard, but lined out to shortstop. Austin Pope successfully stranded the zombie runner at third base in the top of the 10th, and it took all of one pitch for Kyle Lewis to pick up a hit off of old friend Sean Poppen to drive in zombified-Jordan Lawlar and win the game for the Aces.

Saturday: El Paso 8, Reno 6

Reno fell short in their first opportunity to clinch a series win, and will have to try again on Sunday. Ryne Nelson pitched somewhat better, throwing 5 scoreless innings before giving up 2 runs in the 6th, but the combination of Peter Strzelecki and Kyle Backhus gave up 6 runs in the 7th inning. Nelson still isn’t getting as much swing-and-miss as would be ideal, striking out just 4, but he’s still pitching decently. Jake McCarthy, Philip Evans, Kyle Lewis, Tristin English, and Sergio Alcantara all had 2 hits. Blaze Alexander picked up a single in his first action since August 25th.

Sunday: Reno 14, El Paso 5

The outcome of this game was really never in doubt after Reno scored 8 runs in the first inning. Jake McCarthy’s three run homer was the big hit, but it was Jordan Lawlar who would be the real offensive star of the game, picking up three hits. On the pitching side, Peter Solomon once again had a good start but fell apart, giving up 5 runs in the fifth inning. He was followed by 4.1 innings of hitless relief from 4 different relievers, including Tyler Gilbert and Justin Martinez. The series win kept the Aces within striking distance of the league lead, but they are 4 games back with precious little time and will likely be shut out of the postseason.

Amarillo Sod Poodles

Tuesday: Amarillo 7, Midland 6

A.J. Vukovich knocked a walk-off home run as the Sod Poodles came from behind to defeat the RockHounds. Earlier, Peter Solomon had worked 5 strong innings but fell apart in the 6th, as a 3-0 lead turned into a 6-3 deficit. Neyfy Castillo hit a home run in the 7th to pull things to 6-4, but Ivan Melendez struck out with the bases loaded. In the 8th, Deyvison De Los Santos appeared to have grounded into a double play, but Max Muncy (the other one) failed to catch the throw from the pitcher, resulting in De Los Santos and Seth Beer being on base. After Castillo walked, J.J. D’Orazio did ground into a double play, scoring Beer, but Cam Duzenack came through with the single to tie the game. Will Mabrey worked the final 1.2 innings to pick up the win, striking out 2.

Wednesday: Midland 7, Amarillo 3

There’s very little good to write about this game. Luke Albright’s 19th pitch of the day was a fastball that only reached 86 mph. The previous couple of pitches had been breaking balls and he appeared to have some discomfort, but it was the slow fastball that got the trainer out of the dugout and Albright out of the game. I have heard no updates on his condition and he is not yet on the IL. He was allowed to throw a couple of warm-up pitches after the initial check-up from the trainer, so that is a good sign that there was no suspicion of UCL issues at that point. Liam Norris had his second consecutive poor outing to begin his AA career, giving up 4 runs in his inning and taking the loss. On the bright side, Amarillo did manage 15 hits. Unfortunately, they also left 15 on base. Tim Tawa went 4-for-5, Caleb Roberts doubled, and Deyvison De Los Santos hit another home run, as he seems to be coming around.

Thursday: Midland 11, Amarillo 0

Dylan Ray’s debut in AA didn’t go as well as hoped, but wasn’t horrible, either. He worked 5.2 innings (topping 100 pitches, surprisingly) and gave up 5 runs, 4 of which were earned. He struck out 5 and walked 2. Entirely respectable, if unspectacular. The issue was that the offense managed just 5 hits and struck out 11 times without drawing a single walk. J.J. D’Orazio had a single and a double, which was the only hit for extra bases. On the bright side, they fixed their LOB problem from Wednesday. On the other hand, their fix was to not get on base in the first place.

Friday: Amarillo 10, Midland 0

Seth Beer and Caleb Roberts heard you liked home runs, so they thought they’d give you some home runs with your home runs, or something like that. Roberts opened the scoring in the 1st inning with a home run. Beer picked up a solo shot in the 2nd to start a 6 run inning, and Roberts added a three run shot to conclude the scoring in the 2nd. The Soddies were now up 7-0, and it was smooth sailing from there. But fans were not finished enjoying Beer, who added a solo shot in the 3rd inning and a two-run shot in the 5th, finishing the day with three home runs. Between Roberts and Beer, there were 5 home runs and 8 RBI (Tim Tawa drove in the other two runs with a single.) Meanwhile, Jamison Hill was rolling. He got through 8 innings (throwing just 84 pitches) allowing 4 hits, striking out 4, and walking 1. He got 11 groundouts to just 4 flyouts, and was helped by 3 double plays (which is why the math seems off). Throwing 8 scoreless innings in Hodgetown is impressive; doing so while stranding just 2 runners is more so.

Saturday: Amarillo 6, Midland 4

Yu-Min Lin’s struggles continued, as he threw 99 pitches but didn’t make it through 5 innings. He did strike out 7, and 2 of his 4 runs were unearned, thanks to an error from Jancarlos Cintron. Deyvison De Los Santos, Cam Duzenack and Seth Beer hit home runs, and Beer now has a 6 game hit streak and an OPS of 1.007 since August 1st. I expect either De Los Santos or Beer, and possibly both, to be in Reno next week.

Sunday: Amarillo 17, Midland 7

It was the first full weekend of college football, and the Sod Poodles and the Rock Hounds put together a score more likely to be seen in football than in baseball. (While no games in major college football finished with that exact score, two games combined for fewer points than the 24 runs scored. Minnesota and Nebraska combined for 23 points, and BYU and Sam Houston State combined for just 14 points.) The Sod Poodles set the franchise record for most home runs in a season on Neyfy Castillo’s third inning home run. Cam Duzenack and A.J. Vukovich also hit home runs, and another blast also deserves notice. In Hodgetown, in left-center, there is a bar above the left field wall, called Bar 352. Deyvison De Los Santos stepped up to bat with two runners aboard in the sixth inning, and cleared the bar (roof and all). It was, for ‘pitters of a certain vintage, a Fatburger. On the pitching side, Raffi Vizcaino got the start in what was a bullpen game and worked 2 innings, sitting 96 and hitting 100 with his fastball and generating whiffs with a slider that didn’t have a ton of movement but tunneled well. He did allow a run on a wild pitch. Will Mabrey took over and was even wilder, walking 4. His fastball was sitting 90 and touched 92, but it is concerning that the pinpoint control that was his calling card in college has seemingly deserted him. For reference, he walked just 8 batters in his entire college career (although he walked 15 in more limited action in summer leagues.) He’s walked 8 in just his last 5 appearances. There’s still every reason to suspect he can figure it out, but it is a spot of concern. Back to the offense: every Sod Poodle starter got a hit, with Juan Centeno and De Los Santos picking up 4. Seth Beer got another two hits, and Tim Tawa got three hits, including two doubles. The win gave the Sod Poodles the series victory and a 4 game lead over the RockHounds for the second half division crown.

Hillsboro Hops

Tuesday: Rained out

Wednesday: Vancouver 6, Hillsboro 3

The Hops finally got their series north of the border kicked off. Yilber Diaz was on the mound and tossed another good outing, working 5.2 innings, allowing just 2 hits, and striking out 9. Unfortunately, he had to leave at that point, having thrown 95 pitches, and had just one run of support. Billy Corcoran instantly gave up the lead as he allowed 6 of the 7 runs. There was a wide variety of adjustments to High-A. Gavin Conticello picked up an RBI double, Gino Groover continued demonstrate solid batting, but Jack Hurley struck out 3 times.

Thursday: Hillsboro 2, Vancouver 0 (7 innings)

In the first game of the doubleheader, Ricardo Yan had another excellent start, striking out 9 in 4.2 innings before hitting his pitch limit. In three games with Hillsboro he has worked 12.2 scoreless innings and struck out 21 while walking 7 and allowing just 4 hits. Gavin Conticello doubled in Christian Cerda and Kevin Graham for the only runs of the game. Gino Groover failed to reach base for just the second time since being assigned to Hillsboro. Listher Sosa worked the final 2.1 innings for the Hops and finished the shutout.

Thursday: Hillsboro 5, Vancouver 4

The Hops swept the doubleheader (and were the only affiliate to win on Thursday) behind a three-run home run from Jesus Valdez. Gavin Conticello made it three games and three doubles since his promotion, giving him the delightful slash line of .300/.300/.600. He’s also driven in three runs and struck out three times.

Friday: Hillsboro 4, Vancouver 3, 10 innings

It was a rare Friday day game in Vancouver, and it was a pitcher’s duel. Jose Cabrera got the start for the Hops and put together arguably the best performance of his career, and certainly the best above the Complex Leagues. He worked 5 hitless innings, striking out 9 and walking just 3 (he also hit a batter). He was ably matched by Hunter Gregory. After the Canadians took the lead in the 7th, Jack Hurley’s first home run in High-A tied the game. Gavin Logan homered in the 10th to make it 4-2, and Alfred Morillo allowed just the zombie runner to score. Unfortunately, just as I was getting set to declare Cabrera pitcher of the week and do a write-up on him, the news broke that he was suspended 80 games due to performance-enhancing drug use. Yet another reminder that the highest of highs can be followed by the lowest of lows, and it certainly takes the shine off of the performance.

Saturday: Hillsboro 6, Vancouver 4

The Hops clinched a series win with one game left to play, and they did so against a Vancouver team that won the first half and is leading the second half standings. Ironically, it was the series opening loss that officially eliminated them from the race, and since then, they’ve won four in a row. Gavin Conticello was the offensive star with a home run to open the scoring and an RBI single to cap the scoring. Manuel Pena also picked up 2 hits and the 19-year-old is now hitting .253 since August 1st, although he still is swinging at too many pitches and not hitting for power. Spencer Giesting tossed 7 innings to pick up the win, striking out 9 but allowing 4 runs.

Sunday: Hillsboro 4, Vancouver 2

The Hops wrapped up the unusual 5-1 road series win, and did so over the first place Canadians. The Hops won despite only getting 5 hits, but they made them count. The pitching did not allow any earned runs, but the questionable defense committed 4 errors, including Gino Groover’s fourth in his limited time and Manuel Pena’s 11th. But in the seventh inning, trailing 2-0, Christian Cerda walked, Junior Franco singled, Manuel Pena reached on an error, scoring 1. After the next two batter were retired, it looked like the rally might stall, but Andrew Pintar had other plans, launching a three run home run to provide the 4-2 lead. Groover did also pick up a hit and steal a base.

Visalia Rawhide

Tuesday: Visalia 8, Fresno 3

The Rawhide finished off an undefeated day for the farm system as Jacob Steinmetz picked up his first win of the season. Kristian Robinson tripled, doubled, and stole his 17th base for Visalia this year. David Martin was sent back to Visalia (likely for playing time based reasons, since his performance for Hillsboro has been just fine) and also doubled. Cristofer Torin got 2 hits and stole a base.

Wednesday: Fresno 4, Visalia 1

Druw Jones launched the first pitch any Visalia hitter saw on the day for an opposite-field home run, and after that the bats went into the deep freeze. For the remainder of the game, there were 3 hits and 15 strikeouts from Visalia hitters. Kristian Robinson doubled for the other extra-base hit of the day. Meanwhile, 4 Rawhide pitchers had combined to allow 1 run on 5 hits, but Gustavo Del Pozo gave up 3 on 3 hits in the 9th and that was it.

Thursday: Fresno 8, Visalia 4, 10 innings

What to say about this game? Through 9 innings, the only scoring had come from a two-run shot from Kristian Robinson and a two-run shot from Bryant Betancourt for the Grizzlies. Then the 10th inning happened. Denny Larrondo was working his 3rd inning of the game, and probably shouldn’t have been. It started with a single, followed by a walk and a grand slam. After getting his first out of the inning, he gave up another walk and a single, then committed a throwing error on a bunt that allowed both of those runners to score. But any thought of it being easy for Fresno after that was erased when Kevin Sim led off the bottom of the frame with his second home run. Alvin Guzman walked, and the Rawhide got back to the top of the order with just 1 out. Unfortunately, Druw Jones grounded into a double play to end the game. Jones posted an 0-for-5 and grounded into two double plays. Joe Elbis, back in Visalia after struggling at Hillsboro, worked 5 scoreless innings, striking out 6. Also of note: 6th round pick Philip Abner, out of Florida, made his professional debut and tossed a scoreless inning with a walk.

Friday: Fresno 8, Visalia 0

My writing about pitchers helping them to perform well is officially no longer a thing, as Wyatt Wendell could not find the strike zone and maxed out on pitches before the first inning was concluded. He threw 30 pitches and just 12 strikes, and walked 4. The bullpen was mostly unremarkable, with the exception of Kyle Amendt, who faced four batters and struck all of them out. Since Jose Cabrera has been suspended, I will focus on Amendt later.

Saturday: Visalia 7, Fresno 0

The Rawhide kept their hopes of a series split alive with a dominating performance, highlighted by a three-hit day from Druw Jones that put him over the Uecker Line. Kevin Sim had two hits, and Alvin Guzman had a home run and a double. Landon Sims put together his best performance as a professional so far, as noted above. Josh Swales worked 2.2 innings allowing just 3 hits, and Alec Baker, who had struggled in a big way since being promoted to Visalia, tossed three perfect innings for the save, striking out 5. Baker was the 18th round pick, also out of Dallas Baptist.

Sunday: Fresno 8, Visalia 6

The Rawhide failed to salvage the split, but did make a game of it, despite it looking early on like it would be a blowout. In fact, the Grizzlies led 6-0 after five, but in the sixth inning, highlighted by a Jansel Luis home run, the Rawhide pulled within a run. Down 8-5 in the 8th inning, Druw Jones led off with a double (his second hit of the game) and eventually scored. A Kevin Sim single did get the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but there would be no heroics. On the pitching side, Lorenzo Encarnacion got the start and struggled, Philip Abner worked 2 perfect innings and struck out 3.

Pitcher Spotlight: Kyle Amendt, RHP, Visalia

Amendt was the ninth round pick in the latest draft, out of Dallas Baptist (from which the Diamondbacks also selected Alec Baker later in the draft.) Amendt is a possible quick-moving impact reliever. He has a large frame (6’5", 237) and throws a fastball that sits in the low 90s but has a lot of movement. Throwing from a high slot, his curveball has more of a 12-6 break than is normal in today’s game, and he occasionally throws a slider as well. He was rated the 499th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America.

The Pleasantville, IA native was not offered any scholarships after high school, and walked-on at Southeastern Community College in Iowa before committing to Dallas Baptist after his freshman season. He intended to play his sophomore season at SCC, but most of the season was erased by COVID, and then he tore his UCL while playing summer ball in the Northwoods League. However, he was able to rehab and spend two seasons at DBU, where he struck out 15.9 per 9 innings in 35 innings, all out of the bullpen.

Here's an interview Amendt gave shortly after the draft. He seems to have realistic expectations and so far, he seems to have lived up to or exceeded those expectations. With his size and the fact that he is definitely going to be a reliever going forward, he could move quickly through the system and arrive by 2025, if all goes well.

Batter Spotlight: Camden Duzenack, UT, Amarillo

It’s a Dallas Baptist double today, as Duzenack was also a ninth round pick out of Dallas Baptist, this time in 2017. Duzenack is still with the organization 1800 plate appearances later. Oh, yes, he also played all nine positions in a game for Reno last year. He’s primarily been a middle infielder, however. At 5’7" and 170 pounds, he’s a little guy (slightly larger than Jose Altuve) but has managed surprising pop, slugging .419 with 58 home runs in his minor league career. His career, however, can break into two distinct phases. Pre-COVID, he was primarily glove-first. After a good showing in Hillsboro (then short-season A ball) in 2017, he struggled at the plate in both Visalia and Jackson in 2018 and 2019. He showed some signs of turning the corner in 2021, and spent all of 2022 in Reno, where he demonstrated the pop he has sometimes shown with 13 home runs, but also struggled to get on base (and OBP of just .308). This year he has primarily been at Amarillo, where his strikeouts are down, his walks are up, and he continues to show a decent amount of pop. The next double he picks up will be his 100th double as a minor leaguer.

Duzenack got a look in the Arizona Fall League last year, playing in 9 games and not particularly impressing. He’s struggled somewhat this year with injuries, and has spent more of it with the Sod Poodles, although I expect he will find his way back to Reno soon. I’m sure that Duzenack is somewhat disappointed to have spent the majority of the year in Amarillo after having been in Reno all of last season, but it has not affected his performance on the field. He should know that he was not sent down because of performance, but because of the acquisitions of Philip Evans and Diego Castillo. He fits in that section of players that every organization has simply for depth. He is a "break glass in case of emergency" option for the Diamondbacks, who could be relied upon to be decent, but may lack the talent to have a major league run. If the Diamondbacks had needed an emergency shortstop this year and did not want to start the service clock of either Jordan Lawlar or Blaze Alexander, Duzenack might have gotten the call (Diego Castillo would probably have been the first option.) That isn’t going to happen this year, given that the Diamondbacks are contending and would call up the best option to help them win games, but it is a role that is important in every organization.

Most likely, we are seeing the end of Duzenack’s time in the Diamondbacks organization. He is eligible for free agency after this season, and given that there are multiple prospects at his main positions who rank ahead of him, he would be best served to sign elsewhere. He could sign with an organization such as the Athletics and have a decent shot of cracking the major league roster. But we should appreciate what he has done during his time here, even though he never quite made it to Arizona. He’s been a solid player, he’s almost certain to reach a milestone soon, and he’s on a short list of players to play every position in a game.