It’s the time of year when prospect lists start popping up, like spring snowdrops. One of the meatiest is the top fifty list written up over at Prospects1500.com, and they were kind enough to let one of the contributors to the list, Jeremy Mahy, answer a few questions about the process and the resulting rankings. He contributes on Prospects of the Week, and is an all-encompassing content contributor for Prospects1500. Born and raised in the Midwest, Jeremy is a lifelong fan of the Birds on the Bat, and you can follow him on Twitter @JMahyfam for more baseball content.
Talk us through the general process of how you create a list like this. Do you balance objective (stats) and subjective (scouting)?
Thanks for the opportunity to provide some insight into our rankings of the Diamondbacks system.
This year we took a slightly different approach to our top-50 rankings. A group of six writers each individually ranked the system. Scott then took an average of those rankings to come up with our collaborative ranking. We also use our unique five tier system to help give the reader an idea of how we view a prospects future value.
What makes this collaborative ranking interesting is that each one of the writers values prospects differently. You get some that take a more analytic approach, some that trust their eyes more, and some that are a mix of both.
Personally, I take a bit more of an analytical approach when ranking prospects. When it comes to hitters I value a good hit tool, when a strikeout rate starts to climb above 25%, or a swinging strike above 13%, I start to back off a bit. I also like to use the metric wOBA (weighted on-base average), because it values how a hitter got on base rather than if they just simply got on base. A .320 wOBA is average so when a guy gets up to .375 plus, I really start to pay attention. Pitchers need to have strikeout stuff to be successful, but they also need to be able to command their arsenal and limit hard contact. I like to use K/BB ratio, xFIP, and groundball rate a lot when evaluating pitchers.
The D-backs farm has some very hitter-friendly affiliates, not just in Reno but also Amarillo and Visalia. How do you take that into account when analyzing a prospect?
I think you have to take counting stats at face value to a degree for the very reason you just stated. A player that hits 25 home runs in a hitter friendly park like Hodgetown in Amarillo doesn’t hold as much weight with me as 25 home runs in a pitcher friendly park like Canal Park in Akron. That is why I like to use analytics, the right ones can mitigate those factors. The good thing about analyzing players within the same system is that it does neutralize the park factor a bit more.
There’s always going to be different opinions on prospects, and that’s the fun of lists like this! There were a couple of players we liked more than you. For example, we were surprised to see Bryce Jarvis down at #28, and Slade Cecconi outside the top ten. Can you talk about those two rankings in more detail?
One thing to keep in mind is that our rankings slant towards fantasy baseball.
Jarvis is a nice player and could have a long major league career, but for me it really comes down to two things. Does he have enough to put away major league hitters two or three times through a lineup? Secondly, his walk rate is higher than I like to see. Those two things combined could land him in more of a middle relief role and for fantasy purposes that is less valuable.
Cecconi is a little different. His fastball-slider combo is pretty good, and I think it plays at the MLB level. He also keeps the walks down which is another positive. I just think he needs to develop a more viable third pitch to keep hitters off balance multiple times through the order. If he does that, our ranking could be low, if not I could see his fastball-slider combo playing up better in short bursts towards the backend of the bullpen.
Conversely, we were surprised to see Ivan Melendez and Jorge Barrosa so highly. One SnakePitter’s opinions were: “Melendez is a one-trick pony and I think he’s going to be the next Beer or Cron... Barrosa is a defense first guy. He’s fine but not likely to help Arizona in any way other than injury replacement or (more likely) a trade.” What went into them making the top ten here?
With Melendez his 70-grade power is likely what drives him up this list. If he can control his strikeout rate even a little bit there is 30-35 home run pop. I do agree that is a real possibility that he strikes out 35% of the time and doesn’t hit enough to stay in the lineup.
Barrosa was an interesting one for me as there was a wide range in his ranking among the six of us. He had a high rank of five and a low of fifteen. I love the hit tool and I think he could get on base at a high clip, but there is real question about how much power he will have. His ceiling is not high, but the fact that he plays a great centerfield gives him a safe floor.
Kristian Robinson is a particularly interesting prospect, who was unprotected in the Rule 5 draft but was not selected. Did that surprise you, and is there room for him in a crowded D-backs outfield?
Having to stick on a major league roster for an entire season definitely limited the number of suitors for K-Rob, but I was honestly surprised that a team like the Athletics didn’t take a chance on him. What could it have hurt them?
K-Rob’s path to playing time was already blocked prior to resigning Gurriel. Gurriel signing for three more years further complicated it. I will say this though, if he has a good year in Double-A and can get the K’s under control he might make the 2025 offseason more interesting. I would love to see that happen.
How do you rate the D-backs farm system overall? What are its strengths and weaknesses?
Anytime you have the number of guys graduate that they did last year, it is going to hurt the top of the system. We reflected that in our rankings by only having three players in the top two tiers. This is still a really strong system that I think will look even better at mid-season. They still have Jordan Lawlar as the clear number one, they drafted well (I love Tommy Troy), and there are some very interesting guys in the lower levels (see Jansel Luis and Cristofer Torin).
Last year, Andrew Saalfrank started in Double-A and ended the year pitching in the World Series. Pick a prospect who could perhaps follow a similar track and break out for the D-backs in 2024.
I could see Yu-Min Lin as a guy that starts the year in Double-A and then contributes at the MLB level after the All-Star break, but that is playing it safe. Let’s really have some fun and say that Justin Martinez harnesses that triple digit fastball, pairs it with his improving splitter, and is pitching at the backend of the bullpen in August and September.
Thanks to Jeremy for his time and answers. Check out all of the coverage at Prospects1500.com, and give Jeremy a follow on Twitter @JMahyfam.