Kirk Gibson likes what he sees in Adam Eaton, his future leadoff man and center fielder.
Despite trading right-hander Trevor Bauer, the organization’s top-overall draft pick in 2011, to the Cleveland Indians in mid-December as part of a three-team, nine-player deal, the Arizona Diamondbacks still boast one of the best farm systems in the game.
After netting countless high-ceiling pitching prospects over the last two seasons, mostly via the draft, they ultimately moved Bauer (one of the more highly regarded arms in the game) to acquire shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Reds. The organization also acquired shortstop Nick Ahmed, right-hander Zeke Spruill and third baseman Brandon Drury from the Braves in return for Justin Upton.
Without Bauer, a pair of young pitching prospects in left-hander Tyler Skaggs—who made six big league starts last season—and 20-year-old Archie Bradley, highlight the Diamondbacks’ system. Both players have the potential to headline the team's starting rotation in a matter of years.
Beyond that, the organization boasts a healthy mix of high-upside position prospects in Adam Eaton—a big-time sleeper headed into the 2013 season—Matt Davidson, Gregorius, Chris Owings and Stryker Trahan. They also have several intriguing, young left-handers in David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin working their way up the ranks.
Here’s a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top 10 prospects headed into spring training.
DOB: 4/25/1994 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 215
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2012 (Acadiana HS, La.)
Scouting Notes: Relatively younger player (April birthday); physical specimen at 6’1”, 215 pounds; impressive athleticism for his size; enjoyed a solid professional debut last season in the rookie-level Arizona League, as he batted .281/.422/.473 with 19 extra-base hits, eight stolen bases and 48/40 K/BB in 49 games.
Armed with a left-handed bat, Trahan is a pure hitter; present strength, yields plus-bat speed and raw power, especially to the pull side; advanced plate discipline and secondary skills were both impressive; comfortable working counts and waiting for specific pitches; potential for above-average hit and power.
Inexperience was obvious behind the plate; amassed 11 errors and 18 passed balls in 40 games; threw out 24 percent of base stealers (16-of-67); both his receiving and blocking skills will be a work in progress for several years; plus arm strength, but will need to improve his transfer and learn to streamline throws; should be able to remain at the position; if not, his average speed and offensive prowess is a fit at either corner outfield position or first base.
Spring Training Forecast: Trahan will participate in minor league spring training, as he’ll need to improve his defense behind the plate before receiving an assignment.
2013 Outlook: Depending on his progress during spring camp, Trahan could open the year in extended spring training before being deployed to either the short-season rookie-level or Low-A.
DOB: 6/17/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011 (Kent State)
Scouting Notes: 6’2” left-hander had an inconsistent full-season debut in 2012; stuff-wise, he ranked among the best in the California League; statistically, not so much; struggled mightily after an excellent opening month; lost a feel for the strike zone and was relegated to the bullpen; eventually worked his way back into the rotation to finish the season; overall, the 22-year-old registered a 4.93 ERA and 5.08 BB/9, though he led the Cal League with 11.04 K/9 in 122.1 innings.
Highly impressive pure stuff, but lacks the control and command to make it truly effective; mechanics lack fluidity and are choppy; ball comes out of his hand with ease, but everything else involves effort; finish is inefficient and could be simplified or at least modified; fastball sits in the low to mid 90s; can reach back for a few more ticks in shorter stints; manipulates the pitch in both directions by mixing in two-seamers and cutters; slider is filthy, a potential plus-plus pitch with a sharp, wipeout break; induces whiffs from both right and left-handed hitters; nearly a big-league ready pitch that also projects favorably out of the bullpen; changeup is present and improved over the course of the 2012 season; potential to be a third at least average offering; development of both command and control will ultimately determine whether he sticks as a starter or is expedited to the major leagues as a reliever.
Spring Training Forecast: Chafin will head to minor league camp where he’ll work to establish more consistency with his delivery and fastball command.
2013 Outlook: Chafin will make the jump to Double-A in 2013, where his command will likely be challenged.
DOB: 3/15/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 205
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011 (Connecticut)
Scouting Notes: Ahmed had an under-the-radar good season in his first year as a pro. He has a highly projectable, 6’3”, 205-pound frame with the ability to remain at shortstop. He's a good defender with above-average to plus speed and similar range. I love his actions and hands.
His on-base skills and rate of contact need to improve. I like him as a top-of-the-order bat with plenty of gap power. He needs to be more patient at the plate and work toward hitter’s counts. He could develop 15 home run power as he adds strength to athletic frame and makes more hard contact.
Spring Training Forecast: Ahmed is one of several Diamondbacks shortstop prospects who will be vying for playing time this spring.
2013 Outlook: After spending the entire 2012 season in High-A (with the Braves), Ahmed will move up to Double-A, though he’ll be forced to share playing time with Chris Owings.
DOB: 7/19/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 219
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2009 [White Sox] (Port Charlotte HS, Fla.)
Scouting Notes: 6’4”, 219-pound left-hander enjoyed a breakout season in 2011 at Low-A South Bend, but struggled after promotion to High-A Visalia; performed much better at the level to open 2012, followed by a strong showing at Double-A Mobile over the second half of the season; registered a 3.60 ERA, but strikeout and walk rates both moved in the wrong direction; 21-year-old is highly advanced for his age with polish and pitchability; repeats mechanics and arm slot well for his size; smart pitcher who makes adjustments and gauges situations.
Fastball isn’t overpowering, registering in the high 80s/low 90s with natural arm-side movement; comfortable manipulating the pitch to generate both sink and cutting action; slider is average and functions as a show-me pitch for the most part; would benefit from a sharper, tighter version; changeup is a plus offering with excellent fade and speed differential; throws the pitch in all counts with conviction; highly effective against right-handed hitters.
Spring Training Forecast: Holmberg is one of several pitchers in spring camp who will be competing for a potential late-season call-up, as well as a spot in the 2014 starting rotation.
2013 Outlook: With a logjam of pitchers ahead of him on the depth chart, especially young, left-handed ones, Holmberg will likely open the season back at Double-A and receive a mid-season promotion to Triple-A.
DOB: 8/12/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 5’10”, 180
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009 (Gilbert HS, S.C.)
Scouting Notes: Owings is only 5’10”, 180 pounds, but his tools play much louder; mastered the California League (High-A) last season after posting a paltry .662 OPS during first go-around in 2011; batted .324/.362/.544 with 11 home runs in 59 games before promotion to Double-A Mobile; 20-year-old was noticeably challenged and batted .263/.291/.377 with 69/11 K/BB in 69 games.
Right-handed hitter employs a compact swing thanks to strong hands and above-average bat speed; understands how to maximize power; can turn around good velocity; improved pitch recognition; needs to work deeper counts and coax more walks to be a top-of-the-order hitter; improved on-base skills should result in more stolen bases; bat has some serious juice and could yield 15-20 home runs in the major leagues; key to his development will be consistency.
One of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues; instinctual defender with quick feet; showcases excellent body control in all directions; smooth actions; plays through the baseball; plus-arm strength more than enough for the position; if Didi Gregorius progresses as the organization hopes, Owings could reach the major leagues as a second baseman.
Spring Training Forecast: With Gregorius out indefinitely, Owings should now see increased playing time, especially early in the spring.
2013 Outlook: Owings will head back to Double-A for a second crack at the level, and should reach Triple-A if he makes the necessary adjustments.
DOB: 2/18/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 185
Drafted/Signed: Aug., 2007 by Reds (Netherlands)
Scouting Notes: Opened 2012 season Double-A Pensacola and batted .278/.344/.373 in 81 games; promoted to Triple-A Louisville in early July, where he batted .243/.288/.427 with 31/12 K/BB in 48 games; finished the year in the major leagues as a September call-up, but appeared in only eight games; collected six hits in 20 at-bats (.300); acquired from the Reds as part of a three-team, nine-player deal in mid-December.
At 6’1”, 185 pounds, Gregorius has a projectable build that should allow him to add strength as he matures physically; instinctual and creative shortstop; 22-year-old is a plus defender with excellent range in all directions; glove stands out due to a combination of impressive hand-eye coordination and soft, sure hands; above-average arm strength completes his impressive overall defensive skill set; more than enough for the position at the big-league level.
Gregorius isn’t as polished at the plate; left-handed hitter employs a line-drive oriented swing and is comfortable using the entire field; drops his hands too often which, in turn, makes his swing long; tendency to get beaten by good velocity; solid overall approach with bat-to-ball skills; would benefit from working deeper counts and drawing more walks; value tied to his defense should make him a commodity; shows potential for an average hit tool; below-average power.
Spring Training Forecast: Gregorius is indefinitely sidelined after suffering a right elbow strain (possibly UCL related) in late December.
2013 Outlook: Provided that his elbow is good to go, Gregorius will open the season at Triple-A and spend at least part of it in the majors.
DOB: 3/26/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 225
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009 (Yucaipa HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: Davidson is a physically strong right-handed hitter; impressed over the course of his first full season at Double-A Mobile; still an inconsistent hitter overall, but improved across the board last year; batted .261/.367/.469 with 53 extra-base hits (23 home runs) and 126/69 K/BB in 135 games.
Plus-raw power to all fields with improving frequency; strong forearms create excellent bat speed; ball jumps off bat; very loud contact; strikeout total and batting average doesn’t accurately reflect what is actually advanced plate discipline; has been a younger player at each minor league level; strikeout and walk rates should continue to improve with more experience.
Moved back to third base full time last season after seeing some time at first base in 2011; still raw defensively, which is understandable; improved with experience over the course of the season; error total should come down in future seasons; average range at the hot corner that should play up as his instincts become more natural; hands are decent but inconsistent at times; above-average arm strength; Diamondbacks continue to challenge, but won’t rush him.
Spring Training Forecast: Davidson will participate in major league spring training, and should receive decent playing time before veterans Martin Prado and Eric Chavez are deployed.
2013 Outlook: Even though Davidson will open the 2013 season at Triple-A, it’ll take an injury for him to reach the major leagues with Chris Johnson, Chavez and Prado ahead of him on the depth chart.
DOB: 12/6/1988 (Age: 24)
Height/Weight: 5’8”, 185
Drafted/Signed: 19th round, 2010 (Miami University, Ohio)
Scouting Notes: Eaton may be undersized at 5’8”, 185 pounds, but he has four above-average to plus tools that will translate in the major leagues. A 19th-round senior sign out Miami in 2010, he has batted .355/.456/.510 over three minor league seasons and was named both the Rookie of the Year and MVP of the Pacific Coast League (Triple-A) last season after batting .381/.456/.539 with 58 extra-base hits, 119 runs, 38 stolen bases and 68/53 K/BB in 119 games. His overwhelming success in the high minors resulted in a September call-up, where he batted .259/.382/.412 with 19 runs in 22 games.
Left-handed hitter has a plus hit tool; adept at working deep counts in a leadoff role; makes loud contact to all fields; below-average power potential; could conceivably amass 50 doubles in a given season; puts ball in play and utilizes top-of-the-line speed; smart base stealer; always looks to take an extra base; advanced secondary skills; polished plate discipline; understands limitations as a hitter; should always score a ton of runs.
Plus speed is apparent in all his actions on the field; excellent instincts, speed and all-out mentality in center field; accurate, plus arm that plays anywhere in the outfield; above-average range; solid closing speed; sacrifices body.
Spring Training Forecast: Eaton is one of a select few rookies in the game with a clear path to playing time, so expect the Diamondbacks to continue grooming the 24-year-old as their future leadoff hitter and center fielder.
2013 Outlook: Eaton is poised for a potentially big rookie campaign, and for those who may be interested, he should be an excellent source of on-base percentage, runs and stolen bases in all fantasy formats. Thank me at the end of the season.
DOB: 8/10/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Broken Arrow HS, Okla.)
Scouting Notes: Bradley was arguably the top arm in the Midwest League (Low-A) during his impressive full-season debut in 2012, as the right-hander registered a 3.84 ERA and .181 BAA with 152/84 K/BB and 87 hits allowed in 136 innings.
6’4”, 225-pound right-hander has excellent athleticism for his size; was recruited as a quarterback by University of Oklahoma out of high school; athletic delivery that includes a momentum-building leg kick; impedes his control at times but is nothing that can’t be ironed out; live arm; throws everything on downhill plane.
Right-hander’s fastball sits in the low to mid 90s; heavy pitch that is thrown consistently on a downhill plane; holds velocity deep into starts; can scrape 95-96 mph when needed; curveball is a hammer with sharp, downward bite; plus offering that should be a legitimate out pitch in the big leagues; changeup flashes above-average potential with late fade; command of pitch varies, but he shows a solid feel for it relative to his experience; could move very quickly once control/command improve.
Spring Training Forecast: Bradley will participate in minor league camp with the hope of establishing smoother mechanics and a more consistent delivery.
2013 Outlook: If he can improve his fastball command and changeup this season at High-A, Bradley has the potential to emerge as one of the top pitchers in the minor leagues.
DOB: 7/13/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 195
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009 by Angels (Santa Monica HS, Calif.)
Scouting Notes: The top left-handed pitching prospect in the game, Skaggs cruised through the minor leagues last season, registering a 2.87 ERA with 116/37 K/BB in 122.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012. Called up to the major leagues in late August, the 21-year-old showcased good stuff but shaky command over six starts.
6’3”, 195-pounder has a lanky and projectable frame; clean, repeatable mechanics; has bouts of inconsistency like any young pitcher; struggles usually stem from flying open with front shoulder; hips and core don’t explode and arms drag; stuff gets flat as a result; will lose too many fastballs to arm side; natural deception in delivery.
Fastball isn’t overpowering in the high 80s to low 90s, but it has some late life to the arm side; needs to spot it more aggressively; does a nice job throwing on a downhill plane; curveball is a hammer and one of my favorites among all minor league pitchers; features a tall shape with deceptive pace; legitimate 12-to-6 downer that should always draw tons of swing and misses; changeup is fringy at the moment, but has the potential to be a third above-average offering with further refinement; lacks feel for all three pitches at times; consistency will come from experience.
Spring Training Forecast: Skaggs is one of three starters, Pat Corbin and Randall Delgado the others, vying for the final spot in the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day rotation. Don’t worry; it’s not a bad thing for him to open the year in the minors.
2013 Outlook: Skaggs will likely open the 2013 season in Triple-A where he’ll continue to refine his command before an imminent return to the major leagues.