Arizona Diamondbacks' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 26, 2015

Arizona Diamondbacks' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    It was widely believed that top prospect Archie Bradley would spend most of the 2014 season in the major leagues, but an elbow injury in late April cut into his development and forced the organization to reassess his timeline. The right-hander looked better in this year’s Arizona Fall League, but he'll still have some questions to answer in the upcoming season.

    Braden Shipley, the No. 15 pick in last year's draft, proved to be a first-round steal with a plus fastball-changeup combination, impressive athleticism and better than expected command. The team’s Compensation Round A pick from last year, right-hander Aaron Blair, has also been impressive this season, as he dominated at three levels, including Double-A.

    The Diamondbacks landed another potential steal this year when Touki Toussaint fell in their lap at No. 16 overall, followed by ultra-athletic outfielder Marcus Wilson in compensation round B.

    22-year-old Brandon Drury, who was acquired from the Braves in the Justin Upton deal, has a good eye at the plate, makes a lot of contact and has grown into some power. The same applies to 243-year-old third baseman Jake Lamb, who received a promotion to the major leagues in August after raking at Double-A Mobile.

    The Diamondbacks also have a pair of promising, switch-hitting teenage middle infielders in Domingo Leyba (19), who came over from the Tigers this offseason in the Didi Gregorius trade, and shortstop Sergio Alcantara (18), who has an incredibly advanced approach for his age to go along with the defensive chops to stick at shortstop.

    Here are the Arizona Diamondbacks' top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    3B Jake Lamb
    3B Jake LambRick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: How well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: Number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: Approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: Delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: Present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: Feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal.
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    Peter O’Brien, C/1B [Scouting Video]

    Matt Railey, OF

    Kaleb Fleck, RHP [Scouting Video]

    Matt Stites, RHP

    Marcus Wilson, OF

10. Domingo Leyba, 2B/SS

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    Position: 2B/SS

    DOB: 09/11/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 160 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: 2012 by Tigers (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5540505050

    Scouting Report

    Leyba made the jump directly to the New York-Penn League last summer for his stateside debut and held his own for 37 games with Short Season Connecticut. The 19-year-old switch-hitter then moved up to Low-A West Michigan for final month-plus of the season and promptly opened eyes, batting a robust .397/.431/.483 with 46 hits in 30 games. During the offseason, Leyba was traded by the Tigers along with Robbie Ray to the Diamondbacks as part of the three-team deal for Didi Gregorius.

    At 5’11’, 160 pounds, Leyba lacks loud tools but is a well-rounded player who does a little bit of everything. At the plate, the switch-hitter has good bat speed as well as a distinct feel for hitting, as he’s adept at getting the barrel to the ball and using the entire field. He’s unlikely to offer much in terms of power, but Leyba has good strength to his frame and should produce plenty of doubles.

    Defensively, Leyba is capable of playing both middle-infield positions, with the hands, footwork, first-step quickness and arm strength for either spot. That being said, his overall defensive profile is a cleaner fit at second base than shortstop, though it makes sense for the Diamondbacks to continue developing him at both positions.

    Ceiling (OFP [Overall Future Potential]): 50 (major league regular) – High risk

9. Sergio Alcantara, SS

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Position: SS

    DOB: 07/10/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 5’10”, 150 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: 2012 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2019

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5035507065

    Scouting Report

    After an impressive 2013 professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League in which he walked more times than he struck out (.398 OBP in 218 PA), Alcantara moved up to the Pioneer League last year where he struggled to hit for average but once again reached base at a high clip.

    At 5’10”, 150 pounds, Alcantara has a wiry frame and will need to add considerable strength moving forward. The 18-year-old’s raw tools and natural ability might allow him to remain at shortstop long term, as he’s an average runner with a very strong arm and the chance for a plus-plus glove.

    Meanwhile, Alcantara has the potential to be a special player at the dish, as the switch-hitter already shows outstanding bat-to-ball skills and a feel for the zone that’s a rarity for a player his age. He should be ready for a full-season assignment in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular) – High risk

8. Nick Ahmed, SS

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    Position: SS

    DOB: 03/15/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 205 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2011 by Braves (Connecticut)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4030606060

    Scouting Report

    Selected by the Braves in the second round of the 2011 draft out of Connecticut, Ahmed was traded to the Diamondbacks in January 2013 as part of the Justin Upton deal.

    A solid season at Triple-A Reno and injuries at the major league level opened the door for Ahmed last season, as the 24-year-old ultimately played in 25 games with the Diamondbacks, batting .200/.233/.271 with three extra-base hits in 70 at-bats.

    Viewed as one of the better defensive shortstops in the minor leagues, Ahmed is a plus defensive shortstop with a slick glove, soft hands and a well-above-average arm. Beyond that, he’s an instinctual defender with an excellent first step and great feel for the speed of the game.

    The right-handed batter doesn’t project as more than fringe-average at the plate, though he has learned to make more consistent contact over the last year and trimmed some of the swing-and-miss from his game. And while Ahmed will never hit for power, his above-average speed should net him plenty of doubles, not to mention double-digit stolen base totals.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (Below-average regular/reserve) – Low risk

7. Jimmie Sherfy, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 12/27/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’0”, 175 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 10th round, 2013 (Oregon)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    65654550

    Scouting Report

    The Diamondbacks selected Sherfy in the 10th round of the 2013 draft out of Oregon after he saved a combined 40 games between his sophomore and junior seasons. The 23-year-old right-hander started moving quickly in his first full professional season, beginning the year at High-A Visalia and then moving up to Double-A Mobile in early May. Sherfy finished the season with seven saves, a .223 opponents’ batting average and 68 strikeouts in 49 innings.

    Sherfy doesn’t look like much at 6’0” and 175 pounds, but the right-hander is an explosive athlete with a quick arm and two plus pitches in a 94-97 mph fastball and swing-and-miss slider at 79-84 mph. The 23-year-old’s size and strenuous arm action raises questions about his long-term durability, although he’s never dealt with injuries that resulted from his style of pitching.

    Sherfy is so unique that it’s hard to project his future; basically, I’m not exactly sure what he is, but I’m confident that he’s something.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (second-tier closer) – Medium risk

6. Jake Lamb, 3B

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    Position: 3B

    DOB: 10/09/1990 (Age: 24)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 200 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: L/R

    Drafted: Sixth round, 2012 (Washington)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5060455560

    Scouting Report

    Jake Lamb, 24, spent most of the 2014 season raking in the Southern League, where he posted a .318/.399/.551 batting line, 14 home runs, 35 doubles and 79 RBI over 103 games at Double-A Mobile.

    Specifically, an adjustment to Lamb’s swing during spring allowed him to create better leverage through the ball and, in turn, tap into his above-average raw power more consistently. He’d been a doubles machine throughout his career, but Lamb began clearing more fences and realizing his power potential.

    Lamb was rewarded with a promotion to Triple-A Reno in early August, but he quickly found himself starting for the Arizona Diamondbacks after just five games at the minor’s highest level. The Washington alum mostly scuffled during his time in the desert, batting just .230/.263/.373 with four home runs, four doubles, 11 RBI and 33 strikeouts in 27 games.

    Lamb is a legitimate plus defender at third base with excellent range, soft hands and above-average arm strength as well as the agility and athleticism to stick at the position long term.

    Lamb flies under the radar in terms of third base prospects, but his tools and advanced skills on both sides of the ball have helped him achieve an everyday role in the major leagues. The 23-year-old will go through some growing pains due to his overall lack of professional experience, but he’ll also be given every chance to succeed as the Diamondbacks’ potential long-term third baseman.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular) – Low risk

5. Brandon Drury, 3B/2B

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    Position: 3B/2B

    DOB: 08/21/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: 13th round, 2010 by Braves (Grants Pass HS, Oregon)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 8

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055455550

    Scouting Report

    Brandon Drury hit .300/.366/.519 with 35 doubles and 19 home runs over 107 games with High-A Visalia before a promotion to Double-A Mobile. The 22-year-old continued to rake in the Southern League, posting an .821 OPS with 11 extra-base hits (four home runs) in 29 games.

    Drury’s batting practice at this year's Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game was downright impressive, as the 22-year-old laced sharp line drives to the deepest parts of Salt River Fields—the kind of line drives that make it easy to envision many of his doubles clearing more fences as he develops.

    On the other side of the ball, Drury’s improved defense—a product of endless on-field reps—and mobility at third base last season boosted his projection to that of at least a league-average defender. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks had him begin working out at second base in the fall to potentially increase his versatility.

    Overall, Drury profiles as a solid defensive third baseman who hits .270 with 15-20 homers and 30-plus doubles. The Arizona Diamondbacks will want to see what they have in Jake Lamb next season, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Drury in the major leagues by the end of 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular) – Low risk

4. Touki Toussaint, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 06/20/1996 (Age: 18)

    Height/Weight: 6’3’, 185 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Coral Springs Christian Academy, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: 2018

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballChangeupControl
    70706050

    Scouting Report

    The Diamondbacks landed one of the top pitching prospects from the 2014 draft class when they selected prep right-hander Touki Toussaint with the No. 16 overall pick.

    Toussaint, who didn’t turn 18 until after the draft, struggled in his professional debut, posting an 8.58 ERA with 38 hits, 18 walks and 32 strikeouts in 28.1 innings between the Pioneer and Arizona Leagues.

    The 6’3”, 185-pound right-hander’s fastball sits in the low- to mid-90s and has climbed as high as 96-97 mph in the past. He complements the offering with arguably the best true curveball among high school righties, throwing it in the low 70s with exceptional depth and a sharp, two-plane break capable of inducing whiffs at any level.

    The key for Toussaint moving forward will be developing a third pitch, as it could potentially determine whether he’s a starting pitcher or reliever at maturity. If the changeup comes along as hoped and he’s able to improve both his control and command—which might take a while—Toussaint could serve as a No. 2 or 3 starter at maturity. If that doesn’t work out, the right-hander would still have a lot of potential in a bullpen role.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter) – High risk

3. Aaron Blair, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 05/26/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’5”, 230 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Marshall)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 4

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    6060506060

    Scouting Report

    Blair started the season in the Low-A Midwest League, pitched well in the High-A California League and performed even better after moving up to Double-A Mobile in the Southern League. Between all three stops, the 22-year-old right-hander pitched to a 3.56 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .218 BAA with 171 strikeouts and 51 walks over 154.1 innings.

    Blair is going to surprise folks with his ability to miss bats, as his feel for locating each of his four pitches—especially his low-90s fastball and plus changeup—helped him strike out more than a batter per inning in his first full professional season. Meanwhile, his pitchability has been better than expected as a professional and will only improve moving forward.

    Blair profiles as a durable No. 3 starter capable of missing some bats, though he doesn’t come with the huge upside like fellow D-Backs right-handers Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley. That being said, there’s a strong chance he will realize his potential and carve out a solid career as a mid-rotation starter as soon as mid-2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (No. 3 starter) – Low risk

2. Braden Shipley, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 02/22/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (Nevada)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: 2016

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    70657060

    Scouting Report

    Braden Shipley, the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 draft, cruised through three levels last year in his first full pro campaign, beginning at Low-A South Bend before moving up to High-A Visalia and then Double-A Mobile. Between all three stops, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 3.86 ERA and 127-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 126 innings (22 starts).

    The 22-year-old right-hander should continue to move up the ladder in a hurry behind a mid-90s fastball, plus-plus changeup and hard curveball that projects as another plus offering at maturity. More importantly, Shipley demonstrates present command of all three pitches.

    He’s still relatively new to pitching, but Shipley already displays an advanced feel for throwing strikes and aggressively attacking hitters throughout the zone. His ability to work down in the zone has steadily improved since turning pro, as has his feel for throwing his curveball for a strike.

    Shipley flat-out dominates when working at the knees with is fastball, but he also has a tendency to leave the pitch up in the zone and surrender some extra-base hits. However, he’s likely to always post solid groundball rates by keeping hitters off balance with his devastating changeup.

    The polish Shipley showed in 2014 was a pleasant surprise, especially considering his overall lack of experience on the bump. He still requires considerable projection for that same reason, but it isn’t difficult to envision the 22-year-old developing into a No. 2 or high-end No. 3 starter.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (No. 2 or 3 starter) – Medium risk

1. Archie Bradley, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 08/10/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 225 lbs.

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2011 (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 1

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballCurveballSliderChangeupControl
    7065605050

    Scouting Report

    Bradley seemed destined to make an impact in the major leagues last season before suffering a mild flexor strain in his right elbow in late April during a Triple-A game. The injury led to a two-month stint on the disabled list for the 22-year-old right-hander, and he then was sent to Double-A in late June upon receiving a clean bill of health. Back at in the Southern League—the same league he mastered in 2013—Bradley posted a 4.12 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 36 walks in 54.2 innings.

    At 6’4”, 225 pounds, Bradley is an excellent athlete with a durable and projectable frame, and he boasts one of the better two-pitch combinations among minor league pitchers in a heavy, mid-90s fastball and a power curveball with 12-to-6 shape and sharp downer bite.

    A bit more on Bradley’s heater: It enters the zone on a steep downhill plane that makes it incredibly difficult for batters to lift, which is why his home runs per nine innings rate (HR/9) sits at a shade over 0.30 for his four-year career. On top of that, the fact that Bradley has held opposing hitters to a .210 batting average during that span speaks to his ability to limit hard contact.

    Bradley’s feel for a changeup lags behind that of his other offerings, but it flashes average potential and could play up with improved command of his fastball. He also added a slider to his arsenal during the Arizona Fall League and quickly developed a feel for the pitch, throwing it with cutter-like velocity in the upper 80s with late bite. The right-hander didn’t miss as many bats in 2014 compared to previous years, but he still projects as a strikeout pitcher capable of missing a bat per inning.

    Bradley’s performance last season made it clear that his command, particularly his fastball command, requires further refinement; his inability to locate his fastball in turn limited the effectiveness of his secondary pitches, as Bradley struggled execute his curveball like he did in 2013 and fewer opportunities to utilize his changeup.

    Somewhere in Bradley there’s still a No. 2 starter. However, the 22-year-old didn’t progress from a developmental standpoint last season as he should have, and he’ll now have to take another run at the Double- and Triple-A levels in 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 70 (No. 2 starter) – Low risk