The Arizona Diamondbacks have been flush with prospects in recent years, though the trades of Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs in the last two years have weakened their system a bit. However, there are still some very solid names you need to be on the look out for.
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#1. Archie Bradley (SP)
A no brainer, the top pitching prospect in baseball stands 6-4 and weighs 225 pounds. The Oklahoma native has a big frame as well as reworked mechanics that have proven that he can eat up a ton of innings. He turned 21 this past season and ended the year with a record of 14-5, between Visalia (A) and Mobile (AA), finishing with a 1.84 ERA, 152.0 IP and 162 strikeouts. The only knock on Bradley so far is his walk rate, making him among the top of the minors in that area. He projects to have at worst average control. Bradley has two plus pitches as of right now with a fastball that is best controlled in the mid 90s but when he needs to he can get it up to 98. He also generates sink to get a lot of groundball outs, curveball with sharp 12-6 downward bite that sits in the low 80s, and a change-up that shows flashes of being an above average offering. Archie Bradley is one of the few prospects that is legitimately projected to be a No.1 starter. I will be surprised if he’s not in the opening day rotation, but if he’s not, mid 2014 is my prediction.
#2. Braden Shipley (SP)
Shipley was projected to be a top 5 pick in the 2013 draft, but fell to the 15th pick and the Diamondbacks gladly drafted him. He went to the University of Nevada as a shortstop and played there his freshman year. Until he threw a bullpen session for fun and his arm was too much to ignore. He has only been pitching for two years, so he has a fresh arm and doesn’t have all the innings that other pitchers his age have. Shipley is very comfortable on the mound and he repeats his delivery very well. Also with his shortstop background, he fields his position extremely well. His loose arm allows him to throw his plus fastball in the mid 90s and he touched 98MPH. Leading up to the draft, many scouts agreed Shipley had a plus plus changeup and the best one in the entire draft. He also has a curveball, which is on the developmental side but has the potential to be an average or better offering.
#3. Chris Owings (SS/2B)
The PCL player of the year had a big year at the plate for triple A Reno, hitting .330 with 12 home runs and 81 RBIs, while stealing 20 bags along the way. He earned the honor of being the Dbacks player of the year for his efforts during the 2013 season. Owings is aggressive at the plate, leading to a low walk rate, but has above average bat speed and great hand-eye coordination. On the defensive side, he showed improvements at shortstop, while also playing 11 games at second base. He has a strong arm, which helps him make up for his lack of range. Spring training 2014 is going to be important for Owings’ career because he is going to go head to head with DiDi Gregorius for the club’s starting shortstop position. This will be one of the top battles of the spring, and if Gregorius carries over his sluggish hitting from the second half of last year, then the job could go Owings’ way. If Owings loses out on the starting job then he’ll most likely start at Reno (AAA), but all it will take is Gregorius to start out slumping or an injury to him or Aaron Hill and Owings will get the call. He could also be a major trade piece to acquire a front line starter.
#4. Jake Barrett (RP)
Barrett was a third round pick in the 2012 draft out of Arizona State. He had a great year playing in both High A and Double A, finishing the regular season with a 1.21 ERA in 52 games. Barrett had 29 saves combined at the two levels he played at, with 52.0 innings and 59 strikeouts. Barrett offers a plus fastball that sits in the mid 90s, while his plus slider could be his best pitch. He also has above average control, which allows him to throw both pitches in any count for strikes. He was well on his way to becoming Arizona’s closer until the team traded Ian Kennedy to the Padres for Joe Thatcher, and Matt Stites. Barrett will be at spring training, battling to make the club and make appearances out of the bullpen.
#5. Aaron Blair (SP)
At 6-5, 230 pounds, Blair put it all together this past year at Marshall, and he led the Cape Cod League with a 1.17 ERA. He can fluctuate his fastball from 88-95 with good sinking action. He also has a curveball and a change up; both have the makings of becoming Major League average pitches. His above average control lets him throw all three pitches for strikes and go after hitters aggressively. Blair looks to have a bright future with the Diamondbacks; with Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin, Blair would only need to be a good number three. If he keeps developing his off speed pitches, the Diamondbacks see him as more then just an average number three starter.
#6. Jake Lamb (3B)
Lamb spent most of his pro debut in Single A Visalia; finishing in the top 1o in the Pioneer League in batting average, slugging, and OPS. He has above average raw power from the left side of the plate and also features above average arm strength and athleticism, which will help him stick at the hot corner long term. He has a mature approach that helps him with his above average on-base skills. The team is high on Lamb, which made Matt Davison expendable and they got a very good young closer in the deal.
#7. Andrew Chafin (SP)
At 6’2 and 205 pounds the southpaw has a great projectable body, but there are things about Chafin that are good and bad. Two good pitches including a plus fastball that goes to 95 with good movement and a plus slider are in Chafin’s arsenal. He finished top 10 in the organization in strikeouts and batting average against and can also generate a bunch of groundball outs. Two downfalls include already going through Tommy John surgery, which he has recovered from, as well as his shaky mechanics that throw off his command at times. Scouts project that if he can’t figure out the command hell be better suited for the bullpen. The Diamondbacks like Chafin and his two above average offerings, but there hoping he can get the command figured out because they shipped their other top lefty prospect David Holmberg out of town.
#8. Matt Stites (RP)
Stites came over in the Ian Kennedy deal and Kevin Towers said that he was the “key to the deal”. With a 5’11″ frame and 170 pounds, the right-hander has good athleticism and a quick arm. He knows how to use his lower half to really generate velocity on his pitches. Due to this his fastball consistently is 94-96 and gets as high as 99. He has a minor league career ERA of 1.53, and a WHIP of 0.70 and the craziest stat is a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 150 to 19. Stites had his season ended early because of an emergency appendectomy, but before that he posted 52.0 IP with 51Ks and opponents hitting just .194 off of him. Stites will be a big help in the Arizona bullpen this season, but he’ll be battling Addison Reed, Brad Ziegler, JJ Putz and Jake Barrett for the closer role. Whoever loses out on that role will be great set up men for a bullpen that blew 24 leads last season.
#9. Brandon Drury (3B)
When GM Kevin Towers sent Justin Upton to Atlanta, many people including myself wondered why he wanted to acquire Drury in the trade after seeing the numbers he put up in low A ball, but he saw something that we all didn’t. In 2013 Drury led the league in doubles with 51, while hitting 15 home runs, 85 RBIs, and hitting above .300 and slugging .500 and an OPS of .862 in 134 games. He has an athletic body type, which gives him some agility at third base. He is only 21 years old and with having to battle out for 3rd base against Jake Lamb, but they both have time to develop and sharpen there tools with Martin Prado moving to 3rd base full time with the acquisition of Mark Trumbo.
#10. Stryker Trahan (C)
I really wanted to put Nick Ahmed here with his plus fielding, plus arm, and plus speed but he really struggled at the plate in his AA season at Mobile and in the Arizona Fall League. The D-backs are taking it slow with Trahan, he’s young and raw, but he repeated a year in short season ball to work on his defense and clean up some hitting issues. A positive stat to look at was out of the 60 hits he had during the season 27 of the hits went for extra bases. In time Trahan can have two above average tools in his ability to hit for average and power. Within the extra year he got better receiving pitches and framing them. He also threw out 40% of runners trying to steal, so the D-backs should be fine in the future with catching. Miguel Montero is locked up and with Trahan and the #1 international catcher José Herrera battling it out, so the future should be fun to watch.
Player to watch:
Justin Williams (OF)
Only 17 years old but if this kid develops into the player Arizona thinks he will be, then watch out! The Dbacks took him and his plus plus power in the 2nd round of this past draft. He played at three levels this past season topping out at Low- A. He hit .351 in combined 51 games. He has gap-to-gap power to all fields. After getting signed he was moved from the infield to the outfield.