Arizona Diamondbacks REVISED Top Ten Prospects for 2017
The Arizona Diamondbacks traded away Mitch Haniger to the Mariners recently, opening a spot on my top 10. Who took that spot?
Our minor league top 10 series is coordinated by Benjamin Chase, one of our contributors at Call To The Pen.
He has poured over thousands of minor league games over the course of the year via milb.tv along with speaking with a number of team and independent scouts. These lists are based out of those conversations.
Each system will have prospects from 10 to 1, and then finish with one newcomer to the system that is worth keeping an eye on that is not in the top 10 at this time.
Conversations are certainly encouraged in the comments section on each system as we go along!
Diamondbacks System Review
The Arizona Diamondbacks have struggled to find an identity in recent years, and their minor league system certainly reflects that.
Last offseason, the Diamondbacks traded away a host of players that you’ll see playing important roles for other teams and/or on other teams’ top 10 lists this offseason, including Daniel Palka, traded to the Twins for catcher Chris Herrmann, Isan Diaz to the Brewers in the trade that brought Jean Segura to Arizona, and then of course, the big blockbuster that sent away 2015 #1 overall selection Dansby Swanson and Aaron Blair as part of the deal to acquire Shelby Miller.
The Diamondbacks made big splashes in the international market, especially the Cuban market, that really haven’t played out as well as they’d like. Yasmany Tomas had a 30+ home run season in 2016, but his walk rate and defense were so poor that he actually had a negative bWAR, yet the $55.5M remaining on his contract seems more like a heavy weight around Arizona’s neck than a deal in hindsight.
Yoan Lopez was a major signing for the team from Cuba, receiving an $8.27M bonus. Instead, his stuff has never been worthy of that level of investment, and he got rocked in 2016 in his first exposure to upper level hitting, with a 5.52 ERA over 14 starts, nearly walking as many as he struck out.
While this tearing down of the system has been frustrating for fans, its left the system with little outside of “fringe” major leaguers at the upper levels and pretty low-floor type of guys at the lower levels.
The new management team will have their work cut out for them, but they have already shown a willingness to move off guys who don’t have a future with team, as seen with the recent DFA of Vicente Campos, who was picked up by the Angels off of waivers. They do have the #7 pick in the 2017 draft, so they’ll have the opportunity to pick up an impact player at that spot!
10. Alex Young, LHP
Birthdate: 9/9/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: low A, high A
Stats in 2016: 118 2/3 IP, 3.56 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 7.4 BB%, 18.6 K%
After two years in the Texas Christian bullpen, Young moved to the rotation in 2015, and he got plenty of love as a possible back-end of the first round selection that could move quickly as a #4/5 type of starter in a rotation or a very solid lefty reliever due to his excellent slider.
His first exposure to pro ball went very well, and he jumped up Diamondbacks prospect rankings last offseason after he threw just 7 innings, but only allowed a single run while walking only one and striking out 6 over that time. His fastball played up a couple of ticks in his pro time, and many dreamed on it playing up further as he developed as a professional.
The 2016 season just didn’t work out that way. Young’s fastball considered to sit in the upper-80s/low-90s with some sink, but from his 6’2 frame, he doesn’t quite get the plane of a taller pitcher.
His first part of the year, he had a solid start in the Midwest League, but his slider didn’t snap the way it did in college, and his change played fringe average. Sequencing hitters worked in the Midwest League, but Cal League conditions and hitters caught up to him.
At his best, his fastball plays with sink that is hard to square up and his slider misses bats in a way that makes you dream on Young as an inning eater back-end starter or a very good lefty reliever, but so far, neither pitch has played to that level as a professional.
9. Jon Duplantier, RHP
Birthdate: 7/11/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: short-season A-ball
Stats in 2016: just one inning of pro ball with two walks and three strikeouts
Duplantier was draft-eligible in 2015, but a shoulder injury cost him the season, and he went undrafted. He returned to Rice and was the Conference USA pitcher of the year this year.
Duplantier, as you can see in the video, is a “full-grown man”, standing 6’4 and listed at 225 pounds. He is truly an exceptional athlete, and watching him move off the mound to grab bunts and such is quite impressive.
While Rice has a reputation for having “ruined” their pitchers, and Duplantier has a previous history of injury to his shoulder, so there has been plenty of worry with Duplantier, but in watching him throw, I really am not seeing him as any more a risk than anyone who pitches.
Duplantier has a fastball that can climb into the upper 90s in short stints and sits in the range of 92-95 with a very impressive curve. He had excellent command and control in college, so don’t let his 2 walks in his only professional inning worry you about his ability to keep the ball in the zone.
The fastball has tremendous sink to it, and Duplantier’s long arms and legs allow him to get great extension to the plate, allowing his fastball to get on hitters even faster than its posted velocity.
Duplantier will likely be fast-tracked by the Diamondbacks and pushed forward quickly early in his minor league track by the organization. If he can maintain his health, Duplantier is one of the few guys in the system with front-line starter potential.
8. Victor Reyes, OF
Birthdate: 10/5/94 (22 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A
Stats in 2016: .303/.349/.416, 6 HR, 20 SB
The Braves signed Reyes from Venezuela and he flashed brilliant athleticism for three years in their system without refining those tools before the Braves traded him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for a competitive balance pick.
Reyes has tremendous bat speed, which until he got into the Arizona system had not generated the power that his solid frame would suggest. At 6’3, he’s listed at 170 pounds, but he looks more like 190ish, and he’s fairly cut as well, generating significant jump off the bat.
Reyes has hit .300+ in both seasons with Arizona’s system, but his power took a step forward this year as he took a step forward physically as well.
He’s undersold by many in the industry, but in watching Reyes’s teams this year, he stood out like a sore thumb due to his ridiculous athleticism on the field, whether it was running the bases, swinging the bat, or in the field.
He’s not got an elite arm, but he can handle all three defensive positions in the outfield passably, likely profiling best as a borderline-elite left fielder whereas he’d be league average or even below-average in center or right.
His speed on gap hits and ability to run the bases is quite a bit more than what has been advertised. If you’d look to MLB.com’s rankings, for instance, you’d see his run tool rated as a 45, and that’s not knocking MLB.com because that is pretty much industry consensus, but I think a lot of that has to do with seeing Reyes as he gained muscle strength in a growth spurt throughout last season and hadn’t yet figured out how to use his body yet.
Reyes’s time to put all the tools to the point of success in the Cal League this year does mean he’ll be 22 before seeing upper levels of the minors, and the normal Cal League caveat does apply, but he is one to watch in the Diamondbacks system who could change a lot of minds in 2017.
7. Wei-Chieh Huang, RHP
Birthdate: 9/26/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: Rookie, short-season A-ball, high-A
Stats in 2016: 59 2/3 IP, 5.88 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 8.49 BB%, 25.83 K%
Huang has a long injury history that has held him back since he was signed out of Taiwan in 2014. While he did make the Futures Game in 2015, he’s struggled to get on the mound due to back issues.
Huang has a solid repertoire of a low-90s fastball with late movement that he knows how to spot very well, a change that has tremendous arm speed deception, allowing for plenty of swing and miss, and a curve that he has good feel for.
When he’s been healthy, Huang has shown the ability to dominate hitters by attacking them early in the count with the change up and finish them off with a well-spotted fastball.
Huang’s slender build has very likely aided in his issues with back struggles, and without some work on improving his full body strength, those back issues are not likely going away.
If he ends up having to move to the bullpen due to the back issues, Huang will be an absolute weapon in that role, very likely being a guy who would be in the absolute top tier of relievers.
2017 will be an important year for Huang in his development. He is likely to move to the bullpen if he shows another year of physical struggles.
6. Taylor Clarke, RHP
Birthdate: 5/13/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: low-A, high-A, AA
Stats in 2016: 149 1/3 IP, 3.31 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 5.33 BB%, 19.06 K%
Clarke was the Diamondbacks’ 3rd round selection in 2015. He had recovered from Tommy John surgery to become one of the best college pitchers in 2015.
Clarke uses his 6’4 frame to stay high in his delivery and create excellent plane on his fastball, which sits in the low-90s but can touch 95-96. He compliments that with an excellent slider that has the ability to either generate swings or extreme weak contact.
Clarke was in his first full pro season in 2016, and the success he had in his first two stops was no mirage, though he did shuffle more when he reached AA.
I don’t think you’ll see Clarke working his way to a front line starter, but with just marginal improvement on his change, he could be an effective #3 starter. He’s already 23, though, so his excellent control and sinking fastball/slider combo could quickly make him a solid back-end starter.
The thing to watch with Clark will be whether he continues on the starting path. If he ends up moving to the bullpen, Clarke could be a dominant reliever with excellent control, that slider could be a strikeout pitch, and a heavy fastball that would be hard to drive.
5. Domingo Leyba, IF
Birthdate: 9/11/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: high-A, AA
Stats in 2016: .296/.355/.429, 10 HR, 9 SB
Leyba was acquired by the Diamondbacks from Detroit in the three-team trade that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. He’s been pushed aggressively by the Diamondbacks since his acquisition, but he bounced back from 2015 struggles with that push, he bounced back in 2016.
Leyba has hit ever since his 2012 signing out of the Dominican Republic outside of that 2015 season. Overall, his career line has been .288/.343/.407.
The big change in 2016 was the power development. While many have said that the switch-hitting Leyba would eventually fill out into his frame, in 2016, he finally did just that, and the results were obvious. Many could state that the power surge was a result of the hitter-friendly Cal League, but Leyba actually had a higher slugging percentage after his promotion to the Southern League, one of the more pitcher-friendly leagues, especially for power.
Leyba really had a change in his approach at the plate in high-A, and outside of those 936 plate appearances in 2015-2016, Leyba has typically controlled the strike zone with a career 7.34% walk rate and 14.07% strikeout rate that was offset by a 5.88% walk rate and 16.24% rate during his time in high-A.
With a return to his more selective and patient approach in AA and an impressive return to shortstop full-time, Leyba has the ability to jump forward if he can repeat his power surge of 2016.
However, even with the added power and better plate discipline, he’s likely to settle at a fringe starter at best and most likely a high-end utility guy.
4. Anfernee Grier, OF
Birthdate: 10/13/95 (21 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, short-season A
Stats in 2016: .236/.277/.337, 2 HR, 9 SB, 94 PA
Watching Team USA summer of 2015 would have led your eyes to a small handful of players, and certainly in that handful would have been Grier.
He then returned to Auburn and put on a tremendous performance in the Southeastern Conference in the spring, hitting .366/.457/.576 with 12 home runs and 19 stolen bases over just 56 games, incredible numbers in arguably the most advanced level of competition in college baseball.
There were not many better athletes in the 2016 draft than Grier, and his incredible athleticism showed up in his pro debut, with the 9 stolen bases in a scant 24 games.
While the athleticism is there in spades, Grier is very, very raw. He walked 3 times in his 94 plate appearances, and frequently he found himself flailing at marginal breaking stuff when a smart pitcher set him up well.
Grier has all kinds of defensive ability, but not much arm to add to it. He could certainly play center, but he would be playing it with an arm along the lines of Jacoby Ellsbury.
Grier is one guy (outside of #1, but we’ll get there) that could be a legit top-100 prospect with development in 2017. He has incredible tools and had plenty of success in the SEC in college, so he’s faced solid competition, so that jump isn’t all that crazy to consider.
3. Anthony Banda, LHP
Birthdate: 8/10/93 (23 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: AA/AAA
Stats in 2016: 150 IP, 2.88 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 8.57 BB%, 23.68 K%
Banda ended up making the Futures Game this year with his excellent performance, and he’s climbed up many lists due to his performance at upper levels in 2016.
The Diamondbacks originally drafted Banda in the 33rd round in 2011 out of high school in Texas, but he chose to attend San Jacinto College in Houston. The Milwaukee Brewers selected him in the 10th round of the following year’s draft. When the Diamondbacks traded Gerardo Parra to the Brewers at the deadline in 2014, they made sure to make Banda part of that deal.
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Banda doesn’t really carry any plus pitch, but he does a very solid job of mixing all of his pitches, which has allowed him to work very well at upper levels in 2016.
Whether Banda has a chance to make the Diamondbacks opening day rotation likely depends on moving a pitcher or two in the offseason, but coming from the left side with the ability to sit as a solid #4 starter is nothing to sneeze at.
Banda is listed at 6’2, 190, but I’d say he’s built a bit more sturdy than that, but not in bad weight. He has excellent mechanics, meaning the improvements that he’s made in his control and command in the last two years are going to be things he can keep up as he encounters major league hitters for the first time.
2. Socrates Brito, OF
Birthdate: 9/6/92 (24 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie, high-A, AAA, MLB
Stats in 2016: .285/.312/.433, 7 HR, 7 SB, 317 PA (minor league only)
Brito handled the move up to AA very well in 2015, and from there ended up on the radar of many more prospect gurus than he had been before after being signed in 2010 out of the Dominican Republic.
He spent his first years working up the system one step at a time before his massive tools finally produced that major season that people were expecting in high-A in 2014. After he showed last season that wasn’t just a Cal League illusion, Brito was very highly considered by many.
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Brito may be off of many lists due to his time in the major leagues this season working as a bench bat, but he did not exceed at bat limits, so that’s why he’s on this list.
Brito has remarkable raw tools, but even at 24, they’re still quite unrefined at the plate. His raw power is impressive, as seen in his 4 major league home runs in only 97 plate appearances. He’s also got plus speed and a plus arm, which allows him to handle defense well at any position in the outfield.
Brito has the tools to be more than a fringe guy, but right now, he plays as a fourth outfielder who provides plenty of defensive value and has the ability to flash offensively once in a while, but until he can get his plate discipline figured out (15 walks in 430 combined plate appearances across majors and minors), he’s going to have a tough time profiling as anything more, and he’s already 24, so the growth level is really not there.
1. Jasrado Chisholm, SS
Birthdate: 2/1/98 (18 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie
Stats in 2016: .281/.333/.446, 9 HR, 13 SB
Chisholm was signed out of the Bahamas and had a similar path to being signed as fellow Bahamian Lucius Fox, though he signed for nowhere near Fox’s big deal.
Chisholm started in advanced rookie Pioneer League, which ended up not even phasing the young shortstop at the plate. His stat line mentioned above was done in all of 270 plate appearances.
Chisholm came to the United States to Kansas to play high school ball before he returned to the Bahamas to be signed in the international market. That advanced “training” compared to a typical international free agent has allowed Chisholm to start a step ahead of many players in their first year after being signed.
Chisholm is absolutely one of the biggest upside players in the entire system, and the more I talked with people the higher I found his floor to be. Many believe Chisholm’s defense to be at an above average level at shortstop or elite if he moved to second base.
Chisholm has very solid power already, which is impressive to consider as Chisholm, as you’ll see in the YouTube video above, has not filled out into his body yet. He also has excellent speed.
The biggest knock I got on Chisholm was that he had trouble with advanced breaking stuff, but one scout I talked with mentioned that putting a first year IFA in the Pioneer League would overly expose anyone but the uber-elite prospects in handling advanced breaking pitches.
Chisholm will likely move straight to full-season ball in 2017, which is impressive as he’ll be 19 for the entire 2017 season. His broad tool set has already moved significantly up from the time he was signed. After another year of development and physical maturity, he could be a top 100 guy.
Newcomer To Keep An Eye On: Ryan January, C
Birthdate: 5/27/97 (19 years old)
Level(s) Played in 2016: rookie
Stats in 2016: .276/.376/.470, 10 HR
January came into the 2016 draft without a lot of notice, which allowed him to fall to the 8th round.
January’s catching skills receive mixed reviews. His arm draws very positive marks, rated as plus by many I talked with. However, he struggles at time in his movement behind the plate to protect his pitchers, allowing pitches to get by him.
He certainly is only 19, so the catching defense can be developed as he moves up the system, especially considered he was placed into advanced rookie immediately.
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While there may be questions on how his defense will play long term behind the plate, there are no such questions about January’s bat. He has a legit bat that receives marks as high as “plus” for his power tool with solid contact ability.
He’s not an excellent runner, but he does have enough mobility and certainly has the arm to handle an outfield corner if he’s not able to stay at catcher.
He should open 2017 in the full-season Midwest League, and it will be very interesting to see January handle the taxing of the long season behind the plate, but hitting 10 home runs in only 183 at bats should certainly put January on your radar!.
Agree? Disagree? Someone you have a question about from the system? Leave a comment down below!