We’re finally going to start the venture deeper into the farm systems with our Top 21s. We’ll start with the Arizona Diamondbacks and work our way through the teams. With Spring Training around the corner these rankings are obviously a fluid and living beast, so keep checking in for updates and our jaunts through the Leagues themselves where we’ll highlight the top performers
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP 1/17/1991 H: 6’1 W: 175 lbs – Trevor Bauer was selected in the 1st round of the 2011 draft by the Dbacks and vaulted straight to the top of the system. At UCLA he struck 203 in only 136 IP and wasted little time getting going in the minors. He struck out 43 in 25.2 innings. He ran into some trouble at Double-A, but it’s of no concern. He might get a shot at the rotation in the Spring, but could use a half season in minors if only to make sure his mechanics are in sync before making his 2012 debut. He could be the future Ace of the staff and has high front end starter stuff and projection.
2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP 7/13/1991 H: 6’4 W:195 lbs – The big lefty was part of the haul for Dan Haren and the Dbacks can’t be disappointed. While he’s always had good strikeout stuff and projected as a big league starter, 2011 puts him on another level. His 198 K’s in 158.1 IP is good for a K rate over 30% which is elite. Match that with his 7.5% walk rate and you have a mix for high level success. He’s another starter with possible front end of the rotation projection. Skaggs will likely get warmed up at Triple-A and get his chance in the majors at some point in 2012.
3. Archie Bradley, RHP 8/10/1992 H: 6’4 W: 225 lbs - This is a pretty insane 1-4. Bradley has a high enough ceiling where he would place #1 in some organizations. A high 90s fastball and near plus curveball as a teenager. He has plenty of work to do in order to become a complete pitcher but his pitches and frame make him a very high ceiling prospect. At 19 years old for all of the 2012 season and combined with the pitching depth in this organization, there won’t be any reason to rush him. Expect him to start the 2012 season with the Low-A Yakima Bears of the Northwest League.
4. Matt Davidson, 3B 3/26/1991 H: 6’3 W: 225 lbs- Davidson is the best power hitting prospect left in the system after Paul Goldschmidt made his debut in Arizona in 2011. He’s just 20 years old, has already spent a season in High-A and came away with 60 XBH. That’s 39 doubles, 1 triple and 20 Home Runs. He was also able to hit a respectable .279 even though he’s striking out more than will be acceptable at the next level. Davidson is still young and profiles as a .280 hitter with 30+ Home Run power. He’s also the best bet to stick at 3B that the Diamondbacks have right now. He will take his game to Double-A Mobile in 2012.
5. Ryan Wheeler, 3B 7/10/1988 H: 6’4″ W: 220 lbs – Wheeler may eventually be the best pure hitter when lining up 3B prospects, Davidson, Wheeler and Borchering. The big lefty is able to use the whole field and should be a solid bet for a .285 AVG or better. His power is going to be average at best and he’s not more than a slightly below average 3B. He’s blocked at 1B by Goldschmidt so a move to the OF is in the cards, much as we pointed out in 2009.
6. David Holmberg, LHP 7/19/1991 H: 6’4″ W: 220 lbs - Holmberg is another lefty pitcher that the Dbacks got in a trade. This time for Edwin Jackson. He’s still just 20 and the one glaring weakness in his pitch arsenal was his below average fastball. Prior to 2011, he worked more around the 90 mph range, which wouldn’t have given him much ceiling. But, in 2011 he kicked it up to 93-94 and with a solid curveball and changeup combo he could work the back end of the rotation in the future. The Diamondbacks won’t need to rush him. He should start out at High-A again and if all goes well debut at Double-A sometime in 2012.
7. Pat Corbin, LHP 7/19/1989 H: 6’3″ W: 165 lbs - Corbin is the other pitcher that the Dbacks got in exchange for All-Star Dan Haren. His low 90s fastball has plus movement and his command is above average. He’s still working on bringing his curveball and changeup to a level that is major league ready, but both pitches project as average offerings with his changeup possibly a little more. Even though he’s not overpowering, he has always produced a high K rate and his 20.6% in 2011 was no different. While he isn’t projected as a frontline starter like Skaggs, Corbin is still a good bet for a mid-rotation starter in the 4-5 mold. He will probably need another season at Double-A in 2012.
8. A.J. Pollock, OF 12/5/1987 H: 6’1″ W: 205 lbs - Pollock had a lost 2010 season, but made quick work of getting back onto the radar in 2011. His .309 AVG shows his best tool which is his bat. He’s an all around solid player both offensively and defensively. He’s going to be an average defender but his game lacks power or elite speed. But with a solid hitting ability and enough speed to steal 30+ bases he’s going to be at least a 4th OF and possibly a solid starting LF for a few years. There’s a high floor here though the ceiling is limited as well.
9. Adam Eaton, OF 12/6/1988 H: 5’9″ W: 180 – While Eaton may not have the raw tools looked for in a potential star, he’s done nothing except succeed since being drafted in 2010. We’ve been highlighting him this season in our look around the leagues and with his performance in the AFL this season there’s no denying his status as a true prospect. Eaton’s ability to make consistent contact, work counts to take walks and just get on base, he’s looking like he might find his way into the top of a lineup. Right now he’s been a touch old for the levels he’s been in, but the AFL performance was no fluke for his type of game. If he stays on this path he moves up this ranking system all the way to #5 as a possible #2 hitter with solid LF defense.
10. Andrew Chafin, LHP 6/17/1990 H: 6’2″ W: 205 – Chafin was a supp pick, 43rd overall in the 2011 draft out of Kent State. He’s already had Tommy John surgery and 2011 was his first season back to full strength. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can touch 95. But he has a slider which is a wipeout pitch. Based on upside as a lefty, Chafin would be higher on this list. But his command and stamina are not all the way back and his changeup is still below average. He’ll need to time to refine the 3rd offering and get his command back in full. If he’s rushed, he’ll end up in the bullpen. If he’s given the development time, and in this system he can, He could move into the middle of a rotation as a #3 starter.
11. Charles Brewer, RHP 4/7/1988 H: 6’4″ W: 205 - Drafted in 2009 in the 12th round, Brewer has compiled a 23-11 record with a 2.45 ERA over 261 innings pitched. Low 90s fastball, average curveball, changeup and slider with above average command. Those numbers would normally garner more fanfare. Brewer worked up to 150 innings in 2010 but had some injuries limited him to 55.1 IP. He’s a back end starter in the making, but the depth in this system may find Brewer elsewhere before all is said and done.
12. Marc Krauss, OF 10/5/1987 H: 6’2″ W: 235 - Drafted in 2009, Krauss had two solid seasons with the bat while questions surrounded his possible defensive home. In 2011, his plate discipline became a serious issue when it affected his AVG which dropped to .242 with 123 strike outs. Krauss’ .302 BABIP was well below career norms and certainly affected the end result of his AVG. So expect a comeback season in 2012. But with his size he’s really going to need to cut the strikeouts because defense will be a major issue. But the bat is major league caliber.
13. Anthony Meo, RHP 2/19/1990 H: 6’2″ W: 185 – Meo, drafted in 2011, has a mid 90s fastball that reaches 98 when he really gears it up. He throws with a channeled effort, but has shown no issues with being able to hit the higher velocity late in games. The fastball velocity is inconsistent and ranges from as low as 89 at times. His change up is actually game ready but his breaking ball lags currently. He has mid rotation stuff or could end up as a power arm out of the pen if his breaking ball becomes above average.
14. J.R. Bradley, RHP 6/9/1992 H: 6’3″ W: 185 – This kid has a head start on some of the 2011 draftees, having been tested in Low-A as an 18 year old in 2011. The results were mixed but he’s still ahead of the development curve. Bradley is still maturing physically and the current inconsistent velocity of his 88-92 mph fastball should settle into the low 90s. It will be paired with an above average change up. He still needs to develop his secondary pitch and will need to decide if it will be the curveball or the slider.
15. Kyle Winkler, RHP 6/18/1990 H: 5’11″ W: 205 - Winkler was drafted in 2011 and was rehabbing surgery for a stress fracture in his elbow. So this ranking is based upon reports of the elbow being healthy and him being ready for 2012. His low to mid 90s fastball and hard slider give him two above average pitches. His changeup will need to be further developed for him to become a mid rotation starter. But the stuff is there. The elbow is a concern though.
16. Evan Marshall, RHP 4/18/1990 H: 6’2″ W: 210 - Marshall is a near ready RP with a power fastball and hard curve that is a major league strikeout pitch. He’s not going to have the stuff to make it in a rotation, but with the depth of the system, the Diamondbacks are viewing him as a bullpen arm already anyway. He could be ready in 2012 if they need him for a playoff run.
17. Wade Miley, LHP 11/13/1986 H: 6’1″ W: 220 - There isn’t a huge amount of upside in this 2008 1st round draft pick, but he has a solid arsenal across the board with a low 90s fastball, solid change and SL/CB combo. He’s not going to pile up strikeouts so his upside is a back end of the rotation starter. In this system, he’s going to have to solidify his spot now or he’ll soon be overtaken.
18. Fidel Pena, C/2B 7/19/1991 H: 5’10″ W: 175 - Pena was signed in 2009 as a MI, but has been tested at catcher and the transition is a work in progress. He has the athletic ability to make it work and has been able to retain his hitting ability so far. He’s made strides in AVG and power production each season with 2011 bringing a .308 AVG with 10 doubles, 6 triples and 5 HR while also stealing 12 bases. He’s still young and if he remains a catcher, he’s the one to watch.
19. Chris Owings, SS 8/1281991 H: 5’10″ W: 175 - Owings is the best bet currently in the system to make it to the majors as a SS. That’s based on his glove and not his bat. The 2009 draftee hit .246 with 29 doubles and 11 HR in 2011. Nice power, but a major step back in AVG which was driven by poor plate discipline that had his K rate jump to 23.6% and very low 2.7% walk rate leaves him in a poor position to advance to Arizona on the offensive side of the game. A high level turn around in approach is needed in 2012.
20. Bobby Borchering, OF 10/25/1990 H: 6’3″ W: 200 - The best power in the system came with 162 strikeouts in 2011. It supplied 24 HR but what Borchering is going to be able to accomplish at the plate at higher levels is becoming ever more a question. He’s been relegated to the OF, unable to handle 3B or even 1B. Something we pointed out would happen more than 2 years ago. As a LF he’s going to need to hit a ton. The chances of that happening are slim. But let’s not put him in the grave yet. The power is high end.
21.Michael Perez, C 8/7/1992 H: 5’11″ W: 180 - Perez was drafted out of PR in 2011. A lefty bat from behind the dish with nice power projection and very little to base it on. We’re going by reports and will be keeping a close eye on Perez in 2012 once he gets going. But there is defensive development needed despite what his bat will look like.
That’s the Diamondbacks Top 21. Guys like Ty Linton, Keon Broxton and especially David Nick, just missed the cut. I think I might regret holding Nick out and keeping Owings in. But we’ll be watching closely.
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