The 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

 

Announcement: After the (surprising) success of last year’s, I’m proud to announce this season’s book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook (click here), is now available in paperback! This year’s edition features:

  • An Introduction to CAL: the cutting-edge prospect comparison system
  • Analysis for more than 900 prospects
  • Ranking the Top 250 Prospects
  • Ranking the Farm Systems
  • Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2015 

 

 

 

1. Archie Bradley, RHP
Born: 08/10/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-4   Weight: 235   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: Aaron Sanchez, Cody Scarpetta, Enny Romero,Jesse Biddle, Trevor Reckling
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 A+ 28.7 1.26 2.48 13.5 37.4% 3.1 8.7% 0.31 89.0%
2013 20 AA 123.3 1.97 3.04 8.7 23.5% 4.3 11.7% 0.36 81.2%
2014 21 AA 54.7 4.12 4.23 7.6 19.2% 5.9 15.0% 0.33 70.9%
2014 21 AAA 24.3 5.18 3.78 8.5 20.4% 4.4 10.6% 0.00 66.7%

Background: Bradley, my #12 prospect heading into last season, was shut down in late April with a “minor flexor strain” in his pitching elbow, an injury that forced him to miss nearly two full months and eventually limit his 2014 campaign to just 79.0 innings above rookie ball. Bradley, who was part of the now famous 2011 draft (which featured Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon, George Springer, Jose Fernandez, and Sonny Gray among others), has long been considered one of the top young pitching prospects in the game. As a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, the 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out 152 in 136 innings and then followed that up with a combined 1.84 ERA between the California and Southern Leagues the following year. For his career, Bradley has struck out 24.9% and walked 12.7% of the hitters he’s faced.

Projection: As tantalizing as he seems to be – and, really, there’s an awful lot to like – Bradley’s far from a complete and/or finished product. The main culprit: his control hasn’t progressed since entering pro ball four years ago. And, granted, his season was interrupted by an injury, but Bradley still managed to issue free passes to nearly 14% of the batters he faced. He has front-of-the-rotation potential, but it’s certainly far from a slam dunk.

Ceiling:  4.5- to 5.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

2. Yasmany Tomas, 3B/LF/RF
Born: 11/14/90 Age: 24 Height: 6-2   Weight: 230   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: N/A

Background: The latest high profile Cuban-import to land stateside, Tomas signed for six years and $68.5 million, barely surpassing that of last year’s big import, Jose Abreu, though it fell short of the deal handed out by the Red Sox to Rusney Castillo. Playing for the Industriales since 2008, though he missed the 2010-2011 season, Tomas tallied 30 homeruns and 104 RBIs in 205 games.

Projection: Typically, data for incoming Cuban players is scant. And Tomas is no different. ESPN reported that the 6-foot-2 outfielder hit .289 and slugged .538 with 15 homeruns in 81 games during his final season in the Serie Nacional. For comparison’s sake, during their final respective seasons in Cuba, Jose Abreu hit .382/.535/.735, Yoenis Cespedes slugged .333/.424/.667, and Yasiel Puig batted .330/.430/.581.

Tomas’ hit tool seems to be the worst of the bunch, but he’s still plenty young. The power potential is intriguing. Think something along the lines of .260/.320/.470 with 25 homeruns.

Ceiling:  3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

3. Braden Shipley, RHP
Born: 02/22/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-3   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                         Top CALs: Dylan Axelrod, Donald Julio, Sammy Solis,Mike Tarsi, Eddie Butler
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 20.7 2.61 4.35 7.0 19.5% 3.5 9.8% 0.87 84.2%
2014 22 A 45.7 3.74 2.83 8.1 21.7% 2.2 5.8% 0.20 64.2%
2014 22 A+ 60.3 4.03 4.39 10.1 27.0% 3.1 8.3% 1.04 70.5%
2014 22 AA 20.0 3.60 4.84 8.1 22.0% 4.5 12.2% 1.35 80.8%

Background: One of my favorite collegiate prospects over the past several years, Shipley began his career at the University of Nevada as an everyday player, hitting a more than respectable .287/.366/.375 as true freshman while appearing in just five games on the mound. He reversed course the following year and the rest, as they say, is history. In his first full season in Nevada’s rotation, Shipley struck out 88, walked 40, and posted a 2.20 ERA in 98.1 innings, placing him squarely among the top prospects heading into his junior year. And he delivered. Shipley averaged nearly a punch per inning while posting a sub-3.0 walk rate, which would inspire Arizona to take the 6-foot-3 right-hander with the 15th pick in the draft. Shipley made stops at three different levels last season, totaling 127 strikeouts, 42 walks, and a 3.89 FIP between the Midwest, California, and Southern Leagues.

Projection: Prior to the 2013 draft I wrote,

“[A]s a former infielder Shipley is likely more athletic than most hurlers and the wear-and-tear on his right arm isn’t as great either. He looks like a decent bet to develop into a mid rotation-type guy with a peak as a good #2. He could have a higher ceiling than any college pitcher not named Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel because of a lack of experience.”

I also pegged him as a 3.5-win player. Nearly two years later, it still sounds spot on, though I’d grade him down slightly. Shipley’s battled some homerun issues throughout his young career. But the control/command and the ability to miss bats have above-average potential.

Ceiling:  3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

4. Aaron Blair, RHP
Born: 05/26/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-5   Weight: 230   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: Jose Guzman, Tyler Thornburg, Chad Thall, Scott Mitchinson, Adalberto Flores
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 17.7 3.57 2.72 6.6 17.1% 2.0 5.3% 0.00 58.3%
2014 22 A 35.7 4.04 3.01 11.1 29.3% 3.5 9.3% 0.50 56.5%
2014 22 A+ 72.3 4.35 3.87 10.1 25.9% 2.6 6.7% 0.75 69.1%
2014 22 AA 46.3 1.94 3.49 8.9 25.3% 3.1 8.8% 0.78 87.3%

Background: The highest drafted player out of Marshall University – by a long shot – Arizona grabbed Blair in the supplemental first round two years ago, 36th overall pick. The Nevada-born right-hander continued his quick ascension through the minor leagues, making six starts in the Midwest League, 13 more with Visalia in High Class A, and another eight in the Southern League. He finished the season with 171 strikeouts, tied for third most in the minors, 51 walks, and a 3.56 ERA in 154.1 combined innings.

Projection:  The #19 prospect on my Collegiate Big Board two years ago, I wrote at that time: “There is some concern that while Blair’s ability to miss bats has improved during the past two seasons, his control has failed to do the same, basically remaining average-ish. He profiles as a decent option in a big league rotation with a ceiling as a #3 and a floor as a #5.” I closed it out by noting that, “According to CollegeSplits.com, only 2.4% of balls in play against RHs is pulled to third base.” I also slapped a first/second round grade on him.

Nearly two full seasons later, Blair’s control has improved – he’s averaged 3.0 BB/9 and owns a walk percentage that’s a smidgeon over 8% – and he’s continued to miss about a bat per inning. He still looks a strong bet to develop into a #3-type starting pitcher, maybe even a tick or two higher.

Ceiling:  3.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

5. Jake Lamb, 3B
Born: 10/09/90 Age: 24 Height: 6-3 Weight: 220   B/T: L/R                                                            Top CALs: Mike Olt, Danny Valencia, Pedro Alvarez, Marvin Lowrance, J.D. Davis
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 21 R 315 .329 .390 .539 .930 .211 7.6% 16.2% 134
2013 22 A+ 283 .303 .424 .558 .982 .255 17.0% 24.7% 156
2014 23 AA 439 .318 .399 .551 .949 .233 11.4% 22.6% 162
2014 23 AAA 21 .500 .571 .889 1.460 .389 14.3% 19.0% 276

Background: The #4 player on my Top 25 Breakout Prospects for 2014, Lamb decimated the Southern League pitching to the tune of .318/.399/.551 while setting career bests in doubles (35), homeruns (14), and overall production; his 162 wRC+ total was the fifth best mark in all the minors. Arizona bumped him up to the PCL in early August for five games before calling the former sixth round pick up to the big leagues, where he would spend the final seven weeks of the season hitting a less-than-impressive .230/.263/.373.

Projection: Lamb’s big league debut didn’t go as well as one would have liked – or as expected for that matter. Owner of a .321/.406/.553 career minor league triple-slash line, the lefty-swinging third baseman has an extended history of strong walk rates, some questionable strikeout totals, and above-average pop. Best case scenario: Lamb develops into an above-average hitter capable of posting a wRC+ in the 115-range with 20-HR pop and slightly below-average defense. He could be a valuable trade commodity if the Yasmany Tomas experiment at third base works.

Ceiling:  2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

6. Brandon Drury, 3B
Born: 08/21/92 Age: 22 Height: 6-2   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: Brandon Laird, Aderlin Rodriguez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Blake DeWitt, Wilmer Flores
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 A 480 .229 .270 .333 .603 .103 4.2% 15.2% 65
2013 20 A 583 .302 .362 .500 .862 .198 8.1% 15.8% 138
2014 21 A+ 478 .300 .366 .519 .885 .219 8.6% 15.9% 128
2014 21 AA 116 .295 .345 .476 .821 .181 6.0% 16.4% 128

Background: The overlooked piece of the Justin Upton deal with Atlanta two offseasons ago, Drury continued to hit doubles at an impressive pace. After slugging a MiLB-leading 51 two-baggers in 2013, the former 13th round pick hit another 42 last season, good enough for the sixth most among all prospects. Overall, Drury hit a combined .299/.362/.510 with one triple and a career best 23 homeruns to go along with all the doubles. His aggregate production topped the league average mark by 28%.

Projection: Drury was nothing more than an intriguing low level wild card bat when he was acquired from Atlanta. He was coming off of an unimpressive first stint in the Sally, when he hit .229/.270/.333, and looked like the quintessential throw-in. Since then, however, he’s posted consecutive OPSs of .862 and .872 while proving himself in the Midwest and California Leagues.

CAL remains a bit pessimistic, linking him to only one (potential) regular MLB player in Lonnie Chisenhall, who’s barely been a league average guy. The power has a chance to develop into 20- to 25-HR territory.

Ceiling:  2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Late 2015/Early 2016

 

 

7. Touki Toussaint, RHP
Born: 06/20/96 Age: 19 Height: 6-3  Weight: 185   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: Jordan Yamamoto, Luis Orozco, Callan Pearce, Edward Salinas, Juan Sanchez
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 13.7 12.51 8.35 9.9 20.6% 4.0 8.2% 3.29 40.0%
2014 18 R 15.0 4.80 4.56 10.2 23.0% 7.2 16.2% 0.00 57.1%

Background: The late comer to baseball made for a quick study. Toussaint didn’t start playing America’s Pastime until the age 11 and was selected as the 16th overall pick seven years later. The 6-foot-3 right-hander split his debut between both levels of rookie ball, totaling 32 strikeouts, 18 walks, and an 8.48 ERA..

Projection: A wiry right-hander with an electric arm, much of Toussaint’s issues during his debut can be attributed to a two-game stretch with Missoula when he surrendered five homeruns in five-and-two-thirds innings. The control waivered at times, but the kid showed he’s going to miss a lot of bats, especially in the lower minors.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

8. Robbie Ray, LHP
Born: 10/01/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-2   Weight: 195   B/T: L/L                                                            Top CALs: Richard Castillo, James Parr, Wade Davis, Homer Bailey, Jordan Walden
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A+ 105.7 6.56 5.18 7.3 17.7% 4.2 10.1% 1.19 59.7%
2013 21 A+ 84.0 3.11 3.97 10.7 29.3% 4.4 12.0% 0.96 81.2%
2013 21 AA 58.0 3.72 3.55 9.3 23.5% 3.3 8.2% 0.62 71.1%
2014 22 AAA 100.3 4.22 4.05 6.7 17.2% 4.0 10.1% 0.54 70.5%

Background: This, folks, is not a recipe for long term success: Ray was originally dealt to Detroit as the centerpiece in the Doug Fister trade and nearly a year to the day later is dealt to Arizona for shortstop Didi Gregorius, who was previously acquired in the Trevor Bauer deal. For those keeping track at home: Ray was dealt for a legitimate #2/#3-type pitcher and Gregorius was dealt for a player who’s already a #4 starting pitcher with plenty of upside. As for Ray and the Diamondbacks, well, GM Dave Stewart helped to turn a poor deal into a pitcher with slightly lower potential than the one they initially owned (Trevor Bauer).

Ray spent 2014 jockeying between Toledo and Detroit, where he was underwhelming at one and flat out disappointing at the other. Either way, though, Detroit had to be left with a feeling of buyer’s remorse. Ray finished his time with Toledo with a 4.05 FIP, the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career, and another walk rate hovering around 4..

Projection: Prior to the disappointing campaign, Ray used his low 90s fastball to average a punch out per inning with subpar control. But last season it tumbled all the way down to 6.73 strikeouts per nine innings. He rebounded playing for the Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, still has plenty of youth on his side, and will now spend his time pitching against eight hitters as opposed to the AL’s nine. As for a ceiling, CAL remains optimistic, linking him to a trio of big league arms: Wade Davis, Homer Bailey, and Jordan Walden.

Ceiling:  2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

9. Nick Ahmed, SS
Born: 03/15/90 Age: 25 Height: 6-3   Weight: 205   B/T: R/R                                                            Top CALs: Brock Holt, Justin Sellers, Tyler Saladino, Diory Hernandez, Brodie Greene
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 21 R 284 .262 .346 .379 .725 .117 10.6% 16.2% 99
2012 22 A+ 571 .269 .337 .391 .728 .123 8.6% 17.9% 104
2013 23 AA 538 .236 .288 .324 .613 .088 6.1% 13.4% 77
2014 24 AAA 452 .312 .373 .425 .798 .113 8.2% 12.2% 110

Background: Also part of the Justin Upton package, the former University of Connecticut standout had his best season to date, hitting .312/.373/.425 with doubles power and a decent eye at the plate during his first taste of Class AAA. Ahmed also enjoyed two cups of Arizona’s finest coffee, though he apparently didn’t enjoy the flavor too well. For his career, the 6-foot-3 shortstop owns a .269/.333/.378 minor league line in nearly 1,900 trips to the plate.

Projection: A solid defender who won’t kill his team when it’s his turn to dig in. Ahmed doesn’t have a standout offensive tool, but could utilize his speed as a 25-stolen base option with BABIP-inflated production. There are plenty of similar players that received more than a few chances – Pete Kozma, Zack Cozart, and Adeiny Hechevarria – but he’s buried behind Chris Owings. An attractive middle infield option for teams looking on the cheap.

Ceiling:  1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

10. Peter O’Brien, C/1B/3B
Born: 07/15/90 Age: 24 Height: 6-3   Weight: 215   B/T: R/R                                                           Top CALs: Yan Gomes, Mark Reynolds, Tom Murphy, Jon Fixler, Travis D’Arnaud
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 22 A 226 .325 .394 .619 1.012 .294 9.7% 25.7% 181
2013 22 A+ 280 .265 .314 .486 .800 .221 6.8% 27.1% 122
2014 23 A+ 119 .321 .353 .688 1.040 .366 3.4% 24.4% 189
2014 23 AA 294 .245 .296 .555 .851 .310 5.4% 26.2% 131

Background: O’Brien, who spent three years at Bethune-Cookman and one more at the University of Miami, was the rare high round collegiate senior, being nabbed in the second round by the Yankees in 2012. And during his first two seasons in pro ball, the 6-foot-3 backstop has showcased a similar skill set: above-average power, decent walk rates, and a questionable hit tool. He owns a career .267/.319/.534 minor league triple-slash line and has averaged one homerun every 16 at bats. A nice pickup from the Yankees for veteran infielder Martin Prado, O’Brien appeared in just four games after the acquisition, the result of taking a foul ball off the shin. He finished last season with a .271/.316/.594 line and a career best 34 homeruns, the fifth best mark in all the minors.

Projection: New General Manager Dave Stewart dealt incumbent starting catcher Miguel Montero to the Cubs as part of the organization’s busy offseason, leaving O’Brien as a dark horse candidate to become the Opening Day starting backstop, though he has plenty of questions about his work behind the plate. CAL’s a pretty big fan of the former Hurricane, linking him to Yan Gomes, Mark Reynolds, and Travis d’Arnaud. In terms of offensive ceiling think along the lines of a late-career Reynolds – a low average, low OBP power bat.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

**All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs**



About

After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.