The 2017 Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

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1. Anthony Banda, LHP                                                      
Born: 08/10/93 Age: 23 Bats: L
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 18 R 41.7 2 3 5.83 4.98 9.29 5.18 21.40% 11.90% 0.65 50.10%
2013 19 R 60.7 3 4 4.45 5.39 6.68 3.71 17.10% 9.50% 1.04 62.30%
2014 20 A 118.7 9 6 3.03 3.36 8.87 3.41 23.20% 8.90% 0.46 75.00%
2015 21 A+ 151.2 8 8 3.32 3.31 9.02 2.31 24.30% 6.20% 0.47 69.30%
2016 22 AA 76.1 6 2 2.12 2.94 9.90 3.30 25.90% 8.60% 0.47 81.40%
2016 22 AAA 73.2 4 4 3.67 4.12 8.31 3.30 21.50% 8.50% 0.73 70.50%

Background: Fun Fact Part I: There have been 36 players drafted out of San Jacinto College, three of them becoming eventual big leaguers. Fun Fact Part II: None of those three players – Daniel Stumpf, David Rollins, and, Sean Nolin – own a positive career wins above replacement total. Ladies and gentlemen, here’s your eventual career WAR leader for San Jacinto College alums. Banda, a tenth round pick out of the tiny Texas school in 2012, continued to force scouts, analysts, and pundits to take notice after another strong showing in 2016. In 26 total starts, 13 coming with Mobile and 13 coming with Reno, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound southpaw posted an impressive 152-to-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 2.88 ERA. For his five-year pro career, Banda’s averaging 8.8 strikeouts and 3.2 walks per nine innings.

Projection: I was pretty high on the lanky lefty in last year’s book, writing:

“Another highly underrated prospect in the system. Banda does a whole lot of things surprisingly well – he’s always missed a strong number of bats; his control has taken a step forward into above-average territory, something that has happened since entering the organization, and he’s generated a good amount of action on the ground. The 2016 season will go a long way in determining the likelihood of him developing into a #3/#4-type arm – thanks to the challenge of Class AA – but he’s one to watch.”

Underrated no more.

There were 162 pitchers in the minor leagues to throw at least 140 innings last season. Banda’s strikeout percentage, 23.7%, ranked as the fifteenth best mark. As I remarked in last year’s book, Banda looks like a quality mid-rotation caliber arm.

Ceiling: 3.0- to 3.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

2. Socrates Brito, CF/RF                                               
Born: 09/06/92 Age: 24 Bats: L
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 R 305 15 5 4 0.312 0.357 0.444 0.133 6.90% 23.90% 105
2013 20 A 566 24 9 2 0.264 0.313 0.356 0.092 6.50% 21.90% 89
2014 21 A+ 561 30 5 10 0.293 0.339 0.429 0.135 6.40% 19.40% 99
2015 22 AA 522 17 15 9 0.300 0.339 0.451 0.151 5.60% 16.10% 122
2016 23 AAA 317 10 8 6 0.294 0.322 0.439 0.145 4.10% 18.90% 100

Background: The Diamondbacks have this keen ability to churn out some impressive, and often times underrated, outfield talent over the past several seasons – Adam Eaton, who was a personal prospect favorite of mine, Ender Inciarte, Gerardo Parra, A.J. Pollock, and David Peralta immediately jump to the forefront of my memory. Brito, who stands a well-built 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, is poised to be the next in line. A career .288/.331/.411 hitter in the minor leagues, Brito – once again – turned in another, well, Brito-like season with Reno in 2016. In 73 games with the Aces, he batted .294/.322/.439 with 10 doubles, eight triples, six homeruns, and seven stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was a perfect 100. Meaning: he was completely league average. He also made 97 trips to the plate for Arizona throughout the year as well, hitting a paltry .179/.196/.358.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“A member of the Bird Doggin’ It section in [2014’s book], Brito had a massive coming out party in 2015 – one that likely convinced the front office to include Ender Inciarte in the trade debacle with the Braves. Brito offers up a surprisingly well-rounded offensive toolkit: power, speed, and hit tool. His walk rate will ultimately eat into some of his overall value. But if he plays decent defense he should have no issues developing into a starter on a non-contending team.”

Let us do a quick comparison:

Player PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
Socrates Brito 2633 0.288 0.331 0.411 6.00% 19.75%
Ender Inciarte 2578 0.284 0.345 0.372 7.95% 12.37%

According to Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics, Brito’s defense in right field has been stellar throughout his minor league career. As long as he isn’t miscast as a center fielder, he should have no problems becoming a valuable contributor.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

3. Taylor Clarke, RHP                                                      
Born: 05/13/93 Age: 24 Bats: R
Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 23 A 28.2 3 2 2.83 2.78 7.53 1.57 21.20% 4.40% 0.31 72.50%
2016 23 AA 97.2 8 6 3.59 3.84 6.63 1.94 17.60% 5.10% 0.83 73.80%

Background: After appearing in 10 games with Towson during his freshman season, Clarke succumbed to Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2013 season. And when he popped back up on a mound again he was dealing gems at the College of Charleston. He would win 10 games on the back of a 2.51 ERA while averaging just less than eight strikeouts and 2.68 walks per nine innings. And that was just a taste of his potential at the small school. During his senior season he posted a video game-esque 143-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 1.73 ERA as he lost just one single game.

Arizona grabbed him in the third round two years ago, 76th overall.

Clarke was dominant during his debut in the Northwest League, averaging 11.6 strikeouts and just 1.7 walks per nine innings without allowing a run – earned or unearned – in 21.0 innings of work.

Last season he off in the Midwest League and finished it with 17 strong starts in Class AA. Overall, he threw a combined 149.0 innings with 118 strikeouts, 33 walks, and a 3.31 ERA.

Projection: You’re going to be hard-pressed to find any prospect – in any year – that had as dominant of a debut as Clarke did two years ago. And the magic continued for him last season as well.

Just to add some perspective to his year, just remember that within a year he went from facing off against the Colonial Athletic Association to squaring off – and succeeding – at the minors’ toughest test: Class AA. And he got better in the second half of the year. Over his final 60.2 innings, all coming with Mobile, he fanned 47 and walked just 10. He looks like a very safe, reliable mid-rotation arm with a little bit more upside if he can repeat this level of success after a league sees him more than once.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2017

 

 

4. Cody Reed, LHP                                                              
Born: 06/07/96 Age: 21 Bats: R
Height: 6-3 Weight: 245 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 19 A- 63.1 5 4 3.27 3.40 10.23 2.98 27.80% 8.10% 0.71 66.70%
2016 20 A 39.2 5 2 1.82 1.41 12.48 0.68 36.20% 2.00% 0.23 78.70%
2016 20 A+ 35.2 0 5 6.06 5.31 7.32 4.29 17.70% 10.40% 1.01 63.20%

Background: In an abbreviated, injury-interrupted season, the hefty lefty out of Ardmore, Alabama, ripped through the Midwest League for seven starts – he threw 39.1 innings with an absurd, Hall of Fame-like 55-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And then he got bumped up to the California League in early June. What followed were a few good moments, and a lot more bad ones. Reed finished the year with an aggregate 3.82 ERA across 75.1 innings while averaging 10.0 strikeouts and just 2.4 walks per nine innings. For his brief three-year career, he’s fanned 196 and walked 53 in 171.0 total innings.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Standing a solid 6-foot-3 and a portly 245 pounds, Reed finished the year with the third most strikeouts in the Northwest League last season, trailing only the Cubs’ Oscar De La Cruz and then-21-year-old rotation-mate Carlos Hernandez – despite throwing far less innings. And for a stretch beginning in late June, the big southpaw looked like one of the finest amateur hurlers on the planet – he posted a 42-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35.1 innings in five starts. The main concern, obviously, is his love for food. If he doesn’t eat himself out of the league, a la Calvin Pickering, Reed looks like a potential mid-rotation arm.”

He improved upon the immaculate strikeout-to-walk ratio during his stretch in Low Class A – which, let’s be honest, is freakish. But the undisclosed injury is…concerning, as is his weight. He may have as much talent as any pitcher in the system, but he has to prove some things still…

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

5. Luis Alejandro Basabe, 2B/SS                               
Born: 08/26/96 Age: 20 Bats: B
Height: 5-10 Weight: 160 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 19 A 275 16 4 4 0.310 0.412 0.467 0.157 13.50% 21.10% 155
2016 19 A 192 4 2 3 0.217 0.339 0.323 0.106 15.10% 31.30% 103

Background: Acquired along with Jose Almonte from the Red Sox in exchange for sidearm-slinging reliever Brad Ziegler in early July last season. Luis Alejandro Basabe, not to be confused with his twin brother – and former teammate – Luis Alexander Basabe, got off on a torrid start to the year, hitting a robust .310/.412/.467 with 16 doubles, four triples, four homeruns, and 14 stolen bases in 64 games with Boston’s Low Class A affiliate. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was a whopping 55% above the league average. After the midseason swap, however, Basabe’s numbers tanked – hard. In 45 games with the Diamondbacks’ Low Class A affiliate, the switch-hitting middle infielder batted league average-ish .217/.339/.323 as his strikeout rate ballooned to a career worst 31.3%.  Overall, the Venezuelan-born prospect batted .272/.381/.408 with 20 doubles, six triples, seven homeruns, and 17 stolen bases with a 134 wRC+.

Projection: In last year’s book, I ranked Luis Alejandro Basabe as a (slightly) better prospect than his twin brother, writing:

“An absolute OBP monster during his first three seasons in the minor leagues. Basabe is sporting an 18.1% career walk rate, including a 16.9% showing in the Gulf Coast League [in 2015]. He’s yet to show any type of power – literally, my younger sister probably packs more of a wallop – but a player with such a tremendous eye at the plate is at least intriguing.”

Well, the OBP monster continued to chew through Low Class A pitching last season as well. He walked 66 times in 467 plate appearances – or just about 14.1%. It was the fifth best showing among all Low Class A bats.

With respect to his post-trade collapse, it’s not at all a concern – even if his BABIP declined from .396 to .323. Basabe is was moving away from the only organization he’s known – as well as leaving his twin brother – and was probably pressing to make a good impression on his new club. I won’t say this often – and neither will many other talking heads – but Dave Stewart & Co. pulled off a pretty savvy trade.

Ceiling: 2.0- to 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2019

 

 

6. Alex Young, LHP                                                             
Born: 09/09/93 Age: 23 Bats: L
Height: 6-2 Weight: 205 Throws: L
 

Year Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2016 22 A 50.0 3 1 2.16 3.33 6.66 2.88 18.70% 8.10% 0.18 77.30%
2016 22 A+ 68.2 2 7 4.59 4.98 7.34 2.75 18.50% 7.00% 1.31 69.30%

Background: A reliever over his first two seasons at TCU, Young blossomed into a dominant ace for the Horned Frogs during his junior season. He threw 97.1 innings, which was more than his previous career total, with a sparkling 103-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 2.22 ERA and a 9-3 win-loss record. Arizona grabbed the Banda-sized southpaw in the second round, 43rd overall, and limited him to just seven innings during his debut. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop them from aggressively challenging him last season. Young opened his sophomore campaign on a tear in the Midwest League. He allowed just three runs over his first 19.0 innings and he kept cruising for another six starts. When the dust settled, he left Low Class A with a remarkable 2.16 ERA with a solid 37-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50.0.

Arizona bumped him up to Visalia in early July for his final 12 appearances, 11 of which were starts. He would post a similar strikeout-to-walk ratio (56-to-21), but he was hit quite a bit more frequently.

Overall, he finished his first full professional season with 118.2 innings, 93 strikeouts, 37 walks, and an aggregate 3.56 ERA.

Projection: Per the usual, here’s what I wrote about Young heading into the draft two years ago:

“A solid mid- to back-of-the-rotation caliber starting pitcher with less risk [because of] his lack of wear-and-tear on his left arm courtesy of spending a couple years in the bullpen. Young will miss some bats and do a solid job limiting free passes. He’s been a bit homer-prone this season, so that’ll bear watching. For comps, think Marco Gonzales or Chi Chi Gonzalez.”

A year later and I’m still sticking by that analysis.

A lot of his production in the California League was skewed by: (A) a hitter-friendly environment and (B) two terrible, 8-run clunkers. He didn’t miss many bats last season, but there’s probably more in the tank given his lack of a track record as a starting pitcher. He’s probably headed back to High Class A for another tune-up before getting the call to move up to Class AA.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

7. Dawel Lugo, 3B/SS                                                     
Born: 12/31/94 Age: 22 Bats: R
Height: 6-0 Weight: 190 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 17 R 183 2 5 2 0.224 0.275 0.329 0.106 3.80% 13.70% 82
2013 18 R 202 11 2 6 0.297 0.317 0.469 0.172 2.50% 13.90% 122
2014 19 A 498 17 2 4 0.259 0.286 0.329 0.070 3.60% 14.50% 76
2015 20 A 218 7 2 2 0.335 0.358 0.419 0.084 4.10% 17.00% 124
2015 20 A+ 276 9 2 2 0.219 0.258 0.292 0.073 3.30% 17.80% 68
2016 21 A+ 333 14 5 13 0.314 0.348 0.514 0.200 4.50% 12.30% 129
2016 21 AA 177 9 2 4 0.306 0.322 0.451 0.145 2.30% 8.50% 122

Background: Apparently the price for a replaceable, nondescript big league backup shortstop has gone up quite a bit over the past couple years – either that or the Blue Jays really, really wanted Cliff Pennington and his career .243/.310/.342 triple-slash line. Arizona, which was firmly under the Tony LaRussa/Dave Stewart watch, was not known as a particularly savvy – or astute – front office, but they pulled the snakeskin over the Blue Jays’ eyes on this one. Toronto agreed to part with the then-20-year-old Dominican-born shortstop/third baseman to secure the services of Pennington. As for Lugo, well, his production took a dramatic leap forward in 2016. Or more succinctly: the one area he had been lacking, majorly, took a huge leap forward.

His power.

Despite standing a solid 6-feet and 190 pounds, Lugo’s never really flashed a consistent amount of pop during his previous four seasons. He slugged .329 as a 17-year-old in the Gulf Coast League, flashed dramatically improved power as he posted a .437 mark the following year, but his next two seasons resulted in sub-.350 tallies.

And, viola, just like that Lugo went off and set career highs in doubles (23), triples (7), and homeruns (17) en route to hitting an impressive .311/.339/.492. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by more than 20%.

Projection: First, here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Let’s pretend for a moment that Lugo was simply a 20-year-old shortstop prospect making his debut in the Midwest League. Had he hit .335/.358/.419 he’d likely be the talk of the town. But, unfortunately, his failings the previous season – as well as the ill-timed move of bumping him up to High Class A – dampened his shine a bit. And that’s not including a BABIP hovering around .400. It’s still a tremendous value for what amounted to a couple weeks of Cliff Pennington and cash. Lugo shows six- to eight-HR potential, no patience, very little speed, and strong contact skills.”

Needless to say, the shine is back – and brighter than ever. So let’s take a deeper look into his numbers, shall we?

It’s important to recognize that the majority of Lugo production – including 14 of his 23 doubles and 13 of his 17 dingers – came during his tenure in High Class A. He, of course, spent half of his time playing in a notoriously hitter-friendly ballpark: Rawhide Ballpark.

Adjusting for his favorable home field, his triple-slash line goes from .314/.348/.514 to .300/.332/.484. Again, still strong production for a 22-year-old infielder in High Class A.

Outside of that, Lugo’s walk rates are terrible. The hit tool – and BABIP – seems repeatable. But he was shifted from shortstop to third base, where the offense clearly doesn’t play as well.

He is a fringy big league shortstop (with defensive woes) and a career minor league third baseman. Hopefully the franchise’s new regime realizes that too.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

8. Victor Reyes, OF                                                            
Born: 10/05/94 Age: 22 Bats: B
Height: 6-3 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 19 A 361 13 0 0 0.259 0.309 0.298 0.039 6.60% 16.10% 73
2015 20 A 458 17 5 2 0.311 0.343 0.389 0.078 4.80% 12.70% 112
2016 21 A+ 509 11 12 6 0.303 0.349 0.416 0.113 6.50% 15.30% 107

Background: As I have noted elsewhere throughout – as well as in last year’s book too – the Diamondbacks, for whatever reason, have the uncanny ability to develop these overlooked, underrated, incredibly valuable outfielders over the past several years. I opined that Socrates Brito was likely the next in line to top 2.0-wins above replacement. But further down the list is Victor Reyes, a 6-foot-3, 170-pound switch-hitting outfielder who was acquired from the Braves in exchange for the 75th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Reyes spent last season hitting .303/.349/.416 with 11 doubles, 12 triples, six homeruns, and 20 stolen bases as a 21-year-old in the California League. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 7%.

Projection: Way back in my first book for the 2014 season I optimistically ranked the Venezuelan-born outfielder as the Braves’ 11th best prospect, writing:

“A long term project, Reyes already shows a solid hit tool that could develop into an above-average skill. His plate discipline has been better than expected for a teenager (68-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio through two seasons). The power remains a question, though.”

A year later I wrote that “he’s a 2015 Breakout Candidate.” He promptly went out and batted .311/.343/.389 with 17 doubles, five triples, two homeruns, and 13 stolen bases.

Reyes can fill up a stat sheet as well as anyone in the low levels of the minors. His power ticked up a bit, which isn’t surprising given that he spent half of his time in Visalia’s hitter-friendly ballpark, but he did manage to bat .309/.350/.422 on the road. I like him – a lot. And I do think he could eventually morph into a solid 2.0-win player, but there’s some risk. His showing in Class AA will go a long ways into determining if he can achieve that ceiling.

Oh, and by the way, he batted a remarkable .340/.379/.482 over his final 64 games with the Rawhide. Big, big time sleeper here.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

9. Jasrado Chisholm, SS                                             
Born: 02/01/98 Age: 19 Bats: L
Height: 5-11 Weight: 165 Throws: R
 

Year Age Level PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2016 18 R 270 12 1 9 0.281 0.333 0.446 0.165 7.00% 27.00% 95

Background: The international free agent class two years ago saw several Bahamian-born prospects ink deals with big league organizations: Lucius Fox, Larry Alcime Jr., Kyle Simmons, and Jasrado Chisholm. But it was Chisholm, who received the second lowest bonus and far less than the $4 million deal Fox signed with Giants, who’s proving to be the best of the bunch. While Fox struggled with injury and ineffectiveness, and Simmons and Alcime have not hit in the foreign rookie leagues, Chisholm jumped straight into the Pioneer League, a “Rookie Advanced” level, last season and batted .281/.333/.446 with 12 doubles, a triple, nine homeruns, and 13 stolen bases. His overall production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus, was 5% below the league average mark.

Projection:  While the over production seems a bit underwhelming, two factors have to be considered:

  1. There were only eight qualified players under the age of 19 in the Pioneer League; Chisholm being one of them. Now of those eight, his production ranked fifth.
  2. His production over his final eight games really skewed his numbers. Ignoring that stretch, here’s his triple-slash line: .305/.358/.473 with a 108 wRC+.

Chisholm struggled against fellow southpaws, so that is going to have to improve. But the overall toolkit is solid.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

10. Anfernee Grier, CF                                                
Born: 10/13/95 Age: 21 Bats: R Top CALs: N/A

 

Height: 6-1 Weight: 180 Throws: R

Background: Fun Fact: In their history the Diamondbacks have taken three outfielders in the opening round of the draft – Anfernee Grier, A.J. Pollock, and Carlos Quentin; all three of whom came from the collegiate ranks. Grier looked a bit overwhelmed at the plate during his freshman season at Auburn University in 2014, hitting a completely mediocre .255/.325/.329 with just nine extra-base hits in 171 plate appearances. But the toolsy outfielder had a coming out party of sorts during his sophomore campaign. Grier slugged .323/.391/.445 with a whopping 22 doubles, three triples, and one homerun while swiping nine bags (in 16 attempts). He also earned a roster spot on Team USA where he would record only 18 at bats.

If his sophomore campaign was a break out, which it was, then Grier had one helluva second act in 2016.

He put together an impressive .366/.457/.576 with eight doubles, three triples, and a whopping 12 dingers in just 56 games.

Arizona grabbed him with the 39th overall pick, which happened to be their first selection, and sent him to the low levels for a brief 24-game debut between Missoula and Hillsboro.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote before the draft last season:

“So now the bad news: Grier has a gaping hole in his swing, one that’s led to 140 strikeouts in his 736 career plate appearances – or just under 20% for his career. And here’s the more troubling issue: he’s shown no improvement over his career either.

And just for comparison’s sake, consider this: Based on Grier’s 2016 stats (strikeout and walk rates, and triple-slash line) the closest matches are Adam Walker, a fringy big leaguer, Caleb Adams, and Nick Banks. Whomp, whomp…

Grier looks like a potential fourth outfielder, maybe a lesser version of Mike Cameron if everything works out well.”

For what it’s worth, I pegged the Auburn slugger as a third round pick; he also fanned in just about 28% of his plate appearances during his debut.

 

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Author’s note: A special hat tip the following websites for the use of the their statistics – fangraphs, baseballreference, baseballprospectus, statcorner, and ClayDavenport.com



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.