by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Arizona’s system isn’t necessarily going to blow you away with talent, but there are a few intriguing names that could all take significant leaps forward in 2018. Pavin Smith, Jon Duplantier and Marcus Wilson could all emerge by mid-year, the question is who has the highest upside? Are there any other names worth tracking? Let’s take a look:
1) Pavin Smith – First Baseman
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+
Smith was selected seventh overall in the 2017 draft, and playing at Low-A he quickly displayed why he was considered one of the better bats in the draft class. Over 223 PA he hit .318, walking (27) more than he struck out (24) and displaying an ability to make consistent contact (6.7% SwStr%). The problem was the lack of power he displayed, though he did show a propensity for extra base hits:
- Doubles – 15
- Triples – 2
- Home Runs – 0
The belief is that there is more power for him to tap into, but that’s something we’ve seen from similar players in recent years (look at Josh Bell, for instance, who turned a strong approach and matured into power). Don’t write him off and assume the power won’t develop, as it’s easier to imagine more home runs than a player suddenly developing the approach/discipline Smith already owns.
2) Jon Duplantier – Right-Handed Pitcher
ETA – 2019
Grade – B+
In his first full season of professional baseball Duplantier split time between Single-A (72.2 IP) and High-A (63.1 IP) showing promise at each level:
- Single-A – 9.66 K/9, 1.86 BB/9, 50.0% GB%
- High-A – 12.36 K/9, 3.84 BB/9, 51.9% GB%
All told he generated a 14.0% SwStr%, and when coupled with the other skills there’s a lot to like. We also have to remember that he was older for the levels he pitched, having turned 23-years old during the year, and has battled arm issues in the past. This coming year, where he’ll likely start at Double-A, will be telling and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him emerge as the team’s top prospect.
3) Marcus Wilson – Outfielder
ETA – 2019
Grade – B
There are many prospects like Wilson out there, as no one is going to question the power/speed potential. Over 383 AB at Single-A he hit 9 HR with 15 SB, while also adding 21 doubles and 5 triples. The thing is, while many others have questions about their approach, Wilson was a different story:
- Strikeouts – 20.1%
- Walks – 12.3%
Those numbers could regress as he advances, but a 9.1% SwStr% supports the performance (and potentially an improvement). It’s a major step forward from 2016 (when he posted an 11.5% SwStr%), and if he can back it up you are going to see him start to fly up prospect rankings (in fact, he could move up to a B+ or A- by mid-year).
4) Daulton Varsho – Catcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – B-
He has the lineage, as the son of former catcher Gary Varsho, and performed well in his first taste of professional baseball (.311 with 7 HR and 7 SB over 212 PA at Low-A). Throw in 16 doubles and 3 triples and it’s clear that there’s power potential to go with a little bit more speed than a normal catcher. Playing as a 20-year old his plate discipline was also solid, with a 14.2% strikeout rate courtesy of a 9.1% SwStr%, so the package presents itself well (especially for a catcher). There are some questions about his arm and if he’s forced to move out from behind the plate the skill set likely wouldn’t look as promising. For now he’s an intriguing player to watch progress after being selected 68th overall in the 2017 draft.
5) Anthony Banda – Left-Handed Pitcher
ETA – Already Arrived
Grade – B-
Banda spent the year at Triple-A, before reaching the Majors, and struggled to a 5.39 ERA. While there is upside, he failed to show a standout skill:
- Strikeouts – 8.56 K/9 (10.3% SwStr%)
- Walks – 3.76 BB/9
- Groundballs – 42.0%
The lack of groundballs is a particular concern, especially since he’ll pitch half his games in Arizona. That said he’s a left-handed pitcher who throws hard, and that’s going to keep him on radars and afford him more opportunities to stick as a starting pitcher.
The Next Five:
6) Taylor Clarke – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+)
7) Domingo Leyba – Shortstop (Grade – C+)
8) Drew Ellis – Third Baseman (Grade – C+)
9) Jasrado Chisholm – Shotystop (Grade – C)
10) Jhoan Duran – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C)
Note – Part of the reason Duran isn’t ranked higher than this is that he hasn’t pitched above Low-A and carries a lot of risk. That said there’s significant upside, as the recently turned 20-year old displayed control (3.03 BB/9), groundballs (54.1%) and strikeout potential (14.3% SwStr%). He’s definitely a prospect to watch closely.
Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com
Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Top 10 Prospect Lists: