Top 10 Prospects (2020): Arizona Diamondbacks: A Rebuilding System Loaded With Talent, Though Not Necessarily Close

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The Arizona Diamondbacks have several talented offensive prospects, all of whom could develop into top end talent. While we’ll have to remain patient and give them time to develop, the potential is there. they are potentially lacking in pitching talent, though there are a few intriguing names that could emerge there as well.

Who are the names to know? Who has the highest upside? Let’s take a look:

1) Daulton Varsho – Catcher
ETA – 2020
Grade – B+

There are questions as to whether or not Varsho will stick behind the plate, as the Diamondbacks began trying him at other positions in order to expedite his arrival in the Majors and keep his offensive potential in the lineup regularly.  It was only four games in centerfield, but it’s a start and could be a sign of things to come. 

Varsho flashed power, speed and a strong approach while spending the season at Double-A (452 PA):

  • Power – 47 extra base hits (25 doubles, 4 triples, 18 HR)
  • Speed – 21-for-25 in SB
  • Approach – 13.9% strikeout rate, courtesy of an 8.1% SwStr%

While that potential would make him an elite catcher, not only do the Diamondbacks currently have Carson Kelly but why would they risk having him sit a few times per week?  He has all the makings of a strong Major League performer, with the ability to go 20/20 with a solid average.  Regardless of the position the bat makes him one to option.

2) Kristian Robinson – Outfielder
ETA – 2022
Grade – B+

Robinson is a toolsy outfielder who hit .282 with 14 HR (as well as 13 doubles and 2 triples) and 17 SB over 291 PA split between Low-A (189 PA) and Single-A (102 PA).  His average did crash after the promotion, and part of that could’ve been due to luck (AVG // BABIP):

  • Low-A – .319 // .398
  • Single-A – .217 // .263

His SwStr% didn’t take a meteoric after moving up (13.2% at Single-A), and considering he played the year at 18-years old it’s not a completely discouraging mark.  There’s power for him to tap into as he continues to mature, but as he develops physically the speed will likely fade (we’d expect him to put on some weight, as he’s currently listed at 6’3” and 190 lbs.).  While he could steal 20+ bases per season right now, long-term he should be more of a 30/10 type player. 

3) Alek Thomas – Outfielder
ETA – 2022
Grade – B+

Playing between Single-A (402 PA) and High-A (104 PA) Thomas hit .300 with 10 HR and 15 SB.  There are exciting tools for a player who won’t turn 20-years old until the end of April, but a significant jump in his strikeout rate is something that needs to be monitored:

  • Single-A – 17.9%
  • High-A – 31.7%

While the results were dramatically different, his SwStr% was 12.2% at Single-A before leaping to 15.4% upon his promotion.  It’s not a huge sample size, but with his SwStr% given the level of competition it’s something that can’t be ignored.  His overall upside may be the highest in the system (think a 15/25 type player), but he first needs to prove that he can make consistent contact against more advanced pitching.

4) Corbin Carroll – Outfielder
ETA – 2022
Grade – B+

Selected 16th in the first round of the 2019 draft, Carroll could quickly make those teams that passed over him regret it.  The biggest concern was his size (he’s listed at 5’10”), though the upside is similar (or arguably greater) than Alek Thomas’.  He hit .299 with 2 HR and 18 SB in 186 PA in his first taste of professional baseball, as there’s no questioning his speed (he went 18-for-19 on SB attempts) and there’s ample power to start tapping into (he added 9 doubles and 7 triples).

There was plenty of swing and miss (14.1% SwStr% led to a 22.0% strikeout rate), but part of that may have been due to being too patient (15.6% walk rate).  As he learns to be a little bit more aggressive (or should we say if he learns) he could start tapping into his power quickly, leading to him getting more and more attention.  Getting him this season may be your only chance to buy at a discount.

5) Geraldo Perdomo – Shortstop
ETA – 2021
Grade – B

The question facing Perdomo is if he’ll develop enough power in order to thrive at the highest levels, as he hit .275 with 3 HR and 26 SB over 499 PA split between Single-A (385 PA) and High-A (114 PA).  There’s no questioning his approach/understanding of the strike zone given these numbers:

  • Single-A – 56 K vs. 56 BB
  • High-A – 11 K vs. 14 BB

Expected to stick at shortstop, if he could mature into a 12-15 HR threat with his speed he’ll be an impressive prospect.  Having turned 20-years old this offseason there is time, but even if he’s at 6-9 HR he can’t be ignored.

The Next Five:

6) Corbin Martin – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – B-) – Acquired from the Astros, Martin reached the Majors in 2019 but ultimately was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery.  That’s going to cost him most, or all, of 2020 and does bring questions after he struggled with his control in ’19 (4.34 BB/9 over 37.1 IP at Triple-A, 5.59 over 19.1 IP in the Majors).  You do have to wonder if the injury had caused issues with his stuff (his groundball rate was also down), and when healthy he showed tremendous upside.  For now we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but he’s on shaky ground.

7) Luis Frias – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Frias missed all of ’17 and only threw 54.2 innings in ’18, so it was easy for him to have fallen off maps.  While it was only 76.1 innings split between Low-A (49.2 IP) and Single-A (26.2 IP) his 11.91 K/9 and 3.42 BB/9 are promising, especially given the missed time, and a 17.3% SwStr% shows just how electric his stuff could be.  Some will be concerned that he could ultimately transition to the bullpen, but he could improve by a full grade, if not more, this season and potentially be among the breakout prospects of 2020.

8) Levi Kelly – Right-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Playing the year at Single-A Kelly showed decent skills, though his strikeout rate was clearly the strongest, with an 11.30 K/9, 3.50 BB/9 and 46.5% groundball rate.  There’s a chance that his stuff could play better coming out of the bullpen, given his delivery and arsenal, but if he can continue developing his changeup he has the potential to stick in the rotation and thrive.

9) JB Bukauskas – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C+) – Acquired as part of the Zack Greinke trade, Bukauskas saw his control disappear in ’19, with a 5.73 BB/9 over 92.2 IP at Double-A.  Primarily a two-pitch pitcher, the fastball/slider combination could lead to him being a dominant force in short stints.  The Diamondbacks have reason to try and develop him in the rotation, but if the control continues to struggle a move will be made.

10) Blake Walston – Left-Handed Pitcher (Grade – C) – Reports have the 26th overall pick in the 2019 draft struggling with his velocity during the spring, which may have been why he wasn’t selected earlier.  We’ll have to see that it isn’t a continuing issue, though he did show surprising control for a 6’5” pitcher in his first taste of professional baseball (1.64 BB/9 over 11.0 IP).  If the velocity is there, he could easily rise into the C+/B- range.

Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 prospect rankings:

AL EastAL CentralAL West
Baltimore OriolesChicago White SoxHouston Astros
Boston Red SoxCleveland IndiansLos Angeles Angels
New York YankeesDetroit TigersOakland A's
Tampa Bay RaysKansas City RoyalsSeattle Mariners
Toronto Blue JaysMinnesota TwinsTexas Rangers
NL EastNL CentralNL West
Atlanta BravesChicago CubsArizona Diamondbacks
Miami MarlinsCincinnati RedsColorado Rockies
New York MetsMilwaukee BrewersLos Angeles Dodgers
Philadelphia PhilliesPittsburgh PiratesSan Diego Padres
Washington NationalsSt. Louis CardinalsSan Francisco Giants

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