Over the coming weeks, Craig and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
The Diamondbacks seem to consistently have prospects come up and provide solid production at the Major League level on a year-to-year basis. Prior to the season, their system was led by three of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball. As the system stands now, they have almost excess outfield and pitching on the way to the Majors, to the point where they may be able to either move prospects, or more likely current major leaguers to fill other organizational needs.
Graduates in 2012
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who either reached AAA Reno or the Majors during the 2012 season. Generally, they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.
Bauer came into the season widely viewed as one of the top prospects in all of baseball, and it was expected that he would establish himself in the Diamondbacks rotation before the end of the season. Bauer started the season in AA, and was dominant there, earning himself a promotion to AAA after just a month. After 8 starts with Reno, Bauer found himself in the Diamondbacks' rotation.
Bauer made 4 starts with the Diamondbacks, but the concerns about Bauer seem to have been how efficient he can be when pitching. In his 4 starts, he only lasted more than four innings just one time, and was sent back to Reno in late July for the rest of the season. He rebounded over the last month of the season, including a 12 strikeout complete game in his second to last start of the year.
Based on how he pitched at the end of the season, I would be very surprised if he did not start the season in the Diamondbacks' rotation. To me, Bauer profiles as a top 40 starting pitcher right out of the gate, with the upside of a top 20 starter if he can keep his WHIP under control and last deep into games.
Skaggs started the year barely behind Bauer on many prospect lists, and appeared to have surpassed him by the end of it. He finished the year in the Majors despite starting in AA, finishing up with 6 starts for the Diamondbacks. He was the main prospect acquired in the Dan Haren trade three seasons ago, and has really blossomed into a top flight prospect in his own right.
I wrote back in August that I think he can profile be a #3 or #4 starter for fantasy purposes, and there is enough upside from him to be interesting on draft day. He has the potential to provide a solid to above-average strikeout rate, along with decent WHIP and ERA based on his previous performances in the minors. There may be some growing pains with Skaggs, as we saw a bit at the end of this season in the Majors, but he should be drafted as at least a streaming type in shallow leagues, and should definitely be owned in all deeper formats.
Adam Eaton (BBRef Statistics)
Eaton played in just 11 games with AA Mobile before being promoted to Reno, where he went on a complete offensive tear for the remainder of the season. He ended up winning the league's MVP award after leading the PCL in batting average (.381), runs scored (119), stolen bases (38) and finishing second in OPS (.995). His performance earned him a September call-up, where he posted a .259/.382/.412 slash line in 22 games, along with 19 runs, 2 home runs, and 2 stolen bases.
Eaton profiles in center field long-term, and with Saturday's trade of Chris Young looks to be the likely starter there on Opening Day 2013. While it is extremely unlikely he will hit as well as he did in the hitters' paradise in Reno, I could see an average in the .275-.285 range with a lot of runs scored, excellent stolen bases totals (25+), and at least a bit of power (between 5-10 homers a year). Between his high contact rates, and his decent walk rate, Eaton could be a very nice sleeper on draft day.
AA in 2012
These are prospects who reached AA during the 2012 season, playing for the Diamondbacks' Southern League affiliate in Mobile. These players could see time in Arizona in 2013, but generally will be more likely to appear in 2014.
Davidson was a 2009 draftee by the Diamondbacks out of a California high school, and has been plugging away a level per year. After a solid campaign in the Cal League in 2011, Davidson was sent to AA Mobile for the year, and may have cemented his status as a decent power bat at 3B in the long-term. He has hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last two seasons, including 23 last year at Mobile.
Time in Reno in 2013 may not tell us a ton about him offensively, but he appears to be a 20+ home run bat with at least a decent batting average. I like seeing that he has reduced his strikeout rate while moving up a level, and am hoping that will continue next year. It seems that the Diamondbacks believe he can be a 3B long-term, which would be his clearest path to the Majors with Paul Goldschmidt pretty locked in at 1B.
It's hard to remember sometimes that Holmberg was the extra piece in the trade that brought Daniel Hudson to the Diamondbacks. I was able to see Holmberg back in May, and was very impressed with the pitcher I saw. He finished up his stint in High-A with an 86/14 K/BB ratio, along with a 2.99 ERA in 12 starts. It is a bit concerning to see that his strikeout rate dropped substantially from High-A to AA (9.9 K/9 vs. 6.3 K/9) in slightly more innings in AA, but his walk rate held steady.
Holmberg finished the season as a 21 year old, still leaving him substantially ahead of the standard age-development curve. He'll likely return to AA for the start of the 2013 season, and if his strikeout rate returns to the levels it had been at every other stage since his trade to Arizona, we could be looking at a top 100 prospect by season's end.
Owings split his 2012 season between High-A and AA, posting excellent offensive numbers in the Cal League while only hitting reasonably once he moved to AA. Owings still combined to hit 17 home runs and a total of 48 extra base hits between the two stops, although the strikeouts are a bit concerning. Owings struck out 132 times between the two levels, while drawing just 24 walks.
Baseball America wrote last year that "he lacks patience and doesn't recognize pitches well", although his O-Swing% (swings on pitches outside the zone) dropped in the last month of the season, so there may be some improvement happening there. Either way, it doesn't appear to be really hindering his growth yet, but it could mean that he will return to AA to start 2013. There don't appear to be a lot of concerns about whether he can stay at shortstop long-term, which could definitely improve his value to fantasy owners in the future.
High-A in 2012
These are prospects who reached the Diamondbacks' California League affiliate in Visalia. These players are most likely at least 2 full seasons from reaching the Majors.
Anthony Meo (BBRef Statistics)
Meo was drafted in the 2nd round by the Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft, and was given a difficult Cal League assignment for his first full season as a professional. He ended up tied for the league lead in strikeouts with 153 in 140 innings pitched, but that came with 71 walks as well. It's hard to get a great read on his numbers due to being both in the Cal League and Visalia specifically, but you can see flashes of what he could end up being when you start looking at his game logs. He definitely had starts where he appeared to have put it all together, but there are concerns (mentioned in last year's Baseball America Prospect Handbook, as well as by Minor League Ball's John Sickels) that Meo may be better suited for a relief role long-term. He is worth keeping an eye on at this point, especially if he can show improved walk rates in AA without a drop in his high strikeout rate.
Low-A in 2012
These are prospects who finished their season with the Diamondbacks' Midwest League affiliate in South Bend. These players could be at least 3 full seasons from reaching the Majors.
The #7 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bradley was given a full season assignment in the Low-A Midwest League for 2012. He pitched well at times, and overall posted solid numbers across the whole of the season. He finished second in the league with 152 strikeouts in 136 innings pitched, but also had a league worst 84 walks. Lessening those concerns some are the fact that he had an excellent H/9 rate (5.8 per 9, second lowest among all starters in the Midwest League), and an excellent GO/AO rate (1.82).
Bradley is one of the few prospects in the minors with true #1 ace potential, although it could take a few more years to really start seeing it manifest on a consistent basis. I'll be very curious to see if the Diamondbacks might try to skip him past High-A, but given that so many of their other top pitching prospects have gone there, I don't view that as likely. I will be likely to move him up even more after the 2013 season if he can show even slight improvement in the walk rate so far. (Not like he will be particularly low as it is now).
Short Season Ball
The prospects in this group reached one of the short season leagues as their final stop of the season. For the Diamondbacks, this could mean the Arizona League, Northwest League, or Pioneer League
Stryker Trahan (BBRef Statistics)
The Diamondbacks' top draft pick this season, Trahan spent the season with their Arizona League affiliate. Drafted as a catcher, the biggest concern with Trahan right now is whether or not he will be able to stay at the position long term. The impression from the reports I have read and some of the videos I have seen of him indicate that even if he were moved from the position, his bat would likely still be good enough. In addition, if you haven't seen this video of him dealing with a runner attempting to score, you really should.
Looking at some of his numbers this year, I am drawn to the walk total. In 49 games this year, Trahan drew 40 walks against 48 strikeouts. While definitely not the end-all, be-all set of numbers (especially given the level), it is nice to see that he isn't just going up there hacking at everything. I will be interested to see if reports on his approach match up with the walks, or if he simply took advantage of poor pitching quality in one of the lowest levels of the league. Even with that, Trahan seems to me like a good candidate for a full-season assignment to start next year.
Others of Note
Ryan Wheeler (3B/1B) - Wheeler made it up to the Majors this year, but in 50 games had just 27 appearances in the field and just 119 plate appearances overall. He appears to have been used primarily as a pinch hitter/bench bat, and I'm not sure if that really changes for him in 2013. He could be a nice source of power in really deep leagues, but even that is only if he ends up with a starting job it seems.
Andrew Chafin (SP) - Chafin debuted this year in High-A, and ended up 3rd in the league with 150 strikeouts in just 122.1 innings pitched. He also had 69 walks in those innings however, including 5 different starts with at least 5 or more. He was used in relief during the middle of the season, and I wonder if that might be his long-term role as well.
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