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Prospect Profiles: Arizona Diamondbacks

Prospect Profiles: Arizona Diamondbacks Image via Sportsgraphics36


A look at the farm system of the Arizona Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks enter 2017 with many question marks. One thing is for certain, however. The minor league system is in bad shape. Only the Los Angeles Angels rated lower in all of baseball. Even before the trades of Dansby Swanson, Aaron Blair, and Ender Iciarte for Shelby Miller last year, things weren’t looking too bright down on the farm. Now with those two gone, there is an even bleaker outlook.

The Diamondbacks current Top 10 prospects heading into 2017 is led by:

Anthony Banda, LHP

Anthony Banda was actually taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 33rd round (994th overall) out of Sinton H.S. in Sinton, TX in 2011, but he did not sign. The very next season, the Milwaukee Brewers made him their 10th round selection (335th overall) out of San Jacinto College in Houston. Banda eventually signed with the team. Recently traded Mitch Haniger was acquired by the D’Backs along with Banda in a deadline deal with the Brewers in 2014. Outfielder Gerrardo Parra went to the Milwaukee Brewers in the exchange.

Banda features a fastball that was averaging 89-92 MPH, but since 2015 has jumped to 92-95 (topping out at 96), and also throws a slow, sometimes plus, mid-70s curveball and what is described as a firm change-up that is at least average and has some downward movement. In his only year at San Jacinto, he helped lead his team to a runner-up finish in the Junior College World Series. He logged 64.2 innings pitched during the season with a 1.95 ERA. He gave up only 34 hits in those 64.2 innings while striking out 62 batters, but he also walked 31 batters. Outside of the walks, it was a very solid showing and led to him being picked by the Brewers.

The southpaw struggled out of the gate to begin his professional career. Before coming to the Diamondbacks, he logged 186 innings in the Brewers system, compiling a 4.40 ERA while averaging a WHIP of 1.60. He did manage to strikeout 171 batters, however.

Since coming to Arizona, the results have been much better. So much better in fact that he was able to go from Low-A in 2014 to Triple-A last season while soaring up the prospect ranks, going from not even in the Top 10 this year, to number one in the system. In his year and a half with the Diamondbacks, he has logged 336.2 innings pitched with a 2.94 ERA. His ability to start throwing more strikes has led to positive regression to the walk rate, while producing more strikeouts and fewer hits than in his previous 2 1/2 years in the Brewers system.

Since joining the Diamondbacks organization, Banda has turned his future outlook of a number five type starter or bullpen arm into a legit middle of the rotation guy. He has a very smooth, repeatable delivery and sequences his pitches well. He’ll try to make the team out of camp, but he should make his debut at some point this season.

ETA: 2017

Dawel Lugo, 3B

Dawel Lugo, originally signed as a shortstop, played mainly third base last year, and put together a break-out season. Lugo was signed as a 17 year-old IFA (International Free Agent) out of the Dominican Republic in 2011 by the Toronto Blue Jays for $1.3 million. He was acquired by the Diamondbacks on August 8, 2015 for shortstop Cliff Pennington and cash. He was the 14th ranked prospect in the Jays’ system pre-2015. Not unlike Banda, Lugo started to see better results once he was in the Diamondbacks system.

While with the Jays, he slashed .336/.348/.799 in Low-A Lansing before being promoted to Double-A Dunedin in which he played 67 games and struggled mightily to a tune of .219/.258/.292. He was assigned to Low-A Kane County when the D’Backs acquired him and played in 22 games posting a .333/.372/.370 slash line. He went on to hit four home runs combined in 463 at-bats.

A 15 pound weight loss coming into the season last year along with a continued refining of his approach led to his breakout of .311/.339/.492 last season with both High-A Visalia and Double-A Mobile. Between the two levels, he went on to hit 17 long balls with 62 RBI’s while also chipping in 23 doubles and seven triples. He only walked 19 times, but 56 punch-outs in 488 at-bats is hardly alarming.

The 22 year-old was added to the 40-man roster and will get a good look in spring training. He most likely will begin the year at Double-A but could be on the fast track to Triple-A if he’s able to build on last year and get off to a good start. He is still likely a couple of years away from contributing at the major league level.

ETA: 2019

Domingo Leyba, SS/2B

Domingo Leyba was originally signed by the Detroit Tigers in July of 2012 at the age of 16 as an IFA. He debuted in 2013 at age 17 in the DSL (Dominican Summer League) and fared quite well in 57 games. He hit .348/.446/.577 with an impressive 34 walks compared to 26 strikeouts. He started 2014 in Short-Season Connecticut and ended in Low-A West Michigan combining for .323/.367/.429. While the BB/K ratio went down, which is to be expected comparing with the DSL, he did have 21 extra base hits including two home runs, 18 doubles, and three triples in 160 at-bats.

Leyba was acquired in a three-team deal between the Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers, and New York Yankees back in December of 2014. The D’Backs shipped Didi Gregorious to the Yankees while the Tigers acquired Shane Greene from the Yankees, and sent Leyba and Robbie Ray back to Arizona.

The young infielder began his Diamondback career with High-A Visalia in 2015. It was a bit of a struggle for him as he slashed .237/.277/.309 in 514 at-bats. Leyba hit two home runs with 21 two baggers and five triples. While the strikeout rate wasn’t bad, he struck out 90 times compared to only 26 walks. He was able to bounce back in 2016 however, as he improved to .294/.346/.426 with six home runs, 25 doubles, and a triple in 340 at-bats. The strikeout rate was about the same while the walk rate went up.

A promotion was in order after the strong performance at Visalia as Leyba would finish his 2016 season at Double-A Mobile. He continued to improve after reaching Double-A. He had 156 at-bats and hit .301/.374/.436 with four home runs and only 22 strikeouts compared to 17 walks.

He was added to the 40-man roster in November and will be in spring training in March. He’ll likely begin the season in Double-A Mobile and like Lugo, could be fast tracked to Triple-A Reno if he continues to develop as he has the last couple seasons.

ETA: September, 2019

Socrates Brito, OF

Socrates Brito was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent in 2010. In 2015, at age 22, Brito broke into the majors leagues. He played 18 games for the Diamondbacks last season, posting a .303 batting average, .324 OBP, and .455 slugging percentage in 33 at-bats. Brito is still very young at 23, and can use his speed to help him in the outfield.

Major league pitching caught up to Brito in 2016 as he hit just .179 with four home runs and 12 RBI’s in 40 games for Arizona. He had a hard time identifying strikes as he struck out 23 times in 95 at-bats last season.

With A.J. Pollock set to become a free agent at year’s end, Brito could find himself having more of a role beginning in 2018.

Right now, Brito is serving as a fourth outfielder, but could start to see more playing time if he can cut down on his strikeout rate.

ETA: 2017

Jazz Chisholm, SS

Jasrado “Jazz” Chisholm was signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks as a free agent from the Bahamas in 2015. The shortstop is just 19 years old and has all of 249 at-bats of professional baseball under his belt. In those 249 at-bats, he hit .281 with a .333 OBP and .446 slugging percentage. Chisholm also hit nine home runs and drove in 37 runs in his first taste of professional baseball.

Chisholm bats left-handed and will need to cut down on his strikeouts as he struck out 73 times in just 62 games in rookie ball. He can burn teams with his speed, but will need to develop more power if he hopes to be successful in the major leagues. He has very promising upside as a major league player, but is still far away from impacting the Diamondbacks roster.

As a 19-year-old, he has time to develop and become a solid major league player for the Diamondbacks.

ETA: 2022

Anfernee Grier, OF

Anfernee Grier was selected as the 39th overall pick in the 2016 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Grier is another prospect that does not have much experience in professional baseball as he had just 89 at-bats in 2016 after being drafted. He spilt those at-bats between rookie level ball and Low-A last year.

The 20-year-old outfielder did not perform well in his introductory season to professional baseball. He hit just .236 with two home runs, eight RBI’s, and a .277 OBP in 2016.

Grier has had just 13 innings of outfield experience since being drafted. That has shown that he may not have good enough speed or arm strength to be a major league center fielder.

With David Peralta getting a fair amount of innings in left field at the major league level, and fellow prospect Socrates Brito ahead of him in the pipeline, Grier may have to wait on a position to open up on the major league roster. Yasmany Tomas is signed through the 2020 season which is when Grier is projected to be ready for the majors, so Grier may get lucky with Tomas’ contract expiring.

Even if there is a spot open for him on the major league roster, Grier will need to work on his swing if he hopes to grow into a successful baseball player at the major league level. Expect him to get a shot at the majors if he can refine his swing.

ETA: 2020

Taylor Clarke, RHP

Taylor Clarke was taken in the third round of the 2015 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. He impressed right out of the gate as he threw 21 scoreless innings in Single-A Hillsboro to begin his career. He progressed through Single-A and into Double-A where he posted a 3.59 ERA, 72 strikeouts, and an 8-6 record in 17 starts.

Right now, Clarke is being used as a starter. He has a fastball that has been known to reach 95 MPH, and a slider that he has a good feel for. Clarke needs to develop a better change-up if he hopes to make it in higher levels.

Clarke has already went through Tommy John surgery so the Diamondbacks do not have to worry about that impending injury moving forward. He is still two years away from the major leagues at this point.

As it stands right now, Clarke is a starter and will be a starter in the majors. If he can not develop a more reliable third pitch, Clarke may be moved to the bullpen in the higher levels of the minors. The Diamondbacks need pitching that they can depend on as they ranked 30th in team ERA last season with a 5.09 mark. They also ranked 30th in team WHIP and 29th in batting average against.

It is unclear if Clarke can develop into a good major league pitcher. He has shown some promise in the lower levels of the minor leagues, but will need to develop more pitches if he wants to make it past Triple-A.

ETA: 2018

Brad Keller, RHP

Brad Keller was selected in the eighth round of the 2013 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. That same year, at age 17, Keller appeared in rookie ball for the Diamondbacks, and turned some heads. He posted a 2.44 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched.

Keller spent 2014 between rookie ball and Single-A. There, he made 12 starts (15 appearances), posting a 4.31 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 71 innings pitched. In 2016, Keller was promoted to Single-A Advanced where he made 24 starts. In those 24 starts, Keller put up a 9-7 record with a 4.47 ERA in 135 innings pitched.

Brad has a fastball that tops out at about 92 MPH, but can touch 94 MPH if needed. He can sink and cut his fastball but needs to work on his command to be successful. The same can be said for his slider and change-up as he will need to work on controlling his release point more.

Keller is 21 years old and has been slow progressing through the minors. His command can be attributed to that slow progression. Even with his slow movement, Keller still has plenty of time to work out the kinks and become a solid major league pitcher.

ETA: 2019

Jon Duplantier, RHP

Jon Duplantier was taken in the third round of the 2016 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Duplantier was shut down last year after throwing just one inning in professional baseball. He missed the 2015 season with a shoulder injury and experienced a sore elbow in the minors.

He has a fastball that can reach 95 MPH, and has good feel for his curveball. Duplantier has the upside to be a good major league pitcher, but will need to get healthy in order to get a shot at the majors.

ETA: 2019

Curtis Taylor, RHP

Curtis Taylor was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Taylor posted a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings for Single-A Hillsboro after being drafted. The 21-year-old is 6’6″ and has been clocked at 93 MPH with his fastball.

Taylor comes from the University of British Columbia, and hopes to follow in the footsteps of former graduate Jeff Francis who was a first round draft pick in 2002. He has a chance to progress into a good big league pitcher as he has a good feel for his slider. With really only two pitches, Taylor has been a relief pitcher for much of his career. If he hopes to become a starter, he will need to develop his change-up into a more reliable pitch.

Curtis topped out in Low-A last year, and seems to be about three years away from being able to help this Diamondbacks pitching staff.

ETA: 2020

Just Missed:

Alex Young, LHP, 2-7 record, 4.59 ERA in 68.2 innings pitched in Single-A Advanced in 2016.

Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, 3-4 record, 2.77 ERA in 55.1 innings pitched over three levels in 2016.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a very weak farm system. The Diamondbacks finished the 2016 season with a 69-93 record which was a huge disappointment after acquiring Shelby Miller and Zach Greinke. With players like Paul Goldschmidt to build around, the Diamondbacks need to restock their farm system in order to start a rebuild process. Step one in that rebuild process could be trading Zach Greinke for some younger prospects. Greinke had a sub-par year last season (4.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP), so his stock could be at an all-time low.

The Arizona Diamondbacks need to do something because their farm system is full of “average” prospects who may or may not make an impact in the major leagues. Those types of prospects will not cut it if you hope to field a successful big league club.