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Arizona Diamondbacks

Original Published Date: December 16, 2016

diamondbacksI got nothing.  I’m sorry, I really don’t have a good feel for who should be number one in the Diamondbacks organization.  It could be one of several players and honestly, I’m not sure I care.  It’s a bad system; one of the worse in baseball, which is shocking given how good the system was just a few years ago.  To be fair, there have been a number of promotions that have help the big league club but there have also been some bad deals that have really hurt the strength of the system, which in turn will hurt the big league club.

The best ranked bat in the system is Socretes Brito.   He got off to a hot start in Spring Training, making the big league club for a few weeks before cooling off and being sent back down.  He has a little speed, a little pop but is probably a fourth outfielder in the long run.  Domingo Leyba and Dawel Lugo are similar players and also make the top 10.

The best arm is Anthony Banda but his stuff is average and he gets by with good location and some pixie dust.  If you squint, you see a number four starter…  Vicente Campos of the famed Pineda/Montero trade is also kicking around and if he can stay healthy, might be able to help the big league club next season.

The good news is that the major league club is pretty good, but in my opinion, not good enough to be considered a Championship caliber team.  I’m anxious to see what new GM Mike Hazen has in store.  The calculus is tricky but ultimately, I think they need to move Zack Greinke to rebuild the minor league system.  They also need to draft well next year.  Keeping the player they select would also help…sorry, I almost got through the intro without any snark…

Anthony Banda (LHP)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP

Anthony Banda was on the slow road to the majors after being drafted by the Brewers in 2012.  The Diamondbacks acquired him in 2014 and immediately accelerated his development plan.  After starting 13 games in Triple-A last year, he should see time in Phoenix sometime in 2017.

He pitched well last season, posting a 2.88 ERA, striking out 152 while walking 55 in 150 innings across Double and Triple-A.  He was hittable, giving up 150 hits, but he kept his walks low and kept the ball in the ballpark, so he limited the overall damage.

Scouting Report: There’s a lot to like with Banda.  He’s an athletic 6-foot-2 lefty with excellent mechanics who can repeat his delivery.  As he’s matured as a pitcher, his control has improved.  Early in his career, he was giving up four-plus walks-per-nine but that has improved over the past two seasons and should continue to improve as he pitches more.

The problem is his stuff is average.  He throws a low-90’s fastball that is pretty flat with very ordinary secondary pitches.  There’s nothing in the quiver that is plus and that’s what will limit his upside to a number four starter.  That said, as a lefty, he’s likely to have a long career as both a starter and future reliever down the road.

Fantasy Impact:  Banda should be considered for Dynasty Leagues that roster 300 or more minor leaguers.  He does get an increase in value in draft-and-hold leagues as he’ll likely see time in the majors next year and given his lack of pedigree (i.e. nobody has heard of him), he’s a nice stash in that format.  He’s your typical back-of-the-rotation starter that you stream in favorable matchups, like the 2016 Dodgers who hit .214 against southpaws, the worst in the majors by 20 points.

Socretes Brito (OF)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2016, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF but likely WW bound

Socretes Brito got off to a hot start in Spring Training last season by hitting .306 and working himself into a spot of the 25-man roster.  He came back down to earth in his 34 games in the Majors, hitting .181 with a brutal 11:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  While he flashed a little speed and pop, it became clear that his hit-tool was just not quite ready for the big leagues.

He spent the rest of the season in Reno, a great hitter’s park, and played well, although his plate patience was once again poor.  While the ceiling is an everyday regular, unless he learns to work counts and walk more than once a week, the profile is that of a fourth outfielder.

Scouting Report: Brito has intriguing tools with solid-average power to complement his double-plus speed.  Prior to last season, he had averaged 24 stolen bases per year but in 73 games in Triple-A, he only stole 7 of 13 bases.  There was no report of an injury, just that the stolen bases had dropped off.  He has gotten bigger, so perhaps the speed is no longer there.  Complicating matters is that his in-game power has yet to develop and with his uber-aggressive approach, there is major question on what Brito’s ultimate ceiling will be.

Brito’s turned 24 in September, so he is starting to enter his prime.  The next two years should be an indication of the level of player he will become – a solid-regular outfielder or a fourth outfielder getting 200 at-bats a year.  At this point, I’m leaning towards a fourth outfielder.

Fantasy Impact:  By the start of the season, Brito was owned in all four of my Dynasty Leagues, now he’s only owned in two.  That feels about right – people are split on his upside and candidly, so am I.  I love the power/speed combination but his uber-aggressive approach is holding him back.  Throw-in his lack of stolen bases and a slight downtrend in his total in 2015, and I’m quickly losing interest.

Anfernee Grier (OF)

Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF but likely WW bound

The Diamondbacks forfeited their 2016 first round pick when they signed Zack Greinke during the offseason.  However, they did get a compensation pick in the Supplemental first round and selected Auburn outfielder Anfernee Grier.

Grier had a standout college career which saw the 6-foot-2 outfielder post an .867 OPS in three years.  He showed speed and a little bit of pop with a semblance of a hit tool.  However, his approach fell apart in his first exposure to professional ball with a 9:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, walking three times in 24 games.  Wait a minute, am I writing about Socretes Brito…wait…what???

Scouting Report: In drafting late in the first round (actually, supplemental round), the chances of a team acquiring an impact player is diminished.  While there are countless big leaguers, including MVP’s and Hall of Famers who have been drafted late in MLB Drafts, the further you are away from the number one pick, the less likely a team is of finding a stud.  In drafting Grier, the Diamondbacks went for athleticism and the hope that at a minimum he could become a big leaguer in two to three years.

Grier’s carrying tool is plus speed that he combines with the ability to make contact.  His approach in college was solid but his aggressiveness was exposed once he got to professional ball.  He has good bat speed that should allow him to hit for average power.  Therefore the upside is 10 to 12 home runs with 20 plus stolen bases.  However, will the hit tool allow him to get reach that ceiling?  I’m not sure as he does remind be a lot of Brito – athletic with holes in his swing and a very aggressive approach.

Fantasy Impact: If you want to draft Grier in a Dynasty League with 300 minor league players, I have no problem with that.  The skills are intriguing but the hit tool is the concern.  The upside is a top-of-the-order bat with plenty of stolen bases and an enough pop to add 10 home runs.  However, he’s more likely a number eight hitter who struggles to find playing time.

Alex Young (LHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 SP or Middle Reliever

Drafted in the second round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Texas Christian, Alex Young pitched well last season in 20 starts across Low and High-A.  He posted a 3.56 ERA, striking out seven per nine while walking less than three per nine.  He did miss most of the month of May with a forearm strain, otherwise, the Diamondbacks might have pushed him even harder, possibly all the way to Double-A.

Scouting Report: Young is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher with both pitches grading out as plus.  His fastball doesn’t have elite velocity but has great movement and is hard to pick-up.  His slider is his out-pitch and when he’s on, it can be a real swing and miss offering.  His change-up is still a work-in-progress and until he can move that up a grade, I think he’ll struggle when he moves to the upper minors.

In watching video, I ultimately think that Young moves to the bullpen.  In fact, at Texas Christian he was a reliever in his freshman and sophomore year before moving to the rotation in his draft year.  I think the Diamondbacks eventually move him back and by doing so, his stuff should tick-up and ultimately I think he’ll be more effective.

Fantasy Impact:   If you believe that Young stays a starter, he has a chance to be a number five starter on a fantasy team.  If you are where I am and believe he’ll move to the bullpen, there is little reason to roster him.  However, since the Diamondbacks continue to push him as a starter, he makes our list and is worth monitoring in all leagues.

Domingo Leyba (SS)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: MI Waiver Wire

It’s never good when a player repeats a level but that’s what happened with Diamondbacks shortstop Domingo Leyba.  After playing poorly in the Cali League in 2015, things went much better in 2016 based primarily on a better BABIP. His underlying stats were very similar, although he showed better plate discipline but a 63 point increase in BABIP translated to a .294 batting average and a promotion to Double-A.

Once he got to Double-A, things pretty much went the same way.  A .303 batting average, helped along by a .336 BABIP but continued improvement in his contact rate and plate patience.   If the hit tool has taken a step up, which his contact rate and walk rate suggest, Leyba could become the shortstop of the future for the D’Backs, unless you believe Nick Ahmed and his lifetime .221 batting average is the answer.  While Ahmed is a better defender, Leyba has more offensive upside.

Scouting Report: Leyba has solid all-around tools but doesn’t have the one standpoint tool in which teams are searching.  Assuming his hit tool continues to develop, he has a little bit of speed and power but the end result still feels like a replacement level player or maybe a second division starter at the highest level.  The ceiling is a .270 hitter with 8 to 10 home runs and 10 to 12 stolen bases.  I also don’t think there is more over-the-fence power in the tank as his swing is more line drive-oriented.

Defensively, he’s fine at short but will never be the level of defender that you would see on a Championship level team

Fantasy Impact: Leyba is a streaming option for me in a fantasy league.  Assuming his hit tool continues to improve, he’s a player that will not hurt you but also will not provide much value as his secondary skills are not that strong.

Cody Reed (LHP)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2018-19, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver Wire Pitcher

Many people ran to their waiver wires last season to pick-up Cody Reed, just to find they had rostered the wrong one.  Cody Reed of the Reds is also a lefty and was a well thought of prospect who made his major league debut to mixed results.  When owners realized they had rostered the wrong Cody Reed, some kept him and after seven impressive starts in Low-A were convinced they had indeed drafted the “right” Cody Reed.

Reed was indeed impressive pitching to a 1.82 ERA with 55 strikeouts and only three walks in 39.2 innings.  The D’Backs promoted him to the Cali League where nothing went right.  In 35.2 innings, his strikeout rate went from 12.5 to 7.32 and his walked rate jumped to 4.29 walks per nine.  To make matters worse, he was taken out of the rotation for what was reported as “an undisclosed injury” in mid-July and never returned.

Scouting Report:  At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds and only 20-years-old, Reed is just a big kid that must always work to keep his weight under control.  His stuff is pretty ordinary with a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, but he throws strikes and has some deception in his delivery that allows his arsenal to play-up.  His high walk rate in High-A was unusual and the injury that forced him to miss the second half could have been at play.

Fantasy Impact:  Reed has the ceiling of a number six or seven pitcher on a fantasy team.  His stuff will diminish as he grows older and his low 90’s fastball will turn into 88 to 89.  At that point, the difference between success and failure will become razor thin.  I would only roster him in leagues that have 400 or more minor league roster slots.

Dawel Lugo (3B)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Corner Infielder in deep leagues

Dawel Lugo joined the Diamondbacks in August of 2015 in a trade that sent Cliff Pennington to the Blue Jays for their stretch run.  He had another fine year, splitting time between High and Double-A where he batted .311 with an 831 OPS.    He also hit 17 home runs.

After spending time in the Arizona Fall League, Lugo is poised to make his major league debut sometime in 2017 or 18.  However, he’s now been moved to third and with a breakout year from Jake Lamb, it’s unclear where he fits in the long-term plans.  He could be a trade target in the offseason.

Scouting Report: I had a chance to see Lugo play in the AFL and left wanting more.  I did like his swing as it was short to the ball with enough bat speed to project 20 home runs.  However, his approach is very aggressive and the stat line supports that observation.  In fact in 478 minor league games, he’s walked 68 times – I’ll save you the research and math, that’s a 3.4% walk rate.

While I think he’ll hit for power (20 home runs) and make good contact, unless he improves his approach, I think he profiles as a second division starter.   What helps is that he makes a lot of hard contact and that should help drive a high BABIP, which in turn will help his batting average.  However, a good baseline would be .270/.290 and that likely makes him a number seven/eight hitter in a lineup.  He’s a below-average runner, so stolen bases will not be part of the profile.

Fantasy Impact:  Lugo is right on the edge of being fantasy relevant.  His contactability and power makes him a player to watch but with his poor approach and lack of speed, his overall fantasy impact is questionable.  I would consider rostering Lugo in Dynasty Leagues that roster 400 or more minor league roster slots.

Gabby Guerrero (OF)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2017-18, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF with extreme risk

Note: Designated for Assignment and signed by Reds. I kept him on the list as I’m a slacker and didn’t want to dig up another prospect that has a poor chance of ever seeing the majors.

Gabby Guerrero was acquired as the lead player in the trade that sent Mark Trumbo to the Seattle Mariners in June of 2015.  To-date, it hasn’t work out for the Diamondbacks, although Welington Castillo was also part of the trade and he has turned out to be a quality big league catcher.  Guerrero though has struggled.   He repeated Double-A to begin the season and was slashing .252/.291/.430 when the Diamondbacks decided to promote him to Triple-A.  He looked overmatched and was sent back after hitting .212 and posting a .586 OPS.

Guerrero still has a lot of talent and at 22-years-old, is still young enough to find his footing.  However, the prospect shine has worn off and he needs to turn things around soon.

Scouting Report:  I’ve had a chance to scout Guerrero several times and each time I come away very intrigued.  He’s got bat speed, plus raw power – at least in batting practice, and a gun for an arm that should make his famous uncle smile.  Yet, the stat line continues to be anything but impressive.

The biggest problem is his approach, or lack thereof.  In fact, it looks like he’s trying to imitate his Uncle’s ability to somehow make contact with any ball thrown near the plate.  Gabby can’t do that and until he tones down the approach, he’s not a major leaguer.  However, if he figures it out, I think the power will eventually play and he could develop into a classic right-fielder.

Fantasy Impact:  I think Guerrero goes into the category of players to watch and should not be owned in many Dynasty Leagues.  I still think there is hope but he’s getting very close to being put into another category…”suspect”.

Peter O’Brien

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2015, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF if he can hit enough

I debated whether or not to include Peter O’Brien on this list.  First, he’s 26-years-old and is barely considered a prospect.  Second, while he has double-plus raw power, once the decision was made to move him from catching, I’m not sure he has a defensive position.  He played left field last year but didn’t look very good.  Perhaps, the Diamondbacks will send him back to the American League where he has a chance to DH full-time.

He continued to show his power in Triple-A last year, slugging .505 with 24 home runs.  However, it came with a 33% strikeout rate and a 5.4% walk rate.  That’s just not going to play at the next level and based on his 74 at-bats to-date, it’s not. If he walked more, I would say he could have a Chris Carter type of career, but Carter walks twice as much as O’Brien, so there is a long way to go.

Scouting Report:  O’Brien has tremendous raw power that he’s shown throughout his minor career. The swing can get long and strikeouts will likely always be part of the equation.  He’s also not a patient hitter so the two combined could make it difficult for O’Brien to hit enough to profile as a major league regular.

His lifetime contact rate of 72% and walk rate of 6.2% puts him right on the cusp of the skills necessary to be successful at the highest level.  I don’t think he’ll match his lifetime minor league .269 batting average in the majors with a .220 batting average a better benchmark.

Fantasy Impact:  O’Brien’s poor approach is limiting his ceiling as a major leaguer and making it difficult to own in a fantasy league.  Sure, he could hit 30 home runs, maybe more in Arizona, but if comes with a .220 batting average and a .260 OBP, he won’t play.  That said, he should be monitored as Chris Carter and Khris Davis are valuable fantasy assets and with a grade-level hit tool improvement, he could be there.  If he doesn’t, he’ll be bound for Asia.

Andy Yerzy (C)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2020-21, Fantasy Ceiling: Waiver WIRE

The Diamondbacks went overslot to sign Canadian Andy Yerzy in the second round (pick #52) of the 2016 MLB Draft.  He’s very young, just turning 18-years-old last July and struggled in his first exposure to professional ball.  In 45 games in the AZL and Pioneer League, he hit .216 with a .265 SLUG.  Yikes!  Again, he was very young and the sample size was small, but it shows how much work lays ahead.

Scouting Report: Yerzy’s carrying tool is plus raw power.  However, his hit-tool is currently very raw, needing help in pitch recognition as well as a general approach at the plate.  But the Diamondbacks loved the power and decided to spend the money.

At 6-foot-3, Yerzy doesn’t have a classic catchers body and some believe he might be force to move to first base.  If he does, that will put a lot of pressure on his bat.

Fantasy Impact:  Yerzy should not be currently rostered in Dynasty Leagues.

2017 Emerging Prospect

Jasrado “Jazz” Chisholm (SS)

Jazz Chisholm could be the number one prospect in the system.  At 18-years-old, he’s arguably the most exciting prospect but he’s at least four years away from making an impact, so we put him in the “Emerging Prospect” category.  He has plus bat speed that should allow him to hit for power at the highest level and is also a plus runner.  His hit-tool needs works as he struck out 73 times in 62 games.  Again, I’ll save you the research and math – that’s a 27% strikeout rate.  However, he’s 18 with loud tools.  Hopefully with some development the Diamondbacks can transform him into a ballplayer.

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