|Original Published Date: December 17, 2019|
Several Arizona Diamondback players made our in-season Hot Prospects List, so I was confident when I started working through their system, I was going to like it. I did indeed! What they don’t have are famous prospects. There is no Wander Franco, Gavin Lux or Forrest Whitley. Instead, they have depth. They have a collection of players that are just starting their rise through the minor leagues.
Alek Thomas is their top prospect and one of my favorite players in the minor leagues. He had a strong 2019 season and looks like there is 20-20 upside. Corbin Carroll, their number one pick in June looks like a similar player with a similar upside. He also had a strong debut season. Corbin Martin is their best pitching prospect but is currently recovering from Tommy John Surgery. If he returns healthy, there is a mid-rotation upside if not more.
Since they are in a retooling mode, there will likely be more changes for the Diamondbacks ahead. That said, they played very well last season, even after losing Goldy and Greinke. Assuming their players develop, their playoff window could open again as soon as 2021.
Prospect Quick Shot
- Top Prospect: Alek Thomas
- Biggest Mover: Geraldo Perdomo
- Emerging Prospect: Liover Peguero
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1. Alek Thomas (OF)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
- Tools Summary: 20-20 potential with the ability to hit. Significant upside.
I went all-in at the draft table last Spring drafting Alek Thomas in as many Dynasty Leagues as I could. I play in five leagues and got him in four. Hopefully, I’ll be able to add him in the fifth, but it’s likely to cost me a pretty penny.
I love the tools that Thomas brings to the park. He’s a plus runner with good bat speed and a chance to get on-base at a high rate. He spent most of the year in Low-A slashing .312/.393/.479 with eight home runs and 11 stolen bases. The performance got him a promotion to the California League where he also played well, although he struck out at an alarming 32% rate. I’m going to chalk that up to small sample size as he’s always made great contact wherever he’s played.
The ceiling is a 20-20 performer who should be able to post a high average and on-base percentage. He’s still a couple of years away from the big leagues and is still not considered a premium prospect by most, but he’s going to get there in a hurry. Now is the time to invest.
2. Daulton Varsho (C)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 5 C or Top 45 OF
- Tools Summary: Plus speed, solid power and can control the strike zone. Plus, if he can maintain catcher eligibility, it could be real fantasy goodness.
Daulton Varsho continues to fly under the radar in Dynasty Leagues despite showing power, speed and the ability to control the strike zone. Perhaps it’s because he’s a catcher and owners just ignore catchers. But, with 19 stolen bases in 2018 and 21 in 2019, he has a chance to be a Top five fantasy catcher in the game.
While the offensive profile of Varsho is exciting, I had a chance to see him catch in the AFL in 2018, and he’s only an average catcher at-best. There were whispers of moving him to second or third, but instead, the Diamondbacks played him in the second half in centerfield. While his defensive position is up in the air, I think the bat will play. Now, if he can stay behind the plate, the value takes a huge step forward.
3. Corbin Carroll (OF)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF
- Tools Summary: 20-20 upside with an idea at the plate. There is Andrew Benintendi type of upside with Carroll.
Many believe that the Diamondbacks got a steal when Corbin Carroll dropped to them at pick 16 in last June’s MLB Draft. Based on my Top 100 mid-season ranking, I did as well.
Part of the argument I heard for him dropping was his size. He’s a 5-10 outfielder and teams just didn’t want to invest in a high first-round pick on a high school player of that size. There was just too much risk. I don’t see it that way as Carroll has great tools and even reminds me a little of Alek Thomas, also of the Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox, Andrew Benintendi. Do two inches really make that much difference?
In Rookie ball, Carroll flashed those skills. In 31 games, he hit .288 with two home runs and 16 stolen bases. He’s struck out more than I would have liked (21.2%) but has also walked at a 17.5% clip. The performance earned him a late-season promotion to the Northwest League where he continued to play extremely well.
While he’s only 18, the upside is a Top 30 outfielder in fantasy with a chance to become a 20-20 performer.
4. Seth Beer (1B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 1B
- Tools Summary: Plus power with a solid hit tool should make up for his lack of defensive position.
Seth Beer was part of the return in the Zack Greinke trade and despite some concern about his defensive position, it looks like he can hit and hit with power. He showed that before the trade where he hit .299 with a .543 SLG in 63 games in the Texas League. He only struck out 21% of the time and if that comes with 25 plus home runs, teams will take that every time.
He did struggle after the trade but when I caught up with him in the Fall League in September, he was showing an advanced approach, good contact, and a power swing. The bat speed was not great, and his lack of athleticism is a red flag but his ability to make contact reduces those concerns. That said, that was the knock against A.J. Reed and at first, they were unfounded, until they were not.
Defensively, Beer has split time between left field and first base. Since he played DH when I saw him the Fall League, I can’t comment on where he would best play. But given the reports, first base would seem to be the logical position.
5. Kristian Robinson (OF)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF
- Tools Summary: Toolsy outfielder that is still raw. If it all comes together, there is 20-20 potential.
When I compiled my mid-season Top 100, I wanted to include Kristian Robinson but I just could not find a way to include him. However, given the year he had in 2018 and now in 2019, plus just his crazy tools, I will find a way to include him in our 2020 Top 100 Prospect list.
At 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Robinson looks like he just walked out of central casting for ballplayers. He has plus raw power and is starting to tap into that. He split his time between the Northwest League and Low-A, slugging .514 with 14 home runs in only 69 games. He’s currently an above-average runner, but as he fills out, the potential of a 20-20 performer will fade. Once he hits his mid-20’s, he’ll profile more as a power-hitting corner outfielder as opposed to a five-tool performer. While it’s still raw, he does show an understanding of the strike zone. However, his swing does get long so strikeouts will likely be part of the equation going forward. We saw that upon his promotion to Low-A where his K/9 rate increased from 25% to nearly 30%.
6. Corbin Martin (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 SP
- Tools Summary: Premium stuff that should play well at the highest level. Will likely miss the entire 2020 season recovering from Tommy John Surgery.
In fantasy circles, Corbin Martin was the big pickup after an impressive May 12th debut against the Texas Rangers where he went 5.1 innings giving up two earned runs, striking out nine and walking one. Unfortunately, it didn’t last as the next four outings were not good and he was sent back to Round Rock for “more seasoning”. Less than a month later, he was diagnosed with a torn UCL and needed season-ending Tommy John Surgery. A month after that, he was included in the trade for Zack Greinke.
Think about that for a moment. The highs, the lows, and the uncertainty. The life of a baseball player.
I’ve long been a big fan of Martin and believe that he has mid-rotation upside, if not more. He’s got quality stuff with a fastball that sits 95 to 96 MPH and three quality secondary pitches. Before 2018, he’d always been able to throw strikes, but the PCL and the Majors proved more difficult and his control went south. Perhaps he was already struggling with an injury.
While Tommy John Surgery is a big deal and adds considerable risk, assuming he comes back healthy, he has at least mid-rotation upside. Pitching half his games in Arizona will be challenging but the stuff, control and overall pitchability are excellent.
7. Geraldo Perdomo (SS)
- Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
- Tools Summary: Potentially a plus hit tool with good speed. The open question is how much power he will develop.
Geraldo Perdomo was one of the more impressive hitters I saw in the Fall League in September. He showed a very good understanding of the strike zone and was a tough out. That fits the back of his baseball card as well. In Low-A last season, he walked as many times as he struck out (14.5 K/9). Once he was promoted to High-A, his ability to control the strike zone continued where he walked more than he struck out. By the way, he did all this as a 19-year-old.
He’s also a plus runner stealing 26 bases last year. What he doesn’t have is much power. His swing is more geared to contact as it lacks leverage. Power could come as he fills out, and at 6-foot-3, I would not rule that out.
As a true shortstop, the ceiling is a Top 15 shortstop at the highest level. The amount of power he develops will be the key to whether he challenges the ranks of the top shortstops or falls just short.
8. Blaze Alexander (SS)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS
- Tools Summary: Toolsy middle infielder with an approach that looks like it will work.
After an impressive professional debut where Blaze Anderson hit .302 with a .509 SLG, we slotted him in our Diamondbacks Top 15 list last year. With an aggressive assignment to Low-A, Alexander struggled early in the season but nearly hit .300 from July to the end of the season. He ended the year with a so-so slash line of .262/.357/.381 with seven home runs and 15 stolen bases but based on the scouting report I’ve received, I think there is more in the bat.
The approach works as he’s walking 10% of the time and while I’d like to see his strikeouts reduced, it’s still a reasonable 22% K/9 ratio. He’s an above-average runner and again, I believe there is more power in the bat. For me, the ceiling is a .270 hitting with 15 to 20 home runs and 10 to 15 stolen bases.
9. Liover Peguero (SS)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 MI
- Tools Summary: Intriguing player with good speed and emerging power who really impressed in 2019.
Signed in 2017 for $475,000, Liover Peguero built on his impressive 2018 DSL campaign by being one of the best hitters in the Pioneer League. His .364 average ranked fourth in the league, but when you combine that with a .559 SLG and that he was 18-years-old, it’s easy to get excited about his future potential.
Peguero is athletic, is an above-average runner (11 SB in 13 attempts) and has great bat speed. The swing doesn’t have a ton of current loft but as he matures, he could develop at least average future power. I don’t see a potential 20-20 player, but a 15-15 player is not out of the question.
10. Brennan Malone (RHP)
- Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Tall projectable right-hander with promising current stuff.
The D-Backs had four first-round picks in 2019 and used their third of four on 6-foot-4 projectable right-handed pitcher Brennan Malone. He was drafted out of the IMG Academy where he flashed a big-time fastball and promising secondary pitches.
He split his time between the AZL and the Northwest League pitching to a 4.50 ERA in eight innings of work. The arsenal is mature enough for him to start the season in the Midwest League to begin the 2020 season. If it all comes together, the upside is a mid-rotation starter with plenty of strikeouts.
11. Jon Duplantier (RHP)
- Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Solid arsenal but control problems are pointing to a bullpen role.
Jon Duplantier made his Major League debut in 2019 and pitch well striking out over eight per nine but also walking too many (4.42 BB/9). While it was a small sample size, the results are also consistent from what he’s done at every level. He has quality stuff with a fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH and a plus slider that gets plenty of swings and misses. But, the control is poor and for the second year in a row, he’s spent time on the IL.
Mechanically, Duplantier has a distinctive long arm swing delivery. While this creates deception, it also makes repeating his delivery difficult. A move to the pen was always in the cards and based on how much the Diamondbacks used him in that capacity last season, that ultimately might be his role. The stuff is good enough that he could be used in high-leverage situations.
12. JB Bukauskas (LHP)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Plus stuff, but delivery and control are pointing to a bullpen role.
JB Bukauskas was part of the return in the Zack Greinke deal in July. Once considered a top prospect, the shine has dimmed recently as he just has not progressed. In 22 games in Double-A (Houston and Arizona), he’s pitched to a 5.44 ERA with 109 strikeouts in 92.2 innings but also issued 59 walks. He also gave up nearly a hit an inning and with his stuff, I find that puzzling.
I had to chance to see him at the Fall League in 2018 and liked what I saw. He’s primarily a fastball/slider pitcher with his fastball touching 96 MPH and a plus sider. In fact, the slider was so good, a scout told me during the outing that the pitch could get major leaguers out now. I then added: in the bullpen.
While I like Bukaukas, there is reliever risk. He doesn’t repeat his delivery and that is leading to control problems. While he will continue to work on that, his current arsenal will get guys out in the Major Leagues…NOW. It will be interesting to see if the Diamondbacks continue to start him or move him to the pen to get him up to the big leagues as soon as next season.
13. Levi Kelly (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
- Tools Summary: Size and solid stuff across the board.
Drafted in the eighth round of the 2018 MLB Draft, Levi Kelly had a strong 2019 campaign. Pitching the entire year in the Midwest League, the 6-foot-4 right-hander posted a 2.15 ERA striking out 11.3 per nine while walking 3.5 per nine.
The Diamondbacks have managed his innings very effectively not allowing him to pitch over six innings in any one start. After April, he never gave up more than two runs in any one outing. He’s got solid stuff across the board with a fastball that sits 92 to 94 MPH, a slider that is his primary outpitch, and a feel for a change-up. The control is not always present and there is some effort in his delivery. However, the Diamondbacks think he could develop into a mid-rotation starter and given his progression to-date, that seems totally reasonable.
14. Luis Frias (RHP)
- Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
- Tools Summary: Plus stuff but delivery points to a bullpen role.
Luis Frias is the definition of a late bloomer. Signed in 2015 out of the Dominican, he really put things together last season where he struck out 72 batters in 49.2 innings in the Pioneer League while posting a 1.99 ERA. The effort got him a promotion to Low-A where he finished the year pitching well and continuing to show swing and miss stuff.
He has two double-plus pitches in his fastball that will touch the upper nineties and classic downer curveball. His change-up is still a work-in-progress. While the Diamondbacks are continuing to use him as a starter, the delivery points to a bullpen role. In fact, if they decide to move him in that direction, he could move quickly through the system and could even see the D-Backs bullpen sometime in 2021.
15. Pavin Smith (1B)
- Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B
- Tools Summary: Plus hit tool, but his lack of quality bat speed puts a serious question on how much ultimate power he will have.
Taken as the seventh overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Pavin Smith does not get the kind of hype that many others in his draft class have received. After posting a .282/.365/.428 in three minor league seasons, perhaps it’s time to give him a little more love. Emphasizing the point, he hit .375 with a .612 SLG in August to close out the 2019 season.
Smith is solid but I just don’t see the kind of upside that will make him a star. First, he has a plus hit-tool with the ability to control the strike zone. In his 292 minor league games, he’s walked nearly as much as he’s struck out with a 12% strikeout rate. The problem is his swing is more built for contact than power as it lacks loft. Plus, he’s an average athlete and is likely a first baseman long-term. Making matters worse, he also doesn’t have a lot of bat speed, so it’s hard to project, even with the Major League superball, more than average power down the road.
Net-net, I see a high-average first baseman with 15 to 20 home run power and no speed. Is that enough to get full-time at-bats? Perhaps. The production of Brandon Belt with a better average as he strikes out a lot less might be a good comp.