Arizona Diamondbacks: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Arizona Diamondbacks: Scouting Reports

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2008.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks system looks much thinner than it did a year ago, but it's a price the organization was only too happy to pay.

Arizona used an influx of young talent to carry it to the National League West title, not to mention a Division Series victory over the Cubs. The season ended with a sweep in the NL Championship Series at the hands of the Rockies, but that didn't dent the Diamondbacks' optimism about their future.

Their playoff rosters featured 14 homegrown players, including eight of the top nine prospects on this list a year ago.

Chris Young nearly had the first 30-30 season ever by a rookie, hitting 32 home runs with 27 stolen bases, while Mark Reynolds had 17 homers in 366 at-bats. Micah Owings was a lifesaver in the rotation, eating 153 innings and patching the big hole that left by Randy Johnson's back injury. Tony Pena pitched a team-high 85 relief innings and earned 30 holds.

Justin Upton ranked as the minors' top prospect when Arizona summoned him in August to fill in for an injured Carlos Quentin. Upton, the No. 1 overall pick in 2005 who became the youngest big leaguer in franchise history at age 19, showed flashes of his prodigious talent and went 5-for-14 in the postseason.

The impressive group of rookies added to a young core of everyday players who had already gotten their feet wet, including Stephen Drew, Conor Jackson and Chris Snyder in the lineup, rotation ace Brandon Webb and closer Jose Valverde. Webb improved on his Cy Young Award-winning numbers from 2006 by going 18-10, 3.01 and Valverde led the NL with 47 saves.

While most of these players were acquired by people who are no longer with the organization—most notably former scouting director Mike Rizzo, who's now with the Nationals—it's worth noting that general manager Josh Byrnes has made several astute trades since taking over after the 2005 season. Byrnes has swung deals for Doug Davis, Orlando Hudson and Johnson, and he also signed sparkplug Eric Byrnes a free agent.

Many of Arizona's young players aren't finished products. That's why even though the Diamondbacks led the NL with 90 wins, they did so with a negative run differential. The pitching staff finished fifth in the NL by allowing 732 runs, but the offense ranked 14th by scoring just 712.

Arizona finished last in the league on on-base percentage, though that has been an emphasis of the team's new administration. Players like Drew and Upton show flashes of spectacular play, for example, but they'll have to improve their approaches against big league pitchers to fulfill their potential.

In the meantime, the scouting and player-development staffs are working on the next wave of prospects. Pitching has been the emphasis of the past couple of drafts, and the system's five best mound prospects are products of those efforts. The Diamondbacks grabbed Max Scherzer and Brett Anderson in 2006, followed by Jarrod Parker, Wes Roemer and Barry Enright last June, all with choices in the first two rounds. The only position prospect close to big league-ready is outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, and Arizona has no obvious opening for him in the immediate future.

1.  Carlos Gonzalez, of   Born: Oct. 17, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Signed: Venezuela, 2002Signed by: Miguel Nava
Carlos GonzalezBackground: Gonzalez burst onto the scene by winning the low Class A Midwest League MVP award in 2005, and he has followed that with two straight appearances in the Futures Game. He also was Baseball America's Winter Player of the Year after the 2006 season, batting .318/.393/.530 with nine home runs in 198 at-bats in his native Venezuela. He was back with Zulia this winter as its starting right fielder after an up-and-down season in the minors. Gonzalez got off to his traditional slow start, batting .210 in April, before coming around later in the season, batting .335 with eight of his nine homers in the final two months. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Tucson for the final week of the season. Scouts loved working Double-A Mobile games when both Justin Upton and Gonzalez were in the outfield, as the two seemed to play off each other and enjoyed a friendly rivalry at the plate and in the field.

Strengths: Gonzalez lacks nothing in the way of physical tools. He has tremendous bat speed, with a pure easiness to his swing that generates plus raw power to all fields. The strength and leverage in his natural inside-out stroke makes the ball jump off his bat. A prototype right fielder, he has an above-average arm and enough speed to play in center field if need be—and in fact he played there quite a bit when Upton was with Mobile. Gonzalez is becoming more comfortable in right field as he gets more time there, learning better routes and whether to uncork a rocket or just hit the cutoff man. In general, his feel for the game has improved.

Weaknesses: Scouts and managers often have been turned off by Gonzalez' approach to the game, accusing him of giving away at-bats or not hustling at times. The Diamondbacks have addressed this concern in the past and say it's a case of immaturity and lack of focus but not bad makeup. To the contrary, they say he's a bright, outgoing person who wants to be a star. Interestingly, similar things were said about Upton before his explosive 2007 campaign, but Gonzalez doesn't have quite the same degree of talent that he can afford to coast. On a more tangible level, he needs to have a plan every time he goes to the plate, so he doesn't expand his strike zone and get himself out. He gets himself in trouble when he tries to pull the ball too much. He's still an erratic defender, leading the high Class A California and Double-A Southern league in outfield miscues the last two years with 12 each time.

The Future: Gonzalez is knocking on the door of the big leagues at age 22, but he needs more at-bats and the Diamondbacks have no opening for him. He'll spend most of 2008 in Triple-A unless injuries create a need for him in Arizona. He could be a valuable trade chip, as it seems unlikely Gonzalez would displace Upton or Chris Young, and Eric Byrnes just signed a $30 million contract extension.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mobile (AA) .286 .330 .476 458 63 131 33 3 16 75 32 103 9
Tucson (AAA) .310 .396 .500 42 9 13 5 0 1 11 6 6 1
2.  Jarrod Parker, rhp   Born: Nov. 24, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS—Norwell, Ind., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Mike Daughtry
Jarrod ParkerBackground: Parker drew his first widespread notice pitching for the U.S. junior national team in September 2006, and he continued to shoot up draft boards with a dominant spring as a high school senior. He overmatched inferior high school competition in Indiana, going 7-0, 0.20 with 68 strikeouts in 34 innings. The Cubs almost drafted him at No. 3 before the Diamondbacks grabbed him with the ninth overall pick and signed him just before the Aug. 15 deadline for a $2.1 million bonus.

Strengths: Though he didn't pitch during the summer, Parker showed the Diamondbacks his stuff in instructional league, flashing the easy 93-97 mph fastball that so excited scouts. His hard curveball already rates as the best in the system, and he also has a mid-80s slider. He earns comparisons to Tim Lincecum and Scott Kazmir for his quick arm, smooth mechanics and small frame. The most impressive part of Parker's package might be his athleticism and how easily he repeats his delivery, and the Diamondbacks also like his intelligence and attitude.

Weaknesses: Parker is working on getting more separation between his curveball and slider. Though he has a feel for the strike zone and for throwing a changeup, he still needs to work on both.

The Future: He hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet, but Arizona already believes Parker was worth the price it paid to sign him. He'll make his professional debut at low Class A South Bend, about two hours northwest of his hometown.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed Late
3.  Brett Anderson, lhp   Born: Feb. 1, 1988B-T: L-LHt: 6-4Wt: 215
 Drafted: HS—Stillwater, Okla., (2nd round)Signed by: Joe Robinson
Brett AndersonBackground: Anderson's 2.21 ERA would have led the Midwest League had he stuck around long enough to qualify, but he earned a promotion to high Class A Visalia in June. His season effectively ended at the end of July when he and six teammates were in a car accident. Already scheduled for a light workload to finish out the season, Anderson sustained a concussion and pitched just four more innings.

Strengths: You can never say stuff doesn't matter, but with Anderson it's not the most important thing. The son of Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson, a noted mentor of pitchers, Brett has smooth mechanics and always pitches with a plan. He throws two breaking balls for strikes, and both can be plus pitches, as can his changeup. His fastball usually sits at 90 mph, but his command of it is impeccable, and hitters react like it comes in harder.

Weaknesses: He played center field as an underclassman in high school, so Anderson has some athleticism. But he has not maintained his conditioning, so his body has gotten soft and he doesn't move well around the mound. Getting in better shape will help him with the everyday rigors of pro ball, and could even add some velocity to his fastball.

The Future: Anderson has rare command and polish for a pitcher his age, so he could move quickly. He'll get a chance to earn a spot in the Double-A rotation in spring training and profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
South Bend (Lo A) 8 4 2.21 14 14 0 0 81 76 3 10 85 .248
Visalia (Hi A) 3 3 4.85 9 9 0 0 39 50 6 11 40 .311
4.  Max Scherzer, rhp   Born: July 27, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 210
 Drafted: Missouri, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Joe Robinson
Max ScherzerBackground: The 11th overall pick in 2006, Scherzer pitched for the independent Fort Worth Cats and held out before he would have re-entered the draft pool. Though he projected as no more than a mid-first-rounder the second time around, Arizona gave him a $3 million bonus, $4.3 million in guaranteed money and another $1.5 million in easily reachable incentives. He followed Stephen Drew and Justin Upton as the third straight Diamondbacks first-rounder who took months to sign.

Strengths: Scherzer's fastball can overmatch batters, arriving in the mid-90s with sinking action at its best. His slider also can be a plus pitch, though he's working on consistently commanding and getting a good plane on it. His changeup has improved to become a useful third pitch. The Diamondbacks love his strong frame, his athleticism and competitive demeanor.

Weaknesses: Some scouts who saw Scherzer as a starter at midseason wondered what the fuss was about. His fastball sat at 89-93 mph range, and his overall stuff, command, feel and delivery all drew questions. Then they saw him relieving in the Arizona Fall League and he was a different pitcher, touching 98 mph. He has a violent head jerk in his delivery, which also would seem to point toward a future in the bullpen.

The Future: Arizona's official opinion is that Scherzer is a starter, but there's even disagreement within the organization. If he continues in the rotation, he'll likely open 2008 back in Double-A. If he moves to the bullpen, he could provide immediate help in the big leagues and has the pure stuff to eventually close games.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Fort Worth (Indy) 1 0 0.56 3 3 0 0 16 9 0 4 25 .164
Visalia (Hi A) 2 0 0.53 3 3 0 0 17 5 0 2 30 .089
Mobile (AA) 4 4 3.91 14 14 0 0 74 64 3 40 76 .235
5.  Gerardo Parra, of   Born: May 6, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 186
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004Signed by: Miguel Nava
Gerardo ParraBackground: Parra followed up his strong U.S. debut in 2006 with the Midwest League (.320) batting title in 2007, also earning a promotion to high Class A for the last month of the minor league season. He capped his year by starting in the outfield alongside Carlos Gonzalez for Zulia in the Venezuelan winter league.

Strengths: Parra leads the next wave of Latin American talent coming through the system, and his tools draw comparisons to Gonzalez in every phase except power. He's the best pure hitter in the system and sprays balls all over the field, showing sound mechanics and a good approach. He has a plus arm and good defensive instincts, and he always plays with energy.

Weaknesses: Parra hasn't yet shown the power to fit the ideal profile for right field, but his bat speed suggests it could come as he matures. His speed is a tick below-average, though he was playing center field in winter ball, so long term he'll have to drive more balls out of the park to be a regular.

The Future: In an organization loaded with talented young outfielders, it's hard to see where Parra will fit. But the logjam also means he'll have time to develop his game. He'll begin 2008 back in Visalia but should move to Double-A at some point during the season.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
South Bend (Lo A) .320 .370 .435 444 64 142 25 4 6 57 30 51 24
Visalia (Hi A) .284 .303 .382 102 11 29 2 1 2 14 4 17 2
6.  Emilio Bonifacio, 2b/ss   Born: April 23, 1985B-T: B-RHt: 5-11Wt: 180
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001Signed by: Junior Noboa
Emilio BonifacioBackground: After four so-so pro seasons, Bonifacio moved into the fast lane by batting .321 with 66 steals in high Class A in 2006. He followed up with a good year in Double-A and made his major league debut in September.

Strengths: Bonifacio's speed rates as either a 70 or 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he plays with energy and passion. He continues to refine his basestealing, picking pitches and counts and getting good breaks, and he has no fear of getting thrown out (though he did get caught 13 times in 54 Double-A attempts). He's an above-average defender at second base, with sure hands, great range and enough arm for shorstop.

Weaknesses: While Bonifacio draws comparisons to Luis Castillo, he doesn't have Castillo's approach at the plate. Bonifacio's swing isn't conducive to the small-ball game he needs to play, and he still doesn't have a good idea of the strike zone. He also hasn't shown the strength to drive the ball, which could lead to problems against quality fastballs at higher levels.

The Future: Bonifacio is the kind of player managers love to have in the lineup, but if he doesn't improve at the plate he could end up as a utility player. He'll open the season in Triple-A, with Orlando Hudson and Alberto Callaspo ahead of him in the organization's pecking order.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Mobile (AA) .286 .333 .352 551 84 157 21 5 2 40 38 105 41
Arizona .217 .333 .261 23 2 5 1 0 0 2 4 2 0
7.  Aaron Cunningham   Born: April 24, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 195
 Drafted: Everett (Wash.) CC, 2005 (6th round)Signed by: Joe Butler/Adam Virchis (White Sox)
Aaron CunninghamBackground: After earning high Class A Carolina League midseason all-star honors, Cunningham came to the Diamondbacks in a June trade for Danny Richar. A corner outfielder with the White Sox, he played mostly center field after changing organizations.

Strengths: Cunningham is a natural hitter who has a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, and he can drive pitches from gap to gap. He's a throwback player who always gets his uniform dirty and plays an instinctive game. He has an above-average arm and has enough speed to get by in center field and steal an occasional base.

Weaknesses: While Cunningham does everything well, he doesn't do anything exceptionally, leading to questions about whether he'll end up as a tweener. He has a long swing and better pitchers have been able to get inside on him. He also has a tendency to get out of his comfort zone and try to drive the ball too much.

The Future: Unless Cunningham adds power or shows he can play center field every day, he has the long-term look of a fourth outfielder or platoon player. He'll start 2008 back in Double-A.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Winston-Salem (Hi A) .294 .376 .476 252 51 74 12 5 8 37 34 39 22
Visalia (Hi A) .358 .386 .553 123 25 44 11 2 3 20 5 23 5
Mobile (AA) .288 .364 .534 118 25 34 8 3 5 20 12 27 1
8.  Chris Carter, 1b   Born: Dec. 18, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Las Vegas, 2005 (15th round)Signed by: George Kachigian/Joe Butler (White Sox)
Chris CarterBackground: Not to be confused with the Chris Carter whom the Diamondbacks traded to acquire Emiliano Fruto from the Nationals in August, this slugger joined Arizona in a December deal that sent Carlos Quentin to the White Sox. Carter dropped to the 15th round of the 2005 draft because he was considered a raw project, but he has shown more aptitude more quickly than expected, slugging 51 homers in 273 career games.

Strengths: Carter's calling card is the ability to hit the ball a long way, and he's also showing that he can hit for average and not get himself out chasing bad pitches. An opposing manager who saw him in the low Class A South Atlantic League said that Carter's approach reminded him of a young Jermaine Dye. He has a natural, fluid swing from the right side and generally looks to use the whole field instead of to pull the ball. He has shown the ability to make adjustments from one at-bat to the next.

Weaknesses: Carter has nothing going for him except for his bat. Drafted as a third baseman, he has migrated across the infield and will have to work hard to become even an adequate defender at first base. He made 11 errors in just 73 games there last season. Carter doesn't run well, has little agility around the bag and has below-average hands. Offensively, strikeouts will be a tradeoff for his power.

The Future: The California League notoriously favors hitters, and Carter could put up huge numbers at Visalia in 2008. He needs to improve markedly on defense, however, as he doesn't have the option of being a DH now that he's with a National League organization.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kannapolis (Lo A) .291 .383 .522 467 84 136 27 3 25 93 67 112 3
9.  Reynaldo Navarro, ss   Born: Dec. 22, 1989B-T: B-RHt: 5-9Wt: 160
 Drafted: HS—Guaynabo, P.R., 2007 (3rd round)Signed by: Ray Blanco
Reynaldo NavarroBackground: A product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Navarro drew interest at a workout on the island in May. He he sealed his match with Arizona by attending a predraft workout in Phoenix, where he looked comfortable in a major league environment. The Diamondbacks took him in the third round and gave him a $330,000 bonus, then sent him to the Rookie-level Pioneer League at age 17 because they have no complex league affiliate.

Strengths: Navarro has all the tools scouts look for in a shortstop, with plus range as well as quickness, great actions and an average arm. He draws physical comparisons to former big leaguer Jose Uribe. Navarro also showed promise at the plate, with good bat speed and a line-drive stroke. He started switch-hitting full-time during instructional league.

Weaknesses: Navarro committed a Pioneer League-high 28 errors and will work to become more consistent on routine plays. He needs to get stronger and develop a better approach to become a productive hitter. He's too aggressive at the plate at this point.

The Future: In a perfect world, Navarro will become a slick-fielding shortstop who bats in the No. 2 hole and moves the ball around the field. He'll try to win a starting job in low Class A but could spend 2008 at short-season Yakima.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Missoula (R) .250 .274 .283 212 21 53 4 0 1 17 6 41 6
10.  Barry Enright, rhp   Born: March 30, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: Pepperdine, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Hal Kurtzman
Barry EnrightBackground: The Diamondbacks made a point of taking Friday night college starters in their 2007 draft, and Enright outperformed them all. He signed quickly for $441,000 as a second-rounder after compiling a 35-8 record in three years at Pepperdine, then didn't allow an earned run in 10 pro appearances. Arizona kept his workload light after he threw 131 innings in the spring.

Strengths: Enright dominated hitters all spring and summer with an average fastball that sits at 88-91 mph and peaks at 92 mph. Command is his forte, but Arizona also loved his willingness to attack hitters and put them away early. He has a great feel for pitching and clean arm action. He also tightened his slider, making it an effective second pitch, and shows a knack for adding and subtracting velocity.

Weaknesses: None of Enright's offerings are legitimate out pitches, and his curveball and changeup are a notch behind his fastball and slider. He'll have to prove he has the stuff to get more advanced hitters out.

The Future: While some scouts saw Enright as a middle reliever coming out of the draft, his college track record and early pro success have the Diamondbacks expecting more. He'll probably open the season in high Class A, where he finished his pro debut.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Yakima (SS) 0 0 0.00 5 0 0 0 8 4 0 3 12 .148
South Bend (Lo A) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 1 5 3 0 2 4 .167
Visalia (Hi A) 0 0 0.00 4 0 0 1 5 3 0 2 4 .167

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Photo Credits: Jerry Hale (Gonzalez)
Bill Mitchell (Parker, Scherzer, Parra, Navarro, Roemer)
Tom Priddy (Carter)
Steve Moore (Anderson)
David Stoner (Cunningham)