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, 2009.

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Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks are moving into the next phase of their evolution. No longer young upstarts, they'll come to spring training with established players at most positions and the expectation of contending for the National League West title.

Arizona brought lots of young talent through its farm system in recent years, culminating in a 90-win season, NL West title and Division Series victory in 2007. The front office then bolstered the big league team with the acquisition of veterans like Dan Haren—who came over before the 2008 season in a trade that sent six prospects to the Athletics—as well as Adam Dunn, Jon Rauch and David Eckstein, who were acquired during the year.

The 2008 squad ultimately fell short of the playoffs, however, after spending most of the season in first place in the West. With the Rockies taking a big step back, Arizona spent all of May and June in first place, then battled with the Dodgers in the second half before relinquishing the division lead for good on Sept. 5.

A mediocre offense was to blame, as the Diamondbacks finished fifth in the NL in runs allowed (706) but 10th in runs scored (720). At least they scored more runs than they allowed, after making the playoffs despite a -20 run differential in 2007.

The Diamondbacks will depend on the continued improvement of young players like Stephen Drew and Justin Upton to remain in contention over the next few years. They'll have to, because the farm system is dramatically thinner in talent than just a few years ago, when Arizona sat at the top of our minor league talent rankings.

That's the result of players like Drew and Upton moving quickly through the system to the big leagues, as well as the wholesale trading of prospects for big leaguers in the last couple of years. From last year's Top 30 list, eight of the top 17 prospects have been traded away. Off the 2007 list, 19 of the 30 players either have been traded or have graduated to the majors. The highest player from the 2007 Top 30 still in the farm system is outfielder Gerardo Parra, who since has moved from No. 14 to No. 2 in our rankings.

Arizona also will rely on its young core because it doesn't have the money to plug holes Yankees-style. The Diamondbacks made news as one of the first professional sports franchises to announce layoffs during the economic recession, firing 31 people after the season ended.

The baseball-operations budget reportedly will be around $75 million for 2009, a total that includes the major league payroll as well as the draft budget, among other things. Arizona was left to shop for stopgaps like Felipe Lopez and Scott Schoenweis over the winter. What flexibility the team did have resulted from Randy Johnson's $10 million salary coming off the books, as well as those of Juan Cruz, Orlando Hudson and Brandon Lyon, who together made about $11 million last season.

Any help the Diamondbacks have coming soon will be on the pitching side, where their draft efforts have focused in the last two years. It wouldn't be shocking to see 2007 first-rounder Jarrod Parker or 2008 first-rounder Daniel Schlereth in the big leagues at some point this year.

1.  Jarrod Parker, rhp   Born: Nov. 24, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Norwell, Ind., 2007 (1st round) • Signed by: Mike Daughtry
Jarrod ParkerBackground: Parker overpowered weak competition in the Indiana high school ranks as an amateur, and when he returned to the state last season to pitch for low Class A South Bend, he was nearly as dominant while ranking as the Midwest League's No. 3 prospect. He was about two hours from home, where he had emerged from obscurity to become the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Parker earned his first widespread attention pitching for USA Baseball's junior national team in 2006, shocking scouts with his easy velocity from a relatively small frame. He didn't pitch for the Diamondbacks in 2007 after signing for $2.1 million, then piled up 129 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2008. Arizona closely monitored his workload, keeping him on very limited pitch counts early in the season, and he worked into the seventh inning just once all season. He seemed to tire at midseason but rebounded to go 3-0, 1.91 in his final six regular-season starts. He also was one of the most impressive pitchers in Arizona's instructional league camp.

Strengths: From the first time scouts saw him, they have been impressed with the easy, high-90s velocity Parker generates from such a smooth arm action. He sits at 94 mph and touches 98 and looks like he could do it all day, drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum. The Diamondbacks were also impressed with his feel for pitching and his aptitude in quickly improving his other three pitches. He developed better definition between his slider and curveball, with the slider the better pitch in Arizona's eyes. It's a true power breaker in the upper 80s. He seems more confident in the curveball, which also can be a plus pitch and is valuable for changing hitters' eye level. He never had to throw a changeup in high school but showed good feel for it. He was throwing it in hitter's counts and getting swings and misses by the end of the year. Parker is athletic and able to repeat his delivery, and he shows strong command of all four of his pitches. He's athletic and able to overcome his lack of height to get a good downhill plane on his pitches.

Weaknesses: Parker needs to be diligent about working to the bottom of the zone, because while young hitters will chase his fastball up, better hitters won't. His fastball command is good for his experience level, but he's still working on locating the ball to both sides of the plate with precision. He's also learning how to work through a game efficiently without piling up huge pitch counts.

The Future: Arizona expected a great arm with the ninth overall pick, but Parker's polish has been a bonus, particularly with his limited amateur experience. His four legitimate pitches, command and polished delivery are a recipe for stability and success. He'll open 2009 at either high Class A Visalia or Double-A Mobile, depending on his spring, but either way he'll pitch at multiple levels this season—and one of those levels could be the big leagues.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
South Bend (LoA)
12
5
3.44
24
24
0
0
117.2
113
8
33
117
.251
 
2.  Gerardo Parra, of   Born: May 6, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 186.
 Signed: Venezuela, 2004.  Signed by: Miguel Nava.
Gerardo ParraBackground: After winning the Midwest League batting title with a .320 average in 2007, Parra split 2008 between Visalia and Mobile but made his strongest impression after the regular season. Playing both center and right field for Zulia in his native Venezuela, he batted .329/.404/.504 and ranked among the Venezuelan League leaders in several offensive categories, including first with 20 doubles.

Strengths: While the individual grades on Parra's tools aren't overwhelming, the sum of what he brings to every game adds up. His best attribute is a smooth batting stroke that generates bat speed. He also has a good approach at the plate and a feel for putting together quality at-bats. He's not a spectacular center fielder but is smooth, can run and makes all the plays. He has plenty of arm for center field, with good accuracy.

Weaknesses: Parra won't ever hit for great power, with a top end of 12-15 home runs a year, so if he has to move to an outfield corner he starts to look like a tweener. He can improve his plate discipline and learn to pull the ball more to get the most out of his swing.

The Future: Parra will return to Double-A to open the season but should move up at some point and earn a September callup. As long as he can stay in center field, he should be a productive big leaguer.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Visalia (HiA)
.301
.381
.413
196
26
59
8
4
2
19
23
31
12
Mobile (AA)
.275
.341
.419
265
35
73
14
6
4
33
24
34
16
 
3.  Daniel Schlereth, lhp   Born: May 9, 1986. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210.
 Drafted: Arizona, 2008 (1st round). Signed by: Rodney Davis.
Daniel SchlerethBackground: As a local product who attended nearby Arizona, Schlereth was well known to the Diamondbacks. So when he bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2006 to show his power stuff again last spring, Arizona jumped on him with the 26th overall pick and signed him for $1.33 million. The son of former NFL offensive lineman and ESPN commentator Mark Schlereth, he dominated in the Midwest League playoffs after a late promotion.

Strengths: Schlereth is perfectly suited to a role at the back of a bullpen. He has an explosive fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a power curveball that's also a plus pitch, not to mention the adrenaline and makeup for the role. He showed good control of both pitches last spring and summer.

Weaknesses: Staying healthy and learning how to absorb a full season's worth of work, along with sharpening his command, are about the only things standing between Schlereth and a major league job. He worked on a changeup in instructional league to give him an occasional third option.

The Future: Though he worked just 12 regular-season innings after signing, Schlereth probably will jump to Double-A to open 2009. The Diamondbacks won't hold him back if he shows he can handle more advanced hitters. He has the arm to be a closer someday.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Missoula (R)
0
0
0.00
3
0
0
0
3
3
0
2
6
.250
South Bend (LoA)
1
0
2.00
7
0
0
0
9
3
0
4
14
.103
 
4.  Mark Hallberg, ss/2b   Born: Dec. 9, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170.
 Drafted: Florida State, 2007 (9th round). Signed by: Luke Wrenn.
Mark HallbergBackground: Hallberg jumped to high Class A for his first full season, but he tore a ligament in his left thumb on a tag play in his second game. He had surgery in mid-April and returned two months later. He made up for lost time by batting .362 and earning league MVP honors in Hawaii Winter Baseball.

Strengths: Hallberg is an organization favorite because he's polished and has few holes in his game. He understands his game and carries out a plan every day, and one team official calls him "Tommy Textbook." His only plus tool is his bat, and he should always be productive because he has the best strike-zone judgement in the system and never gives away at-bats. He should have average power.

Weaknesses: Most of Hallberg's pure tools are fringy. While he's a fundamentally sound shortstop he doesn't have the athletic ability or speed to play there every day. He played mostly second base in Hawaii and eventually should settle in there, with the ability to fill in at short and third base.

The Future: The most apt comparison is Mark Loretta, a heady player who ends up as an offensive second baseman but can play all over the field. Hallberg is the kind of player who managers want on the field and batting second every day. He'll advance to Double-A in 2009.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Visalia (HiA)
.283
.357
.368
272
42
77
10
2
3
29
30
28
5
 
5.  Wade Miley, lhp   Born: Nov. 13, 1986. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190.
 Drafted: Southeastern Louisiana, 2008 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Trip Couch.
Wade MileyBackground: Miley was part of a banner crop of Louisiana high school lefties in 2005, as he, Jeremy Bleich (Yankees), Beau Jones (Braves) and Sean West (Marlins) all became supplemental first-round picks. Miley spent three years at Southeastern Louisiana before signing for $877,000 in 2008. His 119 strikeouts last spring trailed only big league alumni Kirk Bullinger and Jeff Williams (125 each) as the most in Southeastern Louisiana history.

Strengths: At his best, Miley offers three above-average pitches. His slider is his calling card and allows him to neutralize righthanders. His fastball ranges from 89-92 mph and can touch the mid-90s, though he's better off at lower velocity with more movement. His changeup shows flashes, and he threw a curveball in college as well. He's athletic and played center field in high school.

Weaknesses: Miley endured a heavy workload last spring, pitching 102 innings, so the Diamondbacks took it easy with him. He threw just 11 innings at short-season Yakima and mostly worked on the side during instructional league. His main focus for the coming year will be improving his fastball command and getting his delivery under control.

The Future: Assuming he can tighten up his command, Miley has the well-rounded arsenal and durability to become a No. 3 starter in the big leagues. He'll crank up his pro career at one of Arizona's Class A affiliates this year.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Yakima (SS)
1
1
4.91
7
0
0
0
11
11
0
5
11
.250

6.  Kevin Eichhorn, rhp   Born: Feb. 6, 1990. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
 Drafted: HS—Aptos, Calif., 2008 (3rd round). Signed by: Darold Brown.
Kevin EichhornBackground: Eichhorn was the best high school prospect in Northern California for the 2008 draft, but teams weren't sure where to draft him because he's still filling out and had a strong commitment to Santa Clara. Arizona took him in the third round and signed him for an above-slot $500,000. His father Mark pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues and helped coach Kevin's team to the 2002 Little League World Series.

Strengths: It's still not clear what kind of pitcher Eichhorn might grow into, but he has a nice foundation in place. He's a quality athlete who also would have played shortstop had he gone to college, and he has good balance in his delivery. He complements an 87-91 mph fastball with a curveball and changeup, and Arizona thinks his already-solid stuff has lots of room for improvement. He has good makeup and intelligence as well.

Weaknesses: Arizona gave Eichhorn just a brief taste of pro ball and limited work in instructional league, with improving his changeup the biggest focus. In addition to experience and innings, he needs to get more physical in his lower half and learn how to repeat his delivery. His most advanced skill is his ability to fill the zone, but he needs to learn the difference between strikes and quality strikes.

The Future: With his background and ability, Eichhorn should be able to hit the ground running, so the Diamondbacks will start him off in low Class A this year.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Missoula (R)
0
0
6.75
2
0
0
0
2.2
2
0
1
2
.222
 
7.  Cesar Valdez, rhp   Born: March 17, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005. Signed by: Junior Noboa.
Cesar ValdezBackground: The Diamondbacks signed Valdez at the relatively old age of 20 in 2005, but he has moved quickly since. He broke out in 2008, going 13-8, 3.14 between two levels to win Arizona's minor league pitcher of the year award and a spot on the 40-man roster.

Strengths: Valdez's changeup is a legitimate plus pitch, with splitter action that generates swings and misses. He backs it with a sinker/slider combination, sitting around 90 mph and touching 92 with good movement on his fastball. He always has been a strike-thrower, and he has improved his fastball command and his ability to repeat his delivery. He has a knack for pitching and knows how to attack hitters, particularly by adding and subtracting velocity.

Weaknesses: Valdez has the repertoire of a pitcher who's reliable more than overpowering. His results in Double-A weren't nearly as good as in high Class A—though he had 10-strikeout games at both levels—indicating he needs to sharpen his command further.

The Future: While he doesn't have top-end stuff, Valdez has enough weapons to get through a major league lineup as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He'll return to Mobile to start the season but will move up quickly if he handles Double-A hitters.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Visalia (HiA)
10
3
2.53
15
15
1
0
96
88
5
16
80
.238
Mobile (AA)
3
5
4.06
12
12
0
0
64.1
63
2
23
60
.261
 
8.  Billy Buckner, rhp   Born: Aug. 27, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: South Carolina, 2004 (2nd round). Signed by: Spencer Graham (Royals).
Billy BucknerBackground: Buckner came over from the Royals in a trade for Alberto Callaspo after the 2007 season, and his Diamondbacks career got off to a horrendous beginning. He allowed 24 earned runs in his first five starts at Triple-A Tucson and took a 7.94 ERA into May, but was much better the rest of the way, holding his own in spite of bouncing all season between Tucson, where he started, and Arizona, where he worked out of the bullpen.

Strengths: Buckner has the weapons to pitch in the middle of a rotation, with a lively, low-90s sinker and a curveball that's his favorite pitch. He can get batters to swing and miss with both of those pitches. His changeup is a notch behind, and he has used it much more often in the minors than in the majors. He also can throw a knuckle-curve.

Weaknesses: Buckner's strikeouts were down and walks were up last year, reflecting that he wasn't aggressive enough and didn't have confidence in all his pitches. He also needs to improve his command, which showed progress in 2007 but took a step back in 2008.

The Future: Buckner has a resilient arm and his velocity goes up a tick out of the bullpen, so Arizona could easily use him in that role. But he holds his stuff well during games and has three good pitches when he's on, suggesting a starting role would be best. He'll compete for Arizona's fifth starter's job in spring training and could occupy a swingman role in 2008 as he sorts out his long-term future.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Tucson (AAA)
5
10
4.95
21
20
0
0
116.1
136
9
43
69
.296
Arizona
1
0
3.21
10
0
0
0
14
16
3
4
11
.296
 
9.  Collin Cowgill, of   Born: May 22, 1986. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 195.
 Drafted: Kentucky, 2008 (5th round). Signed by: Matt Haas.
Collin CowgillBackground: After sitting out the 2007 college season with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, Cowgill hit .290 in the Cape Cod League that summer but declined to sign with the Athletics as a 29th-round pick. Arizona took him 24 rounds higher last year and signed him for $155,000. He again showed aptitude with wood bats, as he led the short-season Northwest League with 11 homers in just 20 games there before getting promoted.

Strengths: One team official calls Cowgill "hitterish." He combines a good approach at the plate with great bat speed, allowing him to consistently put a charge in the ball. He's a confident hitter who will wait on his pitch and crush mistakes. He's also an adept outfielder, with instincts and enough speed under way to play center field, though ultimately he'll probably be better suited to a corner. His arm is average.

Weaknesses: Cowgill has a couple of things working against him. For one he's already 22, and for he's just 5-foot-9 and bats righthanded. Arizona brought him to instructional league to focus on cutting down his strikeouts because they'd like for him to hit first or second in the order. The main focus was improving his two-strike approach.

The Future: The Diamondbacks compare him to Cody Ross for his ability to swing the bat and play anywhere in the outfield. With his age and what he has shown so far, Cowgill will get the chance to jump to Double-A out of spring training.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Yakima (SS)
.304
.415
.785
79
21
24
3
1
11
28
12
17
5
South Bend (LoA)
.249
.346
.358
201
31
50
13
3
1
17
25
61
1
 
10.  Reynaldo Navarro, ss   Born: Dec. 22, 1989. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175.
 Drafted: HS—Gunabo, P.R., 2007 (3rd round). Signed by: Ray Blanco.
Reynaldo NavarroBackground: Because the Diamondbacks lack a complex-based affiliate, Navarro has spent his first two pro seasons in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he was probably over his head. He played the entire 2008 season at 18 years old.

Strengths: Navarro has the tools to become an ideal No. 2 hitter. Scouts saw him playing around with switch-hitting as a high schooler in Puerto Rico, and he took it on full-time in instructional league after the 2007 season. He has shown enough progress that the Diamondbacks now like his lefthanded swing better than his natural righty stroke. He has a better swing from the left side, as it's more repeatable and has fewer holes. He does show more power as a righty, but his game always will be about moving the ball around rather than driving it. He also has above-average speed.

Weaknesses: Shortstop has been a struggle so far for Navarro, who made 28 errors in 2007 and 38 in 2008 to lead the Pioneer League both years. There's some question whether he has the arm or actions to stay there, and he may have to move to second base. Arizona says otherwise, arguing that his mistakes are sins of aggression and his first-step quickness and athleticism make him a legitimate shortstop.

The Future: While the numbers don't show progress, the Diamondbacks were happy with Navarro's year, noting that he improved his body and his quickness and showed a much better idea at the plate. He'll move up to low Class A at age 19 and try to prove he can stay at short.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Missoula (R)
.258
.323
.385
291
42
75
17
7
2
31
25
77
17

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