Moderator: Bill Mitchell will be here at 1 p.m. Eastern to chat about the Diamondbacks’ top prospects.
Bill Mitchell: Welcome to our annual Diamondbacks prospect get-together. It’s a much deeper organization than in past years, and that’s reflected by the number of questions already in our queue. Let’s get it rolling.
Kel (Flagstaff, AZ): Your thoughts on Taylor Clarke? Thx
Bill Mitchell: We’ve got plenty of questions about Taylor Clarke, so we’ll start the chat with Arizona’s 3rd round pick from the College of Charleston. Clarke had a very nice debut at Hillsboro, not allowing an earned run in over 20 innings. The big right-hander’s strength is his Plus command and control, projecting as a fourth starter with a good three-pitch mix. One of my biggest disappointments during the recent instructional league season was that Clarke didn’t pitch, so I didn’t get a chance to see him on the mound. He’ll be a high priority for me in spring training.
Dave (Phoenix): Is Marcus Wilson still someone to dream on, or is he not progressing?
Bill Mitchell: Marcus Wilson has made slow but steady progress during his two years in the organization. The Diamondbacks knew that the young California outfielder was a project who would take time. He got a little stronger in 2015 but still needs to add strength so that he can make better contact at the plate. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him get more time in short-season ball, which will be alright since he won’t turn 20 until late next season. He’ll be ranked in the Prospect Handbook, so you’ll be able to read more about Wilson when that fine book comes out early next year.
@Jaypers413 (IL): Thanks for the chat, Bill. Could Austin Byler become the second coming of Goldschmidt, or is that too generous a comp? How close was he to this list?
Bill Mitchell: Don’t get too excited about Austin Byler yet. Arizona’s 11th round pick from Nevada, Byler was a four-year college guy playing in a rookie-level league and in a very good park for hitters. While he put up very good numbers there, he also struck out in 23 percent of his at-bats. Byler was suspended for 50 games in September for a positive PED test. The clock on that penalty doesn’t kick in until the start of the 2016 Pioneer League season which will in effect wipe out most of the year for him. He’ll be 24 until he gets a full season under his belt in 2017. I didn’t write a report on him this year, but we’ll take another look at Byler next year.
Grant (NYC): What did you think of Cody Reed during his Hillsboro debut?
Bill Mitchell: Cody Reed put in a good season for the Northwest League champion Hops and is in the mix for the top 30. Conditioning will always be a concern for Reed, and he reported to instructional league in better shape than earlier in the year. His fastball was in the 87-91 range this year, and scouts are concerned that his secondary pitches aren’t good enough to offset the lower fastball velocity. Let’s see how he handles full-season ball next year.
Eric (Tampa): Impressions of Gabby Guerrero this year? Is he in your 30?
Bill Mitchell: Gabby Guerrero was in the discussion for the Dbacks top ten list, but will instead rank somewhere in the teens. He struggled with plate discipline and pitch recognition in Double-A this year, both before and after the trade from Seattle. I recently talked with his Mobile hitting coach, who indicated that Guerrero knows what he needs to improve and is dedicated to working on improving. The raw power and arm strength are both plus or plus-plus tools, so there’s a major league outfielder in there if he can improve his approach. He was young for Double-A this year so expect a return to Mobile in 2016 for more seasoning.
Ezra Cornell (Ithaca, NY): Any buzz around the rare Cornell baseball prospect, Brent Jones? Pre draft word was that he could be a quick riser with back end potential. Any change?
Bill Mitchell: We ranked Jones in the 20s last year and, as you said, looked like he could move quickly. But injuries put him out of action for most of the second half of the season. Scouts believe his stuff will be better out of the bullpen. With better health in 2016 he could be back on the fast track.
Dave (dallas tx): Are you convinced that Bradley's future is not as a SP at this point?
Bill Mitchell: I don’t believe that anyone’s ready to give up on Archie staying in the rotation, especially since he looked good there at the start of 2015, but more scouts than before are voicing the opinion that the back end of the bullpen may (and I say MAY) be his best role moving forward. Let’s see how he looks when pitchers and catchers report in the spring.
Warren (New London): An obvious question: where would Touki Toussaint be on this list? Back end of the top 10, or lower?
Bill Mitchell: Toussaint would likely rank right around the middle of the Diamondbacks top ten, about where we had him last year. He still has top-of-the-rotation potential. Rather than giving you the details on Touki here, I’ll instead refer you to Bill Ballew’s report on him in the Braves top ten.
DR (MD): Isan Diaz put up great numbers and showed defensive versatility, yet most DBacks lists have him low. Is that simply a product of the hitter friendly league? Or do scouts not think the bat is for real?
Bill Mitchell: Scouts and Pioneer League managers were universally high on Diaz during my research into that league’s prospects. As good as the reports were from the Pioneer League, scouts were even more glowing about his potential after viewing him in instructional league. He probably won’t stay at shortstop, but it looks like the bat is real.
Rick (Arizona): Can you tell us about Josh Taylor? Do you consider him a top 30 prospect?
Bill Mitchell: Josh Taylor is a strong-armed lefty acquired mid-season from the Philadelphia organization. He’s not in the top 30 but is on my list of potential sleepers who could boost their stock next season. His fastball gets up to 94 and he complements it with a big, slow curveball. He’s one to watch when he moves up to the Cal League.
Patrick (Glendale, AZ): Hi Bill, do you have a scout report for Tyler Mark? He was a college relief pitcher but transit into a SP for Hillsboro Hops this year. I am wondering if he has what it takes to be a SP in professional baseball?
Bill Mitchell: The Diamondbacks are giving 6th round pick Tyler Mark a chance to start, but so far most scouts believe he’ll wind up back in the bullpen but with a chance he could be a back-end starter if he improves his command. He’s got a good sinking fastball up to 94 and good feel for his changeup. His delivery needs work but he’s athletic and should improve with experience. Look for Mark in full-season ball in 2016.
Frank (Chicago): It was widely reported yesterday of a Shelby Miller for A.J. Pollock trade, which fell apart. Would you have done that trade if you were the DBacks?
Bill Mitchell: I saw that report on MLB Network just before I sat down to do this chat, so I haven’t thought about it enough to form an opinion. But off the top of my head, I’ll say I’d be very reluctant to trade Pollock. I’d be surprised if he gets moved.
Nick (Nashville): Will Stryker Trahan ever hit enough or catch well enough to be a regular?
Bill Mitchell: It was a very rough year for Stryker, who still has big power but doesn’t make enough contact and hasn’t progressed behind the plate. The fact that he’s dropping out of the top 30 should answer your question.
Irene (Phoenix): What is the latest status of Felipe Perez? He was once a top 30 but didn't didn't pitch in 2015?
Bill Mitchell: Felipe Perez was suspended last January for 50 games for a second positive test of a drug of abuse. I can’t find any record of him being released, but I haven’t seen or heard anything about him in over a year. His stuff had backed up after he was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of high school, but that’s as much as I know on him right now.
Patrick (Glendale AZ): Both Jason Morozowski and Zach Nehrir performed well in the short season leagues. Who do you rank higher? Can you tell us about these two 2015 draft signings?
Bill Mitchell: Jason Morozowski was Arizona’s 13th round pick from Mount Olive in North Carolina. I got good reports on him as a potential sleeper when I was researching my Pioneer League list. He also pitched in college so he’s relatively inexperienced as a position player for a college product. He’s still plenty raw but showed good bat speed, gets on base and has above-average speed. Nehrir was the 16th round pick from Houston Baptist and anchored the Hillsboro outfield. Neither player made the top 30 but are ones to keep an eye on next year when they both likely head to Low-A.
Brad (Taiwan): How did Huang rank in D-Backs farm system? Thanks!
Bill Mitchell: Wei-Chieh Huang is a right-handed pitcher from Taiwan who made his stateside debut in the Midwest League at the age of 22. He had an excellent season with Kane County after starting the year in extended spring training due to a back issue. Huang uses a fastball that sits 91-92 and has a double-plus changeup that rates as the organization’s best. He’ll rank somewhere in the 11-20 range when the Prospect Handbook shows up in your mailbox next year.
Rich (NJ): Can you please give us your opinion on the future of young catcher Jose Herrera. Also, where do you see him starting in 2016 and do you see him ranking in the 11 - 20 range?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve always been high on Jose Herrera, a switch-hitting catcher from Venezuela who signed with Arizona for just over a million in 2013. He had a small setback this season, spending a second season in the Arizona League due to a foot injury that kept him from an assignment to one of the other short-season affiliates. Scouts still like his ability to catch and the potential to hit. He’ll still be only 19 next year when he gets a second chance to move on to Missoula or Hillsboro. We had him at #15 last season and he’ll still be a top 30 guy in what is now a deeper organization.
Ray (New York): How do you rank the three Kane County outfielders (Bray, Reyes, Taylor)? Who do you think have the upside to become a MLB regular?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve got them on the depth chart in this order: Victor Reyes, Colin Bray, Chuckie Taylor. Reyes, who the Dbacks got from Atlanta in that two-part trade with Atlanta that allowed them to dump Trevor Cahill’s salary, is the only one of the three likely to rank in the top 30. Reyes has hit well at every level but with absolutely no over-the-fence power. None of his other tools stand out so he’ll have to continue to rope line drives into the gaps to project as a starting outfielder at the big league level. He’s got the frame to add more strength so he could develop more power, but he doesn’t get much loft in his swing. I’ll be curious to see how much power comes out when he moves up to the hitter-friendly California League.
Sam (LA): Thanks for the chat. Carlos Hernandez pitched really well in 2015. Did he receive any top 10 consideration?
Bill Mitchell: Carlos Hernandez ranked as the 20th best prospect in the Northwest League, but didn’t get any push to rank high in the Dbacks organization. He’s a small right-hander with good pitchability and a plus slider. He’ll need to prove he can get advanced hitters out as he moves through the system, with his first taste of full-season ball expected in 2016.
Noel (Portland, OR): Will the Dbacks use Drury as a utility guy? Play some 3b and 2b. Maybe learn the of and play SS in a pinch.
Bill Mitchell: Drury projects to have enough bat for a starting job, but he could fill a utility role until a spot opens up. I expect that he’ll head back to Reno for more seasoning since Phil Gosselin is around to be the utility infielder. But if Drury has as good a spring as he had last year, I wouldn’t rule out the chance for him to make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training.
@Jaypers413 (IL): I'm curious why a power hitting, defensively-challenged player such as Pete O'Brien got traded to an N.L. club in the first place. Doesn't he fit more into the role of a future DH to you?
Bill Mitchell: At the time I believe there was hope that O’Brien could catch well enough that if the bat also developed he could be a Mike Piazza type of offensive backstop. I’m not saying he had Piazza-like potential but at least to be that kind of power-hitting catcher. He’s going to get another chance to catch but few observers see that working out for him. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him heading back to the American League at some point.
Albert (Phoenix): Did you have a chance to see Luis Madero and Emilio Vargas in the AZL? They pitched well for AZL D-Backs so I am wondering if you are high on them?
Bill Mitchell: Madero and Vargas are both interesting enough to rate positions on the Dbacks right-handed starting pitcher depth chart. As first year rookie ball pitchers they both classify as lottery tickets to file away for the future. On a quick search I was able to find my notes on Madero: good command, fastball up to 92, loose actions, good shape on his breaking ball. Vargas has more zip to his fastball, consistently sitting 94. Secondary stuff is still inconsistent. One more name to file away for the future is a right-hander out of the DSL – Melvin Ovalles.
Harry (Phoenix, AZ): While you don't get a vote in this, how many of the top 10 do you think are worthy of making BA's top 100?
Bill Mitchell: I’m guessing the top five on the list (Swanson, Blair, Shipley, Bradley, Drury) will all get consideration for the final BA top 100.
Mick (Chicago): I'm guessing recent draft pick SS Kal Simmons may appear in the top 30 prospect book. Is his ceiling any higher than utility player?
Bill Mitchell: Like Austin Byler, Simmons received a 50-game suspension and will miss most of the 2016 season. I heard that the Dbacks were going to give him a chance to work behind the plate in instructional league. He was at their Salt River complex for early workouts but then I never saw him in a game during the fall. No top 30 for Simmons this year.
Teddy (Granville): Hey Bill, living in Chicago, are there any players I should look forward to watching next season at Kane County? or is it just Isan Diaz
Bill Mitchell: You should have a solid crop of prospects making their way to Kane County in 2016, including most of the Hillsboro pitching staff (Taylor Clarke, Alex Young, Carlos Hernandez, Cody Reed, Breckin Williams, Tyler Mark, etc.). As you mentioned, Diaz will probably be there, as well as Jason Morozowski (mentioned in an earlier post) and Sergio Alcantara getting a second try at that level. It will be a fun team to watch.
Ringo (Octopusses Garden): Who just missed the top 10?
Bill Mitchell: I mentioned Gabby Guerrero, Taylor Clarke and Wei-Chieh Huang earlier, but I’ll throw one more name your way — Anthony Banda. The southpaw acquired from 2014 from Milwaukee had a nice season in Visalia and could be a potential top-10 candidate with a strong showing in Double-A.
Dan (Augusta, ME): Thoughts on 3rd rdr Taylor Clarke? The Dbacks kept him in the pen for his pro debut just to limit innings right? Thanks.
Bill Mitchell: I talked earlier about Clarke, but I’ll answer your question about his bullpen role in Hillsboro. Yes, that was to limit his innings in his first pro season. The organization did the same with Alex Young, who only pitched one inning at a time after a long season with TCU.
Chung Han (Taipei): Wei-Chieh Huang is the first Taiwanese pitcher signed by Arizona and finished a good season for class A Kane County. Other than Huang, do you know if there is any Taiwanese players signed by Arizona that will have their debut in the U.S. In 2016?
Bill Mitchell: They recently signed another right-handed pitcher, Kai-Wei Lin, who participated in instructional league this fall. He’ll debut in the system next year but it’s too soon to tell at what level.
Chung Han (Taipei): Arizona has demonstrated the ability to sign good talents from the Independent Leagues. Can you suggest some Independant League signings that we can follow in 2016?
Bill Mitchell: One player to watch is right-handed pitcher Ethan Elias, who pitched in the independent Frontier League in 2014 after being released by the Cubs. The 22-year-old Elias had a nice season in Low-A before playing with Team Canada in the Premier 12 tournament.
Ringo (Octopusses Garden): Did Silvino Bracho make the handbook? Can he close at the big league level?
Bill Mitchell: Bracho jumped from High-A to Double-A to the big leagues this year, and pitched well during the latter part of the season. His stuff is average across the board but I’ve heard he has “nerves of steel.” He can’t close at the big league level, profiling instead as a productive 7th inning reliever. We haven’t yet finalized the rest of the top 30, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Bracho in there when it’s all said and done.
Roy (Indiana): Wasted year as expected for Oscar Hernandez. Does he still have roster time at big league level and what are the impressions of him?
Bill Mitchell: Oscar Hernandez was the Dbacks Rule 5 pick from Tampa Bay last year, thus requiring him to spend all season in the big leagues. He spent time on the DL after breaking his hamate, but can now be sent back to the minor leagues without Arizona losing his rights. He’ll probably start next year at Double-A Mobile. Hernandez is near major league ready defensively, but has a lot of work to do at the plate.
Roy (Indiana): Where might Palka have ranked if not traded? What were impressions of him by scouts?
Bill Mitchell: Daniel Palka would have ranked somewhere in the 20s in the Arizona organization before being traded to Minnesota for Chris Hermann. Palka had some of the best raw power in the organization but not enough hittability to project as a regular. His outfield defense is adequate, with enough arm to handle rightfield.
JD (Arlington, VA): Given his advanced pedigree, is there a chance Swanson makes it to The Show next year, or is mid-2017 looking more likely? With the desert air there in Arizona, is there a chance he hits 30 homers a year?
Bill Mitchell: 2017 is more likely for an arrival date for Swanson, but I wouldn’t put it past him to be able to handle the big leagues as early as late 2016. As for 30 homeruns, that’s a little rich for him even in hitter-friendly Chase Field. He’s not that kind of hitter.
a.j. (las vegas): I know Nick Ahmed is not good enough to "block" a #1 overall pick but might the Diamondbacks look at Swanson at second base in the minors this year?
Bill Mitchell: Another question on Swanson’s future: I’m sure they will keep him at shortstop for now, but I wouldn’t rule out a move to second base at some point in his career. We know he can handle it. If Ahmed’s bat comes around enough to go with his superb defense, it could create an interesting dilemma for the team in a few years.
Joe (South Bend): Seth Simmons. Still a prospect?
Bill Mitchell: Simmons, a short right-handed reliever with a big fastball, has been on my annual “sleeper guys waiting to break out” list for several years. He had a strong season split between Double-A and Triple-A, but still hasn’t made it to the 40-man roster. He’ll be 28 by mid-season next year, so the clock is ticking.
John (Michigan): Not long ago, Jose Martinez wasn't far behind Bradley, Blair & Shipley. He's still young. What are the chances he regains top prospect status?
Bill Mitchell: Martinez suffered a stress fracture in his elbow in 2014, finally making it back to full-season ball in June. His days in the rotation are now over and he’s taken to a relief role very well. The mid-90s fastball is back as well as the plus curveball. If he can stay healthy and get better command, he’s got 8th inning potential and perhaps even a future as a closer.
mez (SC): Ryan Burr a quick riser? Could he make it all the way to the backend of the bullpen?
Bill Mitchell: Burr, no stranger to Phoenix-area baseball fans after his three-year career at Arizona State, had an excellent season split between Hillsboro and Kane County. The slider improved with a change in the grip and he showed better command than at ASU. It’s a power arm with a fastball that touched 99 this year. With major college experience on his resume, Burr is a candidate to move quickly. I’m betting he gets to Double-A at some point in 2016.
Bill Mitchell: While there are still plenty of solid questions in the queue, I’m out of time for today. Thanks to all for your participation. You may hit me up on Twitter @billazbbphotog with more questions. Don’t forget to order the Prospect Handbook so that you can read all 30 reports from every organization. Join us on Friday when Mike Lananna covers the Rockies organization. I’ll be back in the chat room in January to talk about the Angels system.