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

How much can change in two years.

In 2007, the Diamondbacks were mentioned in tandem with the Rockies. Both National League West squads reached the NL Championship Series thanks to an influx of young, homegrown talent. Both missed the playoffs in 2008, and last season both fired their managers in May. The paths diverged there. Colorado made it back to the postseason after promoting bench coach Jim Tracy to replace Clint Hurdle and surging to a 74-42 finish. Arizona, on the other hand, compiled the sixth-worst record in baseball at 70-92. A.J. Hinch's move from farm director to manager was controversial and yielded roughly the same results (58-75) as predecessor Bob Melvin (12-17). (The Diamondbacks tapped Mike Berger, who had been working as a professional scout with the Blue Jays, to replace Hinch as farm director.)

What's more, the Rockies have more young talent, especially pitchers, ready to contribute in the big leagues. The Diamondbacks' best prospects reside in the lower levels of the minors. Baseball America ranked Arizona's farm system No. 1 in the game entering the 2006 season, but it has thinned as players such as Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton have graduated to the major leagues and others, such as Brett Anderson, Alberto Callaspo and Carlos Gonzalez, have been used in trades.

Given the strength of the Dodgers, Giants and Rockies, about the most the Diamondbacks can hope for in 2010 is to climb out of last place and finish ahead of the Padres. But Arizona does have hope for the future after cashing in eight of the first 95 picks in the 2009 draft.

After focusing on pitching in previous drafts, the Diamondbacks used six of their top eight choices last June to select position players. Third baseman Bobby Borchering (first round) and outfielder A.J. Pollock (first) are the top two position prospects in the system. Shortstop Chris Owings (supplemental first), outfielder Marc Krauss (second) and first baseman Ryan Wheeler (fifth) also cracked the Top 10, as did lefthander Mike Belfiore (supplemental first).

Even after bringing in a new wave of talent, Arizona doesn't have many athletic, up-the-middle prospects beyond Pollock and Owings. That's an issue for a team that has an opening at second base and saw its shortstop (Stephen Drew) and center fielder (Chris Young) perform well below expectations in 2009.

The Diamondbacks allowed more runs than all but five teams last season, and their best hope for immediate pitching help took a hit when righthander Jarrod Parker, their top prospect, needed Tommy John surgery in October.

If there was a silver lining to the struggles, it was that Arizona was able to trade several veterans for prospects. Brandon Allen (acquired from the White Sox for Tony Pena) and Tony Abreu (picked up from the Dodgers for Jon Garland) could start on the right side of the major league infield in 2010. The Diamondbacks also added depth with outfielder Cole Gillespie and righthander Roque Mercedes (from the Brewers for Felipe Lopez), and righty Kevin Mulvey (from the Twins for Jon Rauch).

Arizona also secured the No. 6 pick in the 2010 draft, the third-highest selection in franchise history and its best since taking Upton first overall in 2005.

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: If the Royals hadn't changed their minds on the day of the 2007 draft, they would have taken Josh Vitters second overall and the Cubs would have followed by selecting Parker. But Kansas City went with a different high school hitter, Mike Moustakas, so Vitters fell to Chicago and Parker fell to the Diamondbacks, who were thrilled to get him with the ninth overall pick. After signing late that summer for $2.1 million, Parker ranked as the low Class A Midwest League's No. 3 prospect in his 2008 pro debut. Parker needed just four starts at high Class A Visalia last April to earn a promotion to Double-A Mobile, and he rated as the Southern League's top pitching prospect despite being shut down for the season with elbow tightness in late July. He hoped rest and rehab would cure his elbow, and skipped planned stints with Team USA and in the Arizona Fall League. He started throwing side sessions again in September, but when his elbow didn't improve, he had Tommy John surgery in late October. Even if he misses all of 2010, Parker is still well ahead of the learning curve at age 21. His brother Justin, a third baseman, signed with Arizona as a sixth-round pick in 2008 and spent last season in low Class A.

Strengths: When healthy, Parker sits at 93-95 mph and touches 97 with his fastball. His size and the ease with which he generates velocity earn him comparisons to Tim Lincecum. Parker offers three quality secondary pitches to go along with his heater. His 80-84 mph slider, a swing-and-miss pitch with late tilt and two-plane depth, rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His curveball has classic 12-to-6 break. His changeup came a long way last season, showing flashes of becoming a plus pitch. He trusts his stuff, shows command of all four pitches and has a presence on the mound. He's athletic and repeats his delivery well. Though Parker needed reconstructive surgery, there are no red flags in his mechanics. Scouts always have been impressed with Parker's smooth, clean arm action and compact, easy delivery.

Weaknesses: Outside of Parker's health, there's not much to quibble with. He'll miss all or most of the 2010 season, and may not regain his full stuff and command until mid-2011. He still needs to refine his overall feel for pitching, and he can get inconsistent with his location in the strike zone. He overthrows occasionally, leaving pitches up. His fastball doesn't have great late life and can get flat at times.

The Future: Before his elbow injury, Parker was on the verge of becoming the third high school pitcher to race from the 2007 draft to the majors, following Tigers righthander Rick Porcello and Giants lefthander Madison Bumgarner. Though it's obviously a setback, Tommy John surgery shouldn't have a long-term effect on Parker's value as a prospect because of the track record of pitchers recovering from elbow reconstruction. He still should be a bona fide top-of-the-rotation starter, it's just that his timetable will be delayed. If all goes well in his recovery, he could join the Diamondbacks late in the 2011 season.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Visalia (Hi A) 1 0 0.95 4 4 0 0 19 12 0 4 21 .179
Mobile (AA) 4 6 3.68 16 16 0 0 78 82 2 34 74 .272
2.  Bobby Borchering, 3b   Born: Oct. 25, 1990B-T: B-RHt: 6-4Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Fort Myers, Fla., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Ray Blanco
Bobby BorcheringBackground: In a deep 2009 high school draft class in Florida, Borchering was regarded as the best hitter available. The first of Arizona's five picks before the second round, he went 16th overall and signed for $1.8 million. He struggled early at Rookie-level Missoula, but went 9-for-28 with four doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs in six postseason games.

Strengths: Borchering draws comparisons to Chipper Jones because he's a Florida native with a similar frame who switch-hits and has a lot of pop in his bat. Borchering rated as the top prep power hitter in the draft and has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order force. Better from the left side of the plate, he has excellent bat speed and an advanced feel to hit. He has the arm strength to play third base.

Weaknesses: Borchering never will be a smooth defender. He'll have to work hard to stay at third base, though the Diamondbacks believe he can. His footwork has improved, but he'll have to get more consistent in fielding the ball cleanly and making accurate throws. He also needs to tighten his plate discipline, as he tends to chase high fastballs and low curveballs.

The Future: Borchering will open his first full season at low Class A South Bend, probably alternating at third base and DH with supplemental first-rounder Matt Davidson. If Borchering has to eventually change positions, he'll have enough power to profile well at first base.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Missoula (R) .241 .290 .425 87 10 21 8 1 2 11 5 27 0
3.  A.J. Pollock, of   Born: Dec. 5, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 200
 Drafted: Notre Dame, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Mike Daughtry
A.J. PollockBackground: Pollock didn't have to make much of a transition after being drafted 17th overall in June, as both Notre Dame and Arizona's low Class A affiliate play in South Bend, Ind. Signed for $1.4 million, he first caught the Diamondbacks' attention by winning Cape Cod League MVP honors in the summer of 2008.

Strengths: Pollock's best tool is his bat, and his bat speed, strong hands and line-drive approach should allow him to hit for high average. He has gap power, slightly above-average speed and good instincts on the bases. He's a quality defender with an average arm in center field. In addition to his all-around athleticism, he also has strong makeup.

Weaknesses: Some scouts take a glass-half-empty view and say Pollock doesn't do anything particularly well beyond hit. He showed a tendency to get out on his front foot during the spring at Notre Dame, but he has a calmer approach with wood bats. His swing can get flat at times, limiting his power.

The Future: Pollock projects as a solid major league leadoff hitter and center fielder, mostly because he knows how to affect games with his skill set. He could start 2010 in Double-A and will certainly get there at some point during the season. He's on the fast track to Arizona.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
South Bend (Lo A) .271 .319 .376 255 36 69 12 3 3 22 16 36 10
4.  Brandon Allen, 1b   Born: Feb, 12, 1986B-T: L-RHt: 6-2Wt: 235
 Drafted: HS—Montgomery, Texas, 2004 (5th round)Signed by: Paul Provas/Keith Staab (White Sox)
Brandon AllenBackground: Allen looked like the White Sox's heir apparent to Paul Konerko after leading the high Class A Carolina League in slugging (.527) and homering twice off David Price in his first Double-A game in 2008. That changed in early July, when Chicago traded him for Tony Pena. Allen destroyed Triple-A pitching for six weeks, then hit four homers after the Diamondbacks called him up.

Strengths: A star linebacker in high school, Allen has huge raw power. For a big guy, he has some snap in his bat and doesn't have a long swing. He toned down his swing and hit more balls to the opposite field in 2009, allowing him to hit a career-high .298 in the minors. He does a good job of punishing mistakes. He has worked hard to improve his defense.

Weaknesses: Once Allen got to the major leagues, pitchers exploited him on the inner half. He's not  fluid but manages to get the job done at first base, a far cry from the days when he projected as a DH. He has below-average speed, though he's not a baseclogger.

The Future: Scouts compare him to Mike Jacobs, though Allen has much better plate discipline. He'll get a chance to win a job with the major league club in spring training.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Birmingham (AA) .290 .372 .452 241 39 70 12 3 7 35 30 47 1
Charlotte (AAA) .262 .262 .377 61 6 16 4 0 1 8 0 13 0
Reno (AAA) .324 .413 .641 145 33 47 8 1 12 32 20 25 6
Arizona .202 .284 .385 104 13 21 7 0 4 14 12 40 0
5.  Chris Owings, ss   Born: Aug. 12, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 5-11Wt: 170
 Drafted: HS—Gilbert, S.C., 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: George Swain
Chris OwingsBackground: Owings moved up draft boards in the spring as he solidified himself as one of the best prep hitters available. Even more exciting than his bat, from the perspective of Arizona's scouts, was that he had the look of a young Craig Biggio. One of the youngest players in the draft, Owings signed for $950,000 as a sandwich pick and had no trouble with older competition, batting .306 in the Rookie-level Pioneer League.

Strengths: None of Owings' tools are outstanding, but they all grade out as solid across the board. He has a short swing and uses the whole field. As he has added strength, he has started to hit with more authority and should produce for average and gap power. He has drawn comparisons to Gordon Beckham and Aaron Hill, with less power. He's an average runner who shows soft hands and gets good carry on his throws. He plays with a full-throttle mentality at all times.

Weaknesses: Owings doesn't have traditional shortstop actions, and while he makes the routine plays, he may not make enough of the difficult ones to avoid a move to second base down the road. He'll have to show more plate discipline after drawing just three walks and striking out 25 times in his pro debut.

The Future: Arizona will give Owings every chance to play shortstop, a position where it lacks a slam-dunk prospect. He'll begin his first full season in low Class A.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Missoula (R) .306 .324 .426 108 20 33 5 1 2 10 3 25 3
6.  Mike Belfiore, lhp   Born: Oct. 3, 1988B-T: R-LHt: 6-3Wt: 200
 Drafted: Boston College, 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Matt Merullo
Mike BelfioreBackground: Belfiore was Boston College's first baseman and closer, at least until the team's historic 25-inning, 3-2 loss to Texas in last year's NCAA regionals. He pitched 9 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits while striking out 11—and cementing himself as a potential starting pitcher. He had a successful pro debut in that role after signing for $725,000.

Strengths: Belfiore's best pitch is a heavy fastball that sits at 89-92 mph and tops out at 94. Opponents have a hard time lifting it, as shown by his 1.9 groundout/airout ratio and two homers allowed in 58 innings in the hitter-friendly Pioneer League. His 78-82 mph slider can be a plus pitch at times, and he started using his curveball more in instructional league. He has been mixing in more changeups after not throwing the pitch as a college reliever. He has a simple, repeatable delivery.

Weaknesses: Belfiore wore down at the end of the summer, but that should be less of an issue now that he's a full-time pitcher and will start to work deeper into games. He has a slight stab in the back of his arm swing, which costs him command. He needs to work on locating his pitches to both sides of the plate, and refine his curveball and changeup.

The Future: If he can develop his secondary pitches, Belfiore can become a No. 3 starter in the big leagues. After exceeding Arizona's expectations in his pro debut, he'll jump to high Class A.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Missoula (R) 2 2 2.17 14 11 0 0 58 59 2 13 55 .259
7.  Marc Krauss, of   Born: Oct. 5, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-3Wt: 235
 Drafted: Ohio, 2009 (2nd round)Signed by: Frankie Thon Jr.
Marc KraussBackground: Krauss exploded onto the prospect scene by leading the Cape Cod League in RBIs (34) and on-base percentage (.473) in the summer of 2008, and he nearly hit his way into the first round by batting .402 and setting Ohio school records for homers (27), RBIs (70) and slugging (.852) last spring. After signing for $550,000, he continued to hit in low Class A until he hurt his right ankle running into a wall in July, requiring surgery to remove bone chips.

Strengths: Krauss is a hitter first and a power threat second. His gap-to-gap approach yields consistent results, and he likes to hit the ball to the opposite field. He repeats his swing better than anyone in the system and consistently squares up pitches. Krauss also manages at-bats and identifies offspeed pitches well.

Weaknesses: Krauss isn't an instinctive defender, and a trial at third base in college didn't go well. His below-average speed and range limit him to left field or first base. He has some arm strength but needs to improve his throwing mechanics.

The Future: Most of Krauss' value lies in his bat, but it should play at any level. He may return to South Bend to start 2010, but he won't remain there long. He could be the first player from Arizona's 2009 draft class to reach the majors.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
South Bend (Lo A) .304 .377 .478 115 14 35 12 1 2 17 14 21 0
8.  Ryan Wheeler, 1b   Born: July 10, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 220
 Drafted: Loyola Marymount, 2009 (5th round)Signed by: Hal Kurtzman
Ryan WheelerBackground: A disappointing junior season at Loyola Marymount dropped Wheeler to the fifth round of the 2009 draft, where the Diamondbacks signed him for $160,000. Though he didn't enter the system until June, Wheeler was named Arizona's minor league player of the year. He led the short-season Northwest League in on-base percentage (.461) and OPS (.999), and topped those numbers after a late-season promotion to low Class A, where he batted cleanup in the Midwest League playoffs.

Strengths: Potentially the best offensive player in the system, Wheeler has a rhythmic, balanced swing. He has a feel for recognizing pitches and controls the strike zone well. He drives the ball from gap to gap and earns high marks for his plate coverage, particularly in his ability to drive the ball the other way. His  offensive package reminds scouts of Joey Votto. An average defender at first base, Wheeler has solid hands and arm strength for the position.

Weaknesses: Wheeler's big body precludes a return to third base or left field, where he has dabbled in the past. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: After his  successful pro debut, there's no reason Wheeler can't open his first pro season in high Class A. His bat should enable him to move quickly.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Yakima (SS) .363 .461 .538 234 44 85 20 3 5 36 37 28 7
South Bend (Lo A) .345 .472 .552 29 4 10 1 1 1 5 5 4 0
9.  Collin Cowgill, of   Born: May 22, 1986B-T: R-LHt: 5-9Wt: 195
 Drafted: Kentucky, 2008 (5th round)Signed by: Matt Haas
Collin CowgillBackground: Cowgill missed the entire 2007 season at Kentucky with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, and he didn't play after June 14 last season because of a hamstring injury. In between, he led the Northwest League with 11 homers in just 20 games in his 2008 pro debut, and opened his first full pro season in high Class A. The Diamondbacks considered sending him to the Arizona Fall League but kept him in instructional league instead.

Strengths: For an undersized player, Cow­gill has surprising power. He has great bat speed and takes advantage when pitchers make mistakes. One team official called Cowgill a gamer and compared him to Aaron Rowand with a better swing. Others compare him to Cody Ross. Cowgill has average speed and uses his instincts to steal bases and chase down balls in center field. His arm is solid.

Weaknesses: Already 23, Cowgill can't let injuries slow his development further. While he holds his own in center field, he ultimately projects as a right fielder. He can get overly aggressive at times and will chase pitches out of the zone, especially with two strikes.

The Future: Cowgill earned the right to open 2010 in Double-A after hitting well in his two months at Visalia. On a contender, he profiles as a fourth outfielder who can provide righthanded pop and constant energy.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Visalia (Hi A) .277 .373 .445 220 39 61 9 5 6 36 29 49 11
10.  Matt Davidson, 3b   Born: March 26, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Yucaipa, Calif., 2009 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Jeff Mousser
Matt DavidsonBackground: Davidson has been on scouts' radar screens since he started shining on the high school showcase circuit after his freshman year. One of the best high school power hitters available in the draft, he went 35th overall and signed for $900,000. Because Arizona doesn't have a complex-based affiliate and first-round pick Bobby Borchering was at Rookie-level Missoula, Davidson got pushed up to short-season Yakima. It was a tough assignment, as he hit .241/.312/.319 as the youngest regular in the Northwest League.

Strengths: Davidson has plus-plus raw power, which he generates more with strength and leverage than bat speed. He won the home run derby at the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic in the summer of 2008, and another at the National Classic high school tournament last spring. Davidson's potential to be a middle-of-the-order thumper has garnered him comparisons to Paul Konerko and Matt Williams.

Weaknesses: Davidson's swing mechanics, which feature a short backswing and a long follow-through, need refinement. He's a well-below-average runner. Though he has made significant defensive improvements since turning pro, scouts aren't sure he can stay at third base in the long run. His range, hands and footwork are questionable, but he does have the arm strength for the hot corner and led NWL third basemen with a .934 fielding percentage.

The Future: Davidson performed well enough at Yakima that he'll open 2010 with low Class A South Bend, alternating with Borchering between third base and DH.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Yakima (SS) .241 .312 .319 270 29 65 15 0 2 28 21 75 0

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Photo Credits:
Brian Bissell (Parker)
Ken Weisenberger (Cowgill)