2017 Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects

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1. Anthony Banda, lhp
2. Dawel Lugo, 3b
3. Domingo Leyba, ss/2b
4. Socrates Brito, of
5. Jazz Chisholm, ss
6. Anfernee Grier, of
7. Taylor Clarke, rhp
8. Brad Keller, rhp
9. Jon Duplantier, rhp
10. Curtis Taylor, rhp

The Diamondbacks came out of spring training in 2016 with a Cactus League-best 24-8 record and a huge wave of optimism, largely due to what was expected to be a bolstered rotation after the shocking free-agent signing of Dodgers ace Zack Greinke and the controversial trade to acquire Shelby Miller from the Braves.

With their rotation fortified, Arizona hoped to thrive in 2016 and catapult into contention for the National League West title.

Instead, everything fell apart.

The D-backs finished 69-93, which was quite the fall from the club’s optimistic preseason outlook. They barely squeaked past the Padres to finish one game out of the NL West cellar.

Center fielder A.J. Pollock fractured his elbow in the next-to-last spring training game and missed most of the season. With the outfield depth weakened due to the inclusion of reliable outfielder Ender Inciarte in the Miller trade, the D-backs were forced to put shortstop Chris Owings in center field, despite the fact that he hadn’t played the outfield since high school.

To compound the shortage, outfielder David Peralta was limited to 48 games with multiple injuries.

Coming off a Cy Young Award runner-up season with the 2015 Dodgers, Greinke didn’t live up to expectations. He went 13-7 with a subpar 4.37 ERA, while also missing the entire month of July with an oblique injury. Miller posted some of the worst numbers of any starting pitcher in the game and spent time at Triple-A Reno in an attempt to get his delivery and mechanics back to form.

The trade to acquire Miller had been universally derided in the industry. In addition to giving up Inciarte, the D-backs included shortstop Dansby Swanson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, and top pitching prospect Aaron Blair in the deal.

The front office of chief baseball officer Tony La Russa and general manager Dave Stewart came under fire for the team’s performance, but especially for the Miller trade. The duo’s approach to the game proved out of touch and out of place with the advanced baseball methodologies practiced by the other 29 organizations.

Ownership finally pulled the plug on their two-year regime, with Stewart, senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson and manager Chip Hale all terminated after the end of the 2016 season. La Russa, the Hall of Fame manager, was retained in a nebulous advisory role with no apparent power.

The organization certainly went in the other direction for their replacements, bringing in a pair of acclaimed executives from the Red Sox: general manager Mike Hazen and assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye. New manager Torey Lovullo, who had served as Boston’s bench coach, followed a few weeks later. Another newcomer, Cesar Geronimo Jr., was hired to be the new Latin America scouting director.

The biggest challenge facing Hazen and company is to work within the framework of a projected payroll of around $100 million, especially since one-third of that total is due to Greinke. There’s not much help to be expected from the farm system, one of the weakest in baseball.

Arizona is starting from the bottom, but Hazen and the new regime have a blank canvas to work with as they try to get the D-backs back on track.

1. Anthony Banda, lhp

Born: Aug. 10, 1993. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: San Jacinto (Texas) JC, 2012 (10th round). Signed by: Brian Sankey (Brewers).

Fastball: 55
Curveball: 60
Changeup: 50
Control: 55

Based on 20-80 scouting scale—where 50 represents major league average—and future projection rather than present tools.

Background: Not every trade for prospects works out for the team trading away big league talent, but the Diamondbacks certainly benefited from the deal in which they sent veteran outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Brewers in 2014 in exchange for Banda and outfielder Mitch Haniger. The trade was the D-backs’ second attempt to bring Banda into the organization after previously drafting the Texas native in the 33rd round out of high school in 2011. Banda instead played one year at junior college powerhouse San Jacinto (Texas), where he went 6-0, 1.95 to help the Gators to a second-place finish at the Division I NJCAA World Series. After his year at San Jacinto, Banda was selected by Milwaukee in the 10th round in 2012 and signed for an over-slot $125,000 bonus. He made it to low Class A with the Brewers by his third season before moving to the D-backs organization. Banda struggled with his command in the early part of his career but started throwing more strikes and increased his velocity not long after joining Arizona. He showed continual improvement in 2015 and 2016. He got a big boost after the 2015 season when he worked with former big league southpaw Mike Gonzalez, a fellow native of the Corpus Christi area and also a one-time San Jac pitcher. Shortly after being promoted from Double-A Mobile to Triple-A Reno midway through the 2016 season, Banda was Arizona’s lone representative at the Futures Game. By the end of the year, he ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Double-A Southern League and No. 20 in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. He led the D-backs system with 152 strikeouts and ranked second with a 2.88 ERA in 150 innings.

Scouting Report: Banda uses a four-seam fastball with armside run that has continually ticked up during his pro career. His heater sat 86-89 mph in junior college but now sits 92-95 and touches 96 because to added strength and improved mechanics. The jewel of his arsenal is a slow, mid-70s curveball that flashes plus at times, and he complements the breaking ball with an at least average, firm changeup with down movement. He repeats his smooth, easy delivery and effectively sequences his pitches. Banda consistently records high strikeout totals, with a career rate of 8.8 per nine innings. He has walked just 3.2 per nine since joining Arizona. One area for improvement is to better control the running game and other small facets of pitching.

The Future: Previously cast as a potential No. 5 starter or reliever, Banda is now viewed as a possible mid-rotation arm with one plus pitch and two other average-or-better weapons and above-average control. He will go to big league spring training in 2017 with a chance to break camp on the 25-man roster. More likely he winds up back at Reno for more seasoning. He should make his big league debut at some point in 2017.

Mobile (AA) 6 2 2.12 13 13 0 0 76 70 4 28 84 .241
Reno (AAA) 4 4 3.67 13 13 0 0 74 73 6 27 68 .257

2. Dawel Lugo, 3b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Dec. 31, 1994. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2011. Signed by: Marco Paddy/Hilario Soriano (Blue Jays).

Background: Originally signed by the Blue Jays in 2011 for $1.3 million, Lugo was acquired by the Diamondbacks in August 2015 for veteran infielder Cliff Pennington. Lugo dropped 15 pounds at the beginning of 2016, and his better conditioning helped him become a more explosive in all facets of his game. He did everything well at high Class A Visalia and Double-A Mobile before finishing the 2016 season in the Arizona Fall League.

Scouting Report: In addition to changes to his physique, Lugo also became more disciplined at the plate by significantly improving his strikeout rate from 17.5 percent in 2015 to 11 percent in 2016. A potentially average hitter with quick hands, Lugo shows excellent hand-eye coordination and has above-average power with strong wrists. Defensively, Lugo came up as a shortstop but has moved to third base, where he has good hands and a plus arm. He improved his times to first base after losing weight but is no more than a fringe-average runner.

The Future: Lugo has to show he can continue his all-around improvement to become an everyday third baseman down the road. He will return to Double-A to begin 2017 and has a good chance to reach Triple-A Reno during the summer.

Visalia (HiA) .314 .348 .514 315 61 99 14 5 14 42 15 41 2
Mobile (AA) .306 .322 .451 173 24 53 9 2 4 20 4 15 1

3. Domingo Leyba, ss/2b | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Sept. 11, 1995. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2012. Signed by: Miguel Rodriguez/Carlos Santana/Ramon Perez/Miguel Garcia (Tigers).

Background: After struggling at high Class A Visalia in 2015 at age 19, Leyba returned to the California League and produced much better results in 2016. Arizona got him from the Tigers (with lefthander Robbie Ray) after the 2014 season in the three-team deal that sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees. Leyba boosted his Cal League OPS by nearly 200 points in 2016 to earn a promotion to Double-A Mobile. Overall he hit .296/.355/.429 in 130 games.

Scouting Report: The key to Leyba’s improvement came by becoming more selective at the plate, with his walk total increasing from 26 in 2015 to 46 in 2016. He has a contact-oriented line-drive approach with hands that work well from both sides of the plate and a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. A potentially above-average hitter, Leyba also showed increasing power with 10 home runs in 2016. That exceeded the nine he hit in the first three years of his career. His solid infield instincts and good positioning help to make up for an arm and range that are both a little short for shortstop, but he has shown himself to be an average or better second baseman.

The Future: Leyba is taking the steps forward to become a solid everyday middle infielder. He will return to Double-A to begin 2017.

Visalia (HiA) .294 .346 .426 340 48 100 25 1 6 40 29 62 5
Mobile (AA) .301 .374 .436 156 21 47 7 1 4 20 17 22 4

4. Socrates Brito, of

Born: Sept, 6, 1992. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010. Signed by: Junior Noboa.

Background: Brito broke out at Double-A Mobile in 2015 and opened 2016 in a platoon with Chris Owings after big league center fielder A.J. Pollock injured his elbow and missed most of the year. But Brito struggled at the plate, batting just .179/.196/.358, and spent more than half the season at Triple-A Reno. He also missed time with a fractured toe.

Scouting Report: Brito still possesses the tools that have tantalized since he first signed with Arizona in 2010. While he doesn’t have great bat speed, he has upper-body strength with good line-drive power to the gaps, but he hasn’t yet developed a good approach at the plate or the feel to hit. He often chases bad pitches and could stand to work counts better. A plus runner with a plus arm, Brito has the ability and range to play all three outfield positions, though some observers don’t believe he’s agile enough for center field. He also needs to learn to use his speed better on the bases.

The Future: Brito fractured his hamate in November while preparing for winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. While he should be healed in time for spring training, the injury is worth watching as he tries to win a big league job out of camp.

Arizona (MLB) .179 .196 .358 95 10 17 3 1 4 12 2 23 2
Reno (AAA) .294 .322 .439 303 46 89 10 8 6 39 13 60 7

5. Jazz Chisholm, ss

Born: Feb. 1, 1998. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 165. Signed: Bahamas, 2015. Signed by: Craig Shipley.

Background: The Diamondbacks were restricted in 2015 from signing any international player for more than $300,000 because they exceeded their pool amount the previous year, but the organization found a diamond in the rough in Chisholm, who signed for $200,000. The half-brother of Rays prospect Lucius Fox, Chisholm displays a swagger on the field befitting his nickname “Jazz.” (He was born Jasrado.) The D-backs assigned him to Rookie-level Missoula in 2016, and he ranked among the Pioneer League’s top prospects.

Scouting Report: Chisholm projects to be an above-average hitter, with good bat speed and the ability to barrel balls and handle velocity. The ball jumps off his bat and he has enough power to project double-digit home run totals each year, though he could use more polish to his plate approach. Chisholm is at least an average runner, perhaps a tick above, and he should get faster as his legs get stronger. Defensively, he is athletic and at times a plus defender with good hands and an average arm, but he needs to learn to slow the game down. Chisholm is very confident on the field, with scouts noting he thinks he’s a big leaguer.

The Future: Chisholm has the highest ceiling of any position player in the system. He should be ready for a move to full-season ball in 2017, with a likely assignment to low Class A Kane County.

Missoula (R) .281 .333 .446 249 42 70 12 1 9 37 19 73 13

6. Anfernee Grier, of | bba_video_icon_red

Born: Oct. 13, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Auburn, 2016 (1st round supp). Signed by: Kerry Jenkins.

Background: Grier was Arizona’s top pick at No. 39 overall in 2016 after the Diamondbacks forfeited their first-round selection by signing Zack Greinke. Grier signed for $1.5 million. A breakout season his sophomore year at Auburn originally moved Grier up draft watch lists, and he improved his stock as a junior when he hit .366/.457/.576 with a team-leading 12 home runs. A shoulder injury suffered during a pre-draft workout limited Grier mostly to a DH role in his pro debut.

Scouting Report: While he struggled at the plate in his pro debut, Grier has a good feel to hit with sneaky power that should come out with more strength, making him a possibly average hitter with average power potential down the road. The ball comes off his bat well, but he struggles with breaking pitches from righthanders. A 28 percent strikeout rate in his pro debut, similar to his college total, raises concerns about Grier’s approach at the plate, and he will need to make better contact to use his plus speed. Scouts graded him as a plus defender in college, with his slightly below-average arm being enough for center field.

The Future: Grier should be fully recovered from his shoulder injury by spring training and ready for a full-season assignment to low Class A Kane County.

Missoula (R) .214 .267 .500 14 2 3 1 0 1 2 0 5 0
Hillsboro (SS) .240 .278 .307 75 8 18 2 0 1 6 3 21 9

7. Taylor Clarke, rhp

Born: May 13, 1993. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: College of Charleston, 2015 (3rd round). Signed by: George Swain.

Background: Clarke made some impressive moves in 2016, his first full season. After starting at low Class A Kane County he passed through high Class A Visalia and reached Double-A Mobile before the end of May. He pitched well at all three levels, going 12-9, 3.31 with 118 strikeouts and just 33 walks.

Scouting Report: Clarke sports a solid, muscular frame, with his best attributes on the mound being solid pitchability, command of three pitches and the ability to work up and down in the zone. He gets good downhill plane from a fastball that sits 91-94 mph and touches 96. He gets angle with cut action. Clarke’s plus command allows his fastball to play up, and he moves it around to change eye levels. His best secondary pitch is a solid-average slider with downer action that flashes plus. An average changeup rounds out the repertoire.

The Future: Clarke had Tommy John surgery in college, so the D-backs took it cautiously in his first pro season. His 27 starts in 2016 showed he could take the ball every fifth day. He’s very competitive and may be ready for Triple-A Reno in 2017. He profiles as a No. 4 starter.

Kane County (LoA) 3 2 2.83 6 6 0 0 29 24 1 5 24 .222
Visalia (HiA) 1 1 2.74 4 4 0 0 23 19 3 7 22 .221
Mobile (AA) 8 6 3.59 17 17 0 0 98 99 9 21 72 .261

8. Brad Keller, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: July 27, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HS—Flowery Branch, Ga., 2013 (8th round). Signed by: T.R. Lewis.

Background: The extreme hitters parks in the California League can be unforgiving to any pitcher, much less one not turning 21 until mid-season. Keller impressively survived as a 21-year old in the unforgiving Cal League in 2016, throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park in a productive season at high Class A Visalia. His most impressive attribute was a walk rate of 1.7 per nine innings, and his 1.28 WHIP ranked fifth in the circuit.

Scouting Report: Keller is a pitch-to-contact type who consistently throws strikes while featuring good arm speed and an advanced feel for pitching. His fastball ranges from 89-93 mph and typically sits 91, and there could be more velocity to come with experience. He commands his heater really well, cuts and sinks it, and pitches to both sides of the plate. Keller shows a good feel for his average secondary pitches, a slider and changeup. Keller keeps the ball down, and more than half of balls in play against him were hit on the ground in 2016. He has also shown himself to be durable and held up over 142 innings in 2015 and 135 in 2016.

The Future: Keller will open 2017 as a 21-year-old with Arizona’s new Double-A Jackson affiliate. He projects as either a No. 3 or 4 starter depending on the development of his offspeed pitches.

Visalia (HiA) 9 7 4.47 24 24 0 0 135 147 13 26 99 .281

9. Jon Duplantier, rhp | bba_video_icon_red

Born: July 11, 1994. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Rice, 2016 (3rd round). Signed by: Rusty Pendergrass.

Background: Duplantier is a wild card for the Diamondbacks because he has explosive stuff but a concerning injury record. He missed all of the 2015 college season at Rice with a shoulder injury that did not require surgery, then an elbow issue limited him to only one inning in his pro debut at short-season Hillsboro after he signed for $686,600. Further, he didn’t get on the mound in instructional league after he suffered a pulled hamstring during pitcher fielding practice. Duplantier is a strong, physical righthander who struck out 12 batters per nine innings in 2016 at Rice to rank eighth among Division I pitchers.

Scouting Report: Duplantier used a 90-95 mph fastball in college, and he flashed an above-average curveball with some power and a developing changeup that still is a work-in-progress. The control of his pitches suffers when his arm slot wanders, prompted by his shoulder flying open too quickly in his delivery. While he didn’t get into games during instructs, Duplantier threw a few bullpen sessions and reported no issues with his elbow.

The Future: Months of rest after a heavy Rice workload could do wonders for Duplantier and his health. While he could move quickly as a power reliever relying on his two best pitches, Duplantier will stay in the rotation for now as he makes his full-season debut at low Class A Kane County in 2017.

Hillsboro (SS) 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 3 .000

10. Curtis Taylor, rhp

Born: July 25, 1995. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 215. Drafted: British Columbia, 2016 (4th round). Signed by: Donnie Reynolds.

Background: Taylor was one of four Canadians drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2016 and comes out of the same college program—the University of British Columbia—that produced former big league southpaw Jeff Francis. Taylor was a reliever his first two college seasons before moving to the rotation for his junior year, when he posted a 1.96 ERA with an outstanding 113-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After signing for $496,700, he pitched effectively out of the short-season Hillboro bullpen, fanning 12.4 batters per nine innings.

Scouting Report: Taylor’s firm fastball sits 93-96 mph with plus sink out of his 6-foot-6 frame. He gets good life on the pitch, with at least one report having him touching 99 mph during the summer. He flashes a plus slider and has emerging feel for his changeup, though the pitch remains fringe-average at best. Taylor has a quick arm with a max-effort delivery that features a three-quarters arm slot and a funky arm action, but he repeats his motion and it adds deception.

The Future: Taylor’s delivery and two-pitch mix portend a future bullpen role, but he has the stuff to start and will be developed in that role for now. He will head to full-season ball in 2017, most likely low Class A Kane County as part of the Cougars’ rotation.

Hillsboro (SS) 1 0 2.20 17 0 0 3 16 13 0 5 23 .213

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