2021 Arizona Diamondbacks Midseason Top 30 Prospects Update
To label the first half of the Diamondbacks’ 2021 season as a disappointment is quite the understatement. The team sputtered into the all-star break with the worst record in all of Major League Baseball, setting a new modern era record with 24 consecutive road losses and a franchise record 17-straight defeats. Part of the blame can be attributed to a plethora of injuries, both to the pitching staff and key position players. Adding to the injury woes is the fact that the D-Backs have played just plain bad baseball at times.
Fortunately, the long-term outlook in the farm system is much better. Despite a season-ending injury to top prospect Corbin Carroll and the inactivity of outfield prospect Kristian Robinson due to legal issues, the system remains deep and strong. Multiple pitching prospects have taken a big step forward this season, indicating that help for the snake-bit major league staff is only a year or two away. Looking ahead even further, there’s a rich trove of young shortstops at the lower levels of the system, perhaps getting even deeper with the possible additions of first-round pick Jordan Lawlar and 12th-round pick Davis Diaz.
The team will undoubtedly be sellers at the trade deadline, although it’s questionable whether there’s enough tradeable commodities to bring in a significant prospect haul. Eduardo Escobar and Kole Calhoun are the most likely veterans to be dealt in the right trade.
Top 10 Prospects
1. Corbin Carroll, OF
Age: 20. Team: High-A Hillsboro
Carroll retains his top prospect rank despite getting into only seven games before suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the rest of the 2021 season. When healthy he’s an advanced hitter with average power and plus-plus speed who will be able to stay in center field and hit at or near the top of the batting order.
2. Jordan Lawlar, SS
Age: 19. Team: None
NEW Ranked No. 1 in the BA 500, Lawlar was selected by Arizona with the sixth overall pick. He projects to be a plus hitter, defender and runner who’s able to stay at shortstop. A Vanderbilt commit, the D-Backs will likely have to go over slot to get him signed, but if they do, he’ll be another intriguing middle infield prospect for the organization.
3. Alek Thomas, OF
Age: 21. Team: Double-A Amarillo
Thomas made the jump from Low A in 2019 to Double-A this year with no issues, posting a fine .271/.367/.469 batting line through July 19. Like Carroll, he’s an undersized outfielder with plus tools at the plate, on the field, and on the basepaths.
4. Blake Walston, LHP
Age: 20. Team: High-A Hillsboro
Walston fits right in with the upper echelon of prospect arms in the organization, with his lefthandedness giving him the slight nod over Jarvis, Cecconi and Nelson. The second of two first-round picks in 2019 shined in his first full-season assignment with Low-A Visalia, fanning 60 batters in 43.1 innings before a promotion to High-A Hillsboro. It’s a solid four-pitch mix with a fastball touching the mid-90s and a plus slider.
5. Bryce Jarvis, RHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Amarillo
Arizona’s top pick in 2020 who boosted his stock after an impressive junior season at Duke, Jarvis reached Double-A in his first pro season. He’s a polished pitcher whose mostly above-average stuff plays up because of his confidence and competitive approach on the mound. His above-average changeup is used as an out pitch.
6. Slade Cecconi, RHP
Age: 22. Team: High-A Hillsboro
Cecconi was one of the most impressive pitchers in last fall’s instructional league, ranking just above fellow 2020 draft pick Jarvis in the D-Backs postseason prospect list. Both righthanders started the 2021 minor league season at High-A Hillsboro, and while Jarvis earned a promotion Cecconi continued to work on trusting his stuff and not trying to be so perfect with every pitch. He’s got a prototypical starter’s frame and good command, giving him a high ceiling.
7. Ryne Nelson, RHP
Age: 23. Team: Double-A Amarillo
Arizona’s second-round pick in 2019, Nelson was a two-way player and primarily a reliever during his college career at Oregon, with the bullpen seeming to be his more likely role in pro ball. But he’s thrived as a starter, already reaching Double-A in his first full season, and he struck out 13.2 batters per nine in his first 12 starts between two levels.
8. Geraldo Perdomo, SS
Age: 21. Team: Double-A Amarillo
Ranked as Arizona’s third best prospect coming into 2021, Perdomo got into four big league games during the first week of the season due to Nick Ahmed’s recovery from a spring training injury. He was then sent to Double-A, where he struggled significantly. He got stronger in the offseason but lost his approach at the plate and got more passive. Observers are also questioning his feel for the game.
9. AJ Vukovich, 3B
Age: 20. Team: Low-A Visalia
Vukovich was a bit of a divisive project dating back to his high school years, with reports citing mechanical issues with his swing that raised questions about his hit tool. Drafted in the fourth round in 2020 and signed to an over-slot bonus, the Wisconsin high school product showed in his professional debut in Low-A that there’s plenty to like about the bat with his natural ability to put the barrel on the ball with power. He likely won’t stay at third base but has the arm strength and athleticism to handle a corner outfield spot.
10. Corbin Martin, RHP
Age: 25. Team: Triple-A Reno
One of the key components in the Zack Greinke trade two years ago, Martin was recovering from Tommy John surgery when acquired from Houston. His progress was then slowed last summer at the alternate training site by an oblique strain. Martin was expected to be a part of the D-Backs big league rotation this year, but his command didn’t return two years after surgery and the results in five big league games this season were not good. He has a mid-90s fastball and four-pitch mix that made him a high-profile prospect in the Astros organization, but his return as a key rotation piece is going to take longer than expected.
11. Kristian Robinson, OF
12. Adrian Del Castillo, C
NEW Del Castillo was a bit of a wild card coming into the 2021 draft. Prior to the 2021 season at Miami the lefthanded hitter was regarded as the top college hitter in the class, but he hit below expectations in his junior season with the Hurricanes. There are also questions regarding whether he can stay behind the plate, with a need for improvement in all facets of catching. The D-Backs picked him in the supplemental second round. If it clicks for him in pro ball and he returns to his previous form, Arizona will have gotten a steal.
13. Luis Frias, RHP
14. Brandon Pfaadt, RHP
NEW Not ranked as a Top 30 prospect coming into the spring, Pfaadt impressed at both Class A levels with a solid fastball/slider combo that has natural cutting life. He has plus control and gets swings and misses, as reflected in his 84-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 67 innings as of July 19.
15. Conor Grammes, RHP
16. Tommy Henry, LHP
17. Seth Beer, 1B/DH
18. Drew Ellis, 3B
NEW A second-round pick in 2017, Ellis got into better shape this year, played a better third base and hit consistently at Triple-A Reno.
19. Drey Jameson, RHP
20. Matt Tabor, RHP
NEW Getting more consistency in his delivery this year was the key for Arizona’s 2017 third-round pick as he showed better overall command of his arsenal, and he moved up to Double-A Amarillo after four outings at High-A Hillsboro. His ability to command his stuff stands out despite a lack of overpowering stuff. His above-average changeup is his best pitch.
21. Levi Kelly, RHP
22. Jake McCarthy, OF
23. Wilderd Patiño, OF
24. Alberto Ciprian, 3B
NEW Ciprian signed with the Brewers for $500,000 during the 2019-20 international signing period on the strength of his above-average raw power and explosive hand speed. The D-Backs acquired him from Milwaukee for Eduardo Escobar. His power is ahead of his hitting ability and he’s a bit of a lottery ticket with very little pro experience. His projectable body and power give him some upside and he has a chance to stick at third base with his improving footwork and above-average arm.
25. Manuel Peña, SS
26. Ryan Weiss, RHP
NEW Not ranked highly on prospect lists since being selected from Wright State in the fourth round in 2018, Weiss refined his delivery by getting more separation with his hips and shoulder and was moved to the bullpen during the season. It’s a role that better suits his arsenal, with a fastball at 95-97 mph and a plus breaking ball.
27. Stuart Fairchild, OF
NEW A prototypical extra outfielder, Fairchild was acquired from Cincinnati in the Archie Bradley trade at the 2020 trade deadline and recently made his MLB debut. A plus defender, Fairchild has the speed to handle all three outfield positions.
28. Jose Fernandez, SS
29. Juan Corniel, SS
NEW Corniel is one of a trio of promising shortstop prospects at the lower levels. He’s a high-waisted athlete with a chance to be a special defender in the middle infield, but with holes in his swing there’s plenty of development at the plate ahead of him.
30. Ryan Bliss, 2B
NEW The 2021 second-round pick from Auburn is a contact hitter with solid bat-to-ball skills. He played both middle infield positions in college but his fringe-average arm profiles better at the keystone.
Five Players Who Could Be The No. 1 Prospect In 2023
If all of the Top 10 prospects graduate, the obvious question is: Who’s going to be the game’s top prospect at this time next year? We have a few guesses.
RHP Ryne Nelson, Arizona’s 2019 second-round pick from Oregon, was viewed as a future reliever based on his role in college, but his performance over eight starts at High-A Hillsboro, his starter’s body, and the ability to throw quality strikes has moved him up the prospect list.
RHP Brandon Pfaadt didn’t rank in Arizona’s top 30 after being drafted in the fifth round in 2020 from Bellarmine (Ky.) University. He’s off to a good start in his pro career, earning a promotion to High-A after seven solid starts with Low-A Visalia. The key is an increase in fastball velocity and the ability to miss bats.
Third baseman Drew Ellis wasn’t showing the progress expected of a second-round pick since his pro career got underway in 2017, but it’s all come together with Triple-A Reno this season. It’s a good place to hit but Ellis is making hard contact and drawing plenty of walks.
Drafted just one round after Ellis in 2017, RHP Matt Tabor had fallen off prospect lists until his strong performance at High-A Hillsboro earned him a promotion to Double-A. He is succeeding through his command of three pitches, highlighted by an effective changeup.
RHP Ryan Weiss took a big step forward after moving from the rotation to the bullpen this season, and his move to Triple-A Reno indicates that the 2018 fourth-round pick may not be too far from joining the beleaguered big league staff.
Arizona’s top international talent OF Kristian Robinson has been out of action all season due to an offseason felony charge that has restricted his travel back into the United States.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for switch-hitting SS Geraldo Perdomo, as he made his MLB debut earlier this season with a four-game stint. Despite adding strength in the offseason, Perdomo has struggled significantly at Double-A Amarillo, batting .151/.305/.204 as of July 19. He’s become passive at the plate and is struggling to find his approach.
Acquired by Arizona as part of the package for Zack Greinke, RHP Corbin Martin is more than two years removed from Tommy John surgery but has been bothered by injuries and has not regained the command of his pitches. He recently was diagnosed with a right forearm strain that has yet to require surgery.
SS Blaze Alexander is striking out much too much (29 percent) for a shortstop whose game is based more on hitting for average than hitting balls over the fence.
The D-Backs asked OF Dominic Fletcher to skip High-A after the lost 2020 season. The jump to Double-A has been a little too much for Fletcher so far. He’s seen his usually impressive walk rate drop off and he’s not finding the gaps with line drives as often as he has in the past.
C/OF Daulton Varsho has spent parts of the last two seasons in the big leagues in the rare role of catcher and outfielder, but the bat has not yet matched his minor league production.
2017 first-round pick 1B/OF Pavin Smith earned a regular job in Arizona this season, with the natural first baseman showing that he’s more than capable of handling an outfield position.
RHP Taylor Widener has been one of the more effective starters for Arizona despite missing nearly seven weeks with a right groin strain.
2019 first-round pick OF Corbin Carroll was off to a very strong start with High-A Hillsboro before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury while hitting a home run in just his seventh game.
RHP Conor Grammes has been used primarily as a starter since being picked in the fifth round of the 2019 draft but was more often projected as a power reliever who could move quickly through the system. His career now hits a speed bump after he suffered an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery.
Still only 19, OF Wilderd Patino has been one of Arizona’s more intriguing prospects because of his size and athleticism, but he’s missing valuable development time this season due to a quad strain.