Bill Mitchell: We’re heading into the home stretch of prospect season, with the NL West being the final division to cover. The Diamondbacks list went online yesterday, so let’s about Arizona prospects.
Ryan (Detroit): Where do you see Anthony Banda in the top 100, Top 50 or Bottom 50?
Bill Mitchell: How many prospects each organization will have in the top 100 list is a question that’s asked during every chat session, so let’s start with this question from Ryan in Motor City. Banda should rank somewhere in the back half of the top 100, probably in the 75-100 range, but I believe that will be it for the Diamondbacks.
Grant (Phoeniz, AZ): What do you think of Andy Yerzy? How did his skillset behind the plate look?
Bill Mitchell: Arizona’s second round pick from high school in Toronto really struggled in his pro debut, both at and behind the plate. Yerzy’s got plenty of raw power and started showing signs of getting to it in games during instructional league by better using his lower half. He also made strides defensively after working with catching instructor Bill Plummer, and the Dbacks hope that he can eventually be close to an average defender. He’s more of a long-range project at this point and will certainly need at least another year of short-season ball. Yerzy ranks in the 11-20 range, and you’ll be able to read all about him in the indispensable Baseball America Prospect Handbook.
Jake (Memphis): Hello, Bill! Thoughts on the progression of LHP Jared Miller? Does the front office envision him helping the bullpen in 2017? Thanks for the chat.
Bill Mitchell: Miller, the big lefty from Vanderbilt, was one of the surprises in the organization after being moved to the bullpen in 2016, especially with his performance in the Arizona Fall League. A very intriguing guy who thrives with his cutter/slider and his funky, deceptive delivery. He wasn’t real close to the top 10 but is in the top 30, so you’ll be able to read about him when you receive your Prospect Handbook. While he’s not yet on the 40-man roster, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him make it to the big leagues at some point in 2017.
Ben (Olney, MD): Are the Angels and Arizona the worst two farms? Why is Arizona better? Both seem abysmal. And as an Orioles fan I know awful farms!
Bill Mitchell: We’ve got a bunch of questions asking for a comparison between the Diamondbacks and Angels farm systems, the two organizations assigned to me for the Prospect Handbook. Yeah, they are both sub-par systems, with the Angels at the bottom the last couple of years. I don’t know how those rankings will shake out this year, but right now I prefer the Angels system because I see their top ten being just a bit stronger than that of Arizona’s. A few of the early questions in the queue somehow disappeared, so I’m going to answer a question from chat regular Jaypers about LHP Cody Reed: I didn’t get good reports on Reed, despite his very good stats in the Midwest League. He’s the kind of guy whose numbers at the lower levels have consistently been better than the scouting reports. But the velocity and breaking ball have gone backwards, he’s got a slow arm and issues with his delivery. He’s been able to succeed at lower levels because he throws strikes and he’s competitive, but the consensus is that he’ll struggle at higher levels.
Stu Murray (CCBL Team Executive): How close was 6'7" LH relief pitcher Jared Miller to the Top-10? After he jumped three levels last year and was flawless in 18.1 scoreless innings in the AFL, where do you think he begins the '17 season?
Bill Mitchell: Another question about Vandy boy Jared Miller. I’m guessing that Miller will start the season in Reno (Triple-A), but if he keeps making progress he could see Chase Field by mid-season.
Ryne (Waco, TX): How close was former Indy baller Ildemaro Vargas? What is absolute ceiling, could he be a second-division starting second basemen? Thanks
Bill Mitchell: I nearly skipped over Vargas when compiling my early consideration lists because I just wasn’t very familiar with him. The native Venezuelan wound up in indy ball after seven years in the Cardinals system, but has thrived with Arizona since joining the organization midway through 2015. He’s a switch-hitting middle infielder with extreme contact skills, good defensive instincts and the ability to play a lot of positions. Vargas was added to the 40-man roster this winter because he would have likely been lost in the Rule 5 draft. His ceiling is as a utility role player, but that’s also his floor.
William (Pensacola, FL): Anfernee Grier seems to have good bat speed and the bat-to-ball skills are there. What are the chances that he provides some kind of value even if he swings at everything ?
Bill Mitchell: Arizona’s top draft pick in 2016 (compensation round A) from Auburn struggled with a shoulder injury all summer and fall, so we can’t take much from his first pro season. He’ll need to make better contact and get stronger, but the ability to hit is there. I’m eager to see him healthy in the spring and how he handles Midwest League pitching in his first try at full-season ball.
Nate (Jacksonville, FL): Sergio Alcantara is performing good in DWL. What is his ceiling and ETA ?
Bill Mitchell: That’s a good question. It only seems like Alcantara has been around so long since he made his pro debut when he was 16, but the switch-hitting middle infielder won’t turn 21 until July. The scouting report for Alcantara remains the same — solid defender with a plus-plus arm, but that he needs to get stronger in order to make an impact at the plate. The Dbacks kept him at their complex early in the 2016 season just to work on his strength program. He still has the ingredients and plate discipline to hit enough for a regular role, or at least as a solid backup player. As for his ETA, that’s still TBD. Alcantara made the cut for the Prospect Handbook, so you can read more about him there.
Greg (Spantarburg, SC): No Leiba on 2020 line up ?
Bill Mitchell: Domingo Leyba had a nice 2016 season after struggling in 2015 with an aggressive assignment to High-A while still in his teens. He could be a regular or a valuable utility infielder by 2020, but he’s got a few other players ahead of him for now.
Nick (Boston): Is there any hope for Daniel Gibson? Seems like he was on the fast track then stalled. Does he have a chance to get to Arizona this year?
Bill Mitchell: Gibson’s been a bit of an enigma the last few years, often dominating hitters and then struggling at other times. His velocity was down last season and he looked tight on the mound. He needs to go back to Triple-A and harness his stuff again, but I believe there’s still a big league pitcher in there. Gibson also added a changeup last year, giving him a nice addition to his slider and curveball. Let’s see how he does in his second time around in Reno in 2017. Arizona needs relievers, so he could see big league time if he handles Triple-A hitters better the second time around.
Justin (Tucson): Was I that naive to expect Jamie Westbrook to be the clear top prospect in the organization? He's not even in the top ten
Bill Mitchell: As much as I like Jamie both as a ballplayer and a person, he didn’t rank in the top 30. He doesn’t project as a regular and his once plus speed has ticked backwards. As an infielder, he’s limited to second base, so a utility infield profile doesn’t really fit for him. Scouts don’t see enough power in the bat and he doesn’t draw enough walks.
Mike (Danville CA): How long is it going to take the D-backs farm system to recover from all the damage done to it the past few years?
Bill Mitchell: It probably depends on whether they start trading veterans for prospects at some point. If the big league team is out of the race by July you could then see some deals intended to strengthen the farm system, but regardless it’s not going to be a quick fix. In fairness to the organization, a significant number of players on this list last year (Drury, Bradley, Shipley, Barrett) contributed at the big league level in 2016 and were no longer eligible for this year’s list.
Steve (Phoenix): What are you hearing about Marcus Wilson's injury during instructs?
Bill Mitchell: Coincidentally, I was just down the foul line about 20 feet away from the first base bag during instructional league when Wilson hit it awkwardly and went down with an ankle injury. I don’t have any inside medical info on Wilson, but I believe he should be good to go by spring training. The injury didn’t look to be significant enough that I didn’t mention it in his report in the Prospect Handbook. It just put him out of instructional league a little early. He’s still an intriguing prospect …. still pretty raw and needs to get stronger, but he’s a plus runner and a good defender in center field.
Steve (Phoenix): Biggest sleeper not in the Top 10? Top 30?
Bill Mitchell: Most interesting name outside the top ten is RHP Jhoan Duran. He pitched in rookie ball last summer at the age of 18, and at 6-5, 175 pounds is as projectable as they come. The fastball up to 98 has good movement and he has an easy delivery. As for a player outside the top 30, keep an eye on Brazilian outfielder Gabriel Maciel, who at 17 got to play for his home country in last year’s WBC qualifier. He’s a plus-plus runner with a live athletic body, but needs to get a lot stronger.
Mick (Chicago): Do the DBacks have prospects from other odd ball baseball countries beside Chisholm from the Bahamas?
Bill Mitchell: The information about Maciel in the previous question also answers this question regarding players from non-standard baseball countries. The native Brazilian Maciel could move up the Diamondbacks list pretty quickly if he develops more of an ability to impact the ball. He’ll likely need another two years of short-season ball, but he may make me look foolish for not already having him on the top 30.
Mick (Chicago): How big of a blunder do you predict the Dansby Swanson trade will be in the next ten years? Was that a Dave Stewart, Tony LaRussa or org. decision?
Bill Mitchell: I guess it’s time to take off the gloves with this question from Mick in blustery, cold Chicago. I didn’t like the trade from the start even before Shelby Miller pitched so poorly, and then it was compounded when Swanson got to the big leagues and performed well before the end of his first full professional season. This one’s going to sting for a long time. I don’t know how that trade came together, but obviously a deal of that magnitude has to involve every decision-maker in the organization, starting at the top. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Patrick Guttin (Sandpoint, Idaho): Is this ....ummm.....well bluntly...the 40th best organization in MLB prospectwise? (and yup, I know there are not that many cities with teams...lol)
Bill Mitchell: Ha, you’re funny, Patrick. As for where the Dbacks rank among the 30 (not 40) MLB organizations, I’ll be eager to see those rankings when they come together. I’m not as familiar with the minor league systems for the teams in the eastern half of the country, but I know there are some weak organizations there, too.
Zach (Wisc.): Any thoughts on Marty Herum?
Bill Mitchell: Herum, a non-drafted first baseman from Wisconsin-Whitewater, reached High-A Visalia in his age 24 season. He’s a nice organizational player, but has hit only 19 homeruns over three full seasons and has a career OPS of .727. There’s not a lot of depth in the organization at first base, so he fills a need right now providing organizational depth.
Vince (Houston): I watched Ryan January at San Jacinto hit monster homeruns all the way through the World Series. His catching has really improved. I think he's a big leaguer for a long time with the bat. You?
Bill Mitchell: Arizona’s eighth round pick from San Jacinto North JC, January had a nice debut season at Missoula, slotting in near the back end of the organization’s top 30. He has plus raw power from the left side and gets good loft in his swing. He’s still pretty raw behind the plate as an injury at San Jacinto limited him to DH duties for part of the season. He’s got good tools and solid makeup, but may need another year of short-season ball and could start the year in extended spring training before heading to Hillsboro when Northwest League play begins. Or with a strong spring training, January could break camp with the Kane County team.
Tim (Philly): What grade would you project for Keller's slider? Where does his control need to grade for him to be a #3 starter?
Bill Mitchell: I put a 50 on Keller’s slider and he has good feel for it, so it could improve with more experience. I have his command at a 60 grade, which if he maintains that plus command he’ll do fine as he moves through the system. He’s still very young, not turning 22 until July, so Double-A will be a good test for him. The kid has good makeup and a strong work ethic, too.
Mark (HB): With a gun to your head, if you must are you taking the DBacks system or Angels system?
Bill Mitchell: I earlier said that I liked the Angels system a little better, but if I’m playing with firearms do I get any other choices?
Karl of Delaware (Georgtown, Delaware): You get to select one player from the 2016 Hillsboro Hops to play for a major league team you will be managing in 2020 - who is that player?
Bill Mitchell: Karl, thanks for a good, creative question. If we assume that every player spending 2016 in Hillsboro moves one level per year, then that would put everyone in Triple-A in 2020. Anfernee Grier was the highest draft pick on the team, but I won’t go out on a limb and predict he’ll be in the big leagues in four years. If they put him in the bullpen at some point, Curtis Taylor could skip a level and be a contributing member of the Dbacks relief corps by then, so I’ll put my money on the big guy from north of the border. Or, if he stays healthy, Jon Duplantier could move quickly as a reliever — but that’s a great big IF.
Pat Murphy (Spokane, Washington): Mr. Leyba has a nice high spot at #3....is this indicative of the system's weakness or does he have a chance to start down the line and do you have an MLB comparative player for ceiling/floor?
Bill Mitchell: We juggled Leyba around several spots ranging from 3 to 11. I really didn’t like any of the choices to slot in after Banda, so it’s accurate to say it’s a reflection on the lack of depth in the system. I like Leyba, but would prefer more depth in the organization so that I could have ranked him in the second half of the top ten. What you hope for is that he becomes something kind of like Jean Segura — good enough at shortstop, better at second base, decent hit tool — less speed but with more walks. That’s not a great comp but a better one isn’t coming to me right now.
Michael McDermott (Tucson, AZ): Which prospect has the best shot of making the team's 25-man roster out of Spring?
Bill Mitchell: RHP Matt Koch has the best chance of breaking camp with the big league club. I’d also add Socrates Brito, but that will depend on how quickly he comes back from his post-season hamate surgery. The Dbacks need to rebuild their bullpen, so I could certainly see Koch making the team as one of their middle relievers. (More on Koch coming with the next chat question)
Patrick (Glendale AZ): Do you consider Matt Koch a SP or RP? What is his best weapon to face major league hitters?
Bill Mitchell: While Koch, who was acquired at the end of the 2015 season in a deal for reliever Addison Reed, pitched well as a starter late in the 2016 season, most observers see him as a bullpen arm long-term. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats but thrives by effectively throwing strikes and working with a four-seam fastball / cutter combo with sinking action. Koch ranked just outside the top ten, so you can read more about him as soon as your copy of Prospect Handbook hits your mailbox.
Landon (Alabama): Is there any pitcher outside the top 10 you seeing making an impact on the big league team in 2017 and which pitcher outside the top 10 do you see taking the biggest jump this year?
Bill Mitchell: I just mentioned Matt Koch as likely to make the big league club. Another relief prospect that could see major league time in 2017 is Jimmie Sherfy, who got back on track last year after a rough 2015; Sherfy has electric stuff, with a fastball 95-98 and a plus slider. As for a pitcher further from the big leagues, I’m intrigued by sixth round pick Mack Lemieux, taken in 2016 from the junior college program at Palm Beach State. LHP Lemieux’s fastball was up to 93 in his first pro season, with good body control and a quick, loose arm. He should be able to add velocity as he matures. Lemieux is in the Prospect Handbook, so be sure to check out his report so you can find out an interesting note from his family heritage.
Rick (Phoenix): What do you think about Josh Taylor? Do you have the scout report to share?
Bill Mitchell: LHP Taylor wound up ranking higher than I anticipated coming into this annual prospect ranking exercise, in part because of a strong Arizona Fall League performance. He’s an intriguing guy for someone not drafted out of high school, junior college or Division II. He’s not a high ceiling guy and may fit best as a power arm in the bullpen, as his 91-94 mph fastball could tick up in shorter outings. He keeps the ball on the ground, which will help when/if he gets to hitter-friendly Chase Field. He’s in the Handbook, and there’s an interesting back story on how he was discovered by Philadelphia scouts.
Rich Lenzi (Phoenix, AZ): We have Oscar Hernandez at Triple A. Any other catchers lower in the system we should keep an eye on?
Bill Mitchell: The Diamondbacks used top ten draft picks on Andrew Yerzy (2nd) and Ryan January (8th). I talked about both players in answers to previous questions, but another prospective catcher in the lower end of the farm system is Jose Herrera. He just completed his third season in the organization, but won’t turn 20 until next month. A switch-hitter from Venezuela, Herrera has perennially ranked in the top 30 but his progress has been plagued by injuries the last couple of years. He got himself into better shape last year and showed more patience at the plate. He’ll get his first chance at full-season ball in 2017 with a likely assignment to Low-A Kane County. He’s one to watch. As for Oscar Hernandez, I don’t see him as a starting catcher in the big leagues. With Welington Castillo no longer on the roster, the near-term catcher of the future is still to be determined.
Breanna (Long Island): What is the best case scenario for Brito this year? Also, if he ever becomes a star, do you think the Diamondbacks should open A Brito's Burrito stand?
Bill Mitchell: Breanna, now you’ve done it — your talk about burritos made me hungry and I still have questions to answer. As for our boy Socrates, I could see him making the opening day roster as a 4th or 5th outfielder, assuming he’s recovered from the hamate injury. But as much as I like Brito, I see him more as a good role player and not a star, so that celebrity burrito stand isn’t in his future.
Justin (Phoenix): Gabe Speier, prospect or suspect?
Bill Mitchell: Speier is a lefty reliever with a shot at making a big league bullpen at some point. He didn’t make it into the Prospect Handbook, but I’ve got a few notes on him from his early season stint in the Midwest League. His fastball averaged 91-93 and he compliments it with an average changeup and curveball. Speier is pretty much a low ceiling / high floor type of guy. He won’t turn 22 until April and could open the season in Reno.
Jeff (Portland, OR): Hey Bill, thanks for the chat. Curious about Curtis Taylor and his ranking. Saw him a bit this summer, came away impressed. What is it that you all liked so much about him? Thanks!
Bill Mitchell: I started thinking seriously about ranking Taylor in the top ten after talking to a veteran scout for whom I have considerable respect, and the first words out of his mouth about Taylor were “Oh, man!” He’s got a really good feel for pitching, a plus slider, and velocity that touched into the high 90s at times. There’s enough deception in the delivery that makes him tough to hit. Taylor could be a starter or pitch in relief, so I think the big guy from British Columbia will be an interesting one to watch as he advances through the system.
Dave (Mpls): I hear differing opinions on Leyba at SS. Some say his arm/range are not good enough, but others say that he makes all the plays at SS. Which one is it?
Bill Mitchell: Well, Dave, I’d say it’s a little bit of both. Yes, the arm and range are a little short for shortstop, but he makes up for it with very good instincts. He’s just a good heady baseball player. I think I was a little light on him when I started working through the Dbacks prospects, but never doubted that Leyba will be a big league ballplayer in a couple of years.
Drew (Phoenix): With the emphasis being placed on defensive skills behind the plate, do you see Oscar Hernandez leading the team in games started? Can he hit enough to make up for his excellent glove?
Bill Mitchell: Drew, I said before in answer to a previous question that I don’t see Hernandez as a big league starter, so I’d put him behind Herrmann, Mathis, Graterol and whomever else is acquired between now and the regular season.
Dante (Missoula): Opening Day Catcher 2021 Ryan January or Andy Yerzy?
Bill Mitchell: I think that’s too aggressive for Yerzy — he’s going to need more development time than that. We’ll see on January; that may also be an aggressive timetable for him. Catchers take longer to develop, and both of these guys have a lot of development ahead of them.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): About where would AZ's top three fit in within the Angels' top ten list?
Bill Mitchell: Excellent question, J.P. This really takes more thought than I can give it right now, but here goes. I’d put Banda #2 behind Jahmai Jones and just a tick ahead of Thaiss. I realize that I’m perhaps the high man in still believing in Alex Meyer and I like the upside of Brandon Marsh, so Lugo and Leyba would fall in after those two guys. But check with me later to see if I’ve changed my mind after thinking harder about it.
DC (DC): What are the reports about Cody Miller? Ceiling/floor? How does he compare to the other Cody Miller (in Cincy)?
Bill Mitchell: DC, I assume you are asking about the two Cody Reeds, not anyone named Cody Miller. I talked about the Dbacks Cody Reed in an earlier question, and he’s not anywhere near the Reds lefty by the same name.
Bill Mitchell: That’s all the time I have for today. Thanks to everyone who participated in the annual Arizona Diamondbacks prospect chat. We had a lot of very good and creative questions. You may contact me on Twitter @billazbbphotog if you have further questions on the Diamondbacks, Angels, or anything baseball-related. Thanks again, and I hope everyone has a great rest of the day!