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Gonzalez burst onto the scene by winning the low Class A Midwest League MVP award in 2005, and he has followed that with two straight appearances in the Futures Game. He also was Baseball America's Winter Player of the Year after the 2006 season, batting .318/.393/.530 with nine home runs in 198 at-bats in his native Venezuela. He was back with Zulia this winter as its starting right fielder after an up-and-down season in the minors. Gonzalez got off to his traditional slow start, batting .210 in April, before coming around later in the season, batting .335 with eight of his nine homers in the final two months. He earned a promotion to Triple-A Tucson for the final week of the season. Scouts loved working Double-A Mobile games when both Justin Upton and Gonzalez were in the outfield, as the two seemed to play off each other and enjoyed a friendly rivalry at the plate and in the field. Gonzalez lacks nothing in the way of physical tools. He has tremendous bat speed, with a pure easiness to his swing that generates plus raw power to all fields. The strength and leverage in his natural inside-out stroke makes the ball jump off his bat. A prototype right fielder, he has an above-average arm and enough speed to play in center field if need be----and in fact he played there quite a bit when Upton was with Mobile. Gonzalez is becoming more comfortable in right field as he gets more time there, learning better routes and whether to uncork a rocket or just hit the cutoff man. In general, his feel for the game has improved. Scouts and managers often have been turned off by Gonzalez' approach to the game, accusing him of giving away at-bats or not hustling at times. The Diamondbacks have addressed this concern in the past and say it's a case of immaturity and lack of focus but not bad makeup. To the contrary, they say he's a bright, outgoing person who wants to be a star. On a more tangible level, he needs to have a plan every time he goes to the plate, so he doesn't expand his strike zone and get himself out. He gets himself in trouble when he tries to pull the ball too much. He's still an erratic defender, leading the high Class A California and Double-A Southern league in outfield miscues the last two years with 12 each time. Gonzalez is knocking on the door of the big leagues at age 22, but he needs more at-bats and the Diamondbacks have no opening for him. He'll spend most of 2008 in Triple-A unless injuries create a need for him in Arizona. He could be a valuable trade chip, as it seems unlikely Gonzalez would displace Upton or Chris Young, and Eric Byrnes just signed a $30 million contract extension.
Parker drew his first widespread notice pitching for the U.S. junior national team in September 2006, and he continued to shoot up draft boards as a high school senior. He overmatched inferior high school competition in Indiana, going 7-0, 0.20 with 68 strikeouts in 34 innings. The Diamondbacks grabbed him with the ninth overall pick and signed him just before the Aug. 15 deadline for a $2.1 million bonus. Though he didn't pitch during the summer, Parker showed the Diamondbacks his stuff in instructional league, flashing the easy 93-97 mph fastball that so excited scouts. His hard curveball already rates as the best in the system, and he also has a mid-80s slider. He earns comparisons to Tim Lincecum and Scott Kazmir for his quick arm, smooth mechanics and small frame. The Diamondbacks also like his intelligence, attitude, athleticism and how easily he repeats his delivery. Parker is working on getting more separation between his curveball and slider. Though he has a feel for the strike zone and for throwing a changeup, he still needs to work on both. He hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet, but Arizona already believes Parker was worth the price it paid to sign him. He'll make his professional debut at low Class A South Bend.
Anderson's 2.21 ERA would have led the Midwest League had he stuck around long enough to qualify, but he earned a promotion to high Class A Visalia in June. His season effectively ended at the end of July when he and six teammates were in a car accident. Anderson pitched four more innings after sustaining a concussion. You can never say stuff doesn't matter, but with Anderson it's not the most important thing. The son of Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson, a noted mentor of pitchers, Brett has smooth mechanics and always pitches with a plan. He throws two breaking balls for strikes, and both can be plus pitches, as can his changeup. His fastball usually sits at 90 mph, but his command of it is impeccable. He played some center field in high school, so Anderson has some athleticism. But he has not maintained his conditioning. His body has gotten soft and he doesn't move well around the mound. Anderson has rare command and polish for a pitcher his age, so he could move quickly. He'll get a chance to earn a spot in the Double-A rotation in spring training and profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater.
The 11th overall pick in 2006, Scherzer pitched for the independent Fort Worth Cats and held out before he would have re-entered the draft pool. Though he projected as no more than a mid-first-rounder the second time around, Arizona gave him a $3 million bonus, $4.3 million in guaranteed money and another $1.5 million in easily reachable incentives. Scherzer's fastball can overmatch batters, arriving in the mid-90s with sinking action at its best. His slider also can be a plus pitch, though he's working on its command and plane. Some scouts who saw Scherzer as a starter at midseason wondered what the fuss was about. His fastball sat at 89-93 mph range, and his overall stuff, command, feel and delivery all drew questions. Then they saw him relieving in the Arizona Fall League and he was a different pitcher, touching 98 mph. Arizona's official opinion is that Scherzer is a starter. If he continues in the rotation, he'll likely open 2008 back in Double-A. If he moves to the bullpen, he could provide immediate help in the big leagues and has the pure stuff to eventually close games.
Parra followed up his strong U.S. debut in 2006 with the Midwest League (.320) batting title in 2007, also earning a promotion to high Class A for the last month of the minor league season. He capped his year by starting in the outfield alongside Carlos Gonzalez for Zulia in the Venezuelan winter league. Parra leads the next wave of Latin American talent coming through the system, and his tools draw comparisons to Gonzalez in every phase except power. He's the best pure hitter in the system and sprays balls all over the field, showing sound mechanics and a good approach. He has a plus arm and good defensive instincts, and he always plays with energy. Parra hasn't yet shown the power to fit the ideal profile for right field, but his bat speed suggests it could come as he matures. His speed is a tick below-average, though he was playing center field in winter ball, so he'll have to drive more balls out of the park to be a regular. In an organization loaded with talented young outfielders, it's hard to see where Parra will fit. But the logjam also means he'll have time to develop his game. He'll begin 2008 back in Visalia but should move to Double-A at some point during the season.
After four so-so pro seasons, Bonifacio moved into the fast lane by batting .321 with 61 steals in high Class A in 2006. He followed up with a good year in Double-A and made his major league debut in September. Bonifacio's speed rates as either a 70 or 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he plays with energy and passion. He continues to refine his basestealing, picking pitches and counts and getting good breaks, and he has no fear of getting thrown out (though he did get caught 13 times in 54 Double-A attempts). He's an above-average defender at second base, with sure hands, great range and enough arm for shortstop. While Bonifacio draws comparisons to Luis Castillo, he doesn't have Castillo's approach at the plate. Bonifacio's swing isn't conducive to the small-ball game he needs to play, and he still doesn't have a good idea of the strike zone. He also hasn't shown the strength to drive the ball, which could be a problem against quality fastballs at higher levels. Bonifacio is the kind of player managers love to have in the lineup, but if he doesn't improve at the plate he could end up as a utility player. He'll open the season in Triple-A, with Orlando Hudson and Alberto Callaspo ahead of him in the organization's pecking order.
After earning high Class A Carolina League midseason all-star honors, Cunningham came to the Diamondbacks in a June trade for Danny Richar. A corner outfielder with the White Sox, he played mostly center field after changing organizations. Cunningham is a natural hitter who has a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball, and he can drive pitches from gap to gap. He's a throwback player who always gets his uniform dirty and plays an instinctive game. He has an above-average arm and has enough speed to get by in center field. While Cunningham does everything well, he doesn't do anything exceptionally, leading to questions about whether he'll end up as a tweener. He has a long swing and better pitchers have been able to get inside on him. He also has a tendency to get out of his comfort zone and try to drive the ball too much. Unless Cunningham adds power or shows he can play center field every day, he has the long-term look of a fourth outfielder or platoon player. He'll start 2008 back in Double-A.
Not to be confused with the Chris Carter whom the Diamondbacks traded to acquire Emiliano Fruto from the Nationals in August, this slugger joined Arizona in a December deal that sent Carlos Quentin to the White Sox. Carter dropped to the 15th round of the 2005 draft because he was considered a raw project, but he has shown more aptitude more quickly than expected, slugging 51 homers in 273 career games. Carter's calling card is the ability to hit the ball a long way, and he's also showing that he can hit for average and not get himself out chasing bad pitches. An opposing manager who saw him in the low Class A South Atlantic League said that Carter's approach reminded him of a young Jermaine Dye. He has a natural, fluid swing from the right side and generally looks to use the whole field instead of to pull the ball. He has shown the ability to make adjustments from one at-bat to the next. Carter has nothing going for him except for his bat. Drafted as a third baseman, he has migrated across the infield and will have to work hard to become even an adequate defender at first base. He made 11 errors in just 73 games there last season. Carter doesn't run well, has little agility around the bag and has below-average hands. Offensively, strikeouts will be a tradeoff for his power. The California League notoriously favors hitters, and Carter could put up huge numbers at Visalia in 2008. He needs to improve markedly on defense, however, as he doesn't have the option of being a DH now that he's with a National League organization.
A product of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy, Navarro drew interest at a workout on the island in May. He sealed his match with Arizona by attending a predraft workout in Phoenix, where he looked comfortable in a major league environment. The Diamondbacks took him in the third round and gave him a $330,000 bonus. Navarro has all the tools scouts look for in a shortstop, with plus range as well as quickness, great actions and an average arm. Navarro also showed promise at the plate, with good bat speed and a line-drive stroke. He started switch-hitting full-time during instructional league. Navarro committed a Pioneer League-high 28 errors and will work to become more consistent on routine plays. He needs to get stronger and develop a better approach to become a productive hitter. He's too aggressive at the plate at this point. Ideally, Navarro could become a slick-fielding shortstop who bats in the No. 2 hole and moves the ball around the field. Navarro was sometimes overmatched in the Pioneer League, but the Diamondbacks have no complex team so they had to throw him in the fire. He'll try to win a starting job in low Class A but could spend 2008 at short-season Yakima.
The Diamondbacks made a point of taking Friday night college starters in their 2007 draft, and Enright outperformed them all. He signed quickly for $441,000 as a second-rounder after compiling a 35-8 record in three years at Pepperdine, then didn't allow an earned run in 10 pro appearances. Arizona kept his workload light after he threw 131 innings in the spring. Enright dominated hitters all spring and summer with an average fastball that sits at 88-91 mph and peaks at 92 mph. Command is his forte, but Arizona also loved his willingness to attack hitters and put them away early. He has a great feel for pitching and clean arm action. He also tightened his slider, making it an effective second pitch, and shows a knack for adding and subtracting velocity. None of Enright's offerings are legitimate out pitches, and his curveball and changeup are a notch behind his fastball and slider. He'll have to prove he has the stuff to get more advanced hitters out. Some scouts saw Enright as a middle reliever coming out of the draft, but the Diamondbacks are expecting more. He'll probably open the season in high Class A, where he finished his pro debut.
Roemer had an outstanding season at Cal State Fullerton in 2006, going 13-2, 2.38 as a sophomore. His stock slipped a bit after he went 11-7, 3.19 for the Titans in 2007, getting off to a slow start in part because of a broken pinky. Arizona still took him with the 50th overall pick and signed him for $620,000, then limited his innings after he pitched 144 during the spring. An aggressive, fearless pitcher, Roemer commands the ball effectively and never gives in to hitters. He allowed 44 walks in three college seasons, yet hit 62 batters. His fastball can touch 93 mph, but the Diamondbacks emphasized to him in instructional league that it's more effective when he throws it at 89 with sink. His slider can be a plus pitch. The Diamondbacks are working with Roemer on being more efficient with his pitches, working both sides of the plate and dialing down his stuff to get more grounders. They also want him to pitch more to contact. While he can command his changeup, it still needs work, as does his slider, which remains inconsistent. Roemer has a bit more stuff than polish right now, but if he refines his package he could be an effective back-end starter. He and Barry Enright should open the season together in the Visalia rotation.
After getting a light workload in 2006 following a busy college season at Georgia that included a trip to the College World Series, Brown occupied what the Diamondbacks hope will be his professional role last season. He ate innings at two minor league stops to finish with 146 in his first full pro year. He's a sinker/slider pitcher who knows his game and usually pitches to his strengths. He shows plus stuff at times, but his fastball sat more frequently in the high 80s than the low 90s last season, and scouts also thought his slider was fringy at times. His changeup is an average pitch, though he'll need to improve his command of it. Brown's command of all three pitches was shakier in Double-A, but in general he shows a mature approach and a good idea of how to set up hitters. He throws from a three-quarters slot, creating a little bit of deception for hitters, and his strong frame and athletic ability mean he should be durable. In order to pitch in the middle or even the back of a big league rotation, however, he'll have to show more zip on his pitches and sharpen his command. Otherwise he looks more like a middle reliever. Brown will open the season back in Double-A.
Smith pitched his way into prominence in his first full pro season in 2006, reaching Double-A and then emerging as one of Team USA's best starters in its Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama. The extra work caused him to get off to a slow start in 2007, however, and he spent the first month of the season in extended spring training with a tired arm. Once he got into action, he pitched well all year, including a 2.61 ERA in 21 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Smith doesn't have dominant stuff, but he gets hitters out with good command and a great feel for his craft. He's perceptive and knows how to keep batters off balance, skillfully adding and subtracting velocity. He has four legitimate pitches with an 88-91 mph fastball, a cutter, a curveball and a changeup, and he has focused on improving his offspeed offerings. He also has what may be the best pickoff move in the minors. Only 12 runners tried to steal on him in 2007, and just four succeeded. Smith's margin for error is small because he has no out pitch, so it will be important for him to command all his pitches if he's to succeed in the big leagues. He projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter, and while he'll likely open the season in Triple-A, he'll likely get a big league opportunity sometime in 2008.
Castillo has played all over the diamond for the Diamondbacks, and the organization rewarded his versatility by adding him to the 40-man roster in November. His main position is catcher, and he played 70 games there last season in Double-A. He also played at second base, shortstop, third base and right field, and he was named the utilityman on the Southern League's postseason all-star team. Castillo has the tools to be at least an average defender at every position he plays, and he also could play first base if needed. As a catcher, he's quick and loose behind the plate, and his arm is slightly above-average. His footwork on the exchange is good and he threw out 45 percent of basestealers last year to rank second in the SL, though he can improve his receiving. Castillo also offers versatility at the plate, as a switch-hitter with speed and a little bit of pop. He has good hand-eye coordination and uses the whole field, but he's a free swinger who will expand his zone. He tends to drift through his stroke at times, which limits his power. While he runs well and especially well for a catcher, he needs to be more judicious as a basestealer after getting caught 14 times in 32 tries last year. Castillo's only real plus tool is his versatility, but that makes him an ideal role player on a big league team. He'll move up to Triple-A for 2008.
Stange was a 33rd-round pick of the Braves coming out of a California high school in 2003, but he didn't sign and instead ended up at UC Riverside, where he became the closer by his junior season. The Diamondbacks drafted him in 2006 and he looked to be on the fast track as a reliever until he got hurt in 2007. He opened the season as the closer in high Class A and saved 16 games before earning a promotion to Double-A in mid-July. He made just five appearances there before getting shut down, then had Tommy John surgery in August. When healthy, Stange has the body and power stuff to pitch at the back of a big league bullpen. He throws his lively fastball at 93-97 mph and can touch 99, and his slider may be an even better pitch. He also has the mentality to take the ball at the end of the game and go right at hitters. Stange throws from a low three-quarters slot, and it was his violent delivery that sent him to the bullpen in the first place. He may have to tone it down to stay healthy. Aside from returning to health, he'll need to refine his command as he moves up. Stange will begin throwing by midsummer but probably won't see any meaningful action until the 2009 season.
A dream season turned into a potential nightmare for Vasquez when he injured his right shoulder diving for a ball in the Arizona Fall League. An MRI revealed a torn labrum, and he was scheduled to rest his shoulder before beginning a strengthening program in January. Before that, he had pitched his way onto the 40- man roster by leading the organization in ERA (2.99), innings (165), strikeouts (151) and opponent average (.217). Vasquez did it with a fastball that usually ranged from 88-93 mph and touched 95, and an effective changeup, complemented by a slurvy breaking ball. He throws all three pitches for strikes, and shows polish even though he spent his first three seasons in the system as a reliever. He now understands that he doesn't have to strike every batter out, and he's learning how to attack hitters. He's wiry but has proven durable as a starter. Scouts, however, don't see a major league out pitch and say he'll have to improve his command as well as his breaking ball. Of more concern in the short team is his health. The Diamondbacks hope Vasquez will bounce back without surgery, but won't know if he can until spring training.
Courage and guile had become Buck's trademarks, but he finally faced reality in the middle of last season and had Tommy John surgery in August. Something had obviously been wrong with his arm for a while, because he had been one of the top prospects for the 2006 draft until his velocity dropped during his junior season. He gutted it out and played a major role in Oregon State's 2006 College World Series championship, but doctors found a partial ligament tear in his elbow after the draft. Signed for a discounted $250,000, he opted for rehab over surgery and made it through 16 starts in high Class A last year. Again it was obvious he wasn't at full strength, however, as he still was throwing at 85-88 mph with a lot of effort. When he's healthy, Buck's fastball is more in the 89-91 mph range, touching 94, and he complements it with a slider and changeup. Interestingly, scouts still liked his pitches when they saw him last year, particularly his changeup and the sink on his fastball, so he still could be a premium pitcher if he gets the power back in his arm. Unfortunately, trying to pitch through the injury now means that both 2007 and 2008 will essentially be lost seasons for him. Depending on how his arm responds, Buck should get some work at the end of this year, but he probably won't do anything meaningful until 2009.
Slaten was inconsistent as a starter, and more significant, he couldn't stay healthy, battling shoulder problems in his first few seasons in the system. He moved to the bullpen full-time in 2004, then made the major league club out of spring training last year. He was the primary lefty in an unheralded bullpen that helped carry the Diamondbacks into the playoffs. He still qualifies for this list because he amassed just 36 innings in his 61 appearances. Slaten attacks hitters with a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph and a slurvy breaking ball. The breaking ball has good depth, and he can add and subtract from it. Both pitches become more effective because he throws them on a good downward plane and he locates well to both sides of the plate. He also improved his focus and confidence last season. Slaten must slow down his changeup to establish himself as more than just a situational lefty. His change runs in the mid-80s now, and he uses it only as a chase pitch for righthanders. He may also add a cut fastball to combat righties. Arizona used him in more than just left-on-left situations last year, and he pitched anywhere from the fifth inning to the end of the game, though the bulk of his appearances were in the seventh and eighth. Slaten will return to a setup role in 2008, and the Diamondbacks hope he's not done improving.
Easley was a second-team high school All-American in 2004, but he went undrafted because of his strong commitment to Mississippi State. He had a successful career in Starkville, taking the Bulldogs to the College World Series and winning the Johnny Bench award as the nation's top college catcher in 2007. He compiled career highs in most offensive categories as a junior, batting .358 with 12 home runs, and led the Southeastern Conference by throwing out 29 basestealers. The Diamondbacks liked his athleticism and offensive potential, so they took him 61st overall and gave him a $531,000 bonus. He jammed his left thumb early in his pro debut, so he didn't show a lot with the bat. But Arizona sees a solid approach at the plate, with good bat speed and good hands, and they expect him to hit .260-.275 with 15-20 homers each year. He moves well behind the plate, though his arm is just average. He earns high marks for the way he handles a staff. He also runs well for a catcher. Easley could jump to high Class A for his first full season, but there's no need to rush him because of Arizona's young catching depth in the big leagues.
Worthington looked like a likely college football player after his senior season in high school, when he rushed for 2,591 yards and committed to East Carolina. Most teams considered him a tough sign, but the Diamondbacks got a good read on his commitment to baseball and what it would take to get him under contract. They took him in the fifth round and signed him for $220,000, which was above MLB's slot recommendation but wasn't a bank-breaker by any means. Worthington profiles as a center fielder with legitimate power if everything comes together for him, but that's going to take patience. After watching him in action in a brief stint at short-season Missoula and in instructional league, Arizona saw a lot of bad swings but also signs that he uses his hands well and can put a charge in the ball. He's obviously athletic and is an above-average runner, drawing comparisons to Chris Young. Worthington is also raw in center field, but there too he has the tools, including an average arm, to be a strong defender. He'll probably open the 2008 season in extended spring training before reporting to Yakima. It will be a slow road, but he has as much upside as anyone in the organization.
Some thought Green was a reach in the second round when the Diamondbacks drafted him in 2005, and in his first two seasons he certainly looked like a bust. He developed slowly at Louisiana-Monroe and wasn't a full-time starter until his redshirt junior year in '05, when he finished fifth in NCAA Division I with 141 strikeouts in 105 innings. Arizona signed him for $500,000, but he didn't show the same stuff and struggled with his command, posting 5.55 and 5.14 ERAs at his first two minor league stops. But Green reinvigorated his prospect status in 2007, again showing a 91-93 mph fastball that peaked a few miles an hour faster, backed by a power slider. Scouts also were impressed by how he competed in the Mobile rotation, as he and Esmerling Vasquez provided a potent 1-2 punch and finished among the Southern League leaders in ERA, innings and strikeouts. Green's mechanics aren't smooth or easy, and his changeup still needs work, as does his command. But with his fastball/slider combo, he should at least end up as a quality reliever. He'll compete for a Triple-A rotation spot this spring and he'll get a big league look soon if he has another strong season.
Diamondbacks scouting director Tom Allison had plenty of background on Morgan because the Brewers, Allison's former organization, drafted him in 2004 out of a Texas high school. He shared outstanding pitcher honors with Yovani Gallardo at the 2003 Perfect Game/Baseball America World Wood Bat Championship, but he fell to the 25th round of the '04 draft because of his strong commitment to Tulane. Allison grabbed him again in 2007 as part of the group of Friday-night college pitchers he took at the top of the draft. A fourth-rounder, Morgan signed for $202,500. He long has been recognized for his outstanding slider, which was one of the best in the 2007 draft, and that pitch and his big body draw comparisons to fellow Texan Jason Jennings. Morgan's fastball sits at 88-92 mph, though he operates at the high end of that range when working out of the bullpen. He hasn't used a changeup much. Morgan has a maximum-effort delivery that affects his command, so the Diamondbacks are trying to smooth it out a bit. He worked in relief in his pro debut after pitching 103 innings for Tulane, and that may be the role he's best suited for down the road. But he'll start his first full season in the rotation at one of Arizona's Class A affiliates.
Fruto continues to show the flashes of pure stuff that have put him on prospect lists for years, mixed with the inconsistency that has him with his third organization in a year. He was originally signed by the Mariners and reached the big leagues in 2006, but Seattle traded him and outfielder Chris Snelling to the Nationals for Jose Vidro after that season. Despite an open casting call for starters last spring, Fruto couldn't make Washington's big league roster, and he went to the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade that sent first baseman Chris Carter (not the No. 8 prospect on this list) from Arizona to Boston and Wily Mo Pena from the Red Sox to the Nationals. Fruto has three quality pitches, with a 92-96 mph fastball, a true curveball and a changeup that at times is his best pitch. He also throws a slider. The problem is that he hasn't developed consistent mechanics to command any of his pitches reliably. He particularly needs to establish better fastball command. He has to back off on his velocity to try to get better control, which makes him more hittable. He's athletic for his size, but both his conditioning and his competitiveness leave something to be desired. Fruto made just six appearances after his trade to the Diamondbacks, so they'll take a longer look at him in spring training and give him a shot to make their big league bullpen.
Conner was a 31st-round draft pick of the Nationals in 2005 out of a Florida high school, and he went to Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) CC but didn't sign with Washington as a draft-and-follow. So the Diamondbacks took him in the 2006 draft, then signed him after he spent a season at Wallace State (Ala.) CC, where he batted .466 with 13 home runs in 161 at-bats and nearly won the triple crown in the Alabama Community College Conference. He kept performing in his pro debut, leading Yakima in the triple-crown categories, and his 1.026 OPS would have led the Northwest League if he had enough at-bats to qualify. Conner's most intriguing asset is his combination of big raw power and a good approach at the plate. He's quick to the ball and can drive it to all parts of the park, and he has a feel for the strike zone. He's a big, physical player, but his body has some looseness to it. Still, he's a slightly below-average runner. Defense is the big question for Conner. He made 11 errors in just 36 games at third base in his debut, so he might be better off at first base, where he also saw some action. Arizona also thinks he could handle left field, a position he played as an amateur. For now he'll stay at third and see how far his bat takes him. He'll open 2008 back in low Class A.
Hankerd had an auspicious pro debut, winning the Northwest League MVP award and batting title (.384), hitting .369 in 18 games in high Class A and becoming the only 2006 draftee to top 100 hits in his first summer. His first full season in 2007 was a major step down because he was bothered by a sore left wrist all season, and his numbers declined across the board. The injury was diagnosed as tendinitis for much of the year, but he sat out almost all of July and finally had surgery after the season. When healthy, Hankerd is a pure hitter who can drive the ball to all fields and has a great approach at the plate. He showed his desire to get on base last year even when his swing wasn't working, getting hit by a pitch 19 times in 103 games to tie for the California League lead. He should have enough power for an outfield corner, though he's limited to left field because of his below-average speed and arm. He'll have to work to be an average defender there. Hankerd's value is all in his bat, so he'll have to prove his wrist is fine and his swing is back to keep moving through the organization. He's expected to be healthy in spring training and could make the Mobile roster if that's the case.
Brito always has shown a good batting eye since signing out of Venezuela in 2002, but he didn't show much power to speak of until 2006 at the hitter's haven of Lancaster, the Diamondbacks' former high Class A affiliate. He came back to earth a bit in Double-A but still had double figures in home runs, and he was added to the 40-man roster after the season. Brito has the type of approach that the Diamondbacks love, giving him a career .404 on-base percentage. He has a good idea of the strike zone and uses the whole field. To get to the big leagues, he'll have to put balls over the fence more often. Some scouts say he doesn't have enough bat speed to do so, and his swing can get long when he tries to focus on power. That leaves him short of the profile at first base, and moving isn't an option. Even his defense at first is below average, as he's a slow, big-bodied player with heavy legs around the bag. Brito's on-base production will keep earning him opportunities, but unless he develops more power he looks like a backup or a second-division regular. He'll compete for the first-base job in Triple-A this spring.
Ambriz was one of seven Visalia players (including Brett Anderson) involved in an August car accident that forced the postponement of an Oaks game, but he wasn't injured. It was a bit of good fortune for a player who battled injuries throughout his college career, though Ambriz has been healthy as a pro and was a workhorse in the Visalia rotation. He finished fourth in the California League in strikeouts (133 in 150 innings) and sixth in ERA (4.08). He also won both of his postseason starts, running his innings total to 165 in his first full season. Ambriz throws three pitches for strikes, including a fastball that sits in the low 90s, a splitter and a curveball. His changeup made progress last season to potentially give him a fourth pitch. Scouts, however, don't like his arm action or his big body, and they worry that only his splitter will remain effective at higher levels. He'll also have to tighten up his control against more advanced hitters. Ambriz certainly looked the part of a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse last season, and he'll try to show that again in Double-A.
Romero came up through the Twins system but got bumped off the 40-man roster after the 2006 season, so the Diamondbacks snatched him up on waivers. He posted career-best numbers in several categories in 2007, and again was one of the toughest batters to strike out in his league. But he didn't earn a callup at the end of the season because fellow waiver pickup Jeff Salazar was a little better than him in just about every area. Romero has a good approach at the plate and clearly is adept at making contact, though he could take more walks. He can play all three outfield positions, though he's best suited for a corner, but he doesn't have enough power to profile as a regular there. With Romero's all-around skills and switch-hitting ability, yet the lack of one dominant tool, he profiles as an ideal fourth outfielder. With the depth in Arizona's outfield, however, it's not clear he'll get that opportunity with the Diamondbacks.
Ciriaco remains a raw package of tools--which is pretty much what he was when the Diamondbacks signed him--but he shows enough progress each season that they continue to push him up the ladder. He did make progress at the plate last season, batting .284 in the second half, and he was much more comfortable at the bottom of the order than the top, even showing the willingness to take a walk. He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts, and he'll have to get stronger as well. He also needs to make better use of his above-average speed, as he got caught in 11 of 31 basestealing attempts last season. Ciriaco reduced his errors from 45 in 2006 to 32 in 2007, but consistency on defense remains one of his biggest challenges. He has the tools, including an above-average arm, to play shortstop, but he'll have to continue to cut down on his errors to stay there. Arizona worked Ciriaco out at second and third base in instructional league, and unless he makes significant improvements this season he's probably looking at a career as a utilityman.
Septimo never figured it out at the plate, though he wasn't completely hopeless, as so many conversion cases are. He always rated as the best outfield arm in every league he played in, so the Diamondbacks finally made the move in instructional league after the 2007 season and put him on the mound. Septimo promptly became one of the most talked-about names in advance of the major league Rule 5 draft in December, with reports he had thrown 94-96 mph in his first experience as a pitcher. Teams also had clocked his throws before games from the outfield in the triple digits in the past. Those clubs ultimately decided the gamble wasn't worth a major league roster spot for all of next season, however, and Arizona was happy to sneak him through the Rule 5 process. The decision also will be beneficial to Septimo, who clearly needs plenty of mound time and wouldn't have received it in the big leagues. He showed a plus fastball, particularly for a lefthander, but his entire repertoire is a work in progress. He's working on a slider that shows potential, though his control is a question mark. He'll work out of the bullpen to begin 2008, as a way of controlling his workload and potentially speeding him through the system. He'll likely open the season in high Class A.
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