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Parker overpowered weak competition in the Indiana high school ranks as an amateur, and when he returned to the state last season to pitch for low Class A South Bend, he was nearly as dominant while ranking as the Midwest League's No. 3 prospect. He was about two hours from home, where he had emerged from obscurity to become the ninth overall pick in the 2007 draft. Parker earned his first widespread attention pitching for USA Baseball's junior national team in 2006, shocking scouts with his easy velocity from a relatively small frame. He didn't pitch for the Diamondbacks in 2007 after signing for $2.1 million, then piled up 129 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2008. Arizona closely monitored his workload, keeping him on very limited pitch counts early in the season, and he worked into the seventh inning just once all season. He seemed to tire at midseason but rebounded to go 3-0, 1.91 in his final six regular-season starts. He also was one of the most impressive pitchers in Arizona's instructional league camp. From the first time scouts saw him, they have been impressed with the easy, high-90s velocity Parker generates from such a smooth arm action. He sits at 94 mph and touches 98 and looks like he could do it all day, drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum. The Diamondbacks were also impressed with his feel for pitching and his aptitude in quickly improving his other three pitches. He developed better definition between his slider and curveball, with the slider the better pitch in Arizona's eyes. It's a true power breaker in the upper 80s. He seems more confident in the curveball, which also can be a plus pitch and is valuable for changing hitters' eye level. He never had to throw a changeup in high school but showed good feel for it. He was throwing it in hitter's counts and getting swings and misses by the end of the year. Parker is athletic and able to repeat his delivery, and he shows strong command of all four of his pitches. He's athletic and able to overcome his lack of height to get a good downhill plane on his pitches. Parker needs to be diligent about working to the bottom of the zone, because while young hitters will chase his fastball up, better hitters won't. His fastball command is good for his experience level, but he's still working on locating the ball to both sides of the plate with precision. He's also learning how to work through a game efficiently without piling up huge pitch counts. Arizona expected a great arm with the ninth overall pick, but Parker's polish has been a bonus, particularly with his limited amateur experience. His four legitimate pitches, command and polished delivery are a recipe for stability and success. He'll open 2009 at either high Class A Visalia or Double-A Mobile, depending on his spring, but either way he'll pitch at multiple levels this season--and one of those levels could be the big leagues.
After winning the Midwest League batting title with a .320 average in 2007, Parra split 2008 between Visalia and Mobile but made his strongest impression after the regular season. Starting in center field for Zulia in his native Venezuela, he was hitting .333/.412/.522 in mid-December and ranked among the Venezuelan League leaders in several offensive categories. While the individual grades on Parra's tools aren't overwhelming, the sum of what he brings to every game adds up. His best attribute is a smooth batting stroke that generates bat speed. He also has a good approach at the plate and a feel for putting together quality at-bats. He's not a spectacular center fielder but is smooth, can run and makes all the plays. He has plenty of arm for center field, with good accuracy. Parra won't ever hit for great power, with a top end of 12-15 home runs a year, so if he has to move to an outfield corner he starts to look like a tweener. He can improve his plate discipline and learn to pull the ball more to get the most out of his swing. Parra will return to Double-A to open the season but should move up at some point and earn a September callup. As long as he can stay in center field, he should be a productive big leaguer.
As a local product who attended nearby Arizona, Schlereth was well known to the Diamondbacks. So when he bounced back from Tommy John surgery in 2006 to show his power stuff again last spring, Arizona jumped on him with the 26th overall pick and signed him for $1.33 million. The son of former NFL offensive lineman and ESPN commentator Mark Schlereth, he dominated in the Midwest League playoffs after a late promotion. Schlereth is perfectly suited to a role at the back of a bullpen. He has an explosive fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a power curveball that's also a plus pitch, not to mention the adrenaline and makeup for the role. He showed good control of both pitches last spring and summer. Staying healthy and learning how to absorb a full season's worth of work, along with sharpening his command, are about the only things standing between Schlereth and a major league job. He worked on a changeup in instructional league to give him an occasional third option. Though he worked just 12 regular-season innings after signing, Schlereth probably will jump to Double-A to open 2009. The Diamondbacks won't hold him back if he shows he can handle more advanced hitters. He has the arm to be a closer someday.
Hallberg jumped to high Class A for his first full season, but he tore a ligament in his left thumb on a tag play in his second game. He had surgery in mid-April and returned two months later. He made up for lost time by batting .362 and earning league MVP honors in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Hallberg is an organization favorite because he's polished and has few holes in his game. He understands his game and carries out a plan every day, and one team official calls him "Tommy Textbook." His only plus tool is his bat, and he should always be productive because he has the best strike-zone judgement in the system and never gives away at-bats. He should have average power. Most of Hallberg's pure tools are fringy. While he's a fundamentally sound shortstop he doesn't have the athetlic ability or speed to play there every day. He played mostly second base in Hawaii and eventually should settle in there, with the ability to fill in at short and third base. The most apt comparison is Mark Loretta, a heady player who ends up as an offensive second baseman but can play all over the field. Hallberg is the kind of player who managers want on the field and batting second every day. He'll advance to Double-A in 2009.
Miley was part of a banner crop of Louisiana high school lefties in 2005, as he, Jeremy Bleich (Yankees), Beau Jones (Braves) and Sean West (Marlins) all became supplemental first-round picks. Miley spent three years at Southeastern Louisiana before signing for $877,000 in 2008. His 119 strikeouts last spring trailed only big league alumni Kirk Bullinger and Jeff Williams (125 each) as the most in Southeastern Louisiana history. At his best, Miley offers three above-average pitches. His slider is his calling card and allows him to neutralize righthanders. His fastball ranges from 89-92 mph and can touch the mid-90s, though he's better off at lower velocity with more movement. His changeup shows flashes, and he threw a curveball in college as well. He's athletic and played center field in high school. Miley endured a heavy workload last spring, pitching 102 innings, so the Diamondbacks took it easy with him. He threw just 11 innings at shortseason Yakima and mostly worked on the side during instructional league. His main focus for the coming year will be improving his fastball command and getting his delivery under control. Assuming he can tighten up his command, Miley has the well-rounded arsenal and durability to become a No. 3 starter in the big leagues. He'll crank up his pro career at one of Arizona's Class A affiliates this year.
Eichhorn was the best high school prospect in Northern California for the 2008 draft, but teams weren't sure where to draft him because he's still filling out and had a strong commitment to Santa Clara. Arizona took him in the third round and signed him for an above-slot $500,000. His father Mark pitched 11 seasons in the big leagues and helped coach Kevin's team to the 2002 Little League World Series. It's still not clear what kind of pitcher Eichhorn might grow into, but he has a nice foundation in place. He's a quality athlete who also would have played shortstop had he gone to college, and he has good balance in his delivery. He complements an 87-91 mph fastball with a curveball and changeup, and Arizona thinks his already-solid stuff has lots of room for improvement. He has good makeup and intelligence as well. Arizona gave Eichhorn just a brief taste of pro ball and limited work in instructional league, with improving his changeup the biggest focus. In addition to experience and innings, he needs to get more physical in his lower half and learn how to repeat his delivery. His most advanced skill is his ability to fill the zone, but he needs to learn the difference between strikes and quality strikes. With his background and ability, Eichhorn should be able to hit the ground running, so the Diamondbacks will start him off in low Class A this year.
The Diamondbacks signed Valdez at the relatively old age of 20 in 2005, but he has moved quickly since. He broke out in 2008, going 13-8, 3.14 between two levels to win Arizona's minor league pitcher of the year award and a spot on the 40-man roster. Valdez's changeup is a legitimate plus pitch, with splitter action that generates swings and misses. He backs it with a sinker/slider combination, sitting around 90 mph and touching 92 with good movement on his fastball. He always has been a strike-thrower, and he has improved his fastball command and his ability to repeat his delivery. He has a knack for pitching and knows not to attack hitters, particularly by adding and subtracting velocity. Valdez has the repertoire of a pitcher who's reliable more than overpowering. His results in Double-A weren't nearly as good as in high Class A--though he had 10-strikeout games at both levels--indicating he needs to sharpen his command further. While he doesn't have top-end stuff, Valdez has enough weapons to get through a major league lineup as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He'll return to Mobile to start the season but will move up quickly if he handles Double-A hitters.
Buckner came over from the Royals in a trade for Alberto Callaspo after the 2007 season, and his Diamondbacks career got off to a horrendous beginning. He allowed 24 earned runs in his first five starts at Triple-A Tucson and took a 7.94 ERA into May, but was much better the rest of the way, holding his own in spite of bouncing all season between Tucson, where he started, and Arizona, where he worked out of the bullpen. Buckner has the weapons to pitch in the middle of a rotation, with a lively, low-90s sinker and a curveball that's his favorite pitch. He can get batters to swing and miss with both of those pitches. His changeup is a notch behind, and he has used it much more often in the minors than in the majors. He also can throw a knuckle-curve. Buckner's strikeouts were down and walks were up last year, reflecting that he wasn't aggressive enough and didn't have confidence in all his pitches. He also needs to improve his command, which showed progress in 2007 but took a step back in 2008. Buckner has a resilient arm and his velocity goes up a tick out of the bullpen, so Arizona could easily use him in that role. But he holds his stuff well during games and has three good pitches when he's on, suggesting a starting role would be best. He'll compete for Arizona's fifth starter's job in spring training and could occupy a swingman role in 2008 as he sorts out his long-term future.
After sitting out the 2007 college season with a broken hamate bone in his left hand, Cowgill hit .290 in the Cape Cod League that summer but declined to sign with the Athletics as a 29th-round pick. Arizona took him 24 rounds higher last year and signed him for $155,000. He again showed aptitude with wood bats, as he led the short-season Northwest League with 11 homers in just 20 games there before getting promoted. One team official calls Cowgill "hitterish." He combines a good approach at the plate with great bat speed, allowing him to consistently put a charge in the ball. He's a confident hitter who will wait on his pitch and crush mistakes. He's also an adept outfielder, with instincts and enough speed under way to play center field, though ultimately he'll probably be better suited to a corner. His arm is average. Cowgill has a couple of things working against him. For one he's already 22, and for another he's just 5-foot-9 and bats righthanded. Arizona brought him to instructional league to focus on cutting down his strikeouts because they'd like for him to hit first or second in the order. The main focus was improving his two-strike approach. The Diamondbacks compare him to Cody Ross for his ability to swing the bat and play anywhere in the outfield. With his age and what he has shown so far, Cowgill will get the chance to jump to Double-A out of spring training.
Because the Diamondbacks lack a complex-based affiliate, Navarro has spent his first two pro seasons in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where he was probably over his head. He played the entire 2008 season at 18 years old. Navarro has the tools to become an ideal No. 2 hitter. Scouts saw him playing around with switch-hitting as a high schooler in Puerto Rico, and he took it on full-time in instructional league after the 2007 season. He has shown enough progress that the Diamondbacks now like his lefthanded swing better than his natural righty stroke. He has a better swing from the left side, as it's more repeatable and has fewer holes. He does show more power as a righty, but his game always will be about moving the ball around rather than driving it. He also has above-average speed. Shortstop has been a struggle so far for Navarro, who made 28 errors in 2007 and 38 in 2008 to lead the Pioneer League both years. There's some question as to whether he has the arm or actions to stay there, and he may have to move to second base. Arizona says otherwise, arguing that his mistakes are sins of aggression and his first-step quickness and athleticism make him a legitimate shortstop. While the numbers don't show progress, the Diamondbacks were happy with Navarro's year, noting that he improved his body and his quickness and showed a much better idea at the plate. He'll move up to low Class A at age 19 and try to prove he can stay at short.
In his first full season, Enright did the expected in making 29 starts and piling up 164 innings, which led the high Class A California League. His 143 strikeouts topped the league as well. His ERA wasn't what Arizona would have hoped for, but he was much better in the second half of the season, with a 5.11 ERA in the first half and 3.69 ERA in the second. Enright succeeds by throwing strikes and eating innings, and with his solid frame and clean arm action he has already shown he can be a workhorse. His fastball works around 90 mph, touching 92, and he tightened up his slider and showed progress with his changeup last season. He also showed an occasional curveball to give hitters a different look. His early struggles taught Enright the importance of fastball command as well as pitch efficiency. Early in the season he worked up in the zone way too often, and he also threw too many pitches. He doesn't throw anything overpowering so has to be able to spot his pitches. Enright's ceiling is as a back-of-the-rotation starter, and the key to reaching that will be how he handles lefthanders, who batted .320 against him last year (compared to .239 for righties), as he moves up. He'll move up to Double-A for 2009.
In a system that has been thinned out by graduation and trades, Stange provides the kind of power tools that have become fewer and farther between. He was drafted by the Braves out of high school in 2003 but headed to UC Riverside instead and became the closer there, and Arizona kept him in the role after drafting him in 2006. He was on the fast track but got derailed by Tommy John surgery in August 2007. Stange has the power arm and mentality to pitch at the back of a major league bullpen, with a fastball that can touch 99 but usually sits in the mid-90s as well as a slider that's a swing-and-miss pitch. He returned to action last June, dominating low Class A batters, and by the end of the summer he was touching 93 again. It was Stange's violent delivery that got him sent to the bullpen in the first place, so the Diamondbacks are working with him to tone it down enough to keep him healthy without costing him any life on his pitches. He'll have to sharpen his command as he moves up and returns to full strength. Arizona says Stange is getting close to where he was before he was hurt, and he had reached Double-A at that point, so he should head back there if he still looks good in spring training. If he's healthy and effective, he could move up quickly.
Harden made as strong an impression as any of the players in Arizona's 2008 draft class, dominating both out of the bullpen and as a starter at Missoula. He was an important recruit for Miami and would have been a closer candidate for the Hurricanes--the same role he had at New Mexico JC--but the Diamondbacks were able to sign him for $75,000. He missed six weeks of action before the draft with hamstring problems but was healthy at Rookie-level Missoula, showing a low-90s fastball that touched 94 with sink. His slider also can be a plus pitch though it's inconsistent, and he also already has a decent changeup. He's an adrenaline-rush pitcher who seems well suited for the back of the bullpen, but Arizona tried him as a starter because of his three-pitch mix and liked the results. He struck out 10 in each of his first two starts, showing his tremendous feel for how to attack hitters. He has a strong frame and clean delivery that suggest he'll be durable, and the Diamondbacks love his mound demeanor. It's a little early to get too excited, but Harden has a lot of ingredients for success. Team officials are interested to see what he'll do in the South Bend rotation.
Ciriaco had always been much more about potential than performance in his five previous seasons in the organization, but a chance to repeat high Class A allowed him to put himself back into the Diamondbacks' plans. He was a California League all-star after putting together by far his best offensive season, then got added to the 40-man roster. Ciriaco could always run and play shortstop, but he tended to get the bat knocked out of his hands. He made adjustments with his approach and his hands, creating less movement in his swing, and started to hit the ball with some authority. He also greatly improved his basestealing efficiency, leading the organization with 40 steals and getting caught just nine times. The game also slowed down for him on defense, and his error total dropped for the second straight season, to 23. With continued improvements in his consistency he can be an above-average shortstop, with plenty of range and arm for the position. More important, he looks like he can hold his own with the bat as well. He worked out in the Diamondbacks' Dominican instructional camp over the winter and will be Mobile's starting shortstop to open 2009.
Perez remains a diamond in the rough for now, but he has the tools and has shown enough flashes of his ability that he could be on the verge of a breakout season. He spent his first domestic season at Missoula and was one of three Diamondbacks players on BA's Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects list (along with pitchers Bryan Shaw and Trevor Harden) despite uneven performance at the plate. Arizona signed him for $150,000 in 2006 as a switch-hitting catcher with good defensive tools. He has a solid approach at the plate with a smooth, linedrive swing and plenty of bat speed. He already walks more than he strikes out. His swing from the left is better at this point, and he's still growing into his body and tapping into his power, though he'll probably never have more than average power. He shows good quickness behind the plate and moves well, with soft hands and an above-average arm. With his quick release, he threw out 40 percent of basestealers last year. He's learning English to help him work with pitchers and is working on his game management. Perez is ready for full-season ball and should be South Bend's starting catcher in 2009.
Few players understand their strengths and weaknesses as well as Frey, and he put all his skills on display last year. In his first full season, he earned a midseason promotion and finished the year with a .400 on-base percentage. He also impressed the organization with his performance in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .288 with three triples. Frey occupied a center fielder/tablesetter role in college at Missouri and stepped right into the same role in pro ball. He's a mighty mite, with lots of fast twitch in a small package. He's an old-school, gritty player who understands that small ball is his game, so he puts the ball on the ground, moves it around the field and tries to use his above-average speed. He controls the strike zone and shows occasional gap power. Frey is a good center fielder with a playable throwing arm. In addition to speed he has good instincts and takes good routes, so his defense plays up, and he has the ability to play all three outfield positions. Still, while Frey gets the most out of his ability, he doesn't have a true plus tool, and without power or overwhelming speed he probably profiles as a fourth outfielder. Just don't try telling him that. He'll keep trying to overcome the doubters in Double-A this year.
Shaw hails from Livermore, Calif., where there must be something in the water. Both future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson and former Giants reliever Erick Threets are also from the city, and both have thrown 100 mph. Shaw sits more comfortably in the mid-90s, and as a 6-foot-1 righthander isn't quite as intimidating on the mound. He was Long Beach State's closer last spring, signing with Arizona as a second-round pick for $553,000, then worked out of the bullpen at Missoula and South Bend but didn't have as much success. His pure stuff is impressive, though, as he sits at 92-94 mph and touches 96, with a power slider that could develop into a plus pitch. He also throws a splitter and a changeup, though both pitches need more development. Dialing in his command will be key for Shaw, particularly with his fastball, as will working the ball down in the strike zone. Shaw is young for a college junior, and will play the 2009 season at 21, so the Diamondbacks will be patient with him. In fact, they'll probably watch him through the spring and into the summer to see whether he'll be a starter or reliever. His stuff might be a bit short for the back of the bullpen, while he would take more time to develop as a starter. He should open his first full pro season in low Class A.
The Diamondbacks found a couple of polished college hitters who could move quickly through the organization with their fourth and fifth selections in the 2008 draft, White and Collin Cowgill. White finished third in batting in NCAA Division I in 2007 at .452, and while his average dropped more than 100 points in his draft year, he showed more power and the Diamondbacks signed him for $213,000. He hit seven home runs in Missoula to earn a promotion to South Bend, and then showed he has legitimate power to all fields by homering to left at Chase Field in the final game of instructional league when the Diamondbacks give their prospects a chance to play in a big league park. He also is a strong all-around hitter, and actually handled lefthanders better than righthanders last year. White immediately became the best defensive first baseman in the organization, with good footwork around the bag, and he's athletic enough to play in the outfield as well. He played there as a college freshman and has an average arm. White is a well-rounded player who gets the most out of his ability. He doesn't look like a star, with a slightly more powerful Sean Casey as his most optimistic comparison, but has a good probability of reaching the big leagues. He'll probably move up to high Class A to open 2009.
Signed as a minor league free agent after five seasons in the Expos/Nationals organization, Whitesell was a revelation in his first experience above Double-A. He mashed at Tucson to earn a September callup, and a pinch-hit home run against the Rockies gave the Diamondbacks a glimpse of his value to a major league team. Whitesell's consistency was the most impressive aspect of his performance in Tucson, as he finished among the Pacific Coast League leaders in several offensive categories and set a career high for home runs. He has pure controlled violence in his lefthanded swing, and he's also able to take walks and knows how to put an at-bat together. He has some athletic ability but below-average speed, and he's a hard worker. He's an average first baseman and could be adequate as a fill-in in left field as well. He strikes out a lot, which is an acceptable tradeoff if he shows plus power, and some in the organization expect him to cut down on the strikeouts as he matures. Whitesell doesn't profile as an everyday player in the big leagues, but his lefty power is a nice luxury on the bench, and might be able to handle a platoon role. Arizona will give him every chance to earn a spot on the big league roster in spring training.
Barnette had some success in his first two seasons in the organization, even making the Midwest League allstar team in 2007, but didn't really mark himself as a legitimate prospect until he skipped a level and seemingly improved from start to start in Double-A last season. He led the Southern League in strikeouts (133 in 154 innings) and ranked second in wins (11) and ninth in ERA (3.87). He always has thrown strikes with a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph, but the Diamondbacks like to emphasize throwing quality strikes, and that's what Barnette did more of in 2008. His slider and changeup should be average pitches as well, with the slider occasionally a plus offering, and he commands those pitches well too. He can move the ball to all four quadrants of the strike zone and repeats his delivery, which has made him durable as a pro. Still, none of his pitches overpowers, he doesn't miss a lot of bats, and when he leaves the ball up he's prone to giving up home runs. So some think he will ultimately end up in the bullpen, where he spent most of his two years at Arizona State. As a senior draft in 2006, he's already 25, though skipping to Mobile and succeeding helped him speed up his timetable. He'll move up to Arizona's new Triple-A Reno affiliate and will be a candidate to fill big league openings if he pitches well.
On the plus side, Roemer took every turn in the rotation in his first full season and finished with 163 innings, second in the California League to rotation-mate Barry Enright. On the other hand, he tied for the league lead with 12 losses and was alone at the top with 25 homers allowed. The Diamondbacks prefer to focus on the big picture, noting that Roemer was 21 and learning how to apply his stuff against professional hitters, as well as how to work through the aches and pains of a long pro season. He's a bulldog and has always been a strike-thrower, so now he needs to learn that it's about the quality of the strikes, not the quantity. He piled up strikeouts in college, when he was a first-team All-American as a sophomore, but he needs to be a sinker/slider guy for whom strikeouts are only a by-product, and must be more efficient with his pitches. Similarly, while he can touch the mid-90s if he puts everything into a fastball, he is best off dialing it down to around 90 with good sink. His slider can be a plus pitch, but he falls in love with it at times. His changeup still isn't ready for prime time. Roemer showed flashes of his ability last year, giving up three runs or fewer in 17 starts, so Arizona hopes he can apply his ability more consistently in Double-A this season.
After a standout college career at Southern California and impressive debut in 2006, when he won the Northwest League MVP award and batting title (.384), Hankerd stagnated a bit over his first two full seasons. A wrist injury held him back in 2007 at Visalia, but he was simply inconsistent at Mobile in 2008. The Diamondbacks sent him to Hawaii Winter Baseball to try to get his swing and confidence back, and he batted .318 and led the league with 30 RBIs. While he was playing against less experienced pitching, Hankerd did show a better swing and again hit to all fields, as he does when he's dialed in. He also showed some leverage in his swing, allowing him to tap into what should be above-average power. But for most of the last two seasons, he was a 6-foot-3 player who hit like a middle infielder. Hankerd is a below-average runner with an average arm, but he has become a slightly above-average corner outfielder with good positioning, routes and jumps. He played both left and right field last season. Hankerd will try to earn a Triple-A roster spot and put himself into Arizona's big league plans by continuing the success he had last fall.
Zavada's story is the stuff movies are made from. The Diamondbacks took him late in the 2006 draft and his career got off to a decent start, but he asked for his release after the 2006 season when his father died, so he could help out his family. After a year away from the game, he was interested in getting back into baseball, so Arizona helped him hook on with Southern Illinois of the independent Frontier League. He posted a 1.72 ERA in 12 appearances, so Arizona brought him back, doing so by means of an unofficial trade with the Miners. Trades with independent clubs aren't allowed by Major League Baseball, so the Diamondbacks released first baseman Brad Miller to sign with Southern Illinois and re-signed Zavada. And he wasn't just a heartwarming story--Zavada dominated in South Bend. He was old for the league but he gave up just one hit to a lefthander in 35 innings. He has an average fastball that sits in the low-90s that hitters have trouble picking up, as well as a changeup that can be a plus pitch, and his breaking ball is developing into enough of a weapon to allow him to dominate out of the pen. He's not overpowering but throws strikes and knows how to miss bats. He's very aggressive and controls both sides of the plate. Zavada is back on the radar and was added to the 40-man roster after the season. Now he'll try to make up for lost time, possibly jumping to the Mobile bullpen to start the season. He should at least be able to reach the big leagues as a lefty specialist and could be a little bit better than that.
Asencio spent two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before making his domestic debut with Missoula last year. He got off to a horrendous start, hitting .194 in his first month, but three multihit games won him player-of-the-week honors in the Pioneer League and seemed to get his swing dialed in, and he raised his average by 100 points over the rest of the season. Asencio is a collection of intriguing tools at this point, and the Diamondbacks are trying to harness and polish them. His baseball experience has been limited, so they're just excited that he has responded well to the challenges they've thrown at him. He has drawn comparisons to Juan Encarnacion not just for his build, but for his set-up at the plate, the power potential in his bat and his plus throwing arm. He has wiry strength and shows a knack for manipulating the barrel of the bat and generating good bat speed. Plate discipline is a foreign concept to him at this point, but if he gets to a pitch he can drive it. It's too early to say exactly what Asencio will be, but he's an interesting athlete with several potential plus tools. He'll be a project and could spend some more time in extended spring training before reporting to Yakima in June.
Newby was one of the final selections of the 2004 draft, signing with the Diamondbacks the next spring as a draft-and-follow. They sent him straight to the bullpen and he had great success in his first two seasons in the organization, earning a trip to Hawaii Winter Baseball after the 2006 season. He pitched well there, too, but he also strained a ligament in his elbow, essentially making 2007 a lost season for him. He was fully healthy in 2008 and put himself back on the organization radar, getting added to the 40-man roster at the end of the season. Newby has three quality pitches, allowing him to succeed without dominant velocity. His fastball peaks in the low-90s, but it's heavy and he commands it well, and his slider and splitter can also generate swings and misses. Newby also benefits from a deceptive delivery, and all his pitches come from the same arm slot, so batters have a hard time identifying them. He's never going to be more than a middle reliever, but his success against lefthanders (.165 opponent average, vs. .232 against righties) last season suggests he can be used for multiple-inning stretches. Despite his previous injury, his build also means he should be durable. If he pitches well in Double-A, Newby could be good bullpen insurance for the Diamondbacks as the year goes on.
Septimo created a stir after the 2007 season, when news came out that he had been converted to the mound and was throwing in the high 90s. The Diamondbacks gambled (correctly) that no one would take him in the major league Rule 5 draft that year with such a thin record as a pitcher, but they didn't leave anything to chance after 2008, adding Septimo to the 40-man roster despite a modest first season on the mound. The reason is that everyone got a look at Septimo's powerful left arm, a rare commodity even if it's still in need of considerable polish. Septimo spent his first five years in the organization as an outfielder, and while his throws from the outfield were sometimes clocked in triple digits, he never had much success at the plate. His first season on the mound showed much more potential, though he's not a natural pitcher and still has a lot of work to on the basics of his delivery and control. But a lefthander who can throw consistently in the mid-90s will get plenty of opportunity to work through the kinks. He uses a slider as his second pitch, and that's probably all he'll need in his short relief stints. Septimo is still relatively young at 23, and the Diamondbacks think when it clicks for him, he'll get to the big leagues quickly.
The Diamondbacks aren't exactly looking for catchers in the big leagues, but they liked Skelton's package of skills so much that they took him in the major league Rule 5 draft from the Tigers. Skelton has been a productive offensive player in the Tigers system, and his on-base skills are off the charts. He hit .302 overall in 2008, the third straight season he has batted .300 or better, and he has good plate discipline and a patient approach. He's a singles hitter who offers little power. Skelton wasn't a bigger priority for the Tigers because it's not clear he will end up as a big league catcher. He has a small, slender body and isn't a great receiver. He has a strong arm and threw out 38 percent of basestealers last season, and he also showed improvement in handling pitchers last season. Arizona likes him as an offensive, athletic catcher, though he probably doesn't profile as an everyday player. He'll get a look at other positions in spring training, and the Diamondbacks will try to carry him as a third catcher who can play all over the field and get on base as a pinch-hitter. If they don't keep him, Skelton will have to be placed on waivers and offered back to the Tigers for half his $50,000 draft price.
Stuck on the worst team in the Southern League, Brown persevered and was Mobile's most reliable starter throughout 2008, taking a 3.63 ERA into the final month of the season. But the wheels came off after that, as his 0-5, 6.75 August made for an ugly season line. He followed it with a 5.61 ERA in 26 Arizona Fall League innings. Most think he simply wore down, as he showed no sign of injury. Brown is a sinker/slider pitcher who shows a good feel for pitching and comes right at hitters, and some managers in the Southern League called his sinker one of the league's best. He throws it at 88-92 mph and must keep it down in the zone to be effective. His slider has two-plane break and can also be a plus pitch when he commands it effectively. His changeup is a fringe-average pitch and hasn't developed as hoped, leading some to suggest Brown take his two good pitches and go to the bullpen. His big frame and durability say starter, but his results at the end of 2008 suggest otherwise. The Diamondbacks will give him a shot in the Reno rotation, where sharpening his command and keeping his stuff down will be even more important. But he's likely to earn his first big league opportunity as a reliever.
Easley won the Johnny Bench award as college baseball's best catcher in 2007, but he didn't look like it in 2008, struggling at the plate and behind it in his first full pro season. He has the tools to be a good catcher, with an average arm, but he threw out just 28 percent of basestealers in the California League and had 23 passed balls, so the Diamondbacks brought him to instructional league to work on his receiving. He also worked with former big league catchers Mike Macfarlane and Jason Phillips in the offseason. He played a little first base and third base in instructional league, but he needs to stay at catcher if he wants to be an everyday player. Easley is a battler at the plate, but he chases too many pitches and needs to improve his knowledge of the strike zone. He should have average power, but a hip slide in his swing sapped his power last year. He needs better body control both hitting and catching. Arizona still likes Easley's desire and baseball IQ and thinks he just struggled in dealing with failure for the first time. He'll move up to Double-A and is a candidate for a bounceback season.
Worthington was a football-first athlete in high school, and the Diamondbacks swayed him from an East Carolina football commitment by signing him to a $220,000 bonus. They knew he would be a project, but it has turned out to be a bigger undertaking than they expected because he has Graves' disease. It's a chronic hyperthyroid disorder that caused Worthington to lose weight and strength; doctors diagnosed the problem after the 2007 season and began treating it with medication. He remained in extended spring training for much of the season, working to get back into playing shape, and finally showed the same body and athleticism as his high school days by the end of the summer. Worthington is a driven player who worked hard to get back into shape and has the same drive to get to the big leagues. He has good hands, though he'll need lots of at-bats and instruction to put his raw strength into full use at the plate. He's an above-average runner with an average arm, so he should be able to handle center field. Worthington shows flashes, and now that he's healthy he'll get the opportunity to put together some at-bats with a full-season club.
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