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The D-backs couldn't be sure what they were getting when they drafted Duplantier in the third round in 2016. They weren't even sure when spring training began in 2017, before he ultimately turned in one of the best minor league pitching seasons in recent memory. He led the minors with a 1.39 ERA that trailed only Justin Verlander's 1.29 ERA in 2005 among qualified minor league starters since 1993. Duplantier put together an impressive junior year at Rice but had missed the previous season with a shoulder injury that did not require surgery. On top of that was the perception that Rice pitchers tend not to stay healthy once they turn professional. Duplantier's first impression wasn't great, either. In the summer after the draft, he logged only one inning before being shut down with an elbow issue, then missed instructional league with a hamstring injury. But he showed up at spring training with a delivery he smoothed out with rehab coordinator Brad Arnsberg, who helped him lower his arm angle. Duplantier has an athletic build and a solid, sturdy frame with room to grow. His arm action is a bit funky because he extends his arm straight behind him just after separation, leading to a delivery that can appear stiff or robotic. But he repeats it well, and coaches say he makes adjustments quickly when he gets out of whack. Duplantier has the potential for a legitimate four-pitch mix. His fastball velocity fluctuated at times in 2017, but he sat mostly 90-94 mph. His stuff ticked up late in the season, when he sat 93-94 mph and topped out at 97. He throws both a four-seamer and a two-seamer and both pitches have armside run. His most consistent secondary pitch is a spike curveball, but coaches believe his new slider has the most upside. He also throws a changeup that generates average to above-average grades. Duplantier is proud that he was able to make all of his starts in 2017, saying he grew more confident in his health as the season progressed. Still, the D-backs proceeded cautiously by waiting until mid-June before promoting him from low Class A Kane County to high Class A Visalia. Duplantier's late-season stuff indicates he has the potential to be a front-line starter. For some, though, his injury history and delivery mark him as a possible reliever. Another strong year in the rotation at Double-A Jackson will strengthen his starter case.
Despite some rough results at Triple-A Reno, Banda reached the big leagues in 2017, throwing well in two starts and struggling in two others before finishing the season in the bullpen as a September callup. Scouts say he continued to flash impressive stuff throughout the season but went through stretches where his command backed up. Banda has gradually added velocity to his fastball and now sits 93-94 mph and touches 96. His breaking ball and changeup can both be inconsistent but have a chance to be above-average pitches. Scouts thought Banda left too many pitches over the plate in 2017, though pitching at hitter-friendly Reno didn't help. Some in the organization thought Banda's continued uptick in velocity might have played a part in his inconsistent command and the occasional lack of effectiveness of his secondary pitches. Banda showed flashes of mid-rotation potential during his brief time with Arizona and dominated at times in relief. His future remains as a starter, but if the big league rotation remains crowded, he might have to wait for an opportunity.
The lefthanded-hitting Smith was one of the most well-regarded pure hitters in the 2017 draft because of his sweet swing, impressive contact ability and a solid statistical track record in the Atlantic Coast Conference. As a junior at Virginia, he hit .342/.427/.570 and homered (13) more times than he struck out (12).While that played well with the D-backs' beefed up analytics department, team officials say traditional scouting played a larger role in his selection. Many D-backs scouts never saw Smith swing and miss, and the team believes that his power will develop last. His only professional home run came in short-season Hillsboro's final postseason game. Believers say the raw power is there, but it's a matter of Smith learning when to tap into it in game situations. No one doubts his ability to hit, with “advanced” and “special” used as descriptors by scouts, coaches and opposing managers. Smith doesn't run well, and though his arm and glove are fine at first base, scouts aren't sure he'd be an average defender in a corner outfield spot if he had to move. Whether Smith's future is at first base or in the outfield depends on Paul Goldschmidt, who is signed through 2019.
The D-backs spotted Chisholm at a workout showcasing fellow Bahamas native Lucius Fox and ultimately signed him for $200,000. That price now looks like a bargain, given how well regarded he is by rival scouts. Unfortunately, they did not have many chances to see Chisholm in 2017. He played just 29 games at low Class A Kane County before suffering a “bucket-handle” torn meniscus in his right knee. Chisholm bats lefthanded and has big, strong hands and takes powerful, aggressive swings. His approach can get overly aggressive at times, leading to swings and misses, but he can also generate huge power. He led the organization's minor leaguers in home runs during spring training. An average runner, he can improve his raw speed as he builds his lower half. Chisholm has smooth, athletic actions at shortstop and a strong arm, but like a lot of young infielders needs to improve his consistency and focus in the field. He's confident, talkative, well liked by teammates and clearly enjoys playing the game. Chisholm will look to make up for lost developmental time in 2018. He could open the season in high Class A Visalia.
The son of big leaguer Gary Varsho and the namesake of his father's former teammate, Darren Daulton, Varsho came off a huge junior season at Wisconsin-Milwaukee when the D-backs selected him 68th overall in 2017. He led the Horizon League in batting average (.362), on-base percentage (.490) and slugging (.643), then in his pro debut led the short-season Northwest League with a .902 OPS. Varsho has an unusual profile in that he's a catcher who runs better than he throws--but most believe he will hit. With short arms producing a compact lefthanded swing, he has a mature approach, a good feel for the strike zone and makes consistent loud contact, showing power to all fields. His lack of arm strength is a concern, but D-backs coaches clocked his pop times on throws to second base as low as 1.9 seconds. If catching doesn't pan out, Varsho runs well enough to be a solid left fielder, and he might even be an option in center field or at second base. He runs well enough that some scouts could envision him reaching 30 steals. Some believe in Varsho's hitting potential to the extent that they might move him to a less grueling position to hasten his development. He has a chance to start at high Class A Visalia in 2018.
The D-backs believed Wilson was so raw when they selected him in 2014 they viewed him as a multi-year Rookie-level player. That's exactly how it played out, and after years of showing glimpses of his ability, particularly when it came to recognizing pitches, Wilson put things together in 2017, emerging as one of the organization's better position prospects. At low Class A Kane County he ranked third in the Midwest League in batting average (.295) and second in on-base percentage (.383). Wilson has perhaps the best plate discipline in the organization, drawing rave reviews from coaches for his ability to wait out pitchers until he gets something he can handle. He has average power, with some seeing the potential for 15 homers. He hit eight of his nine homers before the MWL all-star break, with some believing he might have worn down in the second half. He runs well and has a chance to stay in center field, though some scouts think that once he adds strength to his thin frame he might fit better on a corner. The D-backs were conservative with their promotions in 2017, so Wilson will get his first taste at high Class A Visalia in 2018.
Just like shortstop Jazz Chisholm, Diaz was signed in 2015 while the D-backs were in the penalty for exceeding their international spending limit on Cuban righthander Yoan Lopez in 2014. Diaz signed for just $10,000 but has quickly emerged as one of the system's most exciting position prospects. He jumped to Rookie-level Missoula in 2017 and delivered 30 extra-base hits in 57 games. Diaz is a toolsy player whom scouts and coaches feel has a chance to grow into a power-speed center fielder. Everything about his game is built on aggressiveness--whether it's at the plate, on the bases or in the outfield--and sometimes it works against him. He gets himself out too often, especially on the first pitch he sees, and he needs to learn to better manage his at-bats. He hunts fastballs but could stand to improve his breaking ball recognition, as well as use the whole field more. He's not a pure power hitter but has the juice in his swing to drive pitches. Diaz is a plus runner who gets good jumps and takes good routes in the outfield. His arm strength is above-average. He has a wiry strong build that might add another 15 pounds. Diaz is set for low Class A Kane County and his first taste of full-season ball in 2018.
Clarke didn't allow a run in his 2015 pro debut, then advanced to Double-A Jackson in his first full season in 2016. He then opened at Double-A in 2017 and served as the club's best starter before a promotion to Triple-A Reno, where he acquitted himself well in a challenging environment. Nothing about Clarke overwhelms hitters. His fastball ranges from 89-94 mph and sits 92-93 with average life, good downhill angle and some deception from his high three-quarters release point. His solid-average slider is his best secondary pitch, and he's continuing to refine his changeup and curveball. Clarke is able to survive with four average pitches because of his consistent command and ability to repeat his delivery. Coaches rave about his mound presence and competitiveness. He can come across as quiet but he doesn't seem intimidated. His walk rate ticked up from 2016, but scouts continue to believe in his ability to command the ball and his overall pitching acumen. Clarke will return to Reno to start 2018 while he waits for a need to arise at the big league level. Once Clarke gets there, he projects as a reliable and durable back-end starter.
Starting at third base on the same team as No. 4 overall pick Brendan McKay, Ellis led Louisville in batting average (.355), slugging percentage (.701) and home runs (20) in 2017 and was drafted 44th overall by the D-backs. He signed for just over $1.5 million. Ellis' pro debut at short-season Hillsboro started well, but he tailed off as he wore down following a long college season. Ellis generates plus power out of his athletic frame, but some scouts have questions about his balance and weight transfer, which leads to him getting out on his front foot and lunging too often. He often had a solid approach and managed at-bats well in college, but some of that backed up as he struggled in his pro debut. Viewed as a questionable third baseman defensively coming out of the draft, Ellis put some of those doubts to rest in pro ball. He lacks a certain amount of range and quickness but makes up for it with good hands, solid footwork, an above-average arm and a steady heartbeat that helps him slow the game down. Ellis struggled with wood bats in college summer leagues and did so again in his pro debut. He will seek a strong year from start to finish in 2018, perhaps at high Class A Visalia.
Tabor added size and strength throughout his senior year of high school and jumped from 88-90 mph with his fastball to 90-94 mph. The huge improvement made him a third-round pick last spring, when he signed for $1 million and passed on a college commitment to Elon. Tabor signed later in the process and made just four appearances in the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2017. Standing at just 5-foot-11 in the fall before his draft year, Tabor topped out at 91 mph before rapidly growing three inches and bumping 95 mph by the spring. He credits some of the velocity gain to a new long-tossing program he picked up in 2016. Tabor has a clean, athletic delivery that he repeats well and also has a lightning-quick arm. His changeup, which is his best secondary offering, draws comparisons with that of former D-backs righthander Chase Anderson. He threw a curveball in high school but he has since traded that for a slider upon turning pro, and the pitch flashes plus. He has good feel for pitching, sometimes even quick pitching or altering the tempo of his delivery to keep hitters off balance. The D-backs are impressed with Tabor's polish and makeup and see a potential No. 3 starter. He likely will start 2018 in extended spring training before reporting to one of the club's short-season affiliates.
The D-backs liked what they saw when they first laid eyes on Robinson during a 2015 showcase for fellow Bahamian Lucius Fox--the same workout they discovered shortstop Jazz Chisholm. Their conviction in Robinson grew after seeing him perform well the following year at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championship against players two years his senior. They wound up signing him for $2.5 million on July 2, the fourth-highest bonus in the 2017 class. Robinson, a product of the Maximum Development academy in Nassau, has the size and strength to make him a physical specimen at any age, but especially at 16, and he has premium athleticism to go with it. It runs in his family, as his grand-uncle, Thomas Robinson, is a four-time track-and-field Olympian who has a stadium named after him in Nassau. Robinson has the potential to be a five-tool player with plus raw power. He can handle velocity and the D-backs like the way he tracks offspeed pitches. He's a plus runner who has a chance to stay in center field, though his physical maturation could determine if he ends up in a corner. Given that he's coming out of the Bahamas rather than, say, the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, many view Robinson's profile as even riskier than other teenage international signees. But no one denies the physical tools needed to potentially grow into a star.
A sometimes forgotten part of the three-team deal that brought Robbie Ray to the D-backs and sent Didi Gregorius to the Yankees, Leyba had a rough 2017 season. He suffered a shoulder injury late in spring training and missed about two and a half months before ultimately needing surgery in July. Between a rehab assignment at short-season Hillsboro and his time at Double-A Jackson, Leyba played just 23 games in 2017. In that brief snapshot, however, Leyba was able to show some of the same improvements he displayed in 2016, prior to his shoulder injury. Leyba improved his pitch selectivity and tapped into more power while at high Class A Visalia in 2016, all while bumping up both his walk rate and slugging percentage. He has a quick bat, strong hands and also shows an ability to find the barrel from both sides of the plate. Defensively, most scouts seem to view him as more of a second baseman than a shortstop, mostly because his arm is a little short and not as strong as scouts would like. One scout compared his all-around game with Alberto Callaspo, who played in the big leagues for 10 years at third base and second base. Leyba will look to bounce back from his shoulder injury and stay fully healthy in 2018, continuing to similar steps forward as he did in 2016.
McWilliams was still raw and unrefined when the D-backs acquired him in the Jeremy Hellickson deal with the Phillies in November 2015, but he started rounding into form in 2017. During his senior year of high school, McWilliams was inconsistent with his stuff and command––some days throwing in the mid-80s, and other days topping out at 94 mph. The Phillies liked his arm speed, athleticism and his body projection and eventually selected him in the eighth round. McWilliams got out of whack mechanically in 2016, during his first season with the D-backs, but started tapping into his athleticism while repeating a season in the low Class A Midwest League in 2017. McWilliams throws a 90-95 mph two-seamer with good life and downhill plane out of his 6-foot-7 frame and draws comparisons with Brandon McCarthy. His breaking ball, a slider, grades out as average and flashes plus, and he made strides with his changeup after going from a circle-change to a split-change grip. He averaged just 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings in 2017, but the D-backs don't mind because he induces so many ground balls. Scouts who saw McWilliams at his best like him as much as any starting pitcher in the system and say he has the upside of a No. 3 starter.
After hitting a speed bump in 2015, Sherfy got his career back on track with solid 2016 season and reached the majors in August 2017. He pitched so well down the stretch, in fact, that he earned himself a spot on the D-backs' postseason roster. Interestingly, his first big league manager with the D-backs, Torey Lovullo, is the father of Nick Lovullo, who was one of Sherfy's teammates at Newbury Park (Calif.) High. Mechanical changes in his delivery in 2016 have helped Sherfy sit in the mid-90s with his fastball and touch the upper 90s. He has a curveball he uses as his out pitch to get swings-and-misses and also mixes in an occasional changeup to keep hitters off balance. His improved dedication to the game off the field has allowed him to maintain his stuff throughout the season. He didn't allow an earned run in the regular season during his brief stint in the majors and Lovullo gave him the ball with the lead late in games, even letting him get the final six outs for a save at Coors Field in September. Sherfy showed he could pitch at the major league level in 2017 and figures to be in the mix for a prominent bullpen role when the D-backs open the regular season in 2018.
The D-backs made Maciel the second Brazilian-born player in club history, following righthander Bo Takahashi, when they signed him for $90,000 in October 2015. Maciel is from Londrina, a city known for its baseball history because of a heavy influx of Japanese settlers who brought the game with them. The D-backs first spotted him at a baseball academy in Brazil when he was either 12 or 13. He grew into a legit prospect by age 15, with his off-the-charts athleticism evident in how quickly he picked things up. He showed well at the 18U World Cup in Japan in 2015 and the D-backs signed him a month later. Maciel has the tools to be a prototype leadoff man. He has some of the best strike-zone discipline in the organization, doesn't strike out much, has the feel to hit and even has some sneaky power that could grow into more when he learns to cut it loose in the right spots. He runs well but needs to work on his jumps. A switch-hitter, he's more confident from the right side but he has made improvements from the left. He's an above-average defender who scouts think has a chance to stick in center field, though he split time at Rookie-level Missoula with Eduardo Diaz, who most consider to be the better defender. Maciel draws comparisons with Ender Inciarte and figures to get his first crack at full-season ball in 2018.
Yerzy settled in during his second pro season and put together some of the more impressive offensive numbers in the system in 2017. The power bat the D-backs envisioned out of the draft began to emerge, as Yerzy began driving balls to the opposite field and also began to tap into more power to his pull side, as well. By the end of the 2017 season, Yerzy controlled the zone and put together quality at-bats as well as anyone at Rookie-level Missoula. Questions still remain on the other side of the ball, however. Yerzy's receiving skills improved behind the plate but he still struggled at times on pitches with late life. His transfer is sound and his throws are mostly accurate, but his pop times on throws to second base were still below-average. His large 6-foot-3 frame will always pose a challenge when it comes to throwing, but scouts have concerns about his overall athleticism, as well. Still, Yerzy has made strides defensively and could continue to do so given how little experience he had catching high-caliber pitchers as an amateur. Yerzy does not run well, leading some to believe he's a catcher or bust in terms of a long-term position. Others see a potentially special bat that could play at first base or as a DH––if traded to an American League club--if his catching doesn't continue to improve.
In the offseason following the 2015 season, Miller picked the brain of fellow lefthander and Vanderbilt product David Price and came away with a new weapon. Miller's newfound cutter was the pitch that pushed him over the top and helped him catapult onto the D-backs' prospect landscape with a dominant 2016. He then arrived at big league camp in 2017 but struggled with his command, which is an issue that carried over to the start of the Double-A season. Coaches say Miller cleaned up the direction in his delivery and started mixing in more curveballs, and from May through the end of the season he posted a 1.69 ERA with 80 strikeouts in 58.2 innings. Miller uncorks his 6-foot-7 frame in a high-effort delivery, and all of his pitches, including a low- to mid-90s fastball, have good life. Opinions on Miller vary in the scouting community. Some scouts see a potential late-inning reliever and possible closer, while some see him as a left-on-left matchup type. Still, other scouts are concerned about Miller's command, noting that he seemed to struggle against lineups that waited him out. On the heels of another impressive season, Miller could work his way to the big leagues in 2018, although a start at Triple-A Reno isn't out of the question.
The D-backs spent more than $16 million to sign Lopez, the total amount encompassing his $8.25 million signing bonus and a 100 percent overage penalty. After two seasons, the decision looked like a huge bust. But Lopez dominated the high Class A California League as a reliever in 2017, creating some optimism that he could one day be a big league contributor. The D-backs viewed Lopez as a potential frontline starter when they signed him out of Cuba in January 2015, but for two years he not only did not throw well--he struggled to maintain his stuff from start to start--he also had issues off the field. Each of those years, he left his Double-A Mobile team without permission. He has never publicly discussed why, but he told team officials he was considering retirement the second time. Instead, he returned in 2017 and, after dealing with blister and shoulder issues in the first half, turned in two dominant months at Visalia. His fastball sat 95-98 mph touched 99 with late life up in the zone, and his slider was a wipeout pitch, with sharp, late action. It's a red flag that his brief stint in the Arizona Fall League in 2017 ended with more shoulder issues, but if he's healthy he could pitch his way into the big league bullpen in 2018.
Coming off an injury-riddled 2016, Brito was bit by the injury bug again in 2017 while he repeated the Pacific Coast League at Triple-A Reno. In 2016, he suffered a fractured toe while with the big league team, then he fractured the hamate in his wrist while getting ready for winter ball in November. In 2017, he needed yet another surgery after severely dislocating his left ring finger on a headfirst slide into home plate during a game early in spring training. The injury cost him two and a half months, impacting his standing on the organization's depth chart, and journeyman Jeremy Hazelbaker stepped into the fourth outfielder void. Brito, meanwhile, didn't play well enough at Reno to warrant even a September callup. Little has changed in terms of Brito's tools and upside, and he still gets high marks for his work ethic. Coaches say he might have become bogged down at the plate by mechanics, limiting his athleticism, and he still could use work on his approach. He runs well and can handle all three outfield positions, but he probably is best suited for a corner. Brito has handled righthanded pitchers better than lefthanders in his career, leading some scouts to view him as a potential platoon outfielder. Brito will have to show he can stay healthy in order to reach even that ceiling as he fights for a spot with the D-backs out of spring training.
Drafted out of the same New Jersey town that produced Todd Frazier, Rose finished his 2016 debut season with a strong final month, then carried that success into his first full year as a pro. He put up a .907 OPS in the hitter-friendly Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2017, when he hit third all season for Missoula. Scouts see the potential for plus power but they also saw swing-and-miss issues, leading many to believe he'll be a power-over-hit player. Coaches say Rose had a tendency to drop his back side in hopes of creating lift, an action that actually wound up leading to more ground balls. He struggled at times defensively at third base, making mistakes on routine plays and leading to speculation he took his at-bats with him into the field. But coaches say his defense improved as the season progressed, and that part of his game will need to remain a focus for him going forward in hopes of staving a move to a less demanding position. Rose is a below-average runner. Rose likely will get his first crack at full-season ball in 2018, perhaps at low Class A Kane County.
Duran was skinny and throwing in the upper 80s when the D-backs signed him for $65,000 in December 2014, but he was bumping the upper 90s in 2017 and now represents one of the higher-upside arms in the system. Duran already averages about 94 mph with his fastball, but with a 6-foot-5 frame that could still add significant weight, scouts see projection remaining. Duran has three pitches. He can vary speeds on his curveball to the point that some scouts identified it as a slider. It's considered an above-average to plus pitch. His changeup is still developing but flashes plus. D-backs coaches wanted to see him learn to handle adversity within his outings better, rather than losing confidence when opposing hitters had success. Scouts say Duran has control over command at this point, and some see a back-end reliever if his command doesn't improve enough. If everything comes together, Duran has all the ingredients of a mid-rotation starter. He'll likely get his first crack at full-season ball at low Class A Kane County in 2018.
Cron registered his third consecutive season with 25 or more home runs in 2017, only this time he exhibited far better on-base skills. While repeating the Double-A Southern League, he led the circuit with 25 homers and 91 RBIs to earn MVP honors. Cron's improvement represented an important step forward for the bat-only slugger. Cron comes from a baseball family. His father Chris played parts of two seasons in the majors and the D-backs currently employ him as minor league hitting coordinator. Kevin's older brother C.J. plays for the Angels. Kevin made big strides in his at-bat management in 2017, showing improvement in both his approach and pitch recognition. Scouts are split on his defensive ability, but his believers say he makes all the routine plays and he has improved his footwork He doesn't run well, though, so he is limited to first base. Cron will have to hit to succeed in the majors, and next up is Triple-A Reno.
Acquired as part of the 2016 deadline deal that sent Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox, Almonte put together a solid first full season in the D-backs organization in 2017. He finished the year with the most strikeouts (162) and second-lowest ERA (3.55) in the high Class A California League. Almonte's calling card is a fastball ranging from 88-94 mph with natural cutting action––a pitch that moves so much and acted so much like a slider that it left opposing hitters unsure of what type of pitch he was throwing. He also throws a true slider, curveball and changeup, and coaches like his ability to spin the ball. Almonte's fastball command needs to improve--he walked 4.3 batters per nine innings in 2017--as does his level of maturity on the mound––both in terms of controlling emotions and finishing hitters. The D-backs believe the movement on his fastball gives him a weapon that would play at the big league level, perhaps in the bullpen if not as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Vargas became the fourth player in the past five years to reach the big leagues after being plucked out of independent ball by the D-backs. Vargas has performed ever since, showing good bat-to-ball skills, a solid approach at the plate, above-average speed and the ability to play all over the infield. He even saw time in center field for Triple-A Reno in 2017. He probably fits best at second base. Vargas is not physical and has never hit for much power. Vargas brings energy and an upbeat, infectious attitude to the park with him every day, which are good attributes for a player most scouts see as an utility infielder candidate.
In a little more than two years, Eveld went from not having played baseball since his sophomore year of high school to showing some of the most electric stuff of any pitcher in the organization. He spent two seasons at South Florida as a quarterback but never played before tearing his ACL and needing knee surgery. That was the first of two ACL surgeries he had in college. In 2015, he walked on to the USF baseball team, and the D-backs drafted him as a righthander the following year. Eveld has a fastball that can range from 92-97 mph and a power slider that sits around 89-91. He also showed improvement in 2017 with a curveball, a pitch he throws around 76-80 mph. He gave up only one earned run in 22 appearances at low Class A Kane County in 2017 before a promotion to high Class A Visalia, where he struggled for about two weeks after dealing with a left knee issue. Eveld has a sort of aggressive, football mentality on the mound--he comes out of the bullpen to the “Monday Night Football” theme--and the D-backs love his competitiveness. Some believe he might have the best stuff in the organization and could move quickly in 2018.
The D-backs were the third team to claim Walker on waivers prior to the 2017 season, doing so just days before the end of spring training. They ran him through waivers as well, and he cleared, allowing Arizona to outright him to Triple-A Reno. But Walker put together a huge offensive season and won the MVP award in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, not only earning himself a spot back on the 40-man roster but finding his way on to the D-backs' Division Series roster against the Dodgers. Walker said he made changes to his bat path that helped produce more contact, evident in a strikeout rate that went from 25 percent in 2016 to 18 percent in 2017. Coaches rave about his hitting acumen. Walker is a fringe-average defender at first. He also has some experience in left field over the past two seasons but is below-average there. He is blocked at first base in Arizona by Paul Goldschmidt and will be 27 in 2018 and some scouts aren't convinced he'll ever be more than a bench bat. Still, Walker impressed the D-backs in 2017 with his power and approach, and he could be in the mix for a big league bench job.
The D-backs made Kennedy the first player drafted out of Millville High since Mike Trout in 2009 then signed him for $550,000 to buy him out of a college commitment to North Carolina. While he doesn't have the same skill set as Trout, with whom he regularly works out in the offseason, he does have a lot of skills to like, most notably a knack for squaring up baseballs. Kennedy has a short, compact swing that has a chance to produce above-average power. Though he didn't hit a home run in the Rookie-level Arizona League in his pro debut, he did collect 17 extra-base hits, including nine triples. His body--a stout, stocky frame--is a drawback for some scouts, who wonder about his athleticism. Others remain unconcerned, with one scout drawing a comparison with Jedd Gyorko––both for his physique and his ability to barrel balls. He's an above-average to plus runner, has good hands and has a plus arm that works at third base. Kennedy will likely start 2018 in extended spring training before heading to Rookie-level Missoula.
The D-backs saw Luciano throw just twice before snapping him up for $85,000 in the fall of 2016. They liked his heavy fastball, the spin on his breaking ball and his feel for a changeup. Luciano pitched in 2017 at the tender age of 17, but he is advanced beyond his years. He has an athletic delivery, a loose arm, a good feel for pitching and an unfazed demeanor on the mound. He began the year in the Dominican Summer League but moved to the Rookie-level Arizona League before finishing in the Rookie-level Pioneer League and getting a taste of the Pioneer League playoffs. He sits 91-93 mph with his fastball but the D-backs believe he has a chance to get up to the mid-90s. His changeup projects to be a plus pitch, and he shows feel to spin a curveball that has slurvy shape. Luciano is years away from the big leagues but has the raw ingredients to be a big league starter.
Poche needed Tommy John surgery after his sophomore year at Arkansas and decided to transfer, since he wasn't totally happy with the Razorbacks. He landed at Dallas Baptist. The D-backs shifted him to a full-time relief role in 2017 after taking him in the 16th round in 2016 and he took off. Poche's 1.25 ERA between low Class A Kane County and high Class A Visalia was the sixth-lowest among full-season minor league pitchers with at least 50 innings. He misses bats but doesn't do it in a traditionally overpowering way. His fastball sits in the low 90s, occasionally touching 95 mph, but he appears to hide the ball well and is said to get good extension from his over-the-top delivery. His slider is a little short but has late break and showed improvement as the year progressed. Poche projects as a matchup reliever, but if his fastball develops, he could become more than that.
After a big season at Rookie-level Missoula in 2012, Perez's career seemed to stall, but he had a mild breakthrough in 2017, hitting .279/.365/.424 at Double-A Jackson. Perez said a tip from former winter ball teammate Juan Ciriaco helped him stop being so pull-conscious. Coaches say he's also become far more selective at the plate. The adjustment led to fewer homers (six) but far more balls in the gap. For years, Perez has been regarded as a solid defensive catcher who throws and blocks well and calls a good game. He focused his efforts during the Arizona Fall League on improving his framing, particularly on pitches down in the strike zone. Some view Perez as a potential big league backup, particularly because he's a lefthanded hitter.