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Duplantier picked up where he left off last year in terms of results. The problem, though, is a familiar one for him: He hasn’t been able to stay healthy. His season started two weeks late because of a hamstring issue and he hasn’t pitched since May 27 due to right biceps tendinitis. He isn’t expected back until late July. Scouts say his slider is flashing plus more often this year and that his change-up also has improved. Combine that with a low-90s fastball with plus life and command and scouts see at least a mid-rotation starter – assuming he can stay healthy.
Varsho is out with a broken right hamate bone, but he was hitting for average and power, exhibiting a good walk rate and impressing evaluators with his fundamentals, energy and leadership. He runs well and is regarded as one of the system’s best baserunners. More scouts seem convinced he can stick behind the plate, saying he makes up for a light arm with a quick release and accurate throws.
After missing all but 29 games last year, Chisholm has been able to stay on the field and showcase his exciting array of tools. No one denies that Chisholm has the potential for huge power, but some believe he’s become too obsessed with launch angle, to the point that his swing gets too uphill. Others think that’s a natural component of a beautiful swing. Coaches say Chisholm’s at-bat management has improved this year despite his 28 percent strikeout rate.
Widener came to the Diamondbacks as part of the Steven Souza Jr. deal, and he’s put together a strong season in the Jackson rotation, racking up strikeouts while limiting walks. Scouts say he generates swings and misses with a fastball he uses up in the zone. Both his slider and change-up have the chance to be average pitches. He has some effort in his delivery, leading some to wonder if his future might be in relief.
A physical specimen with good athleticism, Robinson showed such a mature, confident approach in extended spring training that the club opted to start him stateside rather than in the Dominican Summer League. His approach is advanced for his age, both in terms of pitch selection and an ability to drive the ball to the middle of the field with power. He moves so well for his size that some think he could stick in center field.
Clarke has thrown well after a rough April, logging a 3.80 ERA in his past 13 starts in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He’s shown more consistent high-end velocity this year, topping out in the 95-96 mph range. His slider remains his best secondary pitch and both his curveball and changeup received some complimentary reviews. Still, he lacks a true putaway pitch, making most hesitant to call him more than a No. 5 starter.
Vargas has had a breakout year with Visalia, striking out more than 12 batters per nine innings and cutting back his walks after a wild April. He relies on a high-spin fastball on which he gets excellent extension, allowing it to play up above the 92-93 mph range in which it usually sits. With two potentially average or slightly better offspeed pitches, he’s looking like a back-end starter.
Ellis is having a solid if unspectacular first full season, exhibiting a patient approach while routinely getting to his power in games. Still, scouts wonder about his bat, believing he could stand to be more aggressive and wondering if he’ll struggle against more advanced pitching. The organization is higher on his defense than most rival scouts, but the consensus is he’ll be at least a passable defender.
It’s hard to find believers in the pro scouting community when it comes to Smith, who, in their eyes, has looked passive and overly contact-oriented and projects as a bench bat. The organization points to his solid strikeout/walk ratio and the competitive numbers he’s posted after a miserable April. It’s been a disappointing start for last year’s No. 7 overall pick, but he still has plenty of time to put it all together.
Duran has big-time stuff, with a fastball in the upper-90s to go with a power curve. The change-up remains a work in progress. Most believe his future lies in the bullpen, but believers point to incremental improvements in his fastball command and breaking ball quality and say more gains could be forthcoming. Duran likely will continue starting until he proves he can’t.
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