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Upton and his brother B.J. are the highest-drafted brothers in baseball history, with B.J. going second overall to the Devil Rays in 2002 and Justin doing him one better in 2005. He held out until January 2006 before finally signing for a then-draft-record $6.1 million bonus. Because of his last name and unbelievable tools, Justin has been on the scouting radar since he stood out at the 2002 Area Code Games--as a 14-year-old. He kept up his level of play throughout his prep career and was Baseball America's 2005 High School Player of the Year. While he played shortstop as an amateur, the Diamondbacks immediately moved him to center field to take advantage of his plus-plus speed and allow him to worry less about defense. The returns in his first pro season were mixed. While scouts loved his tools, they weren't as enthusiastic about his demeanor. He ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the low Class A Midwest League, behind Jay Bruce (Reds) and Cameron Maybin (Tigers), two other outfielders drafted in 2005's first round. The term "five-tool prospect" somehow doesn't seem strong enough for Upton. He does everything exceptionally well and already has the body and composure of a big leaguer. If one thing stands out, however, it's his bat speed. He whips his bat through the hitting zone and has great leverage in his swing, which allows him to sting the ball like few players can and gives him plus power potential. His arm and speed are plenty good enough for center field, and though he was raw at the position he was taking better routes to balls by season's end. Even as he was learning, Diamondbacks officials say he "out-athletic-ed" the position early in the year. Upton evokes comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. in center field, but he didn't show Griffey's enthusiasm in his first season. Several managers and scouts in the MWL didn't like Upton's attitude and effort. They said he showed bad body language and often ran slowly to first, and they saw a few blowups in the dugout when he broke bats or got into arguments with his manager. The Diamondbacks, however, say they have no concerns about Upton's makeup and that he held his own on and off the field. From their perspective, he came to the MWL with a bullseye on his chest and was pitched like Albert Pujols from Opening Day, so it was natural that he occasionally got frustrated. At the plate, Arizona wants Upton to control the strike zone better and get into hitter's counts where he can be aggressive. At times he slides out to the front side a bit, but he has such tremendous bat speed that he just has to stay back and trust his swing. In the field, he still has to learn the nuances of playing the outfield, from learning how to charge the ball to hitting the cutoff man to becoming more of a field general. The Diamondbacks say Upton has a strong desire to get to the big leagues quickly, and they have no plans to hold him back. They think the makeup questions will become little more than a footnote to his career as he matures. He'll open the season at the team's new high Class A Visalia affiliate and could put up huge numbers in the hitter-friendly California League.
The White Sox were the first team to steal Young, after he broke his left arm three days before the 2001 draft. But the Diamondbacks may be the ultimate winners after grabbing him in the Javier Vazquez deal before the 2006 season. Young missed the first three weeks of the season with a broken right wrist but made his major league debut by season's end. Arizona knew it was getting a good player in Young, but he turned out to be even better than expected. He quickly took to the organization's selectiveaggression approach at the plate and dramatically cut down on his strikeouts while maintaining his power stroke. He's a great athlete, with well above-average speed that could make him a 30-30 man in the majors. He's a pure center fielder with a long stride that allows him to get to a lot of balls. The Diamondbacks have worked with Young to get more timing and rhythm in his swing so he can handle offspeed pitches better. His arm is his only tool that doesn't rate as a plus, but it's more than adequate. Arizona is loaded with talented young outfielders, but he's the best center fielder of the bunch and ready to take over in the majors.
Gonzalez followed up his 2005 MVP campaign in the Midwest League by again showing the all-around ability that gets scouts excited and allowed him to stand out among the crowd of prospects at the Futures Game. The Diamondbacks have an embarrassment of outfielders with allaround ability, and Gonzalez can hit with any of them. He has a quiet approach at the plate with good bat speed and quick hands, giving him above-average power. He became more confident last season. He's a prototype right fielder and has the best outfield arm in the organization. Gonzalez can get in home run mode and overswing, which slows down his bat, and he gets so anxious at the plate sometimes that he expands his strike zone. He didn't always hustle last season, but he apologized after an early-season benching and played hard the rest of the way. He has played center field during winter ball in Venezuela, but he'll probably slow down to a slightly belowaverage runner as he fills out and settle in right. He'll return to Double-A with the new affiliate in Mobile to open 2007.
Faced with a logjam of middle infielders, the Angels dealt Callaspo to Arizona last February for righthander Jason Bulger. Callaspo was a doeverything player for a Triple-A Tucson team that was Baseball America's Minor League Team of the Year. He was the toughest full-season minor leaguer to strike out for the third year in a row, averaging 20.5 plate appearances per whiff. Callaspo has amazing plate coverage, but what's more impressive is his knowledge of the strike zone and knack for taking borderline pitches. He can spray line drives all over the field. He has good speed and good actions at second base, and he can play almost anywhere on the field. He's a loosy-goosy player who brings energy to the ballpark each day. Callaspo doesn't have much power, so he has to get on base to maximize his value. He did a much better job of that last year. His lack of basestealing savvy keeps him from taking full advantage of his speed. While he's best at second base, Callaspo can also play shortstop, third base and the outfield. The Diamondbacks will look for him to make the big league team in a super-utility role out of spring training.
The Diamondbacks showed their confidence in Montero's future by trading Johnny Estrada to the Brewers over the winter. While he didn't tear it up as he did the year before, Montero may have been more impressive in 2006 because he never struggled and proved himself as a catcher. He has a quick, short swing and uses the entire field, and he still has the power to jerk balls out of the park. He has an average arm and quick release. Montero loves to hit so much that, defensively, he was little more than a backstop a couple of seasons ago. But his work behind the plate has improved dramatically, both from a mechanical standpoint as well as the energy and leadership he brings. He will expand his zone at times, so he still can improve his understanding of the strike zone. Montero again played winter ball in Venezuela, which should further prepare him for the big leagues. He may share time with Chris Snyder to start the season, but Arizona expects him to take over the starting job for himself before too long.
Owings was a second-round pick by the Rockies out of high school, but he went to Georgia Tech instead and was a two-way standout there. After the Cubs picked him in the 19th round as a draft-eligible sophomore in 2004, he again declined to sign and transferred to Tulane. Arizona landed him in 2005. He was pushed to Double-A in his first full season and excelled, winning a midseason promotion to Triple-A and going undefeated the rest of the way. He was the winning pitcher in the Triple-A championship game as Tucson defeated Toledo. After working out of the bullpen in his pro debut, Owings moved into the rotation and showed why so many people describe him as a warrior. While he threw 94-97 mph as a reliever, he paces himself as a starter and usually works at 88-92, though he has the extra velocity when he needs it. His mid-80s slider shows flashes of being a plus pitch. He does a lot of the intangible things good pitchers do, and he's a great athlete who fields his position well. He made a run at the national high school home run record and is still a good hitter. Arizona put Owings in the Double-A rotation to work on his secondary pitches. While he didn't struggle, his slider and changeup still need to become more consistent. Owings is a big 24-year-old with strong makeup, so he'll move up once he shows he's ready. He'll likely open the season back in the Triple-A rotation.
Reynolds played shortstop in a Virginia infield that also featured Ryan Zimmerman and Rockies prospect Joe Koshansky, but an injured wrist in his junior season dented his draft prospects. He broke out in 2006, hitting 31 homers between two stops before playing for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament. He led that squad with four homers in just six games. Reynolds always had bat speed and power potential, and he finally has put together a consistent approach at the plate to tap into his ability. In the past he would show his strong hands in batting practice but float out on his front foot in games and sell out to pull the ball. Now he's staying back and is a threat to put a charge in the ball every time up. He's a versatile defender who played at first, second, third and the outfield last season. He's an average runner. While Reynolds can play a lot of positions, he'll never be a standout with the glove. His best spots are second and third base, and his ceiling is as a power-hitting second baseman in the Jeff Kent mold. The slow change in his approach illustrates how stubborn he can be. Reynolds will probably begin the season as the second baseman in Double-A, though he'll get time at other positions as well.
After bouncing back from Tommy John surgery in June 2004 and taking the Southern League ERA crown in 2005, Nippert got off to a strong start last season, winning his first seven decisions to earn a big league callup. He got rocked in two starts with Arizona and didn't perform as well when he returned to Tucson, but the Diamondbacks were pleased that he completed 150 healthy innings. Nippert has top-of-the-rotation stuff, with a power fastball and power curveball. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and his curveball is a devastating pitch when he commands it. His changeup also has made progress, though it's a clear notch behind his other two pitches. The Diamondbacks are preaching patience with Nippert, mindful that a 6-foot-7 pitcher who missed a year will need extra development time. They're trying to establish more rhythm in his delivery so he can more consistently repeat his mechanics. He's also still learning about the art of pitching and that every fastball doesn't have to be 95 mph. Nippert will compete for a big league rotation spot in spring training, but he's not one of the top candidates. He has options remaining, so he'll probably go back to Triple-A with an eye toward contributing in 2008.
While most of the players involved in the Dominican age scandal a few years ago have washed out of pro ball, Pena (formerly known as Adriano Rosario and believed to be five years younger) looks like he'll contribute in Arizona. After he missed most of the 2004 season and performed poorly as a starter in 2005, he took to a new role in the bullpen last season. With a mid-90s fastball and a slider that usually sits in the high 80s, Pena has a power repertoire well suited to bullpen work. His velocity and movement give him room for error with his pitches, and working in relief has allowed him to just let those pitches go and not worry so much about finesse. Refining his command in the strike zone will be the final step in Pena's development, as major league hitters punished him after he had been dominant in the minors. His changeup is inconsistent and average at best, but that's not much of a concern now that he's pitching in relief. Pena has missed time each of the past two springs because of visa issues, but if he comes to camp on time and in shape this year, he should win a job in the major league bullpen.
Ohlendorf raised his draft profile by pitching Princeton to an NCAA regional playoff win against Virginia, but he didn't show his full potential as a pro until last season. Diamondbacks officials say he took the biggest leap forward in the organization. A big, physical presence on the mound, Ohlendorf has learned how to tone down his fastball to give him better sink and command. He now throws his power sinker anywhere from 89-94 mph. His changeup has become his second-best pitch, and his slider is average. He has developed a much better feel for pitching and now understands the importance of getting grounders and controlling his pitch count. While his secondary pitches have improved, he still needs to sharpen his slider to give him a more effective weapon against lefthanders. They hit .324 against him last season, compared with .236 for righthies. He's learning how to make in-game adjustments when things aren't going well. Arizona expected Ohlendorf's development to take time, and he has moved a little more quickly than expected. He'll open 2007 in the Triple-A rotation.
Anderson was regarded as a likely first-round pick going into the 2006 draft, but questions about his athleticism caused him to slide to the second round, where the Diamondbacks were happy to grab him. He signed for $950,000, too late to play during the summer, but stood out in instructional league in the fall. He's the son of Frank Anderson, long one of the most respected pitching coaches in college baseball before he became Oklahoma State's head coach. That's a big reason why he's so polished, with what scouts called the best command of any high school lefty in recent memory. His development is far ahead that of most teenagers, and he has smooth, repeatable mechanics. He throws a fastball that touches 90 mph but usually sits in the high 80s, and he has a good feel for his plus changeup. He throws two breaking balls--a hard slider and a slow curveball--and the Diamondbacks will let him take both into his first season to see which works better. He has a good feel for pitching and competes hard. The biggest knock against Anderson is his soft body and lack of athleticism and agility. He had trouble fielding bunts and covering first base at times in high school. The Diamondbacks will work to improve that, but Anderson is just fine over the rubber and manipulates the baseball as well as any teenager. He'll open his first pro season at low Class A South Bend.
Even with the wealth of position-player prospects in the organization, one Diamondbacks official called Bonifacio the most exciting player of all in the organization. After repeating low Class A in 2005, Bonifacio has made significant progress as a hitter and is now on the fast track. Of course, he's always on the fast track because his speed rates an 80 on the 20- 80 scouting scale. When he makes like Luis Polonia from the left side and lays his bat on the ball as he's bolting from the box, Bonifacio has been timed at 3.6 seconds down the line to first. He has improved his basestealing approach, learning when to go and how to get good jumps rather than just trying to outrun the ball to second. He also has cut down on his swing and improved at working counts and fighting off tough pitches, though he still needs to understand the zone better and cut down on his strikeouts. He has good range and a solid arm on defense, but he needs to get more consistent and improve his footwork. Bonifacio brings so much energy to the park every day that the Diamondbacks are just trying to slow him down. If he continues to improve at the plate, he could be a prototype leadoff hitter. He'll get a good test by jumping to Double-A to start 2007.
The Diamondbacks have rightly earned kudos in recent years for their successful drafts, but their Latin American scouting has been just as productive and is starting to produce big leaguers. Gonzalez has been viewed as a defensive master since signing out of Venezuela, but there were questions about his bat until the last two seasons. Now he looks like an everyday big league shortstop. Gonzalez is the best defensive player in the organization, regardless of position, and his pure shortstop actions rate an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. The Diamondbacks moved him to Triple-A for the PCL playoffs, an illustration of their confidence in his glove, and one team official said his defense had a noticeable effect on the pitchers he worked behind and on the other defenders in the infield. He has a strong arm and great range to both sides. At the plate, he has improved his approach and made some mechanical adjustments that allow him to use the whole field and stay inside the ball. He has developed good bat control and has the bat speed to hit the ball out of the park on occasion. If he continues to improve, he could be an ideal No. 2 hitter. He earned comparisons to Adam Everett for both his offense and defense. He'll open the season as Tucson's shortstop, but the long-term picture isn't clear because of Arizona's wealth of hitting prospects and young big leaguers.
Parra made his domestic debut last season and impressed everyone who saw him, finishing among the Rookie-level Pioneer League batting and stolen-base leaders and rating as the league's No. 5 prospect and best outfield arm. More than one Diamondbacks official compared him with Carlos Gonzalez, and one said he's further along than Gonzalez at the same stage. Parra can do everything, but what impressed people the most was how well he handled the Pioneer League and made adjustments as a 19-year-old. He's a student of the game who always has a good plan at the plate, and he's great at centering the ball on the bat. He doesn't have a huge frame so he won't be a masher, but he'll certainly be a home run threat if only because of his bat speed. He has a cannon arm in right field, as well as good speed and great defensive instincts. Parra can still improve his plate discipline and handle inside pitches better, but there's not much to quibble with. On top of everything else, he has passion for the game and never takes an inning or an at-bat off. He'll make his full-season debut in low Class A this season.
The Diamondbacks were happy to move their high Class A affiliation away from Lancaster, one of the best hitter's parks in the minor leagues. The park tended to inflate numbers for both hitters and pitchers, making it tough to judge either. Smith was one of the few pitchers who had the formula to succeed there, however, going 9-0 and even throwing two shutouts. He emerged at Louisiana State in 2005, putting together a 282⁄3-inning scoreless streak, and has had consistent success as a pro. He completed his 2006 season with Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Smith has great touch and feel for his pitches, and his fastball touches 90 mph. His curveball is a potential strikeout pitch, and his changeup has the potential to be above-average, but he needs to improve the command of both. He has a good idea of how to set up hitters. Smith has one of the best pickoff moves in the minors, and basestealers were just 8-for-24 against him last season. He handled a two-level jump to high Class A in 2006, but he'll probably go back to Double-A to open this year.
Hankerd has been on a roll over the past year and a half. After a pedestrian sophomore season at Southern California, he was MVP of the New England Collegiate League in the summer of 2005, then carried it over to his junior year. Arizona grabbed him in the third round, and he signed for $430,000 before winning the short-season Northwest League batting title (by 41 points) and MVP award. He had more hits than any other 2006 draft pick and was the only one to top 100. Hankerd is a pure hitter who can hit the ball with authority to all fields. He showed the ability to pull the ball early in the count or shorten up and go the opposite way with two strikes. He has a flat swing but puts good backspin on the ball, so he should hit 20-25 homers a year eventually. He has good makeup, good baseball instincts and a strong body. Hankerd's defense is nothing to get excited about, but he's adequate in left field. His arm is below average and he's a below-average runner. But it's his bat that will carry Hankerd. He was banged up and missed instructional league, and he'll probably open his first full season back in high Class A.
Carter was a late-round bargain coming out of Stanford, where injuries and poor defense pushed him down the depth chart, and he has hit his way to prospect status. He has moved methodically through the organization and produced consistent results at the plate, and he finished ninth in the Pacific Coast League batting race in his first Triple-A experience. Carter has great bat speed along with outstanding knowledge of the strike zone, so he knows how to pick pitches he can punish and he does damage to them. He can hit the ball out to any part of the park and could bat in the middle of any batting order. His future is inextricably tied to his bat, however. He has been looking for a defensive position since he was in college, when a torn labrum and subsequent surgery cost him arm strength and needed development time in the outfield, and first base is the only option unless he moves to an American League organization. Carter has improved but remains a below-average defender, and he led PCL first basemen with 15 errors. He has a fringy arm and well below-average speed. Carter had a great spring in big league camp last year, and with a similar performance he could earn a bench job in Arizona in 2007. Otherwise he'll head back to Triple-A.
Rahl earned All-American honors in his sophomore season at William & Mary, but he pressed as a junior and fell to the Diamondbacks in the fifth round. He showed his ability in his first full season by winning the California League batting title and leading the league in hits, extra-base hits and total bases. He has a quick bat, controls the strike zone and has a good feel for the bat head. He drew a comparison with Paul Molitor for his quickness inside--it's hard to throw a fastball by him. He needs to improve his recognition of breaking balls and get less aggressive to cut down on his strikeouts. Playing in Lancaster probably boosted his power numbers, as he's regarded as more of a gap to gap hitter who could hit 10-15 home runs a year. He has good speed and a plus arm and plays mostly in center field, though some wonder if he could play there every day in the big leagues. That's the biggest knock on Rahl overall. He's a true baseball player with good makeup and no glaring weaknesses, but he also doesn't have an impact tool and might profile best as an extra outfielder. It's too early to pigeonhole him, though, and he'll go to Double-A to open 2007.
The second of 10 pitchers the Diamondbacks drafted in the first 10 rounds in 2006, Brown signed for $900,000 and got only limited work last summer after a heavy workload at Georgia. He was on low pitch counts and was used mostly in one- or two-inning stints. His Georgia career ended with a flourish after he adjusted his delivery in the Cape Cod League the summer before his junior season, and he helped the Bulldogs reach the College World Series with eight wins in 111 innings of work. Brown is a sinker/slider pitcher whose fastball has a nice downward plane and usually sits in the low 90s. His slider is above average at times, though he's not consistent enough with it, and his changeup has improved to be at least an average pitch. His athletic ability might be his greatest attribute, as he has good mechanics and should be durable. His stuff tended to fade during games in college, but the Diamondbacks will still try to use him as a starter because he has a good pitcher's frame and the potential for three legitimate major league pitches. He'll probably open the season in low Class A, though he could jump to high Class A with a good spring.
Barden doesn't get much attention but keeps plugging away for the Diamondbacks and hitting enough that he's about to force his way into a big league job. He has added power to his offensive game and versatility to his defense in the last couple of seasons, making him a legitimate candidate for a utility job. Barden is the kind of player who just grinds out solid performances every day, and at the end of the year has produced good numbers. He has a nice line-drive stroke and is a good situational hitter, and his overall hitting approach has improved a little bit every year. On defense, his hands are as good as just about anyone in the organization. While third base is his best position, he played all four infield spots in Triple-A last season. He went to the Mexican Pacific League for winter ball and performed well as the starting third baseman for Hermosillo, priming him to compete for a bench job in spring training. In the right situation, he'll be a great role player for a big league team.
It's rare for a player from Florida to slip under scouts' radar, but that's what the Diamondbacks think happened in Fie's case. He attended a small Christian school in north Florida that's off the beaten scouting path, so when he showed up at the Florida high school all-star game just before the 2006 draft, few people knew much about him other than Diamondbacks area scout Luke Wrenn. Wrenn quickly found allies in the Arizona scouting department when they saw a player with a good body who ran the 60-yard dash in 6.8 seconds and swung the bat well. The scouts had to sweat as Arizona waited until the 12th round to grab Fie, then signed him for $40,000. He's a youngster--he showed up at Rookielevel Missoula still wearing braces--but he held his own in the Pioneer League as an 18-yearold. Fie has a lot of rough edges, and he's raw at the plate, but he shows gap power already and the ball makes a loud sound off his bat. He'll have to improve his pitch recognition as well. He made 18 errors at third base but has the agility and arm to be at least an average defender there. Fie is a classic risk/reward high school player, but for $40,000 he could be quite a steal.
Ambriz was a two-way star for UCLA after having shoulder surgery in 2004, batting cleanup and serving as the Bruins' Friday starter, but his pro future was always on the mound. After signing for $160,000 as a fifth-rounder, he emerged as the best pitching prospect at Missoula, working as a swingman and getting the save in the clinching game of the Pioneer League playoffs. While he had a controlled workload after pitching 113 innings for UCLA in the spring, Ambriz will work as a starter in 2007 because he has three pitches he can throw for strikes. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 mph at times, he has a splitter in the mid-80s that has the potential to be a plus pitch, and he made a lot of progress in tightening his curveball. He did a good job of keeping the ball down in his first summer, and scouts have been impressed with his feel for pitching and willingness to compete. His biggest weakness is a changeup that's still a ways off from being an effective pitch. Health is also an issue; he had shoulder surgery as a freshman with the Bruins, and his body is such that he'll have to work hard to keep in shape. Ambriz will move into full-season ball at one of Arizona's Class A stops, and if he doesn't pan out as a starter he should be an effective reliever.
The Diamondbacks showed a definite affinity for big, strong, physical college pitchers under former scouting director Mike Rizzo, particularly in a 2006 draft designed to restock the system's pitching supply. Of that crop, Stange could be the most intriguing. He compiled 11 saves as UC Riverside's closer last spring, and the Diamondbacks took him in the seventh round and signed him for $115,000 because of his big body and bigger fastball. He led the Pioneer League with 13 saves while pitching at 90-96 mph, then followed that by hitting as high as 99 during instructional league, so he could move up fast. He also throws a good slider and average changeup, and all his pitches have good life. Stange has a violent delivery with a head jerk that precludes him from starting, but he seems better suited to a relief role anyway. He needs to establish more consistent fastball command and will have to improve his secondary pitches as he moves up. Stange will open the season as the closer in low Class A.
Richar looked like a utility player in his first few seasons in the organization, but he kept getting bigger, stronger and better. He was the Double-A Southern League's all-star second baseman last year and was added to the 40-man roster after the season, though his performance tailed off late in the year as he got tired. He started working on his swing with hitting coach Damon Mashore in high Class A, and he has developed a good approach at the plate. He has a much better swing now and has even shown a little power in the last couple of seasons. He has also settled in at second base after working at shortstop and third base earlier in his career and has become a solid defender. He has an average arm and above-average speed. While Richar has become a solid player, he's not dynamic. He's a good bet to get to the big leagues, but the question is how much he'll hit when he gets there. Other teams have asked about him in trade talks, so his best value to the Diamondbacks might be as a bargaining chip. He'll open the season in Triple-A.
While he's moving steadily through the organization, Ciriaco is one of the rawest players in the Diamondbacks system and little more than a package of intriguing tools at this point. But those tools are very intriguing. Ciriaco has a strong arm, though he's still learning how to harness it. He has poor footwork on defense and led the minor leagues with 45 errors last season, but that was an improvement on the 34 he committed in a half-season a year earlier. He also is very athletic and is a plus runner, yet he has been caught on a third of his career basestealing attempts, including a 19-for-27 effort in 2006. At the plate, he has the bat speed and hand-eye coordination to hit but he's still learning a coherent approach. He'll chase just about anything and gets himself out more often than pitchers do. Still, the Diamondbacks are developing a track record of not only discovering talent in Latin America but also developing it. They're trying to get Ciraco to slow himself down, and they may do the same thing by returning him to South Bend to start the season.
Buck had one of the more intriguing college careers a player can have. A former specialteams player on Oregon State's football team, he was regarded as a hard-throwing bad boy and was one of the top prospects for the 2006 draft heading into his junior season. While he got results, his fastball dropped into the mid-80s after sitting around 89-91 mph and touching 94 as a sophomore. He battled anyway, and he got the win in relief--two days after going six-plus innings as a starter--as Oregon State defeated North Carolina to win the College World Series. He finished the spring 13-3, 3.34 and solidified his reputation as a warrior. He signed with the Arizona at a below-market $250,000 for a third-rounder, after doctors discovered a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Buck elected to try rehab and weightlifting instead of having Tommy John surgery over the winter, and the Diamondbacks let him because they saw little downside. If he's not healthy in spring training, he'll have the operation. Either way, he would have missed the 2007 season. When healthy, Buck complements his sinking fastball with an average slider and changeup. He showed moxie and an improved feel for pitching when working without his best stuff last spring. The Diamondbacks will hope he's healthy in spring training, and if so he could open in high Class A. If not, he'll start his career in 2008.
Newby came close to being the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2004 draft, going to Arizona with the 15th pick of the 50th round. He was the ace of the Mesa (Ariz.) Community College staff but got little notice from scouts because of his below-average fastball velocity, and the Diamondbacks signed him as a draft-and-follow with no fanfare and moved him to the bullpen. Newby still doesn't throw hard, but he has had nothing but success during his pro career, including a 2.95 ERA and .227 opponent average in Hawaii Winter Baseball after the 2006 season. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph, but because of his deceptive delivery hitters don't pick it up. He throws a big curveball that can be a plus pitch, and is working on a changeup and splitter that he added to his repertoire at the Diamondbacks' suggestion. The splitter has been an effective weapon when Newby commands it. He has the frame that would suggest more velocity is possible, and he has followed a rigorous conditioning program from the organization to get stronger, but at this point the Diamondbacks are thinking velocity is overrated. Hitters are telling Newby that his pitches are plenty effective with their empty swings. Newby still has doubters, so he'll likely prove them wrong again in high Class A this season.
MacLane is the prototypical soft-tossing lefthander who succeeds with command and a great feel for pitching. He signed with the Mets for $7,500 and worked his way to Triple-A before coming to the Diamondbacks in the Shawn Green trade last August. Arizona added him to the 40-man roster after the season. One Mets coach called MacLane "Kirk Reuter with a better curve," and his changeup is a plus pitch that usually comes in at the high 70s. His fastball usually runs in the mid-80s, and his curveball is an effective pitch because he commands it so well. MacLane is learning that he'll need to sharpen his fastball command to get hitters out at the highest levels. While he's generally a strike thrower, he needs to move the ball around in the zone better to keep hitters from putting good swings on it, which they did quite a bit in Triple-A. He's also learning that there's little point in dialing up his fastball to the high 80s because he still can't throw it by anyone. MacLane is likely to return to the Triple-A rotation, but he could win a spot in the Arizona with a great spring.
While Gerardo Parra is regarded as potentially a more refined Carlos Gonzalez, Septimo is seen as a player with the same raw materials as Gonzalez who hasn't figured out how to put them together yet. Midwest League managers rated his outfield arm as the best in the league, and it's at the top of the scale. Diamondbacks officials say he could probably throw 95 mph off the mound. At the other end of the spectrum, his approach at the plate is unrefined and he has a big swing--a bad combination. He has a tendency to swing at everything, so the Diamondbacks are trying to get him to cut his swing down a bit and see more pitches. While he has some raw power, he'll be better off focusing on making contact for now. He's a good runner and has all the tools needed to play right field if his bat comes around. Septimo has a long way to go, but he'll benefit from the wealth of outfield talent in the organization. There's no need to rush him, so he can go back to low Class A where coaches and instructors will continue to polish this diamond in the rough.
Torra soared up draft boards in 2005 and became a supplemental first-round pick after leading NCAA Division I with a 1.14 ERA for a weak Massachusetts team. Almost immediately there were concerns about Torra's arm, however, and he was shut down after just 10 pro innings. It turned out he had a torn labrum in right shoulder, and he had surgery that September. He stayed in extended spring training and got back on the mound at the end of July. He also pitched in instructional league. He didn't look good, but the point was just to get him back on the field and get some healthy innings under his belt. When healthy, Torra features a 92-94 mph fastball and a power curve that can both be strikeout pitches, as well as good command. Aside from his health, Torra has a lot of refinement to do because he has never pitched against advanced competition. The biggest obstacle he faces now is learning to trust his arm again, and showing the confidence to unleash his fastball. Shoulder injuries can lay waste to pitching careers quickly, so this is a pivotal year for Torra to show he can recapture his best stuff.