Top Ten Prospects: Arizona Diamondbacks
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Kevin Goldstein
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2005.
To add insult to injury, the Diamondbacks since have traded their lone superstar (Randy Johnson) and top run producer (Shea Hillenbrand). Their first choice for manager (Wally Backman) lasted just four days on the job before being fired and replaced by Bob Melvin.
The Diamondbacks did make a splash in the free-agent market, though their two big signings were criticized for being excessive and optimistic. Troy Glaus received a four-year, $45 million deal despite playing just 149 games over the last two seasons because of injuries. Russ Ortiz, who has a career 4.00 ERA and slumped horribly in the second half last season, got four years and $33 million. Royce Clayton, Craig Counsell and Shawn Estes also were added as stopgaps.
Though they have turned to veterans for immediate help, the Diamondbacks' future rests on their farm system, which has improved steadily over the past three years thanks to some astute drafts under scouting director Mike Rizzo. His biggest coup yet is getting Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew, the top-rated position player in the 2004 draft, with the 15th overall pick—assuming Arizona can get Drew to agree to a contract. Once he does, he'll become the team's top prospect, passing 2003 first-round choices Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson.
The Diamondbacks' high Class A Lancaster affiliate won Baseball America's Minor League Team of the Year award, going 43-27 in each half and reaching the California League finals despite a seemingly never-ending roster turnover. Arizona's first three picks from 2003—Quentin, Jackson and third baseman Jamie D'Antona—were quickly dubbed "The Three Amigos" and batted a combined .323-39-162 in 70 games before being promoted en masse to Double-A El Paso. In the second half, season-long stalwarts Phil Avlas, Jarred Ball and Enrique Gonzalez plus 2004 second-round choice Jon Zeringue picked up the slack.
Seven of the top eight spots on this list are occupied by hitters, six of whom were selected in the top two rounds of the last three drafts. There's pitching on the way as well. After taking Drew and Zeringue, Arizona loaded up on college arms in the 2004 draft. Hard-throwing righthanders Garrett Mock (third round) and Ross Ohlendorf (fourth) both had a chance to go in the first round at one point, while righthy A.J. Shappi (ninth) succeeds with finesse.
Owning the worst record in baseball gives the Diamondbacks the first choice in the 2005 draft. While they're recently had a heavy focus on college players, they wouldn't shy away from a premium high school talent such as Virginia shortstop Justin Upton, whose older brother B.J. went No. 2 overall in 2002. He might be the ideal pick for a system lean on middle infielders. Lefthanded pitching is another priority for Arizona, but entering the season no southpaw warranted going near the top of the draft.
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