2009 Prospect Mine: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks’ system has been thinned out by trades despite some strong drafts in the past five seasons. Three of the pitchers mentioned on this list were drafted out of college in 2008. With the possible exception of one pitcher, there are no can’t-miss bats or arms in the system.

AAA/AA
Right-hander Cesar Valdez does not have dominating stuff, but he has put up solid numbers in the past three seasons. He split 2008 between High-A ball and Double-A. At the senior level, the Dominican allowed 63 hits in 64.1 innings with rates of 3.22 BB/9 and 8.39 K/9. It was the first time since coming stateside that Valdez had allowed a walk rate above 1.95 BB/9. He features an 86-90 mph fastball, plus change-up and curveball.

Catcher James Skelton was acquired from the Detroit Tigers in December’s Rule 5 draft. He has to make the club out of spring training and remain on the 25-man roster all season or he has to be put through waivers and then offered back to Detroit if he goes unclaimed. Given Detroit’s lack of prospects, it’s surprising that the organization left the backstop unprotected. Skelton split the 2009 season between High-A and Double-A and hit more than .300 on the season while also battling some injuries. The 23-year-old prospect has a career minor league line of .292/.415/.400, so he can hit but there are questions about his ability to remain behind the dish long term.

Outfielder Gerardo Parra is the club’s best hitting prospect, but he lacks power for the corners and possibly the range for center field, which could put a starting role in doubt. He split the 2008 season between High-A and Double-A. At the higher level, Parra hit .275/.341/.419 with 16 stolen bases (in 25 attempts) in 265 at-bats. He has a strong enough arm to play right but, as mentioned, not the power potential (six home runs in 461 at-bats in 2008).

First baseman Josh Whitesell, formerly of the Expos/Nationals system, has a chance to earn a spot on the 2009 roster as a part-time player and pinch hitter after another strong minor league season. The left-handed hitter batted .328/.425/.568 with 26 homers (His second straight 20+ homer season) in 475 Triple-A at-bats last season. He also made his MLB debut at the age of 26 and got two hits in seven at-bats (.286).

A+/A
Jarrod Parker is the system’s best prospect but some of the enthusiasm that saw him get drafted ninth overall has been tempered. He is no longer viewed as a future No. 1 stud starter, but more of a solid and reliable No. 2 or 3 starter. He allowed 113 hits in 117 A-ball innings in 2008. Parker also posted rates of 2.52 BB/9 and 8.95 K/9. The right-hander has four solid pitches, including a mid-90s fastball, curveball, slider and change-up. At the age of 20, Parker will likely begin the year in High-A ball but could taste Double-A by the end of the year.

Daniel Schlereth is viewed as the club’s closer of the future. He was drafted in the back of the first round in 2008 and appeared in 10 regular-season, minor league games. In 12 innings, he allowed six hits and struck out 20 batters. As a southpaw, he has a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball. Having survived Tommy John surgery already, there are some concerns about Schlereth’s ability to stay healthy.

Mark Hallberg is a middle infielder who knows how to hit. His advanced approach has helped him reach High-A ball in just his first full season after being drafted in the ninth round out of college in 2007. He hit .283/.357/.368 in 272 High-A at-bats last season, while also missing time with an injury. He dominated the Arizona Fall League and hit .362 in 116 at-bats. Hallberg controls the strike zone well, but he lacks power and speed, which will likely push him to a part-time role in the Majors. He should begin 2009 in Double-A and could reach the Majors by September.

SS/R
Trevor Harden was a nice find in the 14th round of the 2008 draft out of a New Mexico junior college. He features an 89-93 mph fastball, slider and change-up. Harden had a solid debut in rookie ball by posting a 1.91 ERA (1.78 FIP) with 34 hits allowed in 42.1 innings against younger competition. He posted rates of 2.34 BB/9 and 13.61 K/9. Harden will be an interesting player to watch in 2009 as he enters full-season ball.

Wade Miley and Kevin Eichhorn were also both selected in the 2008 draft. Miley is a hard-throwing left-hander who can touch 95 mph, and also features a plus slider, curveball and change-up. If he can improve his command/control, Miley, 22, could stick as a starter. Eichhorn, 19, follows his dad’s footsteps into pro ball and was given an above-slot deal to sway him away from college. He appeared in just two games after signing but impressed the club with his work in the fall. Eichhorn features an 87-91 mph fastball, curveball and change-up.

Reynaldo Navarro was one of the Top 3 Puerto Ricans selected in the 2007 draft, but he was also the youngest and will play the entire 2009 season (his third) at the age of 19. He hit .258/.323/.385 at rookie ball in 2008 with rates of 7.9 BB% and 26.5 K%. He also stole 17 bases in 26 attempts and has good athleticism. Navarro, like most young players, has struggled with errors at shortstop.

Up Next: The Oakland Athletics




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

14 Responses to “2009 Prospect Mine: Arizona Diamondbacks”

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  1. Levski says:

    “Jarrod Parker is the system’s best prospect but some of the enthusiasm that saw him get drafted ninth overall has been tempered. He is no longer viewed as a future No. 1 stud starter, but more of a solid and reliable No. 2 or 3 starter.”

    Who’s doing the viewing? And whose basement is the viewing happening from?

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  2. Marc Hulet says:

    Both Kevin Goldstein at BP and Keith Law at ESPN have made similar statements in the past couple of months. So they’re hearing the same things…

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  3. Mustard says:

    I had to laugh when I read the Parker write-up. I was going to ask the same thing. Living in Indiana I saw him pitch for two years in high school. Caught him twice in South Bend last summer. What in the world made Kevin Goldstein at BP and Keith Law at ESPN change their mind from last summer till now?

    And Marc….when did you SEE him pitch?

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  4. Marc says:

    I’ve seen him pitch in video, not live. It’s really not a knock against Parker; he’s a great prospect and a No. 2 pitcher is still the cream of the crop, but he’s just not in the same league as, say, David Price or maybe Steve Strasburg. Parker is a ‘smidge’ below Porcello.

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  5. Levski says:

    So you’re saying there are only 2, maybe 3, number 1 type pitching prospects in all of baseball?

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  6. Jim says:

    Price and Strasburg are uncommon talents, and other prospects can’t be held to their levels to be considered potential #1 starters.

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  7. Levski says:

    I haven’t been able to find more recent comments on Parker by Kevin Goldstein, but found this from Keith Law’s top 100 prospects write up, from Jan. 22, 2009

    [quote]
    RANK: 35
    PLAYER: Jarrod Parker
    POS.: RHP
    ORGANIZATION: Arizona Diamondbacks
    TOP ’08 LEVEL: A (South Bend)
    ’08 RANK: 36
    AGE: 20

    Parker continues to look like one of the best picks in the first round of 2007, one that right now appears to have been historically deep in teenaged arms.

    Parker has grown since high school, so questions about his height should be gone, as he’s a legit 6-foot-1 and has filled out as well. He’ll still sit 94-95 and bump 98, but it’s the four-pitch mix that sets him apart from other flamethrowers, especially as his changeup has come on — not a pitch he needed often in high school — and will even flash above-average. The slider remains his out pitch with hard, late tilt.

    He’s a great athlete with good feel for pitching given his age and relative inexperience, and he commands all four pitches he throws. His main weakness is that his fastball lacks movement, and he’s likely to be a fly ball pitcher headed toward a big-league park that converts fly balls into home runs with alarming regularity.

    He heads to the Cal League in 2009, which should be a good test of his fastball command and ability to mix his pitches to avoid having hitters sit on the heat.[/quote]

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/columns/story?columnist=law_keith&id=3840355

    Maybe Marc’s ability to read between the lines here is better than mine, but I don’t see where Keith’s labeled Parker a “a solid and reliable No. 2 or 3 starter.” Also, Keith’s point on Parker being a flyball pitcher is strange, in light of Parker’s GB/FB splits in 2008. But that’s small fries…

    http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=519105

    GB% LD% FB%
    44.4% 14.8% 38.7%

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  8. Marc Hulet says:

    I’ll try and dig up the Law comment… that’s not where I heard/read him state it.

    Yes, Price and Strasburg are uncommon talents, but so are No. 1 starters, and not all teams are even lucky enough to have a true No. 1 pitcher… Off the top of my head… Webb, Sabathia, Santana, Oswalt, Lincecum may be one…

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  9. Mustard says:

    Baseball America does have him as a #2 starter in their projected 2011 lineup. Of course Brandon Webb is the #1 starter. So if you want to call him a “2″ I guess.

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  10. Mac says:

    The ONLY thing the kid lacks is a moving fastball. At age 20, surely that can be taught. Last year someone messed with his delivery a little as he was stepping slightly to his right and throwing across his body…something I never saw in high school or early last year in South Bend. I’m guessing trying to hide the ball a bit longer? Any insight on that?

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  11. Louise says:

    The Diamondacks should be competitive enough to keep pace with theother teams . While hitting may be a question mark I believe they will get enough out of their bats to keep them near the top.I really like the Diamondbacks .i’ve just watch a hot video at
    http://www.cardinalsnet.com

    but they have to keep going & also we must not stop supporting our MLB teams.

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  12. Mustard says:

    This article is still one of the goofiest things I’ve read this year. Parker is having NO problem with his fastball. A sidenote I remember scouts saying “he” had a flawless delivery. Classic pitching delivery. “He” was Mark Prior. Of course now I read scouts saying his delivery was terrible. Yeesh. Strasberg has a LONG way to go once he hits the minors. Time will tell.

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  13. Rorschach0 says:

    Ben Badler of Baseball America said that Parker had the best stuff of any pitching prospect he’d seen this year. Obviously he hasn’t seen every pitcher, but that’s still good news. Of course, this is before he started having shoulder problems.

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  14. Works fantastic to warm up our bathroom. Still working after a year. It is rather loud on high speed, on low speed its ok, but if you place it on high then get in the shower you wont hear it over the water running.

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