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.
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).
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.
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.
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