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Thursday, May 30, 2013

State of the Farm - NL West

Wild on Sports
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State of the Farm - NL West
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

As we inch closer to the 2013 MLB draft I thought it would be fitting to take pre-draft look at the state of each minor league system. On the agenda today: NL West...

Arizona Diamondbacks:

OVERALL: The legacy of superb 2010-2011 drafts lives on and continues to provide Arizona with admirable depth, even after trading away Trevor Bauer. They have a nice balance of position player prospects around the diamond, as well as a nice pile-up of strike throwers in the upper minors. What exactly are they going to do with all that pitching depth?

GRADUATIONS: Didi Gregorius is turning heads and making history with his .324/.385/.541 line through 124 PA at shortstop. Nobody with a sub .700 OPS in over 2000 minor league PA has ever performed that well, according to this article: http://www.azcentral.com/insiders/nickpiecoro/2013/05/18/didi-gregorius-outperforming-his-track-record-farm-report-other-stuff/. Outfielder AJ Pollock is holding his own and getting the bulk of playing time in center. Tyler Skaggs threw six shutout innings in a spot start this week.

TOP PROSPECT: Archie Bradley, rhp, leapfrogs over Tyler Skaggs on the basis of improved command turning him into a nearly unhittable pitcher. In 10 starts so far over two levels Bradley has an 0.99 ERA with 73 K in 54.2 IP. He’s now at AA-Mobile; might he skip the hitter’s haven Reno on his way to the majors? There’s no room there right now so for the time being he’ll continue to have his way with minor leaguers. He was a top-25 prospect in baseball prior to the season according to both Baseball America and MLB.com. Right now he’d rate even higher than that.

BIGGEST RISER: Bradley.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Nick Ahmed, ss, was supposed to be more than just a gloveman when Arizona acquired him in the Justin Upton trade; last year he stole 40 bases and showed some gap power. This year, however, he’s hitting just .147 at AA-Mobile with just two extra-base hits in 150 AB. He’s already 23 and is now solidly buried underneath better producing infielders in AAA and the majors for Arizona (Gregorius, Chris Owings, etc).


Los Angeles Dodgers:

OVERALL: The Dodgers’ system is quietly solid thanks to a number of strong early season performances from many of their top prospects, although they may lack a true blue-chip talent beyond Cuban import Yasiel Puig. In recent years they’ve been pitching-heavy but they now have some solid hitters like Puig, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager.

GRADUATIONS: Scott Van Slyke, Andy’s son, is going to get a chance to be the right-handed half of a platoon with Andre Ethier in right field. Expensive Korean signee Hyun-Jin Ryu is living up to his promise as an above-average left-handed starter. Paco Rodriguez was one of the first 2012 draftees to reach the majors and he’s been a great addition to the bullpen.

TOP PROSPECT: Yasiel Puig, of, flash all five tools in spring training after being signed to a questionable long-term contract without having played a lot of baseball once he defected from Cuba. Now, however, he looks like a feather in the cap for the Dodgers’ scouting department as he’s dominating AA-Chattanooga, hitting .316/.390/.603 with 8 HR, 35 RBI, and 11 SB in 136 AB. His strong play has led to rumors about trading Andre Ethier to make room for him sooner rather than later.

BIGGEST RISER: Ross Stripling, rhp, had a 1.24 ERA in the Pioneer League last year…but he was already 22 years old. The fifth-round pick has moved quickly, however, and is now dominating at the age appropriate level in AA-Chattanooga. So far this year he’s gone 3-0 with a 2.79 ERA with 52 K in 48 IP over two levels. Suddenly he’s LA’s second-best pitching prospect behind Zach Lee.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Garret Gould, rhp, throws hard but for the second straight year he is struggling mightily in high-A Rancho Cucamonga. After going 5-10 with a 5.75 ERA last year, he’s actually gotten worse, raising his ERA to 6.22 and striking out less batters over his first ten starts. His prospect star is fading.


San Francisco Giants:
OVERALL: The Giants’ scouting department is among the best in baseball as they regularly replenish the farm system with bountiful drafts, keeping them able to make trades for players like Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, while also providing depth for the major league team. Right now they have some intriguing live arms and enough hitting prospects to be comfortable with.

GRADUATIONS: None

TOP PROSPECT: Chris Stratton, rhp, edges out some of the other power arms in the system based on pedigree, as he was the Giants’ top pick in last year’s draft. Stratton is 6-2 with a 3.13 ERA and 57 K in 54.2 IP with low-A Augusta, and he’s due for a promotion soon since he’s already 22. He’s not far ahead of some other guys like Kyle Crick and Adalberto Mejia, so it will take a full season to sort out the rankings.

BIGGEST RISER: Martin Agosta, rhp, taken in the 2nd round after Stratton, is having similar success with low-A Augusta, as he’s currently third in the South Atlantic League with a 12.3 K/9 and he’s 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA. Agosta throws in the low-nineties and can reach back and dial it up when he needs to. Lefties Edwin Escobar and Ty Blach have better control but lesser stuff pitching for high-A San Jose.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Gary Brown, of, was supposed to be a future leadoff hitter but he’s done very little since a .336/.407/.519 line for San Jose, his power numbers aided by the environment. He’s always been fast but he’s down to .220/.285/.340 for AAA-Fresno this year with just 6 SB. Even with his speed he may now max out as a fourth outfielder, and that’s only if he can play center well.


Colorado Rockies:
OVERALL: The good news, beyond their surprising big-league start, is that a handful of pitching prospects have stepped up this year in the Rockies’ system. The bad news is that several of their better prospects have either graduated (Nolan Arenado) or stalled (Trevor Storey), living them thin on true upside.

GRADUATIONS: Nolan Arenado, 3b, looked great in spring training and his explosive start in AAA pushed Chris Nelson out the door. With Colorado, he’s slowed down quite a bit, hitting a soft .243/.277/421 with only five walks in 112 PA.

TOP PROSPECT:
David Dahl, of, had one of the best debuts of any first-rounder last year by hitting .379 with power and speed for rookie-level Grand Junction. He’s just getting his season underway for low-Asheville, so his .273/.310/.425 line is pretty meaningless right now in just 40 PA. The exciting number? Just 19 years old and already holding his own in full-season ball. His ceiling is very high.

BIGGEST RISER: Chad Bettis, rhp, missed all of last year with a shoulder injury but he’s come back strong this year for AA-Tulsa, his 4.00 ERA masking a superb 5/37 BB/K ratio in 36 IP. He’s the closest Rockies pitching prospect to the majors, although it would be best for his development to protect his arm in the minors for now.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Trevor Story, ss, did a little bit of everything as a teenager last year for low-A Asheville, but this year he’s been a very different Story (pun intended), and not in a good way. Strikeouts have taken over his offensive game and he’s scuffling at .192/.259/.311 in 195 PA for High-A Modesto. At least he’s still stealing bases (7), although he’s not a burner. He’s only 20 but right now he’s a project.

San Diego Padres:

OVERALL: The Padres farm system is pretty boring for a team that has drafted high and invested some money in Latin America, lacking many high-ceiling players and any true offensive threats. In particular, nobody in their system figures to hit for above-average power in the major leagues. They do have a lot of pitching; strike-throwing innings-eaters in the high minors and some upside guys down below.

GRADUATIONS:
Jedd Gyorko (pronounced “Jerko”), 2b, is having an excellent rookie season, his line of .270/.335/.438 a healthy 20 percent above league average (for ALL hitters, not just second basemen). Strangely, Gyorko is hitting much better at home park Petco than on the road, an unusual split for Padres hitters. Burch Smith had three disastrous starts (15 runs in 7 IP) so he’s not ready yet but he might return later in the year.

TOP PROSPECT: Max Fried, lhp, is a lefty and he has the best stuff of any Padres pitcher. Just 19, Fried has a 3.32 ERA with 42 K in 40.2 IP in his full season debut with low-A Fort Wayne. The Padres have not drafted many high ceiling players in higher rounds but are having some success with guys like Fried and fellow “TinCaps” Zach Eflin and Joe Ross, all taken in the first or supplemental round.

BIGGEST RISER:
Burch Smith, rhp, used his mastery of the strike zone to cut his ERA threefold from last year (down to 1.24 from 3.85) and earned a quick call-up to San Diego earlier this month. Between AA-AAA, Smith has a 6/42 BB/K ratio in 36 IP over 7 starts.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT:
Austin Hedges, C, was San Diego’s best position player prospect in the low minors but he’s hit just .229/.333/.343 in 84 PA for high-A Lake Elsinore. He’s been limited by injuries but so far this year that’s a step back, especially when you consider that this is one of the best hitting environments in the minors.

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