Arizona Diamondbacks – 2014 UTR Organizational All-Stars

C – Michael Perez – LoA South Bend –  21 yo;  –  (2011 – 5th round) –
  • .238 –  21 2B  – 9HR – 35RBi – 53R –  .362/.414/.776 slash    – PAG: 2.89
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  Baseball Prospectus-NR
  • When scanning through Arizona’s minor catching ranks, you see a supply of prudent performers, but no one considered great.  This is evident by the Diamondbacks choice to deal for New York Yankees 2012 – 2nd rounder Peter O’Brien at the 2014 MLB trade deadline; a deal that also sent third baseman Martin Prado to the Bronx.  Arizona wasn’t done however. In early December, they selected Tampa Bay Rays backstop Oscar Hernandez in the Rule 5 draft; and the 6’0 – 195 lb. righty is slotted as the #2 catcher behind veteran starter Tuffy Gosewich on the major league squad. This doesn’t signify that the 22-year-old Perez is a pushover though. After logging only eight games in his 2011 pro debut, the 5’11 – 180 lb. lefty’s bat burst on the scene in 2012 posting a 3.94 csPAG mostly for Rookie Missoula. The young Puerto Rican received an aggressive assignment in 2013 leapfrogging Short Season Yakima right to LoA South Bend and Perez hit a wall to the tune of 2.39 PAG.  It seems [as if] since then Perez has been scratching and clawing to prove 2012 wasn’t a fluke. Even though Perez possesses the best skills/age/level combination in the system, it’s going to take a valiant statistical effort for Perez to (again) be viewed as the top young catcher in the system. 
1B – Trevor Mitsui  – Rookie Missoula/LoA South Bend  – 22 yo;  – (2014 – 30th round)
  • .331 –  12HR –  53RBi – 47R –  .386/.546/.933 slash   csPAG: 3.77
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • Of all the positions on the Diamondbacks position vector, none were more statistically loaded this season than first base.  I could have gone with several candidates as this competition was as close as any I’ve done throughout the entire off-season. Luckily, with a long list of descending criteria, by a narrow margin, the University of Washington draftee Mitsui came out on top.  I could’ve just as easily selected fellow 2014 draftee out of TCU Kevin Cron. The former Horned Frog could possibly lay the immediate claim of having the biggest power in the entire organization, yet, what separated Mitsui from Cron (for us UTR folk) was that Cron was a 14th rounder while Mitsui was taken 16 rounds later. A tale of the tape shows Mitsui posted a better season. Mitsui played all but two games for Missoula and was among the Pioneer League leaders in hits (87), doubles (17), homers, RBi’s and total bases (144). Seems like the Diamondbacks have a welcome problem on their hands. With fantasy stud (and former UTR) Paul Goldschmidt manning 1B in the majors, Mitsui, Cron, 2012 – 3rd rounder Daniel Palka and 24 year old Rudy Flores can continue battling it out for minor league first base supremacy. I’ll place my bets with Matsui. 
2B – Steve Nyisztor  – Ind. CAN-AM Rockland/Short Season Hillsboro – 23 yo;  – (underrated – Rutgers)
  • .325 – 24 2B  –  5HR – 47RBi – 62R – 18SB  –   .367/.462/.829  slash  –  csPAG: 3.62
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  – BP-NR
  • Now we’re talking! Guys like Nyisztor are what UTR is about. Let’s clear the air first though. Jim and I both fully understand that the odds are (and always will be) stacked against our kids ever making the majors.  But does a guarantee surround any kid though?  Regardless of where they come from or what round they’re drafted in, prospects have to produce, plain and simple; and in a nut shell, (with an asterisk), I liked un-drafted, Independent league signee Steve Nyisztor.  The Toms River (NJ) HS grad headed to Rutgers University logging an impressive freshman season batting .410, with 11 stolen bases,  24 extra base hits and was named a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American and Second Team All-Big East. He intertwined his collegiate play with summer leagues playing in the Northwoods League (’10 – St. Clous River Bats; ’12 – Mankato Moonbats) as well the Cape Cod League (’11 – Orleans Firebirds). However, the wheels soon began to loosen for 6’3 – 200 lb. righty.  An injury allowed him only 12 games for the Scarlet Knights in 2011; and heading into the 2012 season, Rutgers deemed Nyisztor academically ineligible.  He left the university and transferred to Louisburg JC in North Carolina joining the baseball team over the collegiate Christmas break. The change of scenery helped as Nyisztor’s attitude was fresh and his stats resembled those he flashed during his freshman year at Rutgers. He went un-drafted after his short stay with the LJC Hurricanes and signed on to play for Rockland of the Canadian-American League. He posted two seasons with the Boulders logging a 60 game PAG of 2.37 in 2013. Then in 2014 prior to having his contract purchased by Arizona, he posted a PAG score of 3.53.  Nyisztor is a total no risk, high reward gamble by the Diamondbacks and the UTR in me loves every minute of it. 
3B – Brandon Drury – HiA Visalia/AA Mobile  – 21 yo;  –  (2010 – 13th round-Atlanta)
  • .299 –  42 2B  –  23HR  –  95RBi  – 85R  –   .362/.510/.872  slash   csPAG: 3.71
  • BA-NR  –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • For me personally, Brandon Drury is the infinite cream-of-the-batters-crop in the Diamondbacks system. Drury’s 42 doubles ranked fifth amongst all minor league batters (all affiliates); and coupled with his home runs, he ranked amongst the best in the minors in extra base percentage. What Diamondbacks fans have here is a future major league stud. 
SS – Andrew Velazquez  – LoA South Bend –  20 yo;  –  (2012 – 7th round)

  • .290 – 15 3B  –  9HR – 56RBi – 94R – 50 SB –  .367/.3428/.796 slash   – PAG: 3.69
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR 
  • I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see Velasquez’ breakout coming. Not so much in the form of a full blown 2014 pre-season prediction, but based on the fact that the compact 5’8 – 175 lb. switch-hitter posted such a divergence between his 2012 debut and his 2013 sophomore seasons.  After Arizona signed the Bronx native away from a commitment to Virginia Tech, his 2012 debut PAG of 4.28 gave the Diamondbacks and fans plenty to be excited about even if it came via a 43 game sample size for both the Arizona League and for Pioneer League Missoula.  Heading into his sophomore season, Arizona leap frogged him past Short Season Hillsboro straight to LoA South Bend and it was a small disaster.  He posted a mediocre season batting .260 with 10 doubles, 23 runs scored, 7 stolen bases and a 2.25 PAG score. This season the former Fordham Prep star repeated LoA South Bend and his game took off.  He raised his batting average, displayed his above average speed (leading the entire minors in triples) and smacking nine homers (without possessing much power in his game.) Defensively, he has the arm to stick at the position, however playing second as he ascends through the system isn’t out of the question. I think by posting a 3.41 or higher PAG score for his new organization (Tampa Rays), he can provide added depth, and maybe future competition for Rays top shortstop prospect Hak-Ju Lee. 
LF – Alex Glenn – HiA Visalia –  23 yo;  –  (2012 – 12th round)  –
  •  .285  – 30 2B  –  24HR  – 89RBi  – 85R  – 22 SB –  .346/.527/.872   – PAG: 4.01
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR   –   BP-NR
  • With the N.L. West the last division in our off-season Organizational All-Star series, you might have become familiar with the term “temper enthusiasm.”  I chose Alex Glenn as my Diamondbacks MLBDepthCharts Breakout Prospect of the Year for 2014 and he didn’t fail.  He posted career highs in runs scored, doubles, triples, home runs, RBi’s and stolen bases. In spite of the spike in statistics, we have to temper our enthusiasm being that the Arizona Christian University draftee logged the entire season for the Visalia Rawhide of the California League. Yet, I’m not ready to write off the 5’11 – 180 lb. lefty. When you strip away his 2014, he still averaged a thoroughly respectable PAG score of 3.40 in his first two pro seasons. In the above bio on shortstop Andrew Velasquez, I stated he was sent to Tampa Bay in the trade that sent starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson to the Diamondbacks. Along with Velasquez went left field prospect Justin Williams; and with the ultra-athletic 6’2 – 215 lb. Williams now with the Rays, Glenn could position himself in the discussion as one of  the top left field prospects in the system with a very strong showing in Double A this coming season. 
CF – Breland Almadova – LoA South Bend/HiA Visalia –  23 yo;   (2012 – 37th round) 
  • .278  – 7HR – 57RBi – 95R – 35SB  –  .359/.388/.746   – csPAG: 3.25
  • BA-NR   –   MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BR-NR
  • For anyone who’s extremely versed in fantasy sports, you’re familiar with the term “playing above their draft position.” Almadova fits that mold as a 37th round draft choice back in 2012. The University of Hawaii grad not only has played above his draft position, he’s done it with the utmost of consistency. He came to the organization considered as a true center field type: a highlight reel defender with great speed, good arm and growing bat-to-ball skills.  Arizona drafted the 6’1 – 195  pounder as the #1 baseball prospect in the state of Hawaii and his debut in 2012 produced a 3.20 PAG with Rookie League Missoula batting .306 with 17 doubles and 11 stolen bases.  He saw a 2013 assignment to LoA South Bend and he posted a slight dip in PAG with a 2.83. Yet, his consistency was impressive being that the organization vaulted him past new Short Season affiliate Hillsboro. This past season he began [again] in LoA logging a 90 game PAG of 3.20 and reached a 3.36 in 42 games with HiA Visalia. I understand Almadova is right at the meat of the age/level bell curve, but you can’t argue and/or deny his game. However, don’t sleep on 2014 draftee Matt Railey. He’s got the game to become the top centerfielder in the Diamondbacks system. 

 

RF – Socrates Brito  – HiA Visalia  –  21 yo;  –  (2010 – International FA/DR)
  • .293  –  30 2B  – 10HR  – 62RBi  – 82R  – 38SB  –  .339/.429/.767   – PAG: 3.44
  • BA-NR  –  MLB Pipeline-NR  –  BP-NR
  • Armed with one of the greatest names in all the minors, the 6’2 – 200 pounder posted his best season PAG score (in full-season ball mind you) after logging persistent progress since his debut in 2010. The left handed Dominican is a physical presence with great speed, maturing power, above average arm strength and plus bat speed. Brito has recorded solid seasons, but has yet to nail down that full-blown breakout some have expected from him.  He’ll be 22 for the entire 2015 season and I’m really hoping Brito takes a big step forward; especially with the tool bag he carries. He has the raw skills to surpass Marcus Wilson, Mitch Haniger, newly transitioned Stryker Trahan and aforementioned Matt Railey. However, it’ll take a monumental effort since Brito hasn’t yet taken the huge step forward after already recording over 1,600 at-bats in the minors.  

 

 

Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Brandon Sinnery – (13) SP/TPS .139
  • 24 years old – (HiA Visalia)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (May 4th, May 10th, August 12th)
  • The now 25-year old Sinnery just completed his 2nd pro season since coming from the Independent Leagues. He threw 170.1 innings this past season, including 3 complete games with HiA Visalia, in the hitting rich California League. Sinnery found his way to the Indy League after being undrafted coming out of U. of Michigan. I added the right-hander to my watch list back in May and after a strong finish to the season, Im holding optimism that he could progress to become a back of the rotation type. This should play out in 2015 while eating-innings at Double-A Mobile.
 2. RHP Aaron Blair  – (11) SP/TPS .078
  • 22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia / Double-A Mobile)
  • 1st round – 2013
  • Ranked #5 by Baseball America / #4 MLBPipeline / #5 Baseball Prospectus
  • UTR Mention (April 27th)
  • Blair was a supplemental 1st round pick behind Braden Shipley in 2013 and has progressed right along with him through 3 levels in 2014. The quality of his pitches don’t rank near Shipley’s, but Blair has held his own in going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He has a mid-90’s fastball with late movement that goes along with his pitchability and decent command and control. Though Shipley was the top pick in 2013, Blair is slightly ahead and could be a late season call-up this season. While your fantasy leaguemates target Shipley to stash on their rosters, grab Blair in the end-game.
3. RHP Merkis Montero(9) cSR/TPS .094
  • 19 years old – (DSL Diamondbacks / AZL Diamondbacks)
  • Undrafted – 2013
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (June 24th, June 30th)
  • Montero was the most dominate pitcher with the DSL Diamondbacks this season by posting a 1.67 ERA over 70 IP in 12 starts. The Club brought him over the U.S. in mid-August with an assignment to the AZL where he struggled but the move does legitimize his chances as a future prospect.
4. RHP Blake Perry(9) SP/TPS .096
  • 23 years old – LoA South Bend)
  • 6th round – 2010
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (June 11th, July 19th)
  • You can say that Perry makes this list by default. He should gather mention points pitching with Lo-A South Bend, since he’s been part of their rotation over the last 2+ seasons. The right-hander has been spinning his development wheels due to his fastball and lack of control. Both showed slight improvement in 2014, but could be exposed in the California League if he starts 2015 with Visalia.
5. LHP Hector Hernandez(9) SP/TPS .130
  • 23 years old – (HiA Visalia / LoA South Bend)
  • 10th round – 2009
  • 2013 Rule 5 pick from St. Louis
  • 3-Time UTR Mention (May 24th, May 29th, July 3rd)
  • Hernandez was on his way to a strong season with South Bend and with getting a promotion to HiA Visalia. This all came to end in late July when Hernandez blew out his elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery.
 
 
Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Mention Points) / TPS
 
 1. RHP Silvino Bracho(15) RP/TPS .055
  • 21 years old – (LoA South Bend)
  • Undrafted – 2011
  • Unlike Perry, Bracho was lights-out in 2014 and we have to wait-and-see if that plays at HiA Visalia in 2015. In 43.1 innings of work, the right-hander struck out 70 hitters and walked only eight. He earned 26 saves over 45 appearances and posted a 2.08 ERA.
2. RHP J.R. Bradley(12) RP/TPS .052
  • 22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia)
  • 2nd round – 2010
  • Year two in the move to the bullpen is working well for Bradley. In 31 appearances, the right-hander put-up a 1.52 ERA while striking out 46 batters in 29.2 innings. He could be a future set-up guy with a mid-90’s fastball and decent curveball.
3. LHP Daniel Gibson (10) RP/TPS .083
  • 22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia)
  • 7th round – 2013
  • Ranked #21 by Baseball America
  • UTR Mention (April 26th)
  • Gibson is on the fast track but the train went off those tracks after his promotion to HiA Visalia. He posted a 1.98 ERA (45:14 K:BB) over 36.1 innings in 37 appearances at LoA South Bend, but saw his ERA increase when the Cali League torched him with a 9.13 ERA in 21 apps.
Top 5 TPS – Starting Pitchers
 
1. RHP Blayne WellercSR/TPS .073
  • 24 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia)
  • 14th round – 2008
  • 4-Time UTR Mention (May 4th, May 30th, July 10th, July 31st)
  • Weller’s no-hitter on July 10th and his 16 strikeout performance no-doubt had an influence on his TPS score. The right-hander had a solid year with a 4.28 ERA, 128.1 IP with 161 strikeouts going 9-6 in both starting and in relief.
 2. RHP Luis MaderoSP/TPS .076
  • 17 years old – (DSL Diamondbacks)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • UTR Mention (August 1st)
  • Some feel I should take a wait and see attitude before posting pitchers from the Dominican Leagues. But Im sticking with my formula that should vet-out those who show promise. One could be skeptic of naming a 17-year old, let alone one that pitches in the DSL. Madero, at that age, has already showed an advanced feel for pitching and command of his stuff….and all during his first year as a pro. Those skeptics should imagine the capabilities of the right-hander as he matures and adds velocity to his low 90’s fastball. In the next 2-3 years when Madero is throwing his stuff at Short-Season Hillsboro, Im sure I’ll reference back to when he ranked #2 during his debut season.
3. RHP Aaron Blair  – (11) SP/TPS .078

  • 22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia / Double-A Mobile)
  • 1st round – 2013
  • Ranked #5 by Baseball America / #4 MLBPipeline / #5 Baseball Prospectus
  • UTR Mention (April 27th)
  • Blair was a supplemental 1st round pick behind Braden Shipley in 2013 and has progressed right along with him through 3 levels in 2014. The quality of his pitches don’t rank near Shipley’s, but Blair has held his own in going 9-5 with a 3.56 ERA. He has a mid-90’s fastball with late movement that goes along with his pitchability and decent command and control. Though Shipley was the top pick in 2013, Blair could be a late season call-up this season. While your fantasy leaguemates target Shipley to stash on their rosters, grab Blair in the end-game.
4. RHP Ben EckelscSR/TPS .083
  • 20 years old – (LoA South Bend / Short-Season Hillsboro)
  • 11th round – 2012
  • 2-Time UTR Mention (June 23rd, July 14th)
  • Eckels was a mid-round pick that has the skill set to be placed on the fast track, but the D-Backs have been patient. He’s had solid peripherals over the last three seasons but things didn’t go well during a promotion to LoA South Bend. That was only a small sample so its tough to tell whether he was overmatched or just tired at the end of season. He will return to the Midwest League in 2015 and depending on his performance during a full season should determine whether he stays in a rotation or a change to the long relief role.
5. RHP Yeison SantanaSP/TPS .084
  • 17 years old – (DSL Diamondbacks)
  • Undrafted – 2014
  • Debut season was an impressive for the young righty who posted stats that were comparable to Merkis Montero.
Top 3 TPS – Relief Pitchers
 
 1. LHP Zac CurtisRP/TPS .047
  • 21 years old – (Short-Season Hillsboro)
  • 6th round – 2014
  • Doug Drabek, the pitching coach for the Hillsboro Hops, placed Curtis on a innings limits coming off the draft. This was tough to swallow for the left-hander, who has always gotten the ball every 4th or 5th day. Fast-forward to the end of the 2014 season, Curtis underwent the paradigm shift and may now have a career as a closer. He made 24 appearances (14 saves), pitched 27 innings, and struck out 42 of the 109 batters he faced. Striking out hitters isn’t new for Curtis, as he led the NCAA in 2013 with 136 K’s in 114 innings. Look for Curtis to take off through the system in his new role.
 2. RHP J.R. Bradley – RP/TPS .052

  • 22 years old – (LoA South Bend / HiA Visalia)
  • 2nd round – 2010
  • Year two in the move the bullpen is working well for Bradley. In 31 appearances, the right-handers put-up a 1.52 ERA while striking out 46 batters in 29.2 innings. He could be a future set-up guy with a mid-90’s fastball and decent curveball.
3. RHP Enrigue BurgosRP/TPS .052
  • 23 years old – (HiA Visalia)
  • Undrafted – 2007
  • I wrote about Burgos in 2012 as a possible up-and-comer after a successful transition from starter to the bullpen. He struggled the following season with consistency and control of his stuff with a horrible K:BB rate of 50:49 over 46.1 innings at LoA South Bend. He turned it all around in 2014 with a breakout season where he was named as the Best Reliever in the California League and earned post-season all-star honors. Burgos is a true power pitcher that may have finally been able to harness his high 90’s fastball. With the big club’s closer (Addison Reed) already dealing with shoulder issues this Spring and looking down the D-Backs depth chart, Burgos could be outside looking-in for any hiccup that may occur this season which could get him to Chase Field.
 
2014 Breakout Grades
 
The following pitchers were chosen in early March. Their selection was based solely on their previous season’s TPS rating and using the UTRMinors.com criteria for those under the radar.
 
 SP Brad Keller – Keller suffered from a sophomore slump in 2014. After a successful debut year, the D-Backs place the right-hander on the same track in 2014. He started the season with the AZL Diamondbacks and then moved him up to Missoula in the Pioneer League, where he was rocked. He ended the season with a good outing (6 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) with Short-Season Hillsbor0. Grade C
 
RP Jimmie Sherfy – I was all over Sherfy in 2o14 coming out of U. of Oregon as a 10th round pick. He made 18 appearances splitting between Short-Season Hillsboro and LoA South Bend. The organization must also be high on the right-hander by aggressively  pushing him through HiA Visalia (11 apps) and Double-A Mobile (37). His stats were nothing to brag about, but his TPS only had a modest increase of +.012 over his outstanding 2013 season. So, Im still very high on the 23 year old and he makes the case of placing pitchers on a “One To Watch List” instead of predicting a breakout. Grade C

 

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