- C – Ryan January – 19 yo
- 3.37/.808 – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Missoula)
- 2016 stats: .273/.386/.470; .846 OPS; 6 doubles, 10 home runs
From a fantasy point of view, the minor league catcher landscape of the Arizona Diamondbacks left a LOT to be desired in 2016. Using my P/A score as a quick reference, there were 32 individual line scores to scan, several of which were the same players at multiple levels. This helped narrow the field a bit, but the writing was on the wall. Only three catchers emerged as UTR OAS candidates, and ironically, they all served all of 2016 at Rookie Missoula: 2015 – 8th rounder Kal Simmons, 19-year-old Venezuelan signee Jose Herrera and this year’s UTR OAS, another 8th rounder (this time in 2016), Ryan January. There were several reasons I chose the 6’2″- 195 lb. lefty out of junior college juggernaut San Jacinto College, North (Houston, TX). One was his power. January batted .339 and led the 2016 Gators squad in home runs (10), doubles (24) and slugging percentage (.655). This carried over once January transitioned to pro ball, as he equalled his home run total (10) from that in his final season as a collegian. Another thing that has me very excited about January moving forward is he’s hitting at this level, while carrying a deep passion for catching. He caught (+/-) 50 percent of Missoula’s games, and if a 19-year-old without any real superior standout tool can debut like this, playing a position he loves so much, what can we expect from him if he’s given the lion’s share of reps? We can only wait and see. The vast majority of the Diamondback catching love is aimed toward York Mills Collegiate Institute (Toronto, ON) draftee Andy Yerzy. Yet, after an absolute dismal 2016, January still “ranks” below Yerzy in several mainstream publications? Ok. This will be a fun catching race to see take shape. I predict January take his game to Short Season Hillsboro. It’s evident by his debut that Yerzy needs some seasoning with another stint in Rookie ball.
- 1B – Kyle Smith – 22 yo
- 3.37/.808 combined: – PAG/APPA – (AZL – 5.00/1.098; Rookie Missoula – 3.42/.850)
- 2016 stats combined: .283/.368/.572; .940 OPS; 11 doubles, 9 home runs
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last five seasons, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is pretty good. Of course I’m tapping into my sarcasm here because the 2009 – 8th round draft choice out of Texas State University has etched himself into the stone of major league baseballs top overall players. He’s finished 2nd in MVP voting two out of the last four years and has four consecutive All-Star appearances on his resume. The 6’3″- 225 lb. righty is heading into the third year of a 5 year- $32M contract with an option year in 2019. Usually I can observe a situation and loosely predict how things could take shape, but here, I’m in a bit of flux because simply put, so are the Diamondbacks and the state of their minor leagues. Could the Diamondbacks view “Goldy’s” extremely friendly contract and try dealing him in hopes of bringing in a near king’s ransom? Or do they stand pat and hope the team makes a playoff run in same division that houses the Dodgers and Giants? From a UTR standpoint, I’d deal. Strike while the iron is hot because first base in the minors is just good, not great. However, this year’s OAS choice Kyle Smith is the perfect UTR. The 6’4″- 220 lb. lefty spent four years at the University of Vanderbilt and in 97 games batted a paltry .202 with seven home runs, 35 RBi’s and 39 runs scored. So, statistically speaking, it’s plain to see why Smith went un-drafted. But there was a bigger reason why. In his freshman year with the Commodores, while attempting to make a catch in foul territory, Smith collided with a padded brick wall. As a result of the impact, Smith suffered a misalignment of his left eye leaving him partially blind. He slumped, regained the ability to hit through re-hab, but suffered an injured foot and lingering effects from the collision. The Diamondbacks liked his size, power potential and his leadership skills and took a chance signing him to a deal shortly after the 2016 draft. Smith lead all D-back first basemen HiA down in home runs, slugging percentage, OPS and extra-base percentage. I won’t go on on the record and say that Smith will surpass former UTR One to Watch choice Kevin Cron (2015) on the minor league depth chart. Cron blasted 26 home runs and drove in 88 for Double-A Mobile this past season. But I believe Smith has the chance to make a lot of noise in the system; and if Goldschmidt does in fact pack his bags and leave town, Smith could suddenly find himself in a very favorable position.
- 2B – Henry Castillo – 21 yo
- 3.02/.717: – PAG/APPA – (HiA Visalia)
- 2016 stats: .258/.311/.417; .728 OPS; 38 doubles, 12 home runs
In the inaugural Under the Radar Organizational All-Star series in 2014, 2010 – 13th round draft pick Brandon Drury was the Diamondbacks OAS third baseman of choice after batting .299, ripping 42 doubles, 23 home runs and driving in 95 for both HiA Visalia and Double-A that season. He posted a 3.71/.851 P/A score and was less than a year removed from making his major league debut. In his short time as a major leaguer, Drury has played all over the diamond with catcher being the only exception. Now, Drury spent most of his time in the the outfield corners in 2016 while spending only 16 games at second base. So, it’s rather intriguing heading into the 2017 season, not to see Drury projected as one of the Diamondbacks starting eight, but slotted in as the Opening Day starter at second base. I can see why, however, because Drury has thunder in his bat and third baseman, 2012 – 6th rounder out of the University of Washington, Jake Lamb carries a quite a potent game of his own. So, what does this have to do with this year’s OAS choice Henry Castillo? A lot in my opinion because if Drury wasn’t necessarily pinched into playing second base, I believe Castillo would be on the doorstep to a major league promotion sooner rather than later. Despite 2016 being Castillo’s first ever taste of full-season ball, he’s been a near picture of consistency since his debut back in 2013. He posted a two-level P/A of 3.05/.714 for the DSL/AZL in 2013. The following year he began the year back in the AZL, but after a month of action, was sent to Rookie Missoula. Again, consistency reigned supreme as the 5’11”- 190 lb. switch-hitter registered a 52-game P/A of 3.08/.731. The organization was rightfully aggressive with Castillo’s assignment in 2015 as he played all year with LoA Kane County. As expected, his production dipped a bit (2.58/.671) and the strikeout/walk ratio climbed (55:7), but the Dominican native posted his best batting average as a pro (.315). This season Castillo lead all organizational second basemen HiA down with 38 doubles and extra-base percentage (.409). I expect Castillo to spend all year with Double-A Jackson, but I’ll be keeping an eye on him regardless. A season parallel to that of 2016 should put him firmly on the Diamondbacks prospect map.
- 3B – Eudy Ramos – 20 yo
- 4.06/.959: – PAG/APPA – (Rookie Missoula)
- 2016 stats: .318/.373/.597; .970 OPS; 15 doubles, 13 home runs
Much like the second base situation with Brandon Drury, third base offers a similar circumstance: A young stud player in aforementioned Jake Lamb playing at a very under-the-radar level. In several current fantasy baseball ADP rankings, Lamb comes in at the high teens in mixed leagues, while in N.L.-only leagues, he ranks in the 5-10 range. That’s right where I, personally, would put him. But for a player yet to reach his prime, I’d be a definite buyer in a keeper/dynasty league, as I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. So, this brings me to Eudy Ramos, this year’s UTR OAS, who I believe, when it’s all said and done, could be the diamond (no pun intended) in the rough player that every organization desperately needs. Arizona signed Ramos and assigned him to his first taste of pro ball with the 2013 DSL squad. He faired, well, fair to say it politely batting .191 with 10 doubles, 2 home runs and 15 runs batted in. However, he drew an eye-opening 23 walks in 35 games. Ramos didn’t see game action in 2014, which prompted the Diamondbacks to moderately, yet aggressively assign him stateside to the Arizona League in 2015. The results weren’t what the organization hoped for. Ramos scored a putrid 2.00/.544 P/A, batted .194 with only seven extra base hits and posted 38 strikeouts to three walks in 28 games. So, you’d think Ramos would be destined for a repeat of a level where he struggled mightily. Not the case. This season, based on his previous two, was like an out-of -body experience. The 6’1″- 195 lb. righty led the Rookie Missoula squad in doubles, home runs. RBi’s (43) and total bases (120). My gut tells me that if the Diamondbacks were willing to challenge Ramos to a Pioneer League assignment after he registered dismal numbers in 2015, there’s no reason to believe they wouldn’t be aggressive again. I expect Ramos to see Short Season Hillsboro or quite possibly LoA Kane County in 2017.
- SS – Jose King – 17 yo
- 3.59/.799: – PAG/APPA – (DSL)
- 2016 stats: .350/.402/.413; .815 OPS; 7 doubles, 4 triples; 21 stolen bases
Before the Diamondbacks traded 2014 – 2nd round draft choice Isan Diaz to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jean Segura back in January 2016, Diaz was THE quintessential middle infield prospect in the system. In 2015, he played 68 games for Rookie Missoula (64 at shortstop) and led the Pioneer League with 25 doubles, 174 total bases, ranked second with 13 home runs and logged an eye-popping 4.84/1.054 P/A score. So, for Arizona to trade that away, there must be something on the horizon that won’t necessarily make us forget Diaz’ production, but help ease the pain of trading it away. Well, Arizona’s minor league infield depth is no greater than at the shortstop position. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that 2015 international free-agent signee out of Nassau, Bahamas Jasrado Chisholm is a star in the making. With a nickname like “Jazz” how can’t the 19-year-old lefty be? The defensive marvel led all Osprey batters in hits (70), runs scored (42), stolen bases (13) and ranked second in total bases (111). But remember, this is UTR. Despite the love for kids like Chisholm, we spread out our love much wider; and this leads me to October 2015 free-agent signee Jose King. The 6’0″- 160 lb. lefty debuted with the Dominican Summer League and the pint-sized Dominican native led the DSL1 squad in hits (84), runs scored (51), ranked third with 21 steals and second in total bases with 99. King has earned a promotion to either the AZL or Rookie Missoula for 2017. I’m anxious to track this kid’s progress in 2017. He adds to a (growing) deep position within the organization led by the charismatic Chisholm.
- LF – Jason Morozowski – 22 yo
- 3.01/.733 combined: – PAG/APPA – (LoA Kane – 2.30/.556; Short Season Hillsboro – 4.08/1.006; Rookie Missoula – 4.00/.923; AZL – 3.00/.750)
- 2016 stats combined: .247/.331/.424; .755 OPS; 15 doubles, 6 triples; 13 home runs; 10 stolen bases
With the fantasy baseball drafting season well into it’s peak, it’s very common for Jim and I to field regular questions about whether this UTR pitcher is good, that UTR hitter is worth a late dynasty league draft pick, or general questions about overall major league player ADPs. Lately I’ve taken on sleeper questions and after sifting through several top outfielder questions and suggestions, it dawned on me how little attention is given to the Diamondbacks Yasmany Tomas. The late-December 2014 signee out of Havana, Cuba was inked to a 6-year contract and the 6’2″- 250 lb. slugger didn’t supply the immediate jolt the organization was looking for. But hand it to 2015 being his freshman year in the league. Then 2016 came, and suddenly Arizona saw what they invested $58.5 million in. Tomas batted .272, clubbed a team-leading 31 home runs and scored a 3.26/.812 P/A, which ranked directly below Paul Goldschmidt, Jean Segura and Jake Lamb. Tomas could be that un-discussed mid round outfield gem that could boldly, yet semi-secretly help bring home a fantasy baseball title. However, you know how we work things here. With Tomas signed through the 2020 season, there’s plenty of time to decipher if anyone in the minors could supplant Tomas. Right now, I’m not sure about that. This season, I’d say a good word to describe the Diamondbacks left field vector would be mediocre. That’s not to say that this year’s OAS choice Jason Morozowski didn’t have a good overall season. Arizona drafted the 6’2″- 190 lb. righty out of Mount Olive College (NC) in the 13th round in 2015 and immediately assigned him to Rookie Missoula of the Pioneer League. He ranked behind only Isan Diaz in hits (98) that season with 70 and ranked third overall in extra-base percentage (.386) behind only first baseman Austin Byler (.618) and Diaz (.449). This season Morozowski slowed down a bit and never really got his footing having spanned the 2016 season across four levels. But he did post respectable numbers across the board. I like what Morozowski did this season, but posting better numbers after a mid-June demotion from LoA to Short Season ball isn’t necessarily a trend that screams progression.
- CF – Eduardo Diaz – 18 yo
- 3.01/.733 combined: – PAG/APPA – (DSL – 4.58/1.027; AZL – 2.08/.486; Rookie Missoula – 0.00/.000 *3 games)
- 2016 stats combined: .299/.388/.394; .781 OPS; 8 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs; 23 stolen bases
I have to admit, choosing this year’s UTR OAS center fielder for the Diamondbacks was a difficult process. Not because there weren’t a lot of good candidates, but because there were several worthy ones. Top rated prospect Anfernee Grier had a dismal season posting a 2.50/.638 P/A in only 24 games with Short Season Hillsboro and Rookie Missoula. Fellow top prospect Marcus Wilson I really like. As a 19-year-old playing in the Rookie Pioneer League, then for LoA Kane County of the Midwest League, the 2014 – 2nd rounder out of Junipero Serra (CA) logged a very impressive two-level 3.07/.726 P/A. But, just like a broken record you’ve heard many times before, this is UTR, and we bring you those other kids who performed at a high level in the shadow of those receiving all the pub. Arizona signed this year’s center field UTR OAS Eduardo Diaz to a free-agent contract in September 2015, and he debuted last season in the Dominican Summer League. The 6’2″- 175 lb. Venezuelan batted .358, stroked 10 extra-bases, registered a perfect 19:19 BB:K rate and stole 19 bases. After 33 games, Diaz received a promotion to the AZL and in rather blunt terms, hit a brick wall. His batting average plummeted 129 points, he logged only three extra-base hits and saw 10 walks to 24 strikeouts. However, we must be reminded that Diaz is under-the-rader, he’s a teenager and will suffer his struggles. After all, the aforementioned Grier currently ranks near the top of several major publication prospect lists and look at the debut he had. So, the opposite can also exist. And such is the case for Diaz. I believe he would benefit from a full season in either the AZL or challenged with an assignment to Rookie Missoula. I’d like to see if Diaz can separate himself from the heavy pack of teenagers currently sitting in the low minors for the Diamondbacks.
- RF – Jesus Marriaga – 17 yo
- 3.01/.733 combined: – PAG/APPA – (DSL1 – ; DSL2 – 2.08/.486)
- 2016 stats combined: .299/.388/.394; .781 OPS; 8 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs; 23 stolen bases
The Diamondbacks right field vector adds another unique situation to the UTR OAS mix. If readers go back to our inaugural Under the Radar Organizational All-Star series back in 2014, Socrates Brito was my right field choice after posting a sweet 3.44/.784 P/A score for HiA Visalia that season. Brito worked his way into the major league lineup in 2015. Brito currently sits inside Baseball America’s Arizona Diamondbacks top 5 prospects list heading into the 2017 season; and the kid directly below him? 6’3″- 170 lb. Venezuelan Victor Reyes, whom Arizona received in an April 2015 trade with the Atlanta Braves. This season, Reyes led all Diamondbacks right fielders in triples (12), batting (.303), slugging percentage (.416) and OPS (.765). However, this is UTR. Brito and Reyes are great, and aside from the others trolling the upper minors like Orlando Arcia, Zach Borenstein and Kelly Dugan (who all are disqualified from UTR criteria due to age), there are several fresh youngsters combing the lower depths of the system. This sets up the perfect UTR scenario for this year’s UTR OAS choice, Colombian native Jesus Marriaga. The 6’0″- 170 lb. righty could have been a my UTR OAS centerfield choice, but this is one of those situations where I had two part-time centerfield/right field players and wanted to find a way to place to put both on this year’s list. Eduardo Diaz deserved the CF spot, which placed Marriaga in right despite playing 37 of his 63 games this season in center and left field. Marriaga began his debut season with the DSL1 squad and after logging only 10 at-bats and the P/A score you see above, the organization shipped him to DSL2. All he did was lead DSL2 in hits (66), runs scored (40), stolen bases (24), walks (31) and total bases (81). Power is nearly extinct from Marriaga’s game which tells me he’s destined to play centerfield full-time in the very near future, which he should, as he committed zero errors in 2016. I love peripheral stats because it’s the law of averages that help determine future success. I’m not saying that Marriaga is the next great centerfielder in the game, but in an organization like the Diamondbacks, they sure could use one; and who knows, maybe it could be him. If he registers another season like he did in 2016, possibly for the AZL or even Rookie Missoula, he could be well on his way.