I participated in a mock draft over at Mock Draft Central the other day. While I don’t usually mock this early in the year I just couldn’t help myself. When the mock started I saw a message appear in the chat box from someone else in the draft room. They said they had found our site through a buddy of theirs about a week earlier (my team name was Baseball Professor so it was kind of obvious who I was) and he had been reading some of our stuff.
As it turns out we had a nice 90-minute conversation with one or two other people in the draft room about all things baseball — how shallow was third base this year, was Mike Moustakas a good break out candidate, what would happen with Prince Fielder, etc. — so I finally decided to ask him what he thought of our site and what content we could add or change to improve it. He suggested we do some work on fantasy-relevant minor leaguers. It’s not the easiest subject to write about given the extreme uncertainty of when major league jobs will become available and how well minor league stats translate to The Show, but solid analysis of minor league players is unimaginably helpful in leagues of almost any format.
Unfortunately I never caught my chat buddy’s name, but whoever he was was right. To thank him for the entertaining conversation and to help add some depth to Baseball Professor’s preseason coverage, I decided to review the relevant minor league players for each of the 30 teams. I’m not just going to list the top prospects in each organization because many of them have years of seasoning ahead or are currently blocked at the major league level, but I will try to find names you just might see this season given each player’s development and the needs of their respective big league teams.
First up is the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Potential roster vacancies: SP
The D-Backs have a fairly set lineup from top to bottom. They’re set at catcher with Miguel Montero, Stephen Drew and Aaron Hill will likely be lineup mainstays and I expect good years from Ryan Roberts and Paul Goldschmidt. The outfield, consisting of Justin Upton, Chris Young, the recently signed Jason Kubel and even Gerardo Parra, doesn’t leave much room for youngsters so — barring injury or complete collapse — I don’t see room for a minor league bat in this lineup.
The pitching staff is a different story. Once you get past Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Trevor Cahill there’s plenty of question marks. Josh Collmenter has the inside track for the fourth rotation spot after a nice 2011 season, but after him there’s no proven starter yet many potential candidates. The bullpen is fairly loaded with J.J. Putz closing games and 2011 success stories David Hernandez, Takashi Saito and Brad Ziegler all prominent members of Arizona’s relief corps.
Arizona Diamondbacks Top 5 Fantasy Minor League Prospects
1. Tyler Skaggs, SP
Skaggs will be among the finalists for Arizona’s fifth rotation spot. Even if he doesn’t win the job right out of spring training, his 10.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in his minor league career are cause for great excitement. He was rated the Diamondbacks’ third best prospect for 2012 by Baseball America and the team’s second best prospect by Fangraphs . Jarrod Parker, the number one prospect listed, was just traded to Oakland for Cahill. Skaggs has the best combination of upside and opportunity in 2012 of any pitcher in Arizona’s system.
2. Trevor Bauer, SP
Last season Arizona GM Kevin Towers said Bauer, the third overall pick in 2011′s June Amateur Draft, had a chance at making the majors as a reliever just months after getting drafted and would likely compete for a rotation spot to start 2012. Bauer never did make it up to the Diamondbacks in his first pro season but that doesn’t mean he can’t be in the mix this spring. For what it’s worth, Bauer struck out 43 batters in just 25 2/3 innings between Arizona’s High-A and Double-A teams last season. He can touch 97 with his four-seam fastball but prefers to use his two-seamer, which sits in the low 90s. According to scouts his curveball currently rates as a major league ready swing-and-miss pitch and his change-up has potential. His inexperience probably make him the third most likely starter to make the team out of camp (behind Skaggs and the next guy) but his potential if he does is staggering.
3. Wade Miley, SP
Miley pitched 40 innings for the Diamondbacks last season, giving him the first chance at the fifth rotation spot this spring. He wasn’t all that effective in his time in the majors (4.50 ERA, 5.08 FIP, 1.65 WHIP, 5.63 K/9, 4.05 BB/9) and has been plagued with mediocre strikeout and walk rates in the minors. On the plus side he is a good ground ball pitcher, which certainly helps when your home park is Chase Field. We’ll definitely see Miley in the rotation at some point this season, but I don’t really like his staying power. His lack of dominant stuff led to a 23.8 percent line drive rate last season and I find it difficult to imagine that improving significantly in year two.
4. Cole Gillespie, OF
Even though Arizona’s most pressing need is a fifth starter and their outfield is rather packed, Gillespie could be one injury away from getting some significant playing time. He’s a career .287 hitter in the minors with an insanely high .394 OBP due to his propensity to work counts and draw walks. When he does get on base he’s always a threat to steal, swiping 24 bags and scoring 100 runs for Arizona’s Triple-A team last year. Gillespie has enough power to hit double-digit homers in a full season of at-bats, but that obviously won’t be the case. The point is his batting average should be solid and he has enough power and speed to make a difference for your fantasy roster. He did get 104 at-bats for the D-Backs in 2010 but didn’t really do anything with them (.231/.283/.365, two homers, one steal). Still, I think he’s the first outfielder called up in the event someone goes down.
5. A.J. Pollock, OF
I really like Pollock’s skill set. He’s not flashy and doesn’t boast any great tools (aside from his speed) but he’s a high-contact batter with a solid eye and enough power potential to mash a couple homers if given the chance. He batted .309, hit eight homers and stole 36 bases at Double-A last season. Barring a rash of injuries to Arizona’s outfield, I don’t think we’ll see him in the majors until later in the season at the absolute earliest, but he has more potential to make an impact than any of the organization’s other young talent. There are some pitchers we could see before Pollock (Zach Kroenke comes to mind) but they’re blocked by the guys ranked 1-2-3 above, and definitely more talented hitters (3B Matt Davidson), but they’re probably too far off.