Trio of exciting young hitters expected to help Phoenix rise

March 9th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Over the past few years, the D-backs have built up one of the stronger farm systems in baseball, and during that time they’ve gotten good at two things they would prefer to not have to do in the future: Pick early in the Draft and help top prospects recover from shoulder injuries.

The Draft run started in 2019 when they had the No. 16 overall pick and turned that into Corbin Carroll. Then the big league team’s misfortunes led to them picking No. 6 in 2021 and No. 2 overall in last year’s Draft. As a result, the D-backs top three prospects are Carroll, Jordan Lawlar (2021) and Druw Jones (2022), all of whom are in the top 15 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. Carroll will be in the Opening Day lineup, Lawlar should join him by next year and Jones is obviously just getting going, but given the reason they got these players -- the big league team not winning games -- the front office is ready to pick much further down in the first round each year.

“I think the goal for all of us is not to be picking that that high,” D-backs director of player development Josh Barfield said. “But it's also important when you do pick wherever you pick, especially the first couple rounds, that that you don't really miss on those guys. And I think we have a really good process here, we've done a really good job on the amateur side of evaluating guys and finding high impact talent, like the guys that we brought in who have really helped turn around our farm system.”

These top three also have that other unfortunate thing in common. All have suffered serious shoulder injuries that have required surgery. Carroll’s labrum surgery cost him the 2021 season, but he roared to the big leagues last year and is now a Rookie of the Year candidate. Lawlar’s injury forced him to miss nearly all of his pro debut, but he hit his way to Double-A and the Arizona Fall League in 2022. And Jones has yet to play a game because of his injury.

“We have a lot of experience with our first-rounders blowing out their shoulders and what that rehab process looks like,” Barfield said. “It's fortunate and unfortunate, but so far, the two guys have come back and they've been really healthy and strong.”

Jones is progressing well, following the timeline the organization is too familiar with. He should be ramping up to playing in Minor League games soon, which should put him on a solid trajectory to getting most, if not all, of a full first season of pro ball.

“He's done a really good job with the rehab,” Barfield said. “If all goes well, he should be on schedule to start if not right when the season starts, then pretty shortly after that.”

Jones can look to Lawlar and Carroll to be resources in how to handle the situation in coming back from the injury as well. They all used the time to add strength, watch how the big leaguers went about their business and came out of the process stronger than before the injury. So far, Jones has followed suit and used his time on the shelf very well. 

“He’s used the time really well,” Barfield said. “It's not something you want to be known for, but at least it helps take some of the unknown out for him when he’s going through stuff like that.”

Camp standout: Luke Albright

Back in 2011, the D-backs took Andrew Chafin out of Kent State and after he posted a 4.93 ERA in his first full season of pro ball, he’s gone on to establish himself as a very effective big league reliever. Could Albright, the D-backs’ pick out of Kent State in the sixth round of the 2021 Draft, be following the same path?

The 6-foot-4 right-hander, who was not as highly regarded as Chafin (who was the No. 43 overall pick in 2011) coming into the Draft, struggled in his first full season and finished with a 5.49 ERA with High-A Hillsboro. He might have more of a back-end starter ceiling, but he came to Salt River Fields with better stuff across the boards.

“We’ve seen the velocity and we’ve seen the breaking ball,” said Barfield, who added that Albright’s heater sat 90-93 mph in 2022, but was up to 97 mph in bullpen sessions this spring. “He’s really improved his slider. He’s a tremendous worker and come and has really impressed here.”

Something to prove: Bryce Jarvis

In the middle of drafting Carroll, Lawlar and Jones, the D-backs went the college pitching route in the first round of the 2020 Draft, taking Jarvis out of Duke. He missed time in 2021 with an oblique issue and then got hit very hard at hitting-friendly Double-A Amarillo last year, not performing up to the expectations of a first-round pick and slipping to No. 27 on the D-backs Top 30 this year. It’s not been a question of pure stuff, with a power arm up to 98 mph, a good slider and feel for a plus changeup. But he gave up 11.9 hits and 5.1 walks per nine last year, so something has to change in order for him to use his stuff more efficiently.

“We worked on some things in his delivery this offseason to hopefully create a little more deception,” Barfield said. “We’ve played around with the fastball, trying to create a little bit more life there because he’s always had the velocity. That, and refining the usage of his pitches. We’ve seen encouraging improvement so far this spring and I expect him to have a breakout year.”

Breakout candidate: Cristofer Torin

People might not know Torin, the club’s No. 18 prospect, yet, but they will now that he’s coming stateside. Signed for $240,000 in January 2022, Torin had a big pro debut in the Dominican Summer League with a .333/.465/.434 line, impressing everyone with his incredibly advanced approach and knowledge of the strike zone. The middle infielder is the type who might not wow anyone with one viewing and is more of a whole-is-greater-than-the-sum-of-his-parts type of player, but Barfield thinks more people will know who he is after this season.

“His bat-to-ball skills are elite,” Barfield said. “I don’t think if you graded the tools any one tool really stands out. But I think when you put them all together, and he's got the ability to stay at shortstop and he’s just very mature for a 17-year-old kid that hasn’t played a game here in the States yet… so I expect his name to kind of pop up on some of these prospect lists by the end of the year.”