Lawlar, eager for future, headlines D-backs prospects in AFL

October 10th, 2022

Jordan Lawlar has dreams of playing consistently in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Not necessarily as he’s doing now at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in the Arizona Fall League. More like 25 minutes southwest at Chase Field, the D-backs’ Major League home.

His status as Arizona’s top AFL representative could bring with it some pressure. Lawlar isn’t seeing it that way.

“Nah, I'd say it makes me excited for the future to come,” said MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 overall prospect. “I just can't wait to be here every day.”

The 20-year-old shortstop certainly has the skillset to carve out a long-term role for himself in The Valley of the Sun. The sixth overall pick in the 2021 Draft, Lawlar earns above-average to plus grades in all five tools and used his hitting prowess in particular to climb from Single-A Visalia to Double-A Amarillo in his first full season.

Naturally, the right-handed slugger had his best numbers in the California League, where he hit .351/.447/.603 with nine homers and 24 steals in 44 games. Despite missing a few weeks due to a benign bone growth on one of his right ribs, Lawlar earned a move to High-A Hillsboro in July -- the same month he represented the National League at the All-Star Futures Game in Los Angeles -- and held his own with a .288/.385/.477 line and 140 wRC+ over 30 games with the Hops.

The D-backs stayed aggressive with their No. 3 prospect with the push to the Texas League, where he was more than five years younger than the circuit’s average player. It was there that Lawlar’s momentum hit a snag as he produced a .652 OPS over 97 plate appearances. But it was also the fourth level of the season (including a rehab stint in the Arizona Complex League) for a young ballplayer who was getting used to making introductions in his first full season.

“[I’ve been] just blocking that out,” Lawlar said of the constant movement of 2022. “I’m doing what I do every day, controlling what I can control, coming to the field with the same approach. At the end of the day, just play baseball.”

Lawlar’s ability to barrel up the ball from the right side with a quick stroke, exhibit plus speed on the basepaths and play a quality shortstop make him a key member of an electric D-backs prospect core. No. 3 overall prospect Corbin Carroll already made his Major League debut this summer, and the club added another potential five-tool star in Druw Jones with this year’s No. 2 overall pick. Lawlar and Carroll, in particular, already know each other well from their separate shoulder injuries in 2021.

“We rehabbed for [about] eight months; it was together,” said the shortstop. “We were there every morning at 8, 9, grinding it out, working out, doing all that together.”

Without a clear long-term shortstop already in the Majors for the D-backs, Lawlar could join Carroll on the big club for more than just workouts as early as the second half of 2023.

First, after recollecting himself from his time with Amarillo, Lawlar will get another chance to prove his potential readiness in the AFL. He took advantage last week by homering in each of his first two games for Salt River.

See, no pressure.

“It's not every day that you're going to face this kind of competition, at least for my first year,” Lawlar said. “So I'm trying to enjoy the process."

D-backs hitters in the AFL

Deyvison De Los Santos, 3B/1B (No. 6): The 19-year-old enters the autumn as the youngest player in the AFL, and he might have the most raw power among this year’s class, too. De Los Santos used that pop to hit .306/.348/.499 with 22 homers in 126 games across three levels during the regular season as he topped out as a teenager at Double-A Amarillo. While his defensive home remains in question, his slugging ability helps him provide value at first base, where he’s made each of his first three AFL starts.

Cooper Hummel, C: Hummel played in the Fall League last year, going 5-for-12 (.192) with 12 walks in 12 games for Salt River following a midseason trade from the Brewers. The 27-year-old returns to the circuit as the rare player with Major League experience, having hit .176/.274/.307 with three homers in 66 contests for the big club in Arizona. He transitioned from the corner-outfield spots back to catching around mid-August, and his time with the Rafters should afford him more work on his framing.

D-backs pitchers in the AFL

Justin Martinez, RHP (No. 30): A late addition to the roster after Triple-A Reno’s Pacific Coast League title, Martinez brings a big fastball to the desert -- one that sits around 96-98 mph and touched as high as 99.4 mph during his time at the Minors’ highest level. An 83-85 mph slider gives him another option against righties, but with a fringy changeup, lefties punished the 21-year-old across three full-season levels. He did strike out 62 over 38 innings in his return from Tommy John surgery, and some extra work at the end of the calendar year should aide his chances at a 40-man spot ahead of Rule 5 eligibility in the winter.

Kyle Backhus, LHP: Our pick as the D-backs’ AFL sleeper, Backhus fanned 78 batters over 52 1/3 innings at High-A and Double-A during the regular season. He throws his fastball only around 89-92 mph and will mix in a high-70s sweeping slider, but both pitches play above their velos because of his deceptive low sidearm slot.

Jackson Goddard, RHP: The 99th overall pick in 2018 out of the University of Kansas, Goddard has managed 154 2/3 Minor League innings over the four years since he was selected. The 25-year-old right-hander most recently posted a 4.09 ERA with 26 strikeouts and 16 walks in 22 innings with Hillsboro and has shown a 93-95 mph fastball, mid-80s changeup and 79-81 mph curveball in early AFL looks.

Chad Patrick, RHP: Patrick became the first Purdue Northwest player ever drafted when he went to the D-backs in the fourth round last year. He posted a 3.30 ERA with 54 strikeouts and only 17 walks in 46 1/3 innings across three levels (primarily Single-A and High-A) during the regular season and has been around 91-93 mph with his fastball in the AFL while showing glimpses of a mid-80s slider/cutter and low-80s curve.