By all accounts, Jazz Chisholm had already had a very successful 2018 season. The organization had pushed the 20-year-old shortstop from the Class A Midwest League to the California League and he flat out raked there, finishing with an system-leading 25 home runs.
Then the call came to tell him he wasn't quite done yet. The D-backs wanted the Bahamian infielder to head to the Arizona Fall League to test his mettle against an even higher level of competition, albeit as part of the taxi squad that only plays twice a week, at maximum.
"It was amazing, I was speechless when they told me," Chisholm said about receiving the news. "I was literally asking, 'Are you serious or are you playing with me right now?' That's amazing. I couldn't wait to get out here.
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
"They told me they expected a lot from me, and they're going to keep on expecting a lot from me, so I'm going to keep on pushing it to go."
The D-backs, who signed Chisholm for $200,000 in July 2015, have not been shy about challenging the super-confident shortstop, sending him to full-season ball in 2017, though a torn meniscus ended his season in May. So back he went to Kane County to start 2018, where he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire. He did have 15 homers in 76 games, but his .244/.311/.472 line came as a direct result of his 28.4 percent strikeout rate.
The move to the California League suited him, as he hit 10 more homers in 36 games and posted a .329/.369/.597 line. Though he'll need to continue to hone his overall approach at the plate after his K rate was 32.5 percent at the new level, he did learn that sometimes you have to dial it down to have optimal results.
"Just slow it down, slow everything down, don't try and do too much," the D-backs' No. 3 prospect said about what worked for him in Visalia. "That was basically the difference between the Midwest League and the California League for me. The ball travelled a little more, so it's a better hitters' league, so I didn't have to swing as hard as I was swinging in the Midwest League. I went to the California League and took a little bit off it, controlled my swing a little better.
"I do it in BP now and I'm still hitting balls out to center. I just tell myself, 'No need to swing out of your shoes. Just try and hit line drives and then go.' Just trust the process like everybody's been telling me and that's all I've been doing, is trusting the process."
That process has brought him to the AFL at the same time as fellow Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox, now with the Rays. Fox was the big-ticket item in the 2015 international period, getting $6 million from the Giants, who traded him to Tampa in 2016. A bit older, Fox is a step ahead of Chisholm, having made it to Double-A, something the D-backs shortstop is hoping to correct.
"It's brotherly, friendly, that kind of rivalry," Chisholm said. "We were always growing up together, playing on different teams. Then when it came to the national team, or a summer ball team, we played together. Now seeing him in professional baseball, I want nothing but the best for him, but I just told him, 'You know I have to get there before you this time.' Playing against him, the brotherly love is just amazing."
D-backs hitters in the Fall League
Drew Ellis, 3B: The 2017 second-round pick did some positive things in his first full year up in the California League, including a healthy walk rate (10.4 percent) and reasonable strikeout rate (19.5 percent) while finishing with 15 homers. His time with Salt River should prepare him for the jump to the upper levels of the system.
Renae Martinez, C: A 33rd-round pick in the 2017 Draft, Martinez had little-to-no expectations heading into his first full season of pro ball. Then he proceeded to hit .304/.374/.475 and threw out 36 percent of potential basestealers across two levels of A ball, leading the D-backs to send him to the AFL as a taxi squad player.
Dominic Miroglio, C: Another late-round 2017 pick (20th) on the taxi squad, Miroglio started up in Visalia and after a .327/.394/.460 line in 76 games, he got bumped up to Double-A. The San Francisco product is also taking groundballs at first base this fall to potentially expand his positional flexibility.
Pavin Smith, 1B: The D-backs' first-rounder in 2017 started slowly in his first full season, but improved in the second half (from .229/.337/.379 to .280/.349/.404) thanks to a .323/.363/.462 August. The left-handed first baseman will try to build off of that momentum and use the AFL to springboard to Double-A in 2019.
Daulton Varsho, C: Another of the D-backs' college bat draftees from 2017, the athletic catcher was having a fine first full season in the California League when he was shelved with a broken hamate in mid-June. He has already shown he can hit (.294/.367/.475 in 83 games), throw (39.5 percent caught stealing rate) and run (19 stolen bases!), needing mostly to make up for lost at-bats and reps behind the plate this fall to be ready to move up next year.
D-backs pitchers in the Fall League
Jon Duplantier, RHP: The top prospect in the organization threw well in Double-A, his first time at the level, with a 2.69 ERA and .217 BAA. But he also only threw 67 innings with Jackson, with biceps tendinitis keeping him out of action for almost two months, so he's making up for lost innings this fall.
Kevin Ginkel, RHP: Back at home (he went to the University of Arizona), Ginkel is coming off one of the best seasons of any Minor League reliever (1.41 ERA, .185 BAA, 100/12 K/BB ratio in 70 IP) while reaching Double-A in his second full season of pro ball. His work in the AFL could point him to the big leagues at some point in 2019.
Tyler Mark, RHP: A closer in college, Mark initially developed as a starter after being drafted in 2015. A move back to the bullpen has been a good one (2.29 ERA in 2018), though he scuffled a bit in Double-A. The right-hander took a Vladimir Guerrero Jr. line drive off of his head in his first Fall League outing.
Bo Takahashi, RHP: The right-hander took a big step forward in 2018 after a rough 2017, reaching Double-A at age 21 and striking out 9.7 per nine for the year while waking only 2.2 per nine. After 120 2/3 combined innings during the year, Takahashi's working out of the bullpen for Salt River.