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Shipley, Brito off to fast starts in Minor Leagues

Top prospect Duplantier rehabbing from right hamstring injury
MLB.com

PHOENIX -- Right-hander Braden Shipley has followed up a solid Spring Training with a hot start to the season for Triple-A Reno.

The D-backs selected Shipley, 26, in the first round of the 2013 Draft, and he has appeared in 23 big league games (14 starts) over the past two seasons. This spring, he went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in three outings.

PHOENIX -- Right-hander Braden Shipley has followed up a solid Spring Training with a hot start to the season for Triple-A Reno.

The D-backs selected Shipley, 26, in the first round of the 2013 Draft, and he has appeared in 23 big league games (14 starts) over the past two seasons. This spring, he went 1-0 with a 3.38 ERA in three outings.

Shipley figures to be near or at the top of the D-backs' list of pitchers that would be called up should something happen to one of their five starters.

In his first start of the year for the Aces, Shipley held visiting Fresno to one run over 5 1/3 innings, then gave up two runs in six frames at Sacramento.

"He looks great," D-backs vice president of player development Mike Bell said. "He threw the ball well in Reno, and we all know what kind of place that can be to pitch in. The key for him, I think, is commanding his fastball, being able to use his fastball down in the zone, elevate with purpose and intention and be able to command all those pitches. I think his changeup is a key for him, and so far, he's had a good feel for that."

Video: COL@ARI: Shipley K's Amarista to secure the shutout

Another member of the Aces off to a hot start is outfielder Socrates Brito. Ranked as the organization's No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline, Brito has had a couple of injury-plagued seasons that have dropped him down the list.

In his first seven games of the season, Brito is hitting .448/.484/.552.

Double-A Jackson reliever Yoan Lopez, who was signed to a $8.27 million free-agent deal out of Cuba in January 2015, has yet to allow a run in three innings.

"[Wednesday] night he was just outstanding," Bell said of the 26th-ranked prospect. "He punched out three and his stuff was electric. I saw him in Jackson earlier and he did well in very cold conditions."

Arizona's top prospect, right-hander Jon Duplantier, missed the start of the season with a right hamstring injury, but he is back pitching in extended spring.

"We're just building up his innings now," Bell said. "He should make his first start the 21st or 22nd of this month."

Video: Top Prospects: Jon Duplantier, RHP, D-backs

Third baseman Drew Ellis and catcher Daulton Varsho were selected 44th overall and 68th overall, respectively, by the D-backs in last year's Draft. This year, both started with Class A Advanced Visalia of the California League.

Ellis recently homered in back-to-back games, while Varsho hit .333 with two homers and nine RBIs in his first five contests.

"He went out and got off to a great start, and that should help him feel like he belongs there because he certainly does," Bell said of Varsho. "At 21 years old in that league, it's a big jump, but he's off to a great start."

If you want to keep track of D-backs Minor Leaguers this year, the best way to do it is with our Minor League Tracking Tool.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Socrates Brito, Braden Shipley

Where D-backs' Top 30 prospects are starting season

MLB.com

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the D-backs' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Jon Duplantier (MLB No. 74), RHP -- Extended spring training
2. Pavin Smith (MLB No. 91), 1B -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
3. Jasrado Chisholm, SS -- Kane County Cougars (A)
4. Taylor Widener, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
5. Marcus Wilson, OF -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
6. Daulton Varsho, C -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
7. Taylor Clarke, RHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
8. Drew Ellis, 3B -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
9. Matt Tabor, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
10. Gabriel Maciel, OF -- Extended Spring Training
11. Eduardo Diaz, OF -- Extended Spring Training
12. Kristian Robinson, OF -- Extended Spring Training
13. Domingo Leyba, SS/2B -- Jackson Generals (AA)
14. Socrates Brito, OF -- Reno Aces (AAA)
15. Jimmie Sherfy, RHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
16. Jhoan Duran, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
17. Cody Reed, LHP -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
18. Jared Miller, LHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
19. Andy Yerzy, C -- Kane County Cougars (A)
20. Kevin Cron, 1B -- Reno Aces (AAA)
21. Anfernee Grier, OF -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
22. Jose Almonte, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
23. Alex Young, LHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
24. Brian Shaffer, RHP -- Kane County Cougars (A)
25. Jack Reinheimer, SS/2B -- Reno Aces (AAA)
26. Yoan Lopez, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
27. Elvis Luciano, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
28. Eudy Ramos, 3B/1B -- Kane County Cougars (A)
29. Wei-Chieh Huang, RHP -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
30. Mason McCullough, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)

With the 2018 season getting started, here's a look at where the D-backs' Top 30 prospects are starting the season:

1. Jon Duplantier (MLB No. 74), RHP -- Extended spring training
2. Pavin Smith (MLB No. 91), 1B -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
3. Jasrado Chisholm, SS -- Kane County Cougars (A)
4. Taylor Widener, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
5. Marcus Wilson, OF -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
6. Daulton Varsho, C -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
7. Taylor Clarke, RHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
8. Drew Ellis, 3B -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
9. Matt Tabor, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
10. Gabriel Maciel, OF -- Extended Spring Training
11. Eduardo Diaz, OF -- Extended Spring Training
12. Kristian Robinson, OF -- Extended Spring Training
13. Domingo Leyba, SS/2B -- Jackson Generals (AA)
14. Socrates Brito, OF -- Reno Aces (AAA)
15. Jimmie Sherfy, RHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
16. Jhoan Duran, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
17. Cody Reed, LHP -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
18. Jared Miller, LHP -- Reno Aces (AAA)
19. Andy Yerzy, C -- Kane County Cougars (A)
20. Kevin Cron, 1B -- Reno Aces (AAA)
21. Anfernee Grier, OF -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
22. Jose Almonte, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
23. Alex Young, LHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
24. Brian Shaffer, RHP -- Kane County Cougars (A)
25. Jack Reinheimer, SS/2B -- Reno Aces (AAA)
26. Yoan Lopez, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)
27. Elvis Luciano, RHP -- Extended Spring Training
28. Eudy Ramos, 3B/1B -- Kane County Cougars (A)
29. Wei-Chieh Huang, RHP -- Visalia Rawhide (A Adv)
30. Mason McCullough, RHP -- Jackson Generals (AA)

D-backs prospect coverage | D-backs Top 30 prospects stats

Team to watch
Seven of the prospects on the D-backs' Top 30 will start the year with the Visalia Rawhide in the hitting-friendly California League. That's very good news for the four hitters in the organization's top 10 who will call Visalia home. It starts with No. 2 prospect and 2017 first-rounder Pavin Smith and includes fellow '17 draftees, catcher Daulton Varsho (No. 7 prospect) and third baseman Drew Ellis (No. 8). They'll be joined by '17 breakout prospect Marcus Wilson, the toolsy outfielder who is ranked No. 5 in the Top 30.

Where baseball's top prospects are starting the 2018 season

Teams on MiLB.TV
Reno Aces
Jackson Generals
Kane County Cougars
Hillsboro Hops

New faces
When the D-backs traded Brandon Drury to the Yankees in February, they got No. 4 prospect Taylor Widener in return. The right-hander, who was a 12th-rounder out of South Carolina in the 2016 Draft, is coming off of a very strong first full season that saw him strike out 9.7 per nine and hold Florida State League hitters to a .206 batting average. Widener topped the circuit in WHIP and was fourth in ERA. He'll make his D-backs debut with Jackson.

D-backs fans might have to wait a bit longer to see international import Kristian Robinson in action. The Bahamanian native signed last July for $2.5 million, but it's possible he won't even play in the United States until 2019, perhaps beginning his career this summer in the Dominican Sumer League.

On the shelf
Duplantier is beginning the season in extended spring training as he recovers from a hamstring issue.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Arizona Diamondbacks

D-backs option Sherfy; reassign Feliz, Recker

Bastardo released as Arizona makes round of moves to trim roster
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With Opening Day approaching, the D-backs made their second set of moves in three days Tuesday, highlighted by their decision to option Jimmie Sherfy, their No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A Reno.

The D-backs also reassigned veteran right-hander Neftali Feliz and catcher Anthony Recker to Minor League camp and released veteran left-hander Antonio Bastardo. Feliz and Bastardo faced stiff competition for bullpen roles, while Recker, who was signed to a Minor League contract in early March, faced long odds of making the club with Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann projected as the trio of big league catchers on the D-backs roster.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- With Opening Day approaching, the D-backs made their second set of moves in three days Tuesday, highlighted by their decision to option Jimmie Sherfy, their No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, to Triple-A Reno.

The D-backs also reassigned veteran right-hander Neftali Feliz and catcher Anthony Recker to Minor League camp and released veteran left-hander Antonio Bastardo. Feliz and Bastardo faced stiff competition for bullpen roles, while Recker, who was signed to a Minor League contract in early March, faced long odds of making the club with Alex Avila, Jeff Mathis and Chris Herrmann projected as the trio of big league catchers on the D-backs roster.

"We still have some key decisions in that bullpen, and we know they're probably going to be the most difficult decisions," manager Torey Lovullo said Tuesday. "We like a lot of candidates, but unfortunately you can't carry 10 guys in the bullpen."

In addition to Sherfy, Arizona optioned outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and first baseman Christian Walker to Triple-A. Hazelbaker was a long shot to make the club following the signings of Steven Souza Jr. and Jarrod Dyson in February, locking up the four outfield spots. There wasn't room for Walker either, with Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings serving as utility players and Herrmann preparing to back up Paul Goldschmidt at first.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Sherfy, who made his big league debut last August and didn't allow a run in 11 appearances, had been a strong candidate to earn a bullpen spot on the D-backs' Opening Day roster.

"We know he's a big league pitcher," Lovullo said. "He was on our playoff roster. We're excited about what his potential is."

The 26-year-old right-hander was slowed by shoulder fatigue early in camp, but pitched in his first Cactus League game Sunday. He threw one inning, allowing a homer, with two strikeouts.

"I feel locked in," Sherfy said, remaining upbeat after getting the news Tuesday. "I was working on my slider, trying to get the shape of it a little better to speed up, and I threw a couple last outing that I was very pleased about. Got a couple swings and misses on my changeup, was working on that too, so that was real good. The fastball glove-side was leaking over the plate a little bit, so a little more fine-tuning and that'll be right there."

Sherfy had an uphill climb and was competing against the calendar once his shoulder fatigue put him on a delayed schedule.

"He was a little banged up and took his time because he needed to take his time," Lovullo said. "We felt like player development was going to give him that opportunity to get in a rhythm and get the ball every other day and get on the roll that we want him to get on."

Archie Bradley, Brad Boxberger and Yoshihisa Hirano have spots in the back of the bullpen locked up, with left-handers Andrew Chafin and T.J. McFarland also on track, though Jorge De La Rosa remains in competition for a second or third lefty in the 'pen. The remaining two spots feature Matt Koch, Albert Suarez, Michael Blazek and Kris Medlen competing for the long-reliever role and Fernando Salas emerging as the front-runner for the final spot, with Randall Delgado expected to start the season on the disabled list.

There is little doubt Sherfy will be back at some point during the season, and he feels as ready as he has ever been, saying he gained 12 pounds during Spring Training.

"I feel the best I have coming out of any spring right now," Sherfy said. "I really don't know when I'm going to be back. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and try to get better every single day."

The 29-year-old Feliz and 34-year-old Recker were in camp as non-roster invitees. The 32-year-old Bastardo had signed a free-agent deal with the D-backs in January.

The D-backs now have 35 players remaining in Major League camp.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Antonio Bastardo, Neftali Feliz, Jeremy Hazelbaker, Anthony Recker, Jimmie Sherfy, Christian Walker

D-backs prospects Brito, Reinheimer optioned

Club makes five moves to whittle roster to 46 on Friday
Special to MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs got five moves closer to their 25-man roster on Friday in advance of their 4-1 Cactus League win over the Dodgers.

Outfielder Socrates Brito and infielders Jack Reinheimer and Ildemaro Vargas were optioned to Triple-A Reno, and outfielder Ramon Flores and right-handed pitcher Jack Buchanan were reassigned to Minor League camp.

View Full Game Coverage

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs got five moves closer to their 25-man roster on Friday in advance of their 4-1 Cactus League win over the Dodgers.

Outfielder Socrates Brito and infielders Jack Reinheimer and Ildemaro Vargas were optioned to Triple-A Reno, and outfielder Ramon Flores and right-handed pitcher Jack Buchanan were reassigned to Minor League camp.

View Full Game Coverage

Brito is Arizona's No. 14 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, and Reinheimer is ranked No. 25.

Vargas and Reinheimer saw Cactus League playing time at multiple infield positions, but with Nick Ahmed and Ketel Marte looking like the starting combination up the middle and Daniel Descalso and Chris Owings headed for backup roles, there was no more room on the bench.

Brito and Flores faced a similar logjam in the outfield, where new acquisitions Steven Souza Jr. will start and Jarrod Dyson will be the fourth outfielder. Brito made a good impression, hitting .273 (3-for-11) with a homer and two RBIs.

Video: ARI@SD: Brito hammers solo homer to deep right

Buchanan faced a rotation that was essentially set when camp began and a crowded field competing for limited openings in the bullpen.

The D-backs have 46 players remaining in the Major League camp.

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Socrates Brito, Jack Reinheimer

Pipeline report: D-backs camp

Farm system, like Major League club, showing signs of upswing
MLB.com

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the D-backs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 2017 Major League version of the D-backs was one of the surprises of the year, flipping around its 69-93 2016 finish to win 93 games, earn a spot in the Wild Card Game and advance to the National League Division Series. There was a filter-down effect in the farm system in a couple of different ways.

Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the upcoming season. Some compete for jobs in big league camp, while others vie for spots on Minor League affiliates. MLB Pipeline will visit all 30 camps this spring, and today we check in on the D-backs.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The 2017 Major League version of the D-backs was one of the surprises of the year, flipping around its 69-93 2016 finish to win 93 games, earn a spot in the Wild Card Game and advance to the National League Division Series. There was a filter-down effect in the farm system in a couple of different ways.

D-backs Top 30 Prospects | Marcus Wilson Q&A

First, there was some success at various levels. Five of the D-backs' affiliates played in the postseason themselves, though none got to hoist a championship flag. But the impact from the success at the top runs a lot deeper than that and wasn't just about winning percentage.

:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::

"It renews everybody's pride, their sense of being part of the bigger group," vice president of player development Mike Bell said. "I think the biggest and coolest part of it is the way [manager] Torey Lovullo and [general manager] Mike Hazen and the other guys made everybody a part of it. Taking our information as guys were going up, and giving us feedback as they come down, what they're looking at. The back and forth has been incredible, so win or lose, that's really what's brought us together as a group."

That has continued this spring and not just with the prospects seeing time in big league camp. The setup at Salt River Fields has the Major and Minor League sides in one building, but the hallway connecting them could seem awfully long. Fortunately, the big league staff makes sure that never happens.

"We've had a lot of Minor League staff move to the big league staff, so there's just constant feedback in this hall right here where the Major League is separated from the Minor League," Bell said. "Torey will come down there, get his coffee, and sit down with a lot of coaches. There was no agenda, just communication and baseball talk."

There's plenty to talk about. Bell has been part of the player development staff with the D-backs for more than a decade now and has seen how the process of readying young players for the big leagues has changed. That's especially true under Hazen, who has brought in a lot of new ideas since he joined the organization.

"He does like to push the envelope at times, but he has a lot of old school baseball in him as well," Bell said. "That's refreshing, too, to be able to see both sides of it. I think they do that very well. It's infused some ideas, we have some staff members who are extremely smart and talented. It's helped them get better. It's been the right place at the right time."

It's allowed Bell and his staff to start shaping a new infusion of talent that's helping improve the overall evaluation of the farm system. A year ago, there were no Top 100 players in this system. Now there are two in right-hander Jon Duplantier (No. 73) and 2017 first-round pick Pavin Smith (No. 91), with a few other really young players (Jazz Chisholm and Kristian Robinson) from the Bahamas who have tremendous ceilings. There might not be a ton of impact talent ready to hit the big league club right away, but the arrow is definitely pointing up.

"I'm just looking forward to watching those guys two or three years in, to see how they develop," Bell said. "It reminds me a little of when we had guys like Paul Goldschmidt, A.J. Pollock, Chris Owings and Jake Lamb coming through our system and watching them develop. I think we're in a similar situation with these young core guys."

Third-round arms excelling early

Pitchers are typically ahead of hitters early in camp, but this isn't about the arms besting the bats in live BP or early games. It's more that some of the intriguing pitchers the D-backs have look like they're ready to continue taking steps forward.

Duplantier, the club's No. 1 prospect, had a huge breakout season in 2017, his first full year as a pro. The D-backs likely wanted to proceed cautiously with their 2016 third-rounder due to his past injuries, but he kind of blew that out of the water by pitching across two levels of A ball, and the Futures Game, while leading the Minors in ERA and tossing 136 1/3 innings. If anyone thought he'd come into camp resting on his laurels, they thought wrong, which could lead to a faster track to Arizona. "Jon Duplantier is a man," Bell said. "He looks really good. more and more guys are showing up in shape, like they're game-ready. We're almost having to slow them down."

Matt Tabor was the club's third-round pick last June, this time out of high school (Duplantier went to Rice). The No. 9 prospect in the system barely threw in his pro debut, but Bell has been very impressed with how the New England native has thrown early on. "Matt Tabor is a blast to watch," Bell said. "It's fun to watch his bullpens. He's a very intelligent pitcher. He understands what he is trying to do at such a young age."

Video: Jimmie Sherfy on making his Major League debut

Camp standouts

Not to be outdone, there are some hitters from last year's Draft who also look ready to go. Smith, now the club's No. 2 prospect, is the epitome of the advanced college hitter. Catcher Daulton Varsho (No. 6) and third baseman Drew Ellis (No. 8) were taken after Smith (Ellis before Varsho), also from the college ranks. Often, draftees come to Spring Training looking like a deer caught in headlights. That has not been the case with this trio. "Those guys came in ready," Bell said. "These guys are pros at a young age. They came in prepared, they've handled themselves well and I think they're all headed toward a good year."

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Pipeline Q&A: D-backs' Marcus Wilson

MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At D-backs camp, it was Arizona's No. 5 prospect, Marcus Wilson.

When the D-backs drafted Wilson out of Junipero Serra High School (Calif.) in the Competitve Balance Round B in 2014, they knew he'd be a bit of a project. Sure enough, he needed three summers of rookie ball before he was ready for the move to full-season ball full-time, but he broke out when he got there in 2017, finishing with a .295/.383/.446 line in the Midwest League.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- As part of MLB Pipeline's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we're sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At D-backs camp, it was Arizona's No. 5 prospect, Marcus Wilson.

When the D-backs drafted Wilson out of Junipero Serra High School (Calif.) in the Competitve Balance Round B in 2014, they knew he'd be a bit of a project. Sure enough, he needed three summers of rookie ball before he was ready for the move to full-season ball full-time, but he broke out when he got there in 2017, finishing with a .295/.383/.446 line in the Midwest League.

D-backs camp report

:: MLB Pipeline Spring Training reports ::

MLB Pipeline: Does this Spring Training have a different feel for you? This is really the first time you know for sure you're going to break camp with a team on Opening Day.

Wilson: It's definitely my first Spring Training knowing that. I kind of always knew the plan was going to be long. This year, it's different. I'm just trying to get ready for the season rather than make a team. Right now, I feel really comfortable and I'm just trying to build off of the year I had last year.

MLB Pipeline: Speaking of your 2017, you must have a lot more confidence this spring because of that. Do you feel different now, with a better feeling that you can do this?

Wilson: That's exactly what it is. I finally did what I always knew what I could do. I'm trying to build off of that to this year. The confidence level is going high into this year. This is a big year for me. I just want to keep it going.

MLB Pipeline: You knew it would take a while, but even if you knew that, was there a part of you that got frustrated with how long the process has taken for you? How did you deal with that?

Wilson: It definitely was frustrating. You see your friends move up and things like that. But when I just focused on myself and didn't worry about what everyone else was doing, that's when I had a breakout year. I stopped focusing on everyone else and just focused on me. And the results came.

MLB Pipeline: I guess if you're going to spend a lot of time at a facility, this would be the one to spend it at.

Wilson: It's very comfortable here. I've seen and heard other people talk about the other complexes and it's definitely one of the nicer ones.

MLB Pipeline: What was it that clicked in 2017? It wasn't an ah-ha moment, was it? But there must have been times when you tried to do something that hadn't worked in the past, but last year it did?

Wilson: It was actually one of my last at-bats in Spring Training. I was feeling comfortable until then, I was having a good Spring Training, but one of my last at-bats, it kind of clicked for me. Going into the year, it just kept going. April, I had the best month of my life. Then through the whole season, I just built off of that, really. It kind of was a click, or aha moment.

MLB Pipeline: They always talk about power being the last tool to come. It did start to come for you last year a little. What happened there, was it just a matter of you growing into your strength more?

Wilson: I always make fun of myself, that I have no pop, but people kept saying, "It's going to come." Now, it's starting to come. I'm excited. Just seeing the progress from when I came in at 17 to now, it's a big difference. I almost don't recognize that guy. I was 170 pounds soaking wet back then. And now I'm 195 pounds. I'm getting there.

MLB Pipeline: The important thing is that you had to learn how to hit before you added that strength. It doesn't seem like you sacrificed any of that for power, right?

Wilson: I didn't feel like I muscled up or anything. The plate discipline came with the at-bats, but last year, the biggest thing was I was way more aggressive in hitter's counts. I think that was the only thing I had to change about my game.

MLB Pipeline: Is that a hard thing to learn? Usually, you think of "aggressive," and you think "swing at everything." You don't want to be that guy, so is it like you're being selectively aggressive?

Wilson: Selectively aggressive is the way to put it. Somebody made it super-simple for me. He said: "If you swing at strikes, you'll be successful. If you swing at balls, you won't." That's all I tried to do, really. I tried to swing at strikes, good pitches.

MLB Pipeline: It's nice when it can be boiled down to be a simple philosophy like that.

Wilson: It has to be for me. I can't do all this complicated stuff that people try to teach you. I try to keep it as simple as possible.

MLB Pipeline: I wanted to ask you about your high school days at Serra. Your school has produced some good players. What kind of pride do you take when you look at the list of guys who have come from there into the pro game?

Wilson: That rap sheet is kind of extensive. I went up there recently. I just saw the All-American list and said, "Wow." It's a big list to live up to, but I feel like I'm up for the challenge. I think I can be a part of that group and not let everybody down.

MLB Pipeline: Are there guys from that list you talk to about the process?

Wilson: Dominic Smith is a big one. I hang out with him, always. He's just a guy I always looked up to growing up. He teaches me the game, what you should do hitting, and everything else. I played with Dominic since I was 10 years old. We played on the same travel team and coming up through high school. I feel really comfortable around him.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Sherfy prepares for first full big league season

Right-hander had 11 scoreless appearances as rookie in 2017
MLB.com

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On his first day in the big leagues last August, D-backs right-hander Jimmie Sherfy began playing catch with bullpen catcher Humberto Quintero in the outfield of an empty Target Field in Minneapolis.

There was one problem.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- On his first day in the big leagues last August, D-backs right-hander Jimmie Sherfy began playing catch with bullpen catcher Humberto Quintero in the outfield of an empty Target Field in Minneapolis.

There was one problem.

"I couldn't even feel my body," said Sherfy, the D-backs' No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline. "I was like, 'If this is like this in the game, then I'm in trouble.' When I was warming up to go into the game, I felt normal, but that first catch play? I couldn't feel my body."

• Spring Training: Info | Tickets | Gear

As it turned out, the only people in trouble when Sherfy was in an actual game were opposing hitters. He made 11 appearances last season and allowed just five hits across 10 2/3 scoreless innings. As the scoreless innings began to pile up, Sherfy moved into higher-leverage situations.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"We integrated him slowly into the game plan," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "He was showing a certain degree of comfort that he was executing pitches and his demeanor was fitting in quickly. He earned the respect and trust of his teammates, as well, which is important here."

Last year was Lovullo's first as Arizona's manager, but his history with Sherfy runs deep. Sherfy and Lovullo's son, Nick, played together at Newbury Park High School in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and he watched the 26-year-old reliever grow up.

So when Lovullo handed the ball to Sherfy for the first time on Aug. 20, it was a little emotional.

"That's where it kind of went full circle, when I started to put him into those games and I was watching Jimmie Sherfy running from the outfield," Lovullo said. "I had a moment there where it was a special feeling for me that I was getting ready to put Jimmie into the game."

Video: ARI@MIN: Sherfy gets first K in MLB debut

After one of Sherfy's outings later in September, setup man Archie Bradley pulled him aside.

"I told him, 'Dude, with the way you've been throwing the ball don't be surprised if you make this playoff roster,'" Bradley said. "He didn't know what to say."

Pitching into late September for the first time in his career, Sherfy did not modify his workout program, which included a lot of dry mound work where he simulates throwing without a ball. With 10 days left to go in the regular season, he began to feel some tightness in his triceps and was almost left off the postseason roster.

"I would say I just need to work smarter," Sherfy said. "Just obviously less dry work and I think a lot more visualization this year."

Sherfy has experienced some shoulder fatigue this spring, so he has yet to get into a Cactus League game.

"We're just going to back off and give him a little bit of rest," Lovullo said. "We have a great medical team. They just recommended we give him some time down."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Jimmie Sherfy

D-backs' Top 30 bolstered by recent Drafts

MLB.com

Things are looking up in terms of the D-backs' farm system, though it might be a while before fans of the big league team reap the benefits.

• D-backs Top 30 Prospects list

Things are looking up in terms of the D-backs' farm system, though it might be a while before fans of the big league team reap the benefits.

• D-backs Top 30 Prospects list

A year ago, the D-backs didn't have a single player on MLB Pipeline's Preseason Top 100 list. There are two now, which might not seem like much progress, but there are others on the horizon who could work their way onto the list with strong 2018 campaigns.

:: Team Top 30 Prospects lists ::

For the eighth straight year, a pitcher sits atop the D-backs' top prospects list. This time it's Jon Duplantier, who could turn out to be the steal of the 2016 Draft. He's followed by Pavin Smith, the D-backs' first-rounder from last June. Those are the pair on the Top 100, and they are two of 10 from the last three Drafts, run by scouting director Deric Ladnier, on the Top 30.

The D-backs are starting to find a nice blend of old-school scouting and analytics when it comes to the Draft and re-building what had been one of the weaker farm systems in baseball. Much of that is thanks to the leadership of general manager Mike Hazen, who saw such a hybrid work during his time with the Red Sox. Finding a combination of the "old approach," with Ladnier at the scouting helm, and the new one, with minds such as assistant GM Amiel Sawdaye leading the way, will be key as the organization tries to build from within. With both sides of that pendulum seeing the value in each other, it's a formula that's working well.

It might take a while, with much of the true impact talent at least a year away, if not more. There's some exciting upside, especially with recent efforts on the international market, but those players might not be seen for several years.

The good news is the big league team is already competitive after a playoff run in 2017. Yes, there will be personnel decisions to be made there soon enough, but having a winning team at the highest level will help in terms of not feeling pressure to push prospects too quickly.

So will building more depth. The D-backs still are probably in the bottom half in terms of farm systems overall, but there's more to be excited about top to bottom than there has been for quite some time. Player development can be a crapshoot, so perhaps cautious optimism is best, but at least it looks as if things are headed in the right direction.

Biggest jump/fall
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2017 preseason list to the 2018 preseason list.

Jump: Eduardo Diaz, OF (2017: NR | 2018: 11)
Fall: Matt Koch, RHP (2017: 17 | 2018: NR)

Best tools
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.

Hit: 60 - Pavin Smith
Power: 55 - Kevin Cron (Kristian Robinson, Andy Yerzy, Drew Ellis)
Run: 65 - Gabriel Maciel
Arm: 65 - Socrates Brito
Defense: 60 - Maciel (Anfernee Grier)
Fastball: 70 - Jimmie Sherfy
Curveball: 55 - Jon Duplantier (Taylor Widener, Jimmie Sherfy, Elvis Luciano, Wei-Chieh Huang)
Slider: 55 - Duplantier (Yoan Lopez, Brian Shaffer, Mason McCullough)
Changeup: 50 - Matt Tabor (Duplantier, Taylorr Clarke, Huang, Luciano, Alex Young)
Control: 60 - Shaffer

How they were built
Draft: 16
International: 11
Trade: 3

Breakdown by ETA
2018: 9
2019: 6
2020: 8
2021: 6
2022: 1

Breakdown by position
C: 2
1B: 2
3B: 2
SS: 3
OF: 6
RHP: 12
LHP: 3

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB Pipeline. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Duplantier, Smith among Top 100 Prospects

MLB.com

Jon Duplantier and Pavin Smith keep progressing, and not only are they the headliners of the D-backs' farm system, they're among the top prospects in all of baseball.

Duplantier and Smith are Arizona's representatives in MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 100 Prospects list, which was unveiled Saturday night on MLB Network. The 23-year-old right-hander Duplantier ranks as MLB's No. 73 prospect. The 21-year-old first baseman Smith comes in at No. 91 overall.

Jon Duplantier and Pavin Smith keep progressing, and not only are they the headliners of the D-backs' farm system, they're among the top prospects in all of baseball.

Duplantier and Smith are Arizona's representatives in MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 100 Prospects list, which was unveiled Saturday night on MLB Network. The 23-year-old right-hander Duplantier ranks as MLB's No. 73 prospect. The 21-year-old first baseman Smith comes in at No. 91 overall.

• MLB Pipeline's 2018 Top 100 Prospects list

:: Complete 2018 Top Prospects coverage ::

The annual ranking of MLB's Top 100 prospects is assembled by MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis, Jonathan Mayo and Mike Rosenbaum, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. Only players with rookie status entering the 2018 season are eligible for the list. Players who were at least 25 years old when they signed and played in leagues deemed to be professional (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cuba) are not eligible.

The D-backs drafted Duplantier in the third round in 2016, and he continues to ascend the prospect rankings while dominating in the Minor Leagues. Duplantier has moved up more than 20 spots on the Top 100 list, after being rated MLB's 96th overall prospect in 2017.

Video: Duplantier is D-backs' Pipeline pitcher of the year

The 6-foot-4 righty was stellar last year after elbow soreness shut him down in 2016. With Class A Kane County and Class A Advanced Visalia, Duplantier went a combined 12-3 with a 1.39 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 136 innings. He was named to the All-Star Futures Game.

Duplantier combines a sinking fastball that can reach the mid-90s with a power curve and a changeup, and he even added a slider to his repertoire in 2017. His athleticism, stuff and command give him a frontline starter ceiling.

Smith was the seventh overall pick in last year's Draft, and he rates as one of the top first-base prospects in the game. The D-backs are excited about how Smith has developed in his first half-season in the Minors.

Video: Top Prospects: Pavin Smith, 1B, D-backs

The 6-foot-2 left-handed hitter has an advanced approach at the plate, and he showed it off in his professional debut in 2017. Smith hit .318/.401/.415 over 51 games at Class A Short Season Hillsboro, good for an .816 OPS. He didn't hit his first home run until the end of the postseason, but the power could still come.

Smith can drive the ball to all fields, and he rarely swings and misses -- he walked more times (27) than he struck out (24) in '17. Arizona also likes his play at first base, where he has good footwork, soft hands and a strong arm.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Smith ranked 3rd among first-base prospects

D-backs impressed with feel for strike zone in 1st pro season
MLB.com

PHOENIX -- When the D-backs selected Pavin Smith with the No. 7 overall pick in last year's Draft, the club believed his ability to hit at the University of Virginia would translate to pro ball.

That proved to be the case as Smith slashed .318/.401/.415 in 222 plate appearances in 2017 for Class A Short Season Hillsboro of the Northwest League.

PHOENIX -- When the D-backs selected Pavin Smith with the No. 7 overall pick in last year's Draft, the club believed his ability to hit at the University of Virginia would translate to pro ball.

That proved to be the case as Smith slashed .318/.401/.415 in 222 plate appearances in 2017 for Class A Short Season Hillsboro of the Northwest League.

Smith ranks as the No. 3 prospect at first base in the MLB Pipeline Top 10 behind Brendan McKay of the Rays and Ryan McMahon of the Rockies.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

"He just has the ability to take a professional at-bat," D-backs farm director Mike Bell said. "He swings at good pitches, he's able to lay off the bad ones and that's ultimately what you want to do as a hitter. He's just got a really good feel to hit and knows how to put together a good at-bat. He's just a mature hitter."

The 21-year-old Smith demonstrated his feel for the strike zone with 27 walks and just 24 strikeouts.

"That's hard to do and it's even harder to do in your first year," Bell said. "That's extremely impressive."

Defensively, Smith has shown good footwork around the bag to go with soft hands and a strong arm.

"You don't think about that too much from a first baseman," Bell said of Smith's arm. "But it's important to have that and he's got a strong, accurate arm."

The one thing Smith did not show his first year of pro ball was power. He hit 13 homers in his final year for the Cavaliers, but he did not hit one with Hillsboro, though Smith did have 15 doubles.

"I know he didn't hit for power, but it's in there," Bell said. "The ball comes off his bat really well. He finds the barrel plenty. The power will come. He's going to hit some home runs. He finds the barrel too much and hits the ball too hard not to."

As a polished college hitter, Smith is likely going to be a quick riser through the system. With Paul Goldschmidt under contract for the next two seasons there is no reason to rush Smith, but there seems little doubt he's on his way.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Clarke keeps climbing D-backs' ladder

MLB.com

Taylor Clarke will get his first taste of the big leagues next month when he joins D-backs pitchers and catchers at Salt River Fields as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

The right-handed Clarke, who was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft, has made a steady rise through the Arizona system, topping out at Triple-A Reno in 2017.

Taylor Clarke will get his first taste of the big leagues next month when he joins D-backs pitchers and catchers at Salt River Fields as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

The right-handed Clarke, who was selected in the third round of the 2015 Draft, has made a steady rise through the Arizona system, topping out at Triple-A Reno in 2017.

The D-backs' No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline began last year at Double-A Jackson, where he finished the 2016 season.

That gave him an extra dose of confidence heading into the season and some comfort of knowing what to expect. Clarke was a Southern League All-Star selection and wound up being promoted to Reno and the Pacific Coast League at the end of July.

"Obviously going from the Southern League to the PCL is a little bit like night and day," Clarke said recently at Major League Baseball's Rookie Career Development Program.

Whereas the Southern League is more pitcher friendly, the PCL is the opposite, especially at a place such as Reno where the ball tends to travel.

Clarke posted a 4.81 ERA in six starts for Reno, quite a difference from the 2.91 ERA he had at Jackson and the 3.31 ERA he tallied over three stops in 2016. That didn't discourage him, though; it just taught him some valuable lessons.

Video: Top Prospects: Taylor Clarke, RHP, D-backs

"You've got to really minimize your mistakes and make quality pitches," Clarke said of being successful in the PCL. "You don't want to shy away from your strengths and try to become someone you're not. I consider myself a little bit more of a fly ball pitcher, try to pitch up in the zone, which kind of doesn't work to my advantage in Reno and out there, but it's one of those things you make a mistake, move on and learn from it."

Clarke, 24, will likely open the 2018 season at Reno, but D-backs general Mike Hazen cited him as a possible rotation contributor later in the year if Arizona has a need and if Clarke is pitching well.

"I don't think that there's anything that I need to do differently," Clarke said of making the next step. "Just be more stay consistent and be the same guy that I've been the last two or three years. Just go out there, play my game and control what I can control and hope it works out."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks

D-backs will look to rotation to set tone in 2018

MLB.com

The D-backs' huge turnaround last season was spurred by an improved pitching staff, and the starting rotation set the tone for that.

While ERA has its limitations as a stat, it does provide a peek into just how much better Arizona's starting staff was in 2017.

The D-backs' huge turnaround last season was spurred by an improved pitching staff, and the starting rotation set the tone for that.

While ERA has its limitations as a stat, it does provide a peek into just how much better Arizona's starting staff was in 2017.

After finishing with a 5.19 ERA in 2016, which was 29th in the Majors, the D-backs' starters compiled a 3.61 mark in 2017, third best in all of baseball.

The D-backs' success in 2017 began with its starters, and if the team is to once again make a postseason run, the rotation will be expected to lead the way. MLB.com is taking a look at the projected rotation of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the D-backs might stack up:

ROTATION IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Robbie Ray
RHP Taijuan Walker
LHP Patrick Corbin
RHP Zack Godley

STRENGTH
The D-backs head to Spring Training with their rotation already in place. Once of this group's strengths was its ability to pitch deep into games in 2017, something manager Torey Lovullo encouraged. The 2016 version ranked 20th in the Majors in innings pitched, but last year's group tossed a combined 941 1/3 innings, fourth most in MLB.

Video: Ray to be key starter for D-backs in 2018

By compiling that many innings, the starters put less pressure on the bullpen, and as a result, the 'pen responded with a much better year as well.

In Greinke and Ray, the D-backs have a pair of aces at the top of the rotation. Walker took a step forward in 2017, while Corbin bounced back from a disappointing '16 and Godley came out of nowhere to fill in for the injured Shelby Miller, delivering quality start after quality start.

QUESTION MARK
The D-backs don't have a ton of starting-pitching depth after the first five, especially with Archie Bradley seemingly ticketed for the bullpen again.

Miller will not be back until midseason as he recovers from Tommy John surgery, so the team would need to rely on its farm system for any help until then.

Video: ARI@SF: Banda whiffs seven over six solid innings

Left-hander Anthony Banda and righty Braden Shipley both made starts for the team in 2017 and would seem to be the first backup options at this point. Matt Koch could also get a look. Another couple of names to keep an eye on are righties Jon Duplantier and Taylor Clarke, who are ranked as the team's No. 2 and 3 prospects, respectively, by MLB Pipeline, but will likely not be ready until later in the season, if not '19.

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
There is still a chance the D-backs will deal one of their starters before camp opens, with the two names mentioned most this winter being Greinke and Corbin.

Dealing Greinke still seems unlikely given the four years and $126.5 million he has left on his contract. With the D-backs looking to contend in 2018, would they really feel comfortable dealing their ace?

Video: Gilbert on D-backs reportedly dangling Greinke

Corbin, on the other hand, is set to make more than $8 million in his final year of arbitration, and if the team were to deal him it would free up some money to improve in other areas.

Before dealing a starter, though, D-backs general manager Mike Hazen made it clear during the Winter Meetings that the team needs to feel it could acquire a replacement.

"There would have to be some other path that you would feel comfortable you'd be able to replace that starting pitcher with," Hazen said. "Wherever that was, I would like to have a plan in place if we did that."

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Arizona Diamondbacks