D-backs prospect report from alternate site

October 12th, 2020

With alternative camps coming to an end, MLB Pipeline is recapping the development highlights for the prospects involved for each organization.

Top position prospect: Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 1 on D-backs Top 30/MLB No. 39)

Robinson wasn’t officially added to Arizona’s alternate training site roster until Aug. 20, after pandemic-related travel restrictions delayed his arrival in the U.S. But once the 19-year-old outfielder got going, he didn’t take long to open eyes throughout the organization with his physical ability, especially after adding 25 pounds of muscle since Spring Training.

“Everyone else was already in mid-season form, and it took him, like, two days to look like he’d been playing there all year,” said D-backs farm director Josh Barfield about Robinson, who signed with the club for $2.5 million out of the Bahamas in 2017.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds -- but clearly bigger now -- Robinson is as athletic as he is physical, possessing five-tool ability that includes one of the highest power ceilings among all prospects. He went deep 14 times and stole 17 bases in 69 games as an 18-year-old last season, slashing .282/.368/.514 between Class A Short Season Hillsboro and Class A Fort Wayne. And although Robinson’s time at Arizona’s alternate training city was relatively limited, he still made a lasting impression on club officials with his prodigious right-handed power.

“He had a few games where he’d do something to make you think, ‘We don’t have anyone else who can do that,’” Barfield said. “He hit three homers -- three opposite-field home runs -- in back-to-back-to-back at-bats over at Chase Field. One in the pool, one over the pool and one on the concourse. He does some things that not many people can do.”

Top pitching prospect: Blake Walston, LHP (No. 5)

The D-backs were thrilled to get Walston with their second first-round pick (No. 26 overall) in the 2019 Draft, when the club had seven of the top 75 overall picks. At that time, the club viewed the 6-foot-5 prep left-hander as high-ceiling projection project, with stuff that could tick up as he got older. Much to the organization’s delight, Walston’s stuff ticked up almost immediately after he signed, and he was popping 96-97 mph with a plus curveball in his first taste of pro ball.

Pitching at Salt River Fields this year, Walston, 19, was unfazed while competing against an assortment of big league hitters, all while showing maturity and aptitude beyond his years in the challenging environment.

“This year he came in and the command was better,” said Barfield. “He’s starting to develop his changeup, and he already has a very good breaking ball and commands his fastball well. I think a lot of people were really pleased with how he showed. It was really good to see.”

Youngest prospect: Walston

Walston, who celebrated his 19th birthday on June 28, was the youngest prospect at Salt River Fields this year, while Robinson, set to turn 20 in December, was the site’s youngest hitter.

2020 Draft picks

First-round pick (No. 18 overall) Bryce Jarvis (No. 7) was rising up Draft boards early in the spring as a Duke junior after he showed improved stuff across the board while dominating in his first four starts, which included a perfect game and a bid at another. The D-backs believed that the version of Jarvis they saw during the spring, and not the softer-throwing, changeup-heavy one from the previous year, was the one they were getting, and the 22-year-old right-hander did not disappoint in his first taste of professional baseball.

“In a normal season, he probably would’ve come in and thrown three innings, maybe not even that much. But with the unique situation this year, with the college season being shortened and having our alternate training site, he actually was able to get a good number of innings under his belt,” said Barfield.

“The stuff jumps out right away,” he continued. “He’s got four pitches and commands them … just a really mature guy. So being here is going to help his learning curve, because right away he got to face some polished hitters. He learned a lot about himself, how to make adjustments and attack hitters.”

The early returns from Slade Cecconi (No. 12), whom Arizona selected with the No. 33 overall pick, suggest that he could be one of the 2020 Draft’s biggest steals. The University of Miami right-hander was only at Salt River Fields for the final month of camp but opened eyes with his power stuff and confidence on the mound.

“He came in Day 1 pumping 98 [mph] with a hammer and blew everybody away … just dominated,” said Barfield, who added that he thinks the 21-year-old righty “could end up being special.”

Pleasant developments

The D-backs took Walston with their second first-round pick in ’19 after using their top pick (No. 16 overall) on Corbin Carroll, a prep outfielder from the Pacific Northwest. Carroll (No. 4/MLB No. 85) already was viewed at the time as a nearly elite runner and plus defender in center fielder -- not to mention a likely plus hitter -- but some evaluators questioned the 5-foot-10, 165-pounder’s power potential from the left side of the plate. He addressed those questions and much more over the summer at Arizona’s alternate training site, standing out as one of the best in a system teeming with young talent.

“He’s got as much pop as anybody in the organization … is probably the fastest in the organization, and he’s a really good outfielder, with makeup that’s just off the charts,” said Barfield. “I think he would have jumped up a lot of prospect charts had we played a normal season and people had seen what he could really do. He was facing guys who were up and down from the big leagues and owning them, and that success made him and some of our other young guys realize they’re not too far away.”

No. 22 prospect Tommy Henry cracked Arizona’s Opening Day taxi squad roster, despite having logged just three innings at Hillsboro the previous summer, after the D-backs selected him with the No. 74 overall pick. That’s because the 6-foot-3 left-hander’s stuff jumped forward this summer, with his previously low-90s fastball sitting 94-95 mph deep into outings, and a new curveball rounding out his refined four-pitch mix.

“We thought he was going to be more pitchability than stuff out of the Draft,” Barfield acknowledged. “But this year, it was stuff plus pitchability. He’s another guy who’s extremely mature and poised and just looks like he’s a big leaguer out there in a lot of ways.”