The D-backs may have come up short this past season in their quest to win their first World Series title since 2001, but it still proved a productive year for the organization from top to bottom. Under general manager Mike Hazen, Arizona was able to win 85 games and remain in the playoff race well into September, all while it continued to upgrade its Major League roster as well as its farm system.
Having seven of the first 75 picks in the 2019 Draft certainly helped with the latter, as the D-backs walked away with perhaps the most impressive haul of talent of any organization. They also added a slew of more advanced, upper-level players at the Trade Deadline, landing a loaded, four-prospect package for Zack Greinke, whom they replaced in the rotation by acquiring cost-controlled starter Zac Gallen and veteran Mike Leake in separate deals.
|AL East ||BAL, BOS, NYY, TB, TOR |
|NL East ||ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WSH |
|AL Central ||CLE, CWS, DET, KC, MIN |
|NL Central ||CHC, CIN, MIL, PIT, STL |
|AL West ||HOU, LAA, OAK, SEA, TEX |
|NL West ||ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF |
|Division ||Team |
As a result, the D-backs’ farm system surged from being unranked before the season to MLB Pipeline’s No. 5 system following the Trade Deadline. And with a crop of young talent that features four Top 100 Prospects and many more who could eventually join the mix, it’s easy to envision the system growing even stronger in the coming years as many of those players work their way through the Minors en route to contributing for the Major League club.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Alek Thomas, OF (No. 59 on Top 100)
2) Kristian Robinson, OF (No. 71)
3) Corbin Carroll, OF (No. 95)
4) Seth Beer, 1B (No. 96)
5) Daulton Varsho, C
Complete Top 30 list »
HITTING & PITCHING PROSPECTS OF THE YEAR
Kevin Cron, 1B/3B: The younger brother of Twins masher C.J. Cron hit at least 22 homers in each of his first four full seasons after being selected by the D-backs in the 14th round of the 2014 Draft. In 2019, the 26-year-old erupted to crush a Minor League-best 39 homers, including a franchise-record 38 in just 82 games with Triple-A Reno. He also made huge gains in his approach, walking more and striking out less en route to a .331/.449/.777 line at Triple-A, and he also hit six homers in his first 39 big league games after receiving his first callup in May.
Levi Kelly, RHP: An eighth-round pick in the 2018 Draft out of IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.), Kelly was pushed up to full-season ball for his first full pro campaign and responded to the challenge by posting a 2.15 ERA with 126 strikeouts and a .199 opponent average over 100 1/3 innings (22 starts). He dominated Midwest League hitters with his plus fastball-slider pairing, showing many of the ingredients needed to develop into a big league starter.
Luis Frias, RHP (No. 15): Frias’ stock took off in 2019 after he improved his pitch mix by adding a nasty, 12-to-6 curveball that already grades as the best in the organization. The swing-and-miss breaking ball gave him a third weapon to go along with his mid- to upper-90s fastball and split-changeup, and altogether the 21-year-old compiled a 2.83 ERA with 101 strikeouts and 29 walks in 76 1/3 innings (16 starts) between Class A Short Season Hillsboro and Class A Kane County.
Taylor Widener, RHP (No. 13): Widener opened the season on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list but struggled with the move up to the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where opposing hitters produced a .324 average against him, collecting 133 hits (23 HR) in 100 innings (23 starts). The 25-year-old righty finished with an 8.10 ERA, albeit while averaging better than a strikeout per inning for a fourth straight year.
Draft: Corbin Carroll, OF, 1st round (No. 3 on D-backs Top 30); Blake Walston, LHP, 1st round (No. 14); Brennan Malone, RHP, 1st round (No. 9); Drey Jameson, RHP, 1st round (No. 16); Tommy Henry, LHP, Competitive Balance Round B (No. 22); Dominic Fletcher, OF, Competitive Balance Round B (No. 24); Ryne Nelson, RHP, 2nd round (No. 25); Tristin English, 1B (3rd round); Glenallen Hill Jr., 2B (4th round); Conor Grammes, RHP (5th round); Spencer Brickhouse, 1B (7th round); Dominic Canzone, OF (8th round); Avery Short, LHP (12th round) Complete Draft list »
International: Franyel Baez, OF (Dominican Republic)
Trade: Seth Beer, 1B (No. 4; from Astros); J.B. Bukauskas, RHP (No. 11; from Astros); Corbin Martin, RHP (No. 12; from Astros); Josh Rojas, 2B/OF (graduated; from Astros); Zac Gallen, RHP (graduated; from Marlins)
Including Rojas and Gallen -- who both exhausted their prospect status after being acquired by Arizona at the Trade Deadline -- the D-backs added 12 new names to their Top 30 list last summer via the Draft and trades. In total, the organization drafted and signed 13 players who were ranked among MLB Pipeline’s Top 200 Draft prospects, and they also landed a notable international prospect in Dominican outfielder Franyel Baez, whom they signed for $1 million, and overall the D-backs signed seven international players for $300,000 or more.
2020 IMPACT PROSPECT
Daulton Varsho, C: Selected by Arizona with the No. 68 overall pick in the 2017 Draft, Varsho moved up to Double-A last season and turned in his best offensive campaign as a pro, slashing .301/.378/.520 with 18 homers, 25 doubles and 21 steals (all career-high totals) in 108 games.
The 23-year-old still has defensive gains to make behind the plate, but he’s also the rare breed of athletic catcher who could be moved to another position -- he held his own in center field in the Southern League playoffs -- to help get his bat in the lineup.
Hit: Alek Thomas
Power: Kevin Cron
Run: Corbin Carroll
Arm: Blaze Alexander
Field: Geraldo Perdomo
Best athlete: Kristian Robinson
Fastball: Ryne Nelson
Curveball: Luis Frias
Slider: J.B. Bukauskas
Changeup: Matt Tabor
Control: Josh Green
HOW THE TOP 30 WAS BUILT
The D-backs have added talent via all three routes, though it’s the strength of the club’s recent Drafts that has their system on the rise. Overall, 13 of the 17 Draft picks on their Top 30 list are products of the 2018-19 Drafts. The organization has also done well internationally, signing potential impact players Kristian Robinson ($2.5 million), Geraldo Perdomo ($70,000) and Liover Peguero ($475,000), while the decision to trade superstars such Paul Goldschmidt and Zack Greinke netted the D-backs upper-level prospects -- a group led by slugger Seth Beer -- who could soon be contributing in the Majors.
TOP 30 BY POSITION
Arizona has done an exceptional job in adding young, high-ceiling arms via the Draft in recent years, and that was especially true with regards to the organization’s massive haul last June. The depth should help the organization manage any potential turnover in the starting rotation in future seasons, and the club should also have a steady stream of positional talent arriving in the Majors next season. The strength of Arizona’s system, however, resides below the Double-A level, and it can be argued that they possess the best trio of outfield prospects in the game in Alek Thomas, Kristian Robinson and Corbin Carroll -- the organization’s respective Nos. 1-3 prospects. And while upper-level infield depth represents a weakness in the D-backs’ otherwise strong system, the club’s deep crop of young prospects could net them impactful return via a trade, should they take that route.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.