After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructs have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Jhosmer Alvarez, RHP; Rigoberto Borbolla, LHP; Slade Cecconi, RHP (No. 12); Harrison Francis, RHP; Conor Grammes, RHP; Josh Green, RHP (No. 18); Tommy Henry, LHP (No. 22); Kenny Hernandez, LHP; Eduardo Herrera, RHP; Tyler Holton, LHP; Drey Jameson, RHP (No. 19); Bryce Jarvis, RHP (No. 7); Brock Jones, LHP; Levi Kelly, RHP (No. 9); Justin Lewis, RHP; Justin Martinez, RHP (No. 25); Humberto Mejia, RHP (No. 30); Ryne Nelson, RHP (No. 24); Liam Norris, LHP (No. 20); Deyni Olivero, RHP; Cristian Pacheco, RHP; Matt Peacock, RHP; Brandon Pfaadt, RHP; Chester Pimentel, RHP; Andrew Saalfrank, LHP; Avery Short, LHP; Nick Snyder, LHP; Matt Tabor, RHP (No. 21); Blake Walston, LHP (No. 5)
Note: Henry (10/9), Jarvis (10/12), Mejia (10/12), Kelly (10/13), Cecconi (10/15), Green (10/15), Nelson (10/23) and Tabor (10/24) were all shut down on their respectively listed dates due to innings limit.
Many of the same top pitching prospects who stood out at the D-backs’ alternate training site this summer got even more work early in instructional camp, with 2020 draftees Jarvis and Cecconi as well as Kelly headlining a group who logged a specified numbers of innings before being shut down for the season. In their absence, several of the organization’s rising young arms have taken center stage, capitalizing on an opportunity to further their development after a lost Minor League season.
Martinez burst onto the scene last year as a recently turned 18-year-old, flashing power stuff while climbing three levels up to the Rookie-level Pioneer League a little more than a year after signing with Arizona for $50,000. The 6-foot-3 righty built upon that performance at instructional camp, showing better feel for his secondary pitches to go along with his explosive fastball.
“This guy has really good stuff … big strikeout stuff, high velocity,” said D-backs farm director Josh Barfield. “He’s a got a split and a slider that are getting better and better. He’s shown well, especially being one of the youngest guys here”.
Norris, 19, didn’t see any time at the alternate site like some of his fellow '20 draftees did, which is why, for many in the organization, this fall marked the first time seeing the third-round pick. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound southpaw didn’t disappoint, even proving more advanced than Arizona had initially expected.
“Usually, when you think of high school guys, you think of them as being more projection than stuff … but his stuff has been really, really impressive,” said Barfield about the former North Carolina prep. “He’s touched 94 mph regularly and is commanding the ball well. He’s been one of the bright spots.”
Jameson and Grammes -- Arizona’s compensation first- and fifth-round picks in '19 -- were among the hardest throwers in camp, with the former sitting 98-99 mph and Grammes frequently touching triple digits. More important, they both made strides in refining their breaking balls, throwing them with more consistency and better control.
Lewis, 25, quietly enjoyed a solid first full season in '19, posting a 2.80 ERA with 127 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings between Class A Kane County and Class A Advanced Visalia. This fall, however, the 2018 12th-round pick was transitioned from the rotation to the bullpen, where the D-backs believe he can be a valuable multi-inning reliever.
“He’s been one of the more dominant guys we’ve had out here,” noted Barfield. “He’s 93-95 mph now consistently and has one of the better changeups in the organization as well.”
Nick Dalesandro; Manuel Garcia; Jose Herrera; Lyle Lin; Dominic Miroglio
While Daulton Varsho’s promotion to the Major Leagues has exposed the lack of catching depth in Arizona’s system, the club does have a few intriguing options in Venezuelans Herrera and Garcia.
Herrera was a high-profile international prospect who commanded the largest bonus ($1,060,000) given out by Arizona during the 2013-14 signing period. But after five seasons in the Minors, the 23-year-old switch-hitter has barely sniffed the Class A Advanced level (39 games), missing time due to injuries as well as a 50-game suspension in 2018. He did, however, show some improvement last year between Kane County and Visalia, posting a full-season-best .754 OPS that included a .383 OBP, and he continued to make strides during instructional camp.
“He came in this year and had lost a ton of weight during the shutdown. It’s the best physical shape we’ve ever seen,” said Barfield. “He’s a really good defensive catcher, maybe the best in the system, and he has a great approach, with a chance to make an impact.”
Garcia was recently sent to Dominican instructs to ensure he’d continue to get regular at-bats. Before departing, the 20-year-old backstop made a positive impression on both sides of the ball.
“He was the best receiver there and shows some pop, and we think he will hit a little bit too,” said Barfield.
Vukovich’s performance in instructional camp has given Arizona every reason to think it got a major steal in this year’s Draft. A fourth-round pick whom the club signed to an above-slot deal ($1,250,000), Vukovich was viewed as a wild card by many teams going into the Draft given his background as a cold-weather prep player (Wisconsin) who, like so many, didn’t have a high school season. But after seeing the hitting ability and power on full display this fall, the D-backs believe he can be an impact player.
“The guy absolutely rakes,” said Barfield. “He has as much, if not more pop than any guy here. It’s not just swing-and-miss pop; he barrels up two or three balls every game -- missiles, home runs. He’s been incredibly impressive.
“He’s also a better athlete than I think we all realized. We put him primarily at third base, and he’s shown that he has a chance to be pretty good there. We’ve seen vast improvements in the several weeks he’s been here.”
Barfield is less surprised with Perdomo’s progress, who has only continued to surge forward in his development. With built-in floor value thanks to his on-base skills, defense and speed and plenty of untapped potential at the plate, the 21-year-old switch-hitter is looking more and more like the organization’s next long-term shortstop.
“It’s been a really good year for him, because in a lot of ways he got to see how he stacks up against guys who were going up and down between the big leagues all year,” said Barfield. “He continued to do against better competition everything we’ve seen him do, get on base and control the zone as well as anyone. I think the last thing that will come -- he’s starting to fill out a little bit more -- will be some power. How much? I don’t know for sure. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he developed some impact.”
The D-backs’ outfield contingent in instructional camp features some of the biggest names in the system in Robinson, Thomas and Carroll, all of whom have continued to impress after strong showings at the alternate site. Yet, it’s been 2018 supplemental first-round pick McCarthy who has been the biggest standout in not just the group, but the entire camp.
“We all knew he was athletic and a really good defender, but there was a lack of impact with the bat,” said Barfield about the 23-year-old outfielder. “But to Jake’s credit, he came back from the shutdown and was a completely different guy … as drastic of a change in a guy as you’ll see. He put on 25 pounds of muscle and made a radical swing change. He has been mashing, just pummeling the baseball.”
Patiño, 19, also showed more pop this fall after making some changes to his swing during the shutdown. He recently went deep in a game against Angels No. 2 prospect Reid Detmers, the No. 10 overall pick in this year’s Draft, hitting what Barfield called it a “huge home run.”
Fairchild has lived up to his reputation as a well-rounded player after the D-backs acquired him from Cincinnati in the Archie Bradley Trade Deadline deal.
“Just a very mature player,” said Barfield about the 2017 second-round pick from Wake Forest. “He has great at-bats, hits the ball well. He’s pretty polished already and not that far off.”