The cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season was difficult for prospects and development staffs across the game. While some prospects got work in at alternate training sites, instructional leagues and in independent leagues, it was far from a typical season and many players haven’t played in real games since September 2019. Given that, the 2021 season will be a significant one for development.
Minor League Spring Training is in full swing as teams get ready for the upcoming campaign and the D-backs, owners of baseball’s ninth-ranked farm system, have several talented prospects working out in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Given the chaotic nature of 2020, there were some unknowns prior to camps opening, but everything got off to a strong start in Arizona as the overwhelming majority of players showed up in shape and ready to go. Josh Barfield, the D-backs’ director of player development, noted that several players, including Blaze Alexander and Jake McCarthy, added muscle to their frames as well.
But perhaps some of the biggest developments are taking place on the mound.
“Pitching-wise, all the guys that have come back are looking really, really good,” Barfield said. “The guys that didn’t come out last year at the alternate training site were throwing ‘pens and finding live simulated games to throw in. So, for the most part, everyone has come back where they were and, in some cases, have even surpassed where they were.”
Count Bryce Jarvis, Arizona’s No. 8 prospect, among those who have impressed. The 18th overall pick from the 2020 Draft, Jarvis spent some time at the alternate training site in 2020, but that came after an abbreviated college season and was mostly about getting acclimated to the organization.
“Bryce looks really good,” Barfield said. “He’s come back and his stuff is really sharp.”
The 23-year-old Duke product works with a mid-90s fastball, a plus curveball and a mid-80s slider. He also throws a fading changeup that many feel is his best secondary option.
“He’s commanding the ball well and he looks like he’s in a really good spot coming into the season,” Barfield said.
Slade Cecconi, the D-backs’ No. 6 prospect and the 33rd overall pick from the 2020 Draft, is another recent mound acquisition whom the organization is really excited about. However, the right-hander sustained a minor wrist injury on his non-throwing hand, so his season will be delayed a bit.
Blaze Alexander’s 2019 numbers don’t jump off the page. He slashed .262/.355/.382 over 97 games with Class A Kane County, but he improved down the stretch as he hit .284 in July and .295 in August. Alexander didn’t play much in 2020 as he wasn’t invited to the alternate training site and a rib injury prematurely ended his stint in Instructional League. While Alexander wasn’t on the field a lot, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t working on his craft and adding strength to his 6-foot frame.
“He has put on about 15 pounds of really good weight,” Barfield said. “He’s just as explosive and agile. He looks even better at short than last time we saw him.”
Alexander, an 11th-round pick from the 2018 Draft, has a plus-plus arm that will allow him to play anywhere on the dirt and Arizona has moved him around a bit in the Minors to increase his versatility. While Alexander has worked at both second and third, the plan is for him to stick at shortstop.
The 21-year-old also made strides offensively last summer, further refining the approach that helped him at the end of the 2019 campaign. Alexander has fared well in camp and the 2021 season will be a big one for him as the organization tries to get him plenty of at-bats to make up for the lost 2020 season.
Alternate training site update
While some prospects are getting ready at Minor League Spring Training, others are working out at the alternate training site. The D-backs have already tapped into the talent at the alternate site a few times this season, calling up prospects Geraldo Perdomo, Andy Young and Matt Peacock.
Seth Beer (No. 13) and Drew Ellis have also impressed in Scottsdale. Beer, who also spent the 2020 season at the alternate site, has shown well offensively and strung together quality at-bats. Ellis wasn’t part of the D-backs’ 2020 alternate site, but went and played in independent leagues and noticeably improved his game.
“Drew Ellis has been incredible,” Barfield said. “From when we shut down to now, he’s made incredible strides.”
Prospect we’ll be talking about in 2022
Top 100 prospects Corbin Carroll, Kristian Robinson and Alek Thomas garner plenty of attention, and deservedly so, but there are additional intriguing outfield prospects in the Arizona pipeline. Wilderd Patino, the D-backs’ No. 11 prospect, put together a strong 2019 campaign, hitting .391 over 40 games split between the Arizona and Pioneer leagues. The 19-year-old was not invited to the 2020 alternate training site, but participated in instructs and has fared well in Spring Training, showing increased power to go with his solid offensive approach.
“He’s so young,” Barfield said. “He’s still growing, but he looks pretty physically imposing right now. He’s made some minor changes to his swing that we were working on in instructional league and he looks great.”
In the Dominican
Camps are ongoing in the Dominican Republic, though teams are still waiting to hear if there will be a Dominican Summer League season. Manuel Peña, the D-backs’ top signee from the 2021 international class, has yet to make his professional debut, but is working out in the D.R. and the organization is excited to see him in game action when the time comes. Peña, who signed for $1,200,000 in January, has an intriguing overall toolset and an advanced offensive approach from the left side of the plate. The 17-year-old was signed as a shortstop, but may move off the position as he continues to grow. Peña is still a ways away, but he’s someone to keep an eye on as he continues to refine his overall game.