From 7/19-7/28 I sat on the Diamondbacks AZL roster. Corbin Carroll, Arizona’s 2019 first-round pick (16th overall) was the headliner. Also notable was Brennan Malone, a 2019 comp round selection (33rd overall). Malone has a workhorse frame, easy mid-90s velo and a chance for three 60-grade pitches. The Dbacks did gymnastics with their draft spending, signing two players in middle rounds to big bonuses: Glenallen Hill in the 4th for $850K (slot value $469K) and Avery Short in the 12th for $922k. Hill is a speedy 2B prospect. Short is a pitchability lefty. Notable international signees include Wilderd Patino, Jose Curpa and Neyfy Castillo. Patino is a physically-advanced 18-year-old OF. Curpa is a versatile infielder with super-utility upside. Castillo flashes plus power potential.
Corbin Carroll (CF) – It is cliché to attach personality types to players, but Carroll exudes a workman-like persona. This is the type of kid who rarely cracks a smile, goes about his business and treats baseball like a job. (His hard hat is in the dugout, probably.) When he broke his bat on 7/20, he jogged to the dugout with such an alacrity, it prompted coaches to tell him to take it easy. He strikes me as a kid who will bust ass. Carroll cares about the finer points of the game: in the outfield he will do things like circle around to better position himself for throws. A double-plus runner with a quick first step, Carroll covers significant ground in center. His reads were also generally good. While shagging fly balls during BP, Carroll casually jumped over the right field wall and brought a ball back, an eye-opening display of athleticism. Defensively, his arm is his weakest attribute, grading to around 40 with better accuracy than strength. Still, it is enough for the position and Carroll profiles as a long-term CF with plus defense.
Offensively, Carroll has put a lot of pressure on AZL defenses with his 70-grade speed. At the plate, I like his overall approach; Carroll takes a lot of pitches and tracks pro-caliber secondary pitches reasonably well for his age. The swing is short to the ball, and Carroll has plus bat speed/hands. The shortness of his swing is a double-edged sword: it limits swing and miss but often goes hand-in-hand with a flat bat path, which has resulted in a high frequency of ground balls or low line drives. Carroll’s in-game power output belies its future potential. He displayed 50 raw in BP and looked even better than that last summer at the Under Armour Game workout in Chicago. The aspect of his BP I found most encouraging was his bat control. Carroll was adept at altering swing plane with intent and working the opposite field, inspiring hope he will tap into more raw power as he matures. There is legitimate raw power in his bat to the tune of 50-55; it is more a matter of how much Carroll will be able to translate into game power. A conservative estimate at maturity would be 40 game power, 55 hit. Corbin profiles as a role-55 above average every day contributor. If he taps into more of his raw power while maintaining swinging-strike rates, he will reach his first-division regular (role 60) potential.
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 55 – Hit-30/55, Power-30/40, Defense-55/65, Arm-40/40, Speed-70/70
Wilderd Patino (OF) – Signed as a part of the 2017 J2 period, Patino ranked 27th overall on Ben Badler’s list. Now a young 18 (7/18 birthday) Patino is flashing everyday player skills in the AZL. Considering his age, Patino’s physicality stands out; this kid is chiseled. At signing date he was listed at 6’1” 175. He looks significantly stronger now, possibly in the 190-200 range. It is hard to see more weight on his frame; he is pretty filled out, very thick/athletic through the upper legs and torso. Even with the added weight, Patino has maintained the flexibility and quickness needed for baseball. He moves well in center field with a quick first step and plus range, although his reads have been inconsistent. Admittedly, seeing Patino play center on nights after Corbin Carroll may have me judging him too harshly. Patino looks like a solid overall defender, who has the physical tools to play CF at an above average level in MLB. The arm has been fringe average with a couple throws off line. Overall, it looks to be enough for the position but not overly sexy.
At the plate Patino has plus bat speed and good hands; he can make hard contact, but all of it has been of the low line drive or ground ball variety. It is a contact-oriented stroke with either up the middle or opposite field contact. Patino utilizes a toe tap for timing and shortens up with two strikes, a smart situational approach. My concern centers around his attack angle, which is negative too often. Patino has consistently drilled balls into the ground. In my four-game sample he went 6/13, but maybe half of those hits were on infield choppers that he beat out with his speed. Watching Patino’s BP, he does not look adept at consistently elevating the ball. This mirrors his in-game production where there is little loft to his swing. Still, we can dream on the plus bat speed and athleticism. I think he learns to elevate more consistently with reps, especially considering his age. He projects to 50 raw power and 40 game at maturity. The overall skillset falls short of everyday regular for me, but considering his ability to play all three outfield spots, I have him penciled in as a fourth outfielder bench bat. It would not shock me if he were to outperform this projection and become an everyday player. He has the physical tools to do it. But there are plenty of great athletes in the upper minors who lack the bat control to cut it day to day in MLB.
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 40 – Hit-30/45, Power-30/40, Defense-45/55, Arm-45/45, Speed-60/60
Jose Curpa (INF) – Curpa is a versatile infielder who has played at short and third. His ceiling is a super-utility bench player, capable of spelling regulars at short, third and second. Curpa has louder tools than many guys with a similar ceiling; he is a plus runner with a 55 arm and fringe average power. It is an interesting package. Having said that, the hallmark of his profile is defensive versatility. Curpa is a smart defender with impressive spatial awareness and feel for where everyone is on the field. He makes good split-second decisions, instantly knowing how to approach various situations. On 7/20 he seamlessly fielded a ball charging forward on an in-between hop. It was not only a good display of his hands, but it also showed off his decisiveness and ability to judge the ball off the bat. On 7/26 he fielded a ball to right making a nice backhand play. He makes quick transfers, has good hands, and moves well in all directions but especially forward. Curpa’s speed plays on defense where he has good range.
It also plays on the bases where he reads pitchers well and gets quality jumps. He is an aware and aggressive runner who will take the extra base. Offensively, Curpa has some bat to ball ability, but little in-game power. The swing is balanced with a short load and stride, with little wasted motion. Curpa has a polished approach with a good eye for the zone. Watching his BP revealed 40-45 raw power: he connects barrel to ball consistently and showed an ability to elevate at will, which is something that has not translated to in-game production. Physically he may lack the strength requisite to keep pitchers off of him at higher levels. The bat speed is around average, which I think prevents him from tapping into his raw power in games. In a sense he would need to cheat to be able to drive the ball with authority and has made a conscious decision to instead prioritize contact over power. He most likely settles into the upper minors and contributes to the big club in short stints as injuries dictate.
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 30 – Hit-30/40, Power-20/30, Defense-50/55, Arm-55/55, Speed-60/60
Neyfy Castillo (OF) – Castillo was originally signed as a shortstop in the 2017 J2 class that included Kristian Robinson and Jorge Barrosa. In 2018 he moved to third base, and this year he has moved to right field. In the outfield he looks a little raw as you may expect from a recently-converted infielder. The arm plays though, and Castillo has the raw power you would need for a player at the position. Castillo has good bat speed and hand eye coordination, but can be had by average spin. He has a relatively narrow, tall base and remains fairly upright through his swing. The lower half is not well-incorporated either, which one might argue is actually a case he has even more power potential. The upright nature of his stance and swing creates a larger zone for pitchers to attack and may expose him to swing and miss. For that reason I have concerns with his ability to get to his power as he climbs through the minors. There is also a chance he further fills out and outgrows right in which case he would need to utterly mash his way to the majors. There is a lotto ticket feel from him; a lot needs to go his way but it is not impossible. The arm and power potential make him a watch list type guy.
Grades (P/F) Overall FV 25 – Hit 20/30, Power 40/55, Defense 20/40, Arm 55/60, Speed 40/35
Glenallen Hill (2B) - Hill is a short, but speedy second base prospect with double-plus speed and fringe average power, which is actually pretty good for his size. Overall, he did not show well in my time sitting on the Diamondbacks. His defense needs work at second, especially his hands. He strikes me as a kid who will take well to pro instruction and will work hard to improve, but lack of quality contact and below average defense have me discouraged. He is a project with some interesting tools but not a lot of baseball skills right now. VIDEO
Brennan Malone (RHP) – The Diamondbacks selected Malone 33rd overall in the 2019 draft. He went one inning in his debut on 7/28. Malone has a workhorse frame with big, thick thighs that are well-incorporated and enable easy velo. Both athletic and strong, Malone has good balance and posture through release, which allow him to repeat his delivery. He sat 93-94 (touching 95) and could tail the fastball at will, working lefties away with it. Ability to tail the fastball serves an important function in his arsenal because he has only used his changeup sparingly (in my looks). He had overall good fastball command, working the full plate and getting a swing and miss on a chase pitch above the belt. Malone flashed a curveball at 81 with tight 12-6 shape, moderate depth. Feel for the slider was not there, but with the benefit of an early-season amateur look at the NHSI, I know it is a capable pitch. Malone is a potential starter with a chance for three 60-grade offerings. At the NHSI, both breaking pitches flashed plus with significant movement. The slider projects for more swing and miss because hitters will have less time to react to it. Overall, Malone checks about every box you could want for a starting pitcher prospect: great body, good athlete, has the stuff to succeed, able to work full plate and sequence. He projects as a role-50, possible #3 starter and probable #4 with #2 upside should the changeup become a viable fourth offering.
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 50 – FB 60/65, SL 50/60, CB 50/55, CHG 30/40
Avery Short (LHP) – The Diamondbacks drafted Short in the 12th round and signed him for $922k. His bonus was equivalent to end of second round slot value. Without realizing who he was as he entered the game, I noticed several scouts sit up in their seats, and I reflexively turned on my camera. It was only a 1-inning look, but Short was impressive. He has a strong frame, and his mechanics were excellent. Short repeats his delivery well with good balance and a follow through direct to home, excellent body control. The fastball sat 89-90 and touched 91 with a bit of a cutting action at times, the result of his cross body arm action. Short has good fastball command and lived on the low corners of the plate. He showed three secondaries: a slider, curve, and changeup. The breaking balls had decent two-plane break but shape was loose, and a couple were left up. The low-80s changeup looked more like a steal-a-strike pitch. My first impression was Short is pitchability guy who will work the full plate and mix his pitches to keep hitters off balance. He profiles for plus command and off this short look would grade to a role 35 with a shot to be a back-end starter (40).
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 35 – FB 50/55, SL 45/55, CB 40/50, CHG 30/40 – (grades based on short look)
Matt Mercer (RHP) – The Diamondbacks took Matt Mercer in the 5th round out of Oregon in 2018. He has loud stuff but an ugly delivery and poor mechanics. The triple back foot tap brings his momentum home to a standstill, and it is a high-effort delivery. Mercer’s finish often ends abruptly with an off-balanced landing. The mechanics immediately make you think reliever because they are difficult to repeat and will likely hinder his command. Mercer has good arm speed and a lively fastball, sitting 93-95 and touching 96 a few times on 7/26. His changeup was his most reliable secondary, flashing 55 in the low 80s with good depth and deception. Mercer also threw a cutter in the high 80s, frontdooring it inside on the hands of right-handed hitters. He flashed a 12-6 CB in the low 70s on 7/23. It is worth noting Mercer is on rehab and my two looks were his first appearances since coming back; it is possible his stuff was not as sharp as it otherwise would be. Mercer has role-40 reliever potential (high leverage pen arm). For me he profiles as a role-35, middle relief type. The stuff is loud enough, but his command will likely hold him back.
Grades (P/F) – Overall FV 35 – FB 55/60, CHG 50/55, CUT 45/50, CB 40/45
Jhonny valdez, Alex Valdez, and Junior Mieses have legitimate middle-relief potential, but project to be role 30 guys.
Jhonny Valdez was recently promoted to the Pioneer league. He is primarily a two-pitch guy, working his fastball/splitter combination. The delivery looks a little rigid with a whippy arm action, but he has excellent arm speed and the fastball crested at 97 on 7/25. It more frequently sat 92-94; Valdez reserved premium velocity for high-leverage situations. His splitter was 77-81 with good depth and a chance to get to 60. Valdez would benefit greatly from a viable third pitch.
Alex Valdez has an athletic body and a frame with some projection left. Guestimate: 6’3” 195. He is a candidate to add velocity as his frame fills out. As-is Valdez sits 91-93 and touches 94, relying mostly on his fastball/curve combo. The curve flashed 55 with 12-6 shape and quality depth. He flashed four pitches, but the SL/CUT and CHG are behind the CB. Valdez’s mechanics are inconsistent, which may lead to command troubles. He especially struggles to maintain posture when pitching from the stretch. VIDEO.
Junior Mieses is a shorter Dominican (around 5’11 or 6’) with an athletic delivery: good momentum and balance. He looks like a guy who should repeat well. He also has has a loose arm; it is a clean arm action and easy velo, sitting low 90s and touching 94 on both 7/21 and 7/28. Mieses has low 80s slider, which flashed 60. VIDEO.
Gerald Ogando and Dan Swain have middle relief upside but are long shots. Ogando is a newly 19-year-old Dominican whose fastball touched 94-95 on 7/26. He gets some sink and life on the pitch in the low 90s. He has an average slider in the low 80s but did not command it consistently. VIDEO. Dan Swain is a converted outfielder with a wipeout curveball; it is in the high 70s with big two-plane break. His fastball sat 89-91. Swain is 24.8 but is new to pitching, which makes you want to keep your third eye on him. VIDEO.