A Minor Review of 2019: Arizona Diamondbacks

Welcome back to this annual series that first began in 2008. While taking a look back at the 2019 minor league season, it will also help you prepare for the 2020 fantasy season and beyond. Today, we kick off the 2019 series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, a club that is quietly building an impressive minor league system.

The Best Move of the Season:

The development of Geraldo Perdomo allowed the Diamondbacks to flip the more highly-rated shortstop (and overrated), Jazz Chisholm, to Miami for rookie hurler Zac Gallen — which was a steal of a move no matter how you look at it. Perdomo is a much more polished hitter overall despite his inexperience. The switch-hitter doesn’t have nearly the raw power that Chisholm does but he’s exceptionally athletic and pretty much guaranteed to stick at shortstop while providing a good average, gap pop, an excellent BB-K (with above-average on-base skills) and double-digit steals. Gallen has always been underrated on the mound and I’ve been driving the bandwagon for a few years now and even undersold him a bit early on.

The Org Depth:

The Diamondbacks have skillfully built up a glut of athletic outfielders with high ceilings.

Alek Thomas: Thomas is at the head of the pack and should open 2020 in High-A ball with an eye on reaching Double-A in the second half and impacting the Majors in 2021. He’s a strong hitter who could flirt with a .300 average in the Majors and overall strong on-base skills after taking 52 walks in 112 minor leagues in 2019. On the downside, he’s not currently much of a power threat and, despite good speed, he doesn’t run much. Still, a .290 average with 15 home runs and 15 steals as a big-league center-fielder is a solid player. And he’s just 19 so there could more to come. A strong 2020 could help him reach the Majors in 2021.

Corbin Carroll: He’s not quite as physical but Carroll reminds me a little bit of 2018 first-rounder Jarred Kelenic, who reached Double-A in his first full pro season. He’s an advanced hitter for his age with excellent athleticism and speed. He understands his strengths and doesn’t try to muscle up and hit home runs. During his 31 games in Rookie ball, he produced a BB-K of 24-29 and stole 16 bases. Look for Carroll to jump to full-season ball in 2020 with an eye on reaching the Majors in 2022.

Kristian Robinson: The 18-year-old Robinson, signed out of the Bahamas, is the rawest of the trio but also possesses the highest ceiling. He spent most of the 2019 season in short-season ball and played in just 67 games but he slugged 14 home runs. Robinson has swing-and-miss to his game but he offsets it to a degree with a willingness to take a walk – his BB-K was 31-76. He’ll likely slow down as he matures, but he stole 17 bases this past season. Robinson’s ETA is likely 2022 at the earliest and more realistically 2023.

The 2019 Breakout:

Levi Kelly, RHP: Kelly, an eighth-round prep pick from 2018, has developed more quickly and more impressively than expected. He posted a 2.15 ERA with a K-BB of 126-39 in 100.1 innings in Low-A ball at the age of 20. He has a nice fastball-slider combo but lacks a reliable third offering. He currently looks like a future No. 3/4 starter if he continues along this development path but he also has the size to suggest a velocity bump (The fastball currently tops out around 93-94 mph) could happen as he matures.

Be Skeptical Of:

J.B. Bukauskas, RHP: Bukauskas just doesn’t pass the sniff test. He’s a former first-round pick who has been on Top 100 lists since he turned pro but he’s done little to earn the accolades in pro ball. And the Astros, the club that selected him 15th overall in 2017, tried more than once to include him in a trade. Bukauskas throws hard but he’s undersized, has battled injury issues and has both poor command and control. He’s strictly a future reliever and won’t be trusted (or successful) in high-leverage situations until he finds the plate more consistently.

2020 Impact Arrivals:

Daulton Varsho, C/CF: Long considered an above-average catcher in terms of athleticism, Varsho began seeing time in center field late in the season. The move was likely made due to the emergence of big league catcher Carson Kelly, and it further increases Varsho’s fantasy value if he can maintain his catcher eligibility. Varsho has a chance to be a 20-20 player if he can save his knees from the rigors of squatting behind the plate on a daily basis. He also showed an excellent eye in Double-A in 2019 with a BB-K of 42-63 while hitting .298 in 107 games.

Josh Rojas, IF/OF: The Diamondbacks went more quantity-over-quality in the late-season deal with the Astros that saw veteran pitcher Zack Greinke head to Houston. The two most interesting players in the deal could end up being Corbin Martin, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and the ultra-versatile Rojas. He an intriguing mix of power, on-base skill, and stolen base ability with 23 home runs, 33 steals (He’s a smart base runner, not a speedster) and 57 walks in 105 Triple-A games. Oh, and he hit .332. Rojas could be the next Marwin Gonzalez – a player who plays almost every day but does it at four or five positions.

Long Term Projects:

Some players to keep an eye on that could see value bumps in 2020 include shortstop Liover Peguero, as well as pitchers Luis Frias, Tommy Henry, and Brennan Malone.





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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OddBall Herrera
3 years ago

Kevin Cron continues to be underrated – no mention of our PCL WRC leader(min 350PAs)?