Cleat Geeks

Snakes Alive: Ranking the Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects, #10-5

10. Yoan Lopez, right-handed pitcher, 23 years old

YoanLopezWhy He’s in the Top Ten: Signed out of Cuba, Lopez agreed to the largest bonus in history for an international amateur at $8.25 million on January 13, 2015. He was coveted by many MLB teams, including the Yankees, Giants, and Padres, mainly because of his stuff and his effective pitching for Isla de Javentud in the Cuban National Series. Over that three-year span when he was between 18 and 20 years of age, he combined to throw 232 innings, allow 235 hits and just ten home runs, and strike out 117 batters while posting a 3.76 ERA. His final season in Cuba in 2013 was his bet yet, when he surrendered 17 earned runs and tallied a career-low 11 walks over 49 innings. He has a good, moving fastball that consistently started out in the low 90s, but can now reach the mid-90s thanks to the size and strength he has added to a relatively small, 6-3, 195 pound frame, to go along with a plus side-arm slider that can be very difficult on right-handed hitters. At the time he was signed, he was only given a minor-league contract, but the Diamondbacks invited him to spring training and general manager Dave Stewart expected him to legitimately compete for a spot in the Opening Day starting rotation.

Why He’s Not Ranked Higher: Lopez ended up starting the 2015 season with the AA Mobile YoanLopez2BayBears, but he never really got on track. Over ten games, he went just 1-6 and allowed 46 hits, 27 earned runs, and 24 walks in 48 innings. He battled through a blister and elbow soreness, and he took an unexpected leave of absence from the BayBears in July. Control and command has always been an issue for Lopez; in his first two years for Isla de Javentud, he walked more batters than he struck out (109 to 89) and had elevated WHIPs (1.63 and 1.59). He also hit 11 batters in 2012 and – in Cuba’s 18U National League in 2011 – he ranked second in walks (45) and third in wild pitches (9) despite dominant numbers elsewhere (1.74 ERA and 88 strikeouts over 77 1/3 innings). He’s a huge wild card with limited upside; he’s capable of being a starting pitcher in the middle to back end of the rotation, but he’s more likely to be a shut-down reliever in the seventh or eighth inning mainly due to his fastball and slider. His changeup and curveball are average at best. Unless Lopez develops a consistent third pitch, harnesses his control with his fastball, and really dominates the minors, I don’t see him having an impact for the Diamondbacks in 2016. The big-league pitching staff is deep and has a lot of options with more upside.

9. Peter O’Brien, catcher/infielder/outfielder, 25 years old

peterO'Brien1Why He’s in the Top Ten: Originally selected by the Yankees as the 94th overall pick in the 2012 draft and then shipped to the Diamondbacks in a 2014 trade deadline deal featuring infielder Martin Prado, O’Brien is coveted simply because he has extraordinary power. He has smashed 92 total home runs in 408 games and 1,548 at-bats in the minor leagues, including 34 alone for three different teams during the 2014 season, and he’s pounded at least ten jacks in all of his minors seasons. He participated in the 2015 Triple A All-Star Game as a member of the Reno Aces, finishing as the runner-up with 20 total homers. Additionally, he has 107 doubles on his register, with a career-high 39 coming at the Single A level in 2013 and another 35 coming last year. He’s been known to put up decent walk rates (41 in 2013 and 31 in 2014) and his career on-base percentage isn’t horrible (.323). He drove in 107 runs in 2015, his first time reaching the triple-digit plateau in that category.

Why He’s Not Ranked Higher: As is the case with every power hitter of O’Brien’s caliber, he is one Peter+O+Briendimensional. He has struck out 431 times in his minor-league career, and he has topped 120 Ks in each of the last three seasons. He has no speed to speak of (one stolen base, caught five times) and his walk rate could still improve (he walked a meager 21 times in 2014). His glove leaves much to be desired and he lacks a true position anyway. He has primarily been behind the plate and that is where the Diamondbacks wanted him to stick, especially since they are in sorely need of talent and depth at that spot, but they scrapped that experiment with O’Brien in May of 2014 and converted him into a full-time outfielder instead. The three current starters in the major-league outfield – David Peralta, A.J. Pollock, and Yasmany Tomas – are locked in for the distant future, and Socrates Brito and Gabby Guerrero are probably first in the wings in the event that one or more of the incumbents goes down to injury. If O’Brien is going to be in the field, he is best-suited for first base, but that spot is taken by Paul Goldschmidt, one of the five best players in all of baseball. Given his overall pedigree and his enormous build (he’s 6-4, 235), he logically projects as a designated hitter. Unless he figures out how to catch, he doesn’t fit the Diamondbacks and – quite frankly – it is a shock that he’s still in the organization. He might scratch out a spot on the bench on the Opening Day roster in 2016, but he more than likely will languish in Reno, where he has nothing to prove.

8. Brandon Drury, infielder, 23 years old

BrandonDrury2Why He’s in the Top Ten: Acquired from the Braves on January 24, 2013 in the blockbuster trade involving Justin Upton, Drury is a contact and line drive hitter, as he has hit .285 over 2,487 at-bats in the minor leagues. His two best seasons are 2013, when he posted a .302 batting average with 15 home runs, 51 doubles, and four triples at Single A South Bend; and 2014, when he posted a .300 average with 19 home runs and 35 doubles in 107 games at High A Visalia. He also had a strong 2015 season spanning AA Mobile and AAA Reno, hitting .303 with 40 doubles and 159 total base hits, although his power dipped considerably (five total homers). He has a good eye and discipline at the plate, drawing a career-high 48 walks while posting a .362 on-base percentage in 2013 and registering a .384 OBP over 63 games and 251 at-bats at Reno last season. For his minor-league career, he has walked a total of 162 times and has a .334 on-base percentage, and he has not reached the 100-strikeout mark in any minor-league season. The Diamondbacks called Drury up to the majors for the first time on September 1st of 2015.

Why He’s Not Ranked Higher: Take away his performance at Reno and Drury’s 2015 season is BrandonDrurylargely unimpressive. The Aces play at a high elevation in the notorious hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, so any top hitting prospects should have impressive offensive numbers at that level. Drury put up a .278 average with 14 doubles in 273 at-bats and 63 games overall at Mobile, but he batted just .250 with a sub-.300 OBP in his first 85 plate appearances, and his power all but disappearing (especially at Reno) is a major concern since that was the primary aspect of his game that caused his prospect stock to rise in the first place. Visalia is also in a hitters’ league – the California League – so the 19 jacks that Drury had there can probably be considered a fluke. His swing is choppy and his hardest hit balls tend to be line drives right at infielders. He lacks speed (17 stolen bases, 17 caught stealings in the minors) and he has a below-average arm. His lack of strikeouts and his consistent contact should allow him to stick in the majors, but he doesn’t have a true position. His power potential and quick hands and footwork on defense probably make him a better fit for third base, but the Diamondbacks already have 26-year-old Jake Lamb entrenched there full-time. Second base is probably the organization’s weakest spot, but Arizona just acquired Jean Segura to play there and they also have Chris Owings as an option at the position.

7. Silvino Bracho, right-handed pitcher, 23 years old

SilvinoBrachoWhy He’s in the Top Ten: Born in Venezuela, Bracho has somehow failed to grab a lot of headlines despite ascending through the minors rapidly. He was at Single A South Bend as recently as 2014, where he had 70 strikeouts, just eight walks, and a WHIP of 0.76 covering 43 1/3 innings. He started 2015 at High A Visalia, where 14 strikeouts, one hit, and one walk earned him a promotion to Mobile after six games. With the BayBears, he surrendered just nine free passes and ten runs while striking out 59 over 44 2/3 innings. The Diamondbacks called him up to the big leagues for the first time on August 30th, 2015 and he didn’t miss a beat there, either. He allowed two runs (both on homers), issued four walks, and struck out 17 over 12 1/3 innings. His full minor league career reads like this: a 1.52 ERA, 28 runs allowed, 211 strikeouts, a .193 opponents’ batting average, and 26 walks spanning 148 1/3 innings. Simply put, Bracho has been lights-out at every level of professional baseball he has played and has given little reason to doubt his ability to be a fixture in a major-league bullpen for many years to come. He’s not overpowering, but his four seam fastball hovers in the low-90s and is mixed with a slider that touches the low-80s, a cut fastball, a curveball, and a slider. He’s also able to change speeds effectively, as his curve and slider can be thrown as low as 79 mph. He’s the Diamondbacks closer of the future.

Why He’s Not Ranked Higher: He won’t be a prospect for much longer because he is likely in the SilvinoBracho2majors for good. He had a high chance of pitching in high-leverage situations for the Diamondbacks in 2016 before they signed veteran setup man Tyler Clippard, but he will now likely have to settle for a role as a middle to back-end reliever in the immediate future. Also, no matter how strong his credentials are, the upside of a relief pitcher like Bracho is always going to be limited because he probably won’t be pitching more than one or two innings unless he is a long man, and he’s a bit susceptible to the longball (eight total homers in the minors, three in each of the last two years).

6. Zach Godley, right-handed pitcher, 25 years old

Godley1Why He’s in the Top Ten: Drafted by the Cubs in the tenth round of the 2013 draft out of Tennessee, he was picked up by the Diamondbacks on December 9, 2014 as part of a trade that Arizona made mostly to dump the bloated salary of catcher Miguel Montero, so expectations of Godley were incredibly low. He preceded to break out in 2015, compiling a 2.27 ERA, 78 strikeouts, 19 walks, and a .228 opponents batting average in 14 games (12 starts) and 75 1/3 innings at High A Visalia before earning his first promotion to the majors on July 23. Godley would become the first starting pitcher since 1900 to pitch at least six innings, walk none, and strike out at least seven in his MLB debut, and he would surrender just three total runs while striking out 17 in 18 innings over his first three starts. Overall, he would finish his big-league season with a 5-1 record, a 3.19 ERA, 34 strikeouts, and a .227 opponents batting average covering 36 2/3 innings and nine appearances (six starts). Like Bracho, he’s not overpowering, but he has four reliable pitches with considerable movement and he can change speeds well. He features cutting and sinking fastballs that reach 91 and 92 mph, respectively, and he includes a changeup and curveball that are each in the low-80s. His four-seam fastball can hit as high as 93 mph, but he rarely displays it. Both his change and his curve are high swing and miss pitches.

Why He’s Not Ranked Higher: Considering he had never advanced beyond Single A before last godley2season, Godley is pretty old (he turns 26 on April 21st) and not likely to get much better. He can have difficulty throwing strikes (24 walks and a 1.32 WHIP in 55 1/3 innings over two levels of A ball in 2014 and at least two walks in four of his six starts with the Diamondbacks – including six in just 3 2/3 innings in a September 4th start), his cut fastball velocity and secondary pitches are largely uninspiring despite all the movement, and he seemed to benefit from tremendous luck last season. Also, despite starting 23 of the 30 games he pitched in during the 2016 season, all 54 of his appearances covering the 2013 and 2014 seasons were out of the bullpen. The Diamondbacks optioned him down to Mobile on August 5th in an effort to conserve his arm, but he still ended up shattering his previous career-high in innings by approximately 80. Godley will enter spring training of 2016 in a crowded competition for the #5 spot in the rotation and that is probably his ceiling. Still, it’s difficult to complain about what Godley brings to the table when he was originally nothing more than a throw-in to a salary dump.

Up Next: the second part of the series, which ranks the prospects from the fifth-best to the best.

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Snakes Alive; Ranking the Diamondbacks Top Ten Prospects, #5-1 – Cleat Geeks

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