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January 11, 2008

Future Shock

Diamondbacks Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Five-Star Prospects
1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
Four-Star Prospects
2. Gerardo Parra, OF
3. Max Scherzer, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. Brooks Brown, RHP
5. Juan Gutierrez, RHP
6. Billy Buckner, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
7. Ed Easley, C
8. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/SS
9. Reynoldo Navarro, SS
10. Wes Roemer, RHP
11. Barry Enright, RHP

Just Missing: Hector Ambriz, RHP; Esmerling Vasquez, RHP

1. Jarrod Parker, RHP
DOB: 11/24/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Norwell HS (IN)
2007 Stats: Did not pitch--signed late.

Year In Review: The fastest rising high school arm was expected to go No. 3 overall to the Cubs, but last-minute changes at the top of the draft dropped him all the way to nine, where he looks like a steal.
The Good: Parker arguably had the best pure arm of any pitcher in the draft. His arm speed borders on ridiculous, and he sat at 94-96 mph all spring while touching 98 consistently. His curveball is a hard-breaking power pitch that already grades out as plus, and he surprised everyone by also exhibiting a solid changeup. His mechanics are clean, and despite playing against a low level of competition, he's already proven himself on a much bigger stage by pitching for Team USA.
The Bad: Parker doesn't exactly have the ideal size for a pitcher, but it's not a huge concern for scouts because his stuff is so good. His secondary stuff needs improvement, but for his age, it's not especially behind the norm. More than anything, he just needs innings and experience, and protracted negotiations prevented him from making his debut last year.
Fun Fact: Norwell High is located in Ossian, Indiana, a small town in the northeast part of the state that was named after a third century Scottish poet.
Perfect World Projection: It's too early for anything but vague terms like 'elite power arm', but Parker's arm is definitely a special one.
Timetable: Parker will likely begin his career at in Low-A, provided he looks good enough in spring training to warrant a full-season assignment.

2. Gerardo Parra, OF
DOB: 5/6/87
Height/Weight: 5-11/197
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: NDFA, 2004, Venezuela
2007 Stats: .320/.370/.435 at Low-A (110 G); .284/.303/.382 at High-A (24 G)

Year In Review: The athletic, toolsy Venezuelan outfielder led the Midwest League in hitting during his full-season debut, and impressed after a late-season promotion to the California League.
The Good: Parra is the most gifted hitter in the system, with good instincts, outstanding bat speed, and gap power. He has solid speed and proved to be an adequate center fielder towards the end of the season, and also subsequently in the Venezuelan Winter League. His arm is outstanding.
The Bad: Parra's projection could become problematic if he loses a step and is forced to a corner, as he doesn't project to have to power normally associated with the position, and scouts are mixed as to his ability to develop it. His aggressive approach needs to be tempered, as more advanced pitchers will be able to get him out by avoiding the strike zone.
Fun Fact: During his Midwest League stint, Parra hit .360 in 25 day games with five of his six home runs.
Perfect World Projection: A .300-hitting outfielder who hopefully can develop enough secondary skills to increase the value.
Timetable: Parra will begin the year back in High A, with the goal of reaching Double-A at some point during the season.

3. Max Scherzer, RHP
DOB: 7/27/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of Missouri
2007 Stats: 0.53 ERA at High-A (17-5-2-30); 3.91 ERA at Double-A (73.2-64-40-76)

Year In Review: The last of the year-long draft holdouts finally signed in May and was dominating in his first few High A starts, but ran into some trouble following a move up to Double-A.
The Good: Scherzer is a pure power pitcher with one of the best fastballs around--a low- to mid-90s fastball with outstanding location and a little bit of sink that generates a good ground-ball ratio when contact is made. He'll occasionally flash a plus slider, and he was especially impressive in the Arizona Fall League, when he pitched in short stints and showed even more velocity.
The Bad: Almost all signs point to a future in the bullpen, but he does have closer potential. Scherzer's mechanics are maximum effort, and his secondary pitches lag well behind, with his relatively high walk rate at Double-A blamed on an inability to command his slider.
Fun Fact: Scherzer has one blue eye and one brown eye because of a genetic condition called heterochromia that has no other effects on the body. As a child all his drawings of people or animals also included multi-colored eyes.
Perfect World Projection: Big-league closer.
Timetable: While Arizona has yet to confirm a move to the bullpen, it does seem inevitable. One way or another, he'll likely start 2008 at Triple-A.

4. Brooks Brown, RHP
DOB: 6/20/85
Height/Weight: 6-3/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of Georgia
2007 Stats: 2.81 ERA at High-A (80-66-23-74); 3.66 at Double-A (66.1-64-36-54)

Year In Review: The 2006 first-round pick had a successful full-season debut at higher levels than initially projected, pitching well at both High- and Double-A.
The Good: Brown's best pitch is his plus slider, which features strong two-plane break, and he sets if up effectively with a low-90s fastball that features natural sinking action. He's made good progress on his changeup, and his mechanics are clean.
The Bad: Brown needs to become less dependent on the slider, and needs to mix up his pitches more effectively to keep hitters guessing. While his body and delivery would indicate good stamina, his stuff deteriorated at times as he got deep into games, as did his command.
Fun Fact: Brown was the highest draft pick out of the University of Georgia since 1987, when Derek Lilliquist was the sixth overall pick. In 2003, he become the first pick ever out of Portal High School in Georgia, taken by the Braves in the 21st round.
Perfect World Projection: Brown could rise as high as a No. 3 starter, but is more likely to settle in as a No. 4.
Timetable: Brown was rushed a bit last year, and things will likely slow down a bit as he returns to Double-A.

5. Juan Gutierrez, RHP
DOB: 7/14/83
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2000, Venezuela (Astros)
2007 Stats: 4.15 ERA at Triple-A (156-154-63-108); 5.91 ERA at MLB (21.1-25-6-16)

Year In Review: One of the better pure arms in the Houston system had an up-and-down season at Triple-A, but made his big-league debut before moving to Arizona in the offseason as part of the Jose Valverde deal.
The Good: Gutierrez is a big, physical righty who lives off a low-90s fastball that he can get up to 95 mph at times. He gets a good downward plane on his pitches, and mixes in a decent curveball and a truly plus changeup with excellent arm action and late drop. He stayed healthy for the entire year and had no issues from previous elbow problems.
The Bad: Scouts question Gutierrez's ceiling, as well as his eventual role. While he has two decent pitches, his curveball can flatten out at times, and his command comes and goes, leaving him rarely dominant over an entire outing.
Fun Fact: During his big-league stint, Gutierrez had a 7.31 ERA in three starts, but allowed just one run over 5 2/3 innings when coming out of the pen.
Perfect World Projection: A solid innings eater.
Timetable: Gutierrez will be given the opportunity to earn a big-league role during spring training, but will likely begin the year back at Triple-A.

6. Billy Buckner, RHP
DOB: 8/27/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2004, University of South Carolina
2007 Stats: 4.66 ERA at Double-A (19.1-20-6-13); 3.78 ERA at Triple-A (104.2-108-26-83); 5.29 ERA at MLB (34-37-16-17)

Year In Review: Buckner began to finally show the promise reflected by his draft status, pitching well enough at Triple-A to get a taste of the majors. He came to Arizona in an off-season deal for infielder Albert Callaspo.
The Good: Buckner gets strikeouts with his plus curveball; it's a looping bender that he can throw for strikes or break into the dirt. His 88-91 sinking fastball is also an effective pitch that he commands well, and it's one that generates plenty of groundballs. His changeup is good enough to keep hitters honest. Squarely built and broad shouldered, Buckner has good stamina and has cleaned his mechanics significantly from his college days.
The Bad: Buckner needs to works on his pitch sequences, as smart opposing hitters simply sit on his curveball for when he stops setting it up with his heater. He's a finished product who isn't expected to get much better. Fun Fact: Buckner comes from an athletic family, as his father ran track at college, while his mother played volleyball.
Perfect World Projection: A solid No. 4 starter.
Timetable: Buckner had a better shot at earning a big league job with the Royals, but he'll be on the short list for a call-up should the need arise. What, you really think that Randy Johnson is going to take the bump 33 times this year?

7. Ed Easley, C
DOB: 12/21/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Mississippi State
2007 Stats: .250/.319/.419 at Short-season (33 G)

Year In Review: The offense-first catcher showed impressive power in his pro debut.
The Good: Easley has an above-average offensive skill set for a catcher. He's an adept hitter with average power who should develop into a .280+ hitter with 15-20 home runs annually. He's also an above-average athlete for the position, grading out as an average runner with a solid arm.
The Bad: Easley needs to tighten up his approach and become more patient as a hitter, as he was prone to chasing at times in his debut. While he projects as a decent defender, he still needs to work on his receiving and blocking skills, and his release is slow.

Fun Fact: Easley won the 2007 Johnny Bench award, presented annually to the top college catcher. Begun in 2000, previous winner including big leaguers Kurt Suzuki, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko, and Jeff Clement.
Perfect World Projection: An average to slightly above-average starting big-league catcher.
Timetable: The progress Easley shows both offensively and defensively in spring training will define whether he opens 2008 at High- or Low-A.

8. Emilio Bonifacio, 2B/SS
DOB: 4/23/85
Height/Weight: 5-11/180
Bats/Throws: S/R
Acquired: NDFA, 2001, Dominican Republic
2007 Stats: .285/.333/.352 at Double-A (132 G); .217/.333/.261 at MLB (11 G)

Year In Review: The system's top speedster led the Southern League in stolen bases and finished second in runs on the way to earning a late-season look in the big leagues.
The Good: Bonifacio is an absolute burner who is a threat to steal a base every time he reaches, and is capable of going from first to third in the blink of an eye. He's a fine defensive player with excellent range, he turns the double play well, and he played a decent shortstop when pressed into the role for the first time in his career last season.
The Bad: Bonifacio still needs to develop some secondary skills to develop into a top-of-the-order hitter. He has no power and projects for none down the road, so he'll need to develop better plate discipline in order to avoid being cast solely as a bench player. His only weakness on the left side of the infield is an arm that is average at best.
Fun Fact: Bonifacio hit .350 in the first three innings of Double-A games, but just .236 thereafter.
Perfect World Projection: A leadoff man with slightly above-average offensive value, and well above-average defense.
Timetable: Bonifacio will begin 2008 at Triple-A, and the progress he makes with his approach will determine his 2009 role.

9. Wes Roemer, RHP
DOB: 10/7/86
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Cal State Fullerton
2007 Stats: 4.50 ERA at Short-season (12-11-2-18)

Year In Review: A strike-throwing machine, Roemer's junior year was hampered by a hand injury, but he still pitched well enough to be the 50th overall pick last June.
The Good: To say Roemer throws a lot of strikes is beyond an understatement; in 2006, he began the year with 65 2/3 innings before issuing his first walk. His fastball has at least average velocity and can get up to 92-93 mph at times, while his slider and changeup are also decent offerings which, of course, he throws strikes with. He's highly aggressive and like to pitch inside and challenge hitters.
The Bad: Scouts worry about pitchers like Roemer who lack one true plus offering, and will likely be far more hittable due to an almost stubborn refusal to set hitters up with pitches outside the strike zone. He's very intense on the mound, at times to his detriment, as things sometimes go downhill following bloop hits or errors behind him.
Fun Fact: In his three-year career with the Titans, Fullerton recorded 366 strikeouts and just 42 walks in 389 innings, while plunking 62.
Perfect World Projection: An inning-eating back-end rotation starter.
Timetable: While Roemer doesn't have the highest ceiling, he is already highly polished and likely won't take much time to develop. He could reach Double-A at some point in 2008.

10. Barry Enright, RHP
DOB: 3/30/86
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted: 2nd round, 2007, Pepperdine
2007 Stats: 0.00 ERA at Short-season (8-4-3-12); 0.00 ERA at Low-A (2-1-0-1); 0.00 ERA at High-A (5-3-2-4)

Year In Review: One of the top pitchers in Pepperdine history had a fantastic pro debut, throwing 15 scoreless innings across three levels.

The Good: Enright is highly similar to Roemer, only with more size but a little less stuff. His spots his 88-90 mph fastball with surgical precision, and he also throws a low-80s version of the pitch that features a little more movement that he substitutes for a changeup. His slider is solid, and brought up a grade by his command of the pitch. With his low pitch counts and durable body, he consistently pitches deep into games.
The Bad: Once again, like Roemer, Enright doesn't have an out pitch, and no real room for error in his approach. While he's yet to pay any kind of price for it, he's a fly-ball pitcher who tends to work high in the strike zone.
Fun Fact: Pro batters facing Enright with runners on base went 2-for-19 with 12 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Back of the rotation stalwart. Timetable: Enright and Roemer will draw inevitable comparisons throughout their career, and will likely pitch at the same levels in 2008.

11. Reynaldo Navarro, SS
DOB: 12/22/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted: 3rd round, 2007, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
2007 Stats: .250/.274/.283 at Short-season (60 G)

Year In Review: The first 2007 draft pick out of Puerto Rico struggled mightily in his pro debut as one of the youngest players in the Pioneer League, but showcased impressive tools.
The Good: Navarro offers plenty to dream on. He has impressive bat speed from both sides of the plate and uses all fields. Defensively, he's massively talented, with great instincts, tremendous range, and a knack for making the spectacular play.
The Bad: Navarro is an incredibly raw product who is many years of development away from being a big leaguer. He'll swing at pretty much any pitch anywhere, and likely will never have much power. Defensively, he's very inconsistent, especially on his throws, and he needs a significant number of repetitions to improve his fundamentals.
Fun Fact: After going 4-for-4 in his pro debut, Navarro went into a miserable 10-game slump in which he went 6-for-34 (.176) with nine errors.
Perfect World Projection: An everyday big-league shortstop.
Timetable: Navarro will likely begin 2008 in extended spring training, with an eye towards lining himself up for a 2009 full-season debut.

The Sleeper: Don't give up on 2005 first-round pick Matt Torra, who had a 6.01 ERA at High-A while recovering from shoulder surgery, but came on strong in the second half, allowing just 36 hits over 47 2/3 innings in his last seven starts while striking out 44.

The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)

1. Justin Upton, OF
2. Chris Young, CF
3. Jarrod Parker, RHP
4. Mark Reynolds, 3B
5. Gerardo Parra, OF
6. Max Scherzer, RHP
7. Miguel Montero, C
8. Yusmeiro Petit, RHP
9. Brooks Brown, RHP
10. Juan Gutierrez, RHP

That's a pretty damn good group, and shortstop Stephen Drew (an excellent '08 breakout candidate) fell just a couple weeks short of making the list. Upton is a future superstar, and Young already is one of the best young players in the game. Reynolds' surprising minor league power surge held up well in the majors, and he'll hit 30 or so bombs annually, but also strike out 150 times a year. Montero has good power for a catcher and should hit for a much higher average down the road. Petit is basically what you hope guys like Roemer and/or Enright can turn into.

By trading for Dan Haren, the Diamondbacks lost several top prospects, leaving them as no more than an average organization. Then again, they just got Dan Haren, and as you can see, they already have a lot of young talent on the big-league roster.

Next: The Atlanta Braves.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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