Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: Three high-ceiling arms that are the envy of the game, but a severe drop-off from there.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Trevor Bauer, RHP
2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
3. Archie Bradley, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
4. David Holmberg, LHP
5. Andrew Chafin, LHP
6. Matt Davidson, 3B/1B
7. A.J. Pollock, OF
8. Bobby Borchering, 3B/OF
9. Anthony Meo, RHP
10. Wade Miley, LHP
Two-Star Prospects
11. Adam Eaton, OF
Nine More:
12. Pat Corbin, RHP: Overshadowed by other pitchers but has back-of-the-rotation upside based on his command of solid stuff.
13. Chris Owings, SS: Has the tools to be a shortstop, but his approach is beyond a mess.
14. Marc Krauss, OF/1B: One-dimensional slugger didn't slug as much as expected at Double-A.
15. Kyle Winkler, RHP: Would rank higher with health, but he also wouldn't have dropped to the tenth round with health.
16. Evan Marshall, RHP: 2011 fourth-round pick reached Double-A in his pro debut and could hit Arizona bullpen as early as this year.
17. Charles Brewer, RHP: Big right-hander throws strikes and could move up the charts with a healthy 2012.
18. Kevin Munson, RHP: Pure reliever has impressive power stuff, but he needs to throw more strikes.
19. Keon Broxton, OF: Tools remain insane, but his progress has been slow.
20. David Nick, 2B: The anti-Broxton in that the tools don't impress, but he certainly can hit.

1. Trevor Bauer, RHP
: 1/17/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, UCLA
2011 Stats: 3.00 ERA (9-7-4-17) at High-A (3 G). 7.56 ERA (16.2-20-8-26) at Double-A (4 G)
Tools Profile: Small package, huge stuff.

Year in Review: The best pitcher in the draft, statistically, was the third overall pick in the draft and nearly pitched his way to the big leagues in his brief pro debut.
The Good: Despite an unconventional workout regimen, Bauer brings three plus or better pitches to the table. His fastball sits in the 92-95 mph range and can touch 97 when he reaches back for something extra. His curveball is another bat-misser, and he'll mix in a slider that is at least average and can be a nasty pitch with two-plane break. His changeup is advanced with late, heavy drop through the zone. He earns high grades for his makeup and work ethic.
The Bad: Bauer is not a physical, power pitcher and his delivery is far from easy, but he was worked heavily (bordering on disturbingly so) at UCLA. Still, he has no injury history and his stuff never wavered. His command and control is merely average, and he needs to become more efficient and aggressive with his stuff. To nitpick, while his arsenal is deep, some feel it lacks that one plus-plus offering to make him an ace.
Ephemera: Bauer was an All-State performer at Hart High School, which has produced many big league pitchers including James Shields of the Rays, Royals prospect Mike Montgomery, and former Pirate Bob Walk.
Perfect World Projection: Top of the rotation starter, with some chance of becoming an ace.
Fantasy Impact: Stud.
Path to the Big Leagues: Bauer will get a long look this spring and should not need more than 100 innings to be big league ready.
ETA: 2012.

2. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
: 7/13/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Santa Monica HS (CA)
2011 Stats: 3.22 ERA (100.2-81-34-125) at High-A (17 G). 2.50 ERA (57.2-45-15-73) at Double-A (10 G)
Tools Profile: Size, stuff, and command.

Year in Review: Highly projectable lefty began to make good on his projection while dominating Double-A as a 20-year-old.
The Good: Skaggs improved every aspect of his game in 2011. His once average fastball now sits in the 91-94 mph range with a bit of natural sinking action, and he throws strikes with it. His plus-plus overhand curveball is the best in the system, and he can drop it into the zone for strikes or bury it as a chase pitch. His changeup has improved to average, and he's mature beyond his years.
The Bad: Skaggs can get a bit cute at times, trying to fool hitters when he should attack more. He can lose feel for his changeup and put hittable pitches over the middle of the plate.
Ephemera: Of the 12 batters Skaggs faced with the bases loaded in 2011, seven struck out.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: Excellent; outstanding strikeout and walk ratios will help boost multiple categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: Skaggs will begin the year at Triple-A in a race with Bauer to get the first call to the big leagues.
ETA: Late 2012.

3. Archie Bradley, RHP
: 8/10/92
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Broken Arrow HS (OK)
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (2-1-0-4) at Rookie (2 G)
Tools Profile: Everything one looks for in a high school pitcher.

Year in Review: Bradley was overshadowed in his own state at times by Dylan Bundy, but he went seventh overall in the draft after rumors of huge bonus demands, ultimately signing for $5 million.
The Good: Bradley is the poster child for a high-ceiling pitching prospect. He has an ideal frame, a simple delivery, and makes his mid-90s heat look easy while touching 98-99 mph. He gets heavy spin on a plus power breaking ball and has above-average control.
The Bad: Bradley's changeup lags well behind his other pitches and will be a focus of his development in 2012. More than anything, he just needs innings (and maybe a bit of failure) to transition from thrower to pitcher.
Ephemera: Rich Dotson (1977) is the only seventh overall pick to win more than 50 major league games, although Clayton Kershaw (2006) should change that this year.
Perfect World Projection: Ace-level starter, but he’s still very far from it.
Fantasy Impact: His ceiling is as a first-round pick in any fantasy draft.
Path to the Big Leagues: Every year Bradley is in the minors, he has breakout potential. He'll make his full-season debut at Low-A South Bend in 2012.
ETA: 2015.

4. David Holmberg, LHP
: 7/19/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/219
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2009, Port Charlotte HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 2.39 ERA (83-65-13-81) at Low-A (14 G). 4.67 ERA (71.1-73-35-76) at High-A (13 G)
Tools Profile: Power body, but still more finesse than stuff.

Year in Review: Former White Sox prospect got into shape and found the velocity most had projected for him.
The Good: Once a strike-throwing, finesse arm, Holmberg took a big step forward with his fastball in 2011; the pitch now sits at 89-92 mph while touching 94, and he pounds the strike zone with it. He has both a curveball and a slider, and while both are solid, the slider has greater potential. His best pitch is a plus changeup with movement and plenty of deception. He has a frame that is designed to handle a heavy workload, and he carries his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Holmberg's walk rate elevated after moving up to High-A. He likes to throw his secondary pitches out of the zone, and needs to be more aggressive with them if he’s to lower that walk rate. He doesn't have that one blow-away offering, so his margin for error is smaller than that of a power pitcher.
Ephemera: Holmberg certainly earned his late-June promotion to High-A; in his last five starts for South Bend, he fired 34 scoreless innings while allowing just 10 hits.
Perfect World Projection: Middle-of-the-rotation starter.
Fantasy Impact: Not special, but valuable.
Path to the Big Leagues: Holmberg still needs to make adjustments and will return to the tough environment of the California League in 2012.
ETA: 2014

5. Andrew Chafin, LHP
: 6/17/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Kent State University
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (1-1-0-2) at Rookie (1 G)
Tools Profile: Lefty with one special pitch.

Year in Review: Impressed in his return from Tommy John surgery and moved into the supplemental first-round.
The Good: Chafin has good velocity for a left-hander, sitting in the low 90s and touching 94-95 mph with consistency, but his best pitch is a  wipeout slider with heavy, two-plane break that he will throw at any point in the count. His control and command are a tick above average, and he pitches with confidence and aggression.
The Bad: The biggest concern for Chafin is his health. He has already had Tommy John surgery and battled with arm soreness last spring. He pitched out of the bullpen as a freshman, so he is unproven in terms of handling a full workload. He has some feel for a changeup, but it remains a bit below average.
Ephemera: Only four Kent State pitchers have been drafted higher than Chafin, and while all four of them reached the big leagues, none of them had a winning record.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter.
Fantasy Impact: Should do something in every category.
Path to the Big Leagues: Chafin's spring will determine which of Arizona's A-level clubs he'll begin the year at.
ETA: 2014

6. Matt Davidson, 3B/1B
: 3/26/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Yucaipa HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .277/.348/.465 at High-A (135 G)
Tools Profile: Plenty of power.

Year in Review: Continued to be a mixed bag offensively, but defensive strides helped his stock.
The Good: Davidson certainly looks the part; he's a big, strong hitter with an equally strong swing and well above-average raw power that he's just starting to tap into thanks to an improving approach at the plate. Once seemingly destined for first base, he's improved dramatically at the hot corner thanks to better footwork and fundamentals, and his arm has always been plus.
The Bad: Even with his improvements, Davidson's defensive ceiling remains just average. He's a well below-average runner who has yet to steal a single base as a professional. He struck out 147 times in 2011, and the swing-and-miss will always be a part of his game.
Ephemera: In 23 plate appearances with the bases loaded in 2011, Davidson drove in 28 runs by going 9-for-20 with two doubles and three grand slams.
Perfect World Projection: A slugging third baseman known more for his power than any other part of his game.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll deliver home runs for sure, but he has no speed and his average will be a hindrance.
Path to the Big Leagues: Davidson will move up to Double-A Mobile in 2012.
ETA: 2014

7. A.J. Pollock, OF
: 12/5/87
Height/Weight: 6-1/205                
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, University of Notre Dame
2011 Stats: .307/.357/.444 at Double-A (133 G)
Tools Profile: Solid but unspectacular across the board.

Year in Review: After missing the 2010 season due to an elbow issue, Pollock passed the test of Double-A pitching.
The Good: Pollock can do a little bit of everything. He has a quick, level swing and makes consistent contact with gap power and plenty of doubles. He's a slightly above-average runner with excellent instincts on the basepaths and in the field, where he's at least an average center fielder with a solid arm.
The Bad: Pollock has no star-level tools or abilities, and his greatest strength might be a lack of weaknesses. He'll never develop much power, and if he loses speed, he could get pushed to a corner. A more patient approach at the plate would help him to fit in better towards the top of a batting order.
Ephemera: Craig Counsell is the only player drafted out of Note Dame with more than one career home run in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Second-division starter or good fourth outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Not an early pick, but he won’t hurt your team in any category.
Path to the Big Leagues: Pollock will begin the year at Triple-A but likely needs an injury in a crowded outfield to earn anything more than a September look.
ETA: Late 2012.

8. Bobby Borchering, 3B/OF
: 10/25/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Bishop Verot HS (FL)
2011 Stats: .267/.332/.469 at High-A (135 G)
Tools Profile: Switch-hitter with power, but ultimately can be frustrating.

Year in Review: The first-round pick continued to put up decent numbers but has yet to live up to expectations.
The Good: Borchering has no platoon issues and generates big time raw power from both sides thanks to a wide stance and a leverage-heavy swing. He has a decent approach at the plate and has the ability to crush mistakes.
The Bad: Borchering is still looking for a defensive home. He's unacceptable at third base, and after spending some time at first, he was tried out in the outfield during the instructional leagues. Scouts have been disappointed at his inability to adjust; the holes in his swing have not closed, and he strikes out at an alarming rate. He's a below-average runner.
Ephemera: In his 18 day games for Visalia in 2011, Borchering hit .397/.447/.769 with seven home runs in 78 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: There is still star potential here, but the chances of Borchering reaching that have decreased.
Fantasy Impact: For now, it's volatile.
Path to the Big Leagues: Borching will move up to Double-A in 2012 in what could be a make or break season for his prospect status.
ETA: 2014

9. Anthony Meo, RHP
: 2/19/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2011, Coastal Carolina University
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (3-0-0-3) at Rookie (2 G)
Tools Profile: Two plus pitches, but questions about future role.

Year in Review: Meo was projected as a supplemental first-round pick, but he took a surprising fall to the second round.
The Good: Meo combines strike-throwing ability with good stuff. He has a slightly above-average fastball that tends to sit in the low 90s, but he can bump up to 94 at times. His best pitch is a true plus curveball that has a bit of horizontal movement to it along with downward break.
The Bad: Meo has a skinny frame that makes it look like he’s laboring it at times, so he'll need to prove he can handle a pro workload. His changeup is below-average, but he does have some feel for the pitch.
Ephemera: Of the 26 pitchers drafted out of Coastal Carolina, not one has reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four starter with some shot at being a three.
Fantasy Impact: Worthy of a roster spot but not an early pick.
Path to the Big Leagues: While there are questions about Meo's upside, he's advanced enough to earn a spot at High-A with a strong spring.
ETA: 2014.

10. Wade Miley, LHP
: 11/13/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/220
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2008, Southeastern Louisiana University
2011 Stats: 4.78 ERA (75.1-74-28-46) at Double-A (14 G). 3.64 ERA (54.1-53-16-56) at Triple-A (8 G). 4.50 ERA (40-48-18-25) at MLB (8 G)
Tools Profile: Fun to watch, but not a ton of stuff.

Year in Review: Left-hander reached the big leagues but produced mixed results.
The Good: Miley is an advanced pitcher who mixes a deep arsenal and throws strikes. His fastball generally features average velocity, but he touched 95 mph out of the bullpen. Both his curveball and slider are average pitches, and he has a decent changeup that he'll use against righties.
The Bad: Miley doesn't have the kind of stuff that affords many mistakes, and some scouts believe he just simply doesn't have a big league out pitch, projecting him as more of a reliever. He's maxed out physically and is a bit of an is-what-he-is type.
Ephemera: With his four wins, Miley is already the all-time leader among players drafted out of Southeastern Louisiana, passing Kirk Bullinger, who had two.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four or number-five starter but might wind up in middle relief.
Fantasy Impact: Limited.
Path to the Big Leagues: Miley is blocked at the big league level and has much better prospects closing in on him quickly. If he has a future in Arizona, it's likely in the bullpen.
ETA: 2012.

11. Adam Eaton, OF
: 12/6/88
Height/Weight: 5-9/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 19th round, 2010, Miami University of Ohio
2011 Stats: .318/.434/.463 at High-A (65 G). .302/.409/.429 at Double-A (56 G)
Tools Profile: He can hit, and that's what matters.

Year in Review: This relative unknown hit at High-A, hit at Double-A, and hit in the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Eaton is a max-effort type who gets the most out of limited tools. He's an on-base machine who draws plenty of walks and uses a contact-focused swing to slice line drives in every direction. He's a slightly above-average runner who plays with reckless abandon on the basepaths and in the field.
The Bad: Eaton has little power and struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. He's barely acceptable in center field and doesn't have the profile for a corner, making him a bit of a tweener.
Ephemera: When Chris Sexton took Dan Serafini deep at Wrigley Field on May 5, 1999, he became the last player drafted out of Miami of Ohio to hit a big league home run.
Perfect World Projection: Second-division starter who needs a platoon partner, or a fourth outfielder.
Fantasy Impact: Batting average and some steals, but not enough to be a world beater.
Path to the Big Leagues: Eaton will begin the year at one of Arizona's upper-level squads, depending on the numbers game.
ETA: 2013.

The Sleeper: 20-year-old Dominican Fidel Pena is a strange prospect with hitting ability who has impressed defensively both at second base and catcher.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Justin Upton, OF

2. Trevor Bauer, RHP
3. Daniel Hudson, RHP
4. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
5. Trevor Cahill, RHP
6. Archie Bradley, RHP
7. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
8. Gerardo Parra, OF
9. David Holmberg, LHP
10. Andrew Chafin, LHP

Upton is an MVP in the making who is still years away from a peak that should come at the end of his contract (which expires in 2016). Hudson is a good number-three starter, maybe even a bit more, and I struggled with where to rank him in relation to Bauer as he seems to be such a sure thing. Speaking of sure things, Archie Bradley obviously has a much higher upside than Cahill, but the latter is a guaranteed innings eater, although a bit of a hitable one. Goldschmidt was one of the best power hitters in the minor leagues last year and held his own in the big leagues. He's going to hit plenty of home runs, but he's never going to be a batting average guy. Parra is a wonderful defender, and the Jason Kubel signing was a strange one, but Parra's bat still doesn't profile especially well in a corner.

Summary: The Diamondbacks were the surprise team of the National League last year, but it was done by predominantly by scoring runs since the team finished ninth in the league in ERA. This is a pitching heavy system, and that's just what Arizona needs.

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
Amazing how 8 of the top 11 were first round picks
Actually, all of the top nine were either first- or second round picks in either 2009 or 2011. I can't think who they lost to have seven first-round picks in those two drafts.
Skaggs was drafted by the Angels, one of the picks was for failing to sign Barret Loux. They lost Orlando Hudson, Juan Cruz and Brandon Lyon after 2008 and Adam Laroche after 2010.
Kevin's point about a pitching-rich system being "just what Arizona needs" is something to think about. In terms of pure talent, this system doesn't match up with those of Toronto, San Diego, St. Louis, etc. But which is "better": a system full of high-powered talent that's blocked from making it to the majors, or one that may not have the raw talent, but does have exactly what the major-league team needs?
That's a good question, Bill! Hopefully KG and Parkes see this, and maybe they can discuss it on the podcast a bit. Personally, I've always wondered if part of the reason why some of the more hyped Angels (Wood) and Yankees prospects have faltered a bit in the past, because they've been blocked at the Major League level.
I think Wood faltered because of one monster year and a bunch of okay ones from inflated hitting environments, making him look a lot better than he really was. One excellent rule of thumb (again, not definitive, but works more often than it fails) is to discount Angels hitting prospects a little bit and bump up their pitching prospects because of the offensive environment they play in in the minor leagues.
Is Upton the #1 player in baseball under 25? Or is it Kershaw?
I would say it must be Kershaw because Upton is only a MVP in the making while Kershaw is already a CY Young award contender and 2011 winner.
Felix still qualifies
Davidson sounds kind of Mark Reynolds-esque?
I don't think he's going to be THAT extreme a K guy, but that name crossed my mind, certainly.
If he was a little bit younger, would Josh Collmenter be a Top 10 25 And Under? If so, where?
If he were younger, there's a pretty good chance Josh Collmenter would not even be in the Top 20 25 and under.
I do think he's going to regress, and will Bauer and Skaggs, he's not long for the Arizona rotation.
Skaggs is my favorite left-handed Tyler from California drafted in the 2009 first round from the LA area. Matzek is a close second.
Simple question: What does 9-7-4-17 for Bauer -- Guessing IP-Hits-BB-K)?
Yes. He had 17 Ks in 9 IP. He wore down during his brief minor-league run last year - see KGs mention of his college workload - but before wearing down the pitching lines from his first couple/few performances were INSANE.
Quick question for you KG: When you say that Dan Hudson is a "good number-three starter", does this you consider him to be about 60th to 70th best overall SP in baseball? As in, the top portion of the third tier based on 30 teams each using 5 starters. Or is this more a comment on his stuff and ceiling?
While I don't know the exact answer to your question, I will say that KG often maintains that there are not 30 #1 starters in baseball. If someone's a good number three according to KG, my guess is that they're above 60-70 in MLB.