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Welcome to SB Nation FanPulse, a survey of fans across MLB. Each week, we send 30 polls to plugged in fans from each team. Diamondbacks fans, sign up HERE to join FanPulse.
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Over the season, we’ve been polling fans as to their confidence, both in the team and in manager Torey Lovullo. It has been an interesting way to take the temperature on how fans feel about the Diamondbacks. But looking at the final results, and how things changed over the course of the season, it became clear what a significant factor the team’s trade-deadline deals appear to have been. There are times when a picture is worth a thousand words, they say. This is probably one of them, so let’s start with the chart showing the percentage expressing confidence in the team over the year:
There were ups and downs, both before and after the deadline, largely related to team performance, e.g. plummet after the opening Dodger series, then a strong recovery as the D-backs negotiated the tricky April schedule better than expected. But the overall trends should be pretty clear. If not, I’ve added black lines to show them. :) Confidence tended downwards toward the deadline, then mounted a strong recovery thereafter. The team did have an improved performance from August on, going 31-22 in the final two months. That’s the equivalent of a 95-win pace - though remarkably, six teams in the NL played better still, posting a .600 win percentage or higher over that time
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With the regular season concluding, we've decided to take a look at each team's future -- not by using a crystal ball or other psychic abilities, but by evaluating their farm systems. Below you'll find our ranking of the top five prospects in the organization -- sorted by perceived future potential -- as well as five other players who fit various categories. Those categories are:
2020 contributor: A player who is likely to play a role for the big-league team next season.
Analyst's pick: A player who is a strong statistical performer and/or whose underlying measures are better than the scouting reports suggest.
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Riser: A player on the way up.
Faller: A player on the way down.
One to watch: An interesting player to keep in mind (for whatever reason).
These rankings were compiled after talking with various industry sources about the systems (and players) in question. It should be acknowledged that this process is more art than science, and that there are limits to ordinal rankings. Still, it's an intuitive system, and our hope is that the write-ups will answer any questions by providing additional context and analysis of each player -- such as their pluses and minuses; the risk factors involved; and their estimated arrival date.
One last word on eligibility: we're following MLB's rookie guidelines by disqualifying any player with more than 130 big-league at-bats or 50 innings pitched.
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The Arizona Diamondbacks retooled their system in 2019 by picking seven times in the top 75 overall selections and also trading Zack Greinke for a four-player package. As such, this system is different than it looked even entering the early portions of the summer.
1. Kristian Robinson, OF Signed out of the Bahamas on July 2, 2017 for more than $2.5 million, Kristian Robinson has the makings of a high-quality player.
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Robinson is listed at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds with a frame that suggests he should be able to add more muscle over the coming years. In turn, he's likely to wield well-above-average power potential -- a scary thought for the A-ball pitchers who permitted him to hit .282/.368/.514 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases this season (to be fair, most of that damage came before a late-season promotion to Single-A).
As the steals indicate, speed is at present a part of Robinson's game, and he's primarily played center field thus far as a professional. It's probable, if not likely, that he'll end up in a corner as he packs on additional weight -- presumably at the cost of his speed.
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Robinson won't turn 20 until after the election, meaning there's ample time for something to go awry -- for example, maybe he proves too prone to swinging and missing to maximize his offensive output. There's also ample time for him to develop into a star.
2. Alek Thomas, OF Arizona's third pick in 2018, Alek Thomas made quick work of A-ball, hitting .312/.393/.479 with eight home runs in 91 games. He didn't perform quite as well in 23 games at High-A, but it's also 23 games and he was more than three-plus years younger than the average bear.
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Thomas, who won't turn 20 until late April, is an above-average runner who may well stick in center field. (If he has to move to a corner, it'd likely be left due to his substandard arm.) It's unclear if he'll provide more than gap power on a consistent basis, but he could develop into a leadoff-hitter type who contributes both a high average and walk rate.
The risk here is that Thomas's hit tool plays down if pitchers don't fear his pop. He isn't bereft of strength, so it isn't a major concern at this point, but punishing mistakes is part of what separates the Brett Gardners of this player family from the Sam Fulds.
3. Daulton Varsho, C? CF? 2B? Daulton Varsho, whose father Gary played in the majors and now scouts, just keeps hitting. This season in Double-A he batted .301/.378/.520 with 18 home runs and 21 steals.
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The question with Varsho isn't his stick, but where he'll end up defensively. Prior to his season, the Diamondbacks had played him exclusively behind the plate since drafting him in 2017. This year, however, they permitted him a handful of looks in center field. Varsho has the athleticism to play elsewhere up the middle -- be it center or second base -- and it's possible Arizona intends to move him to another position as a means of getting his bat into the lineup more quickly.
Whatever the case, Varsho is an intriguing prospect due to his bat and physical gifts. There's a fair chance he'll debut in some capacity before the 2020 season ends.
4. Corbin Carroll, OF The 16th pick in June's draft, Corbin Carroll can do at least a little bit of everything. He proved as much in his introduction to pro ball, hitting .299/.409/.487 with 18 extra-base hits and 18 steals (on 19 attempts) in 42 games across two levels.
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Carroll can really run and has an above-average arm, making him a safe bet to remain in center field. He can also, obviously, hit a lick. So, why did he last until the middle of the first round?
Evaluating and projecting a player's frame is part of the process, regardless of whether they're a hitter or a pitcher, but typically the idea of someone being "too small" is reserved for pitchers. Carroll is the rare hitter to receive that criticism, as he's listed at 5-foot-10, 165 pounds. There are enough examples out there -- Mookie Betts (5-foot-9, 180 pounds); Andrew Benintendi (5-foot-10, 170 pounds); and Adam Eaton (5-foot-9, 176 pounds) among them -- to think that if Carroll fails to live up to his upside -- a starting center fielder -- it won't be because of his size.
The Diamondbacks as an organization seem fine with taking chances on smaller outfielders -- be it Carroll, Thomas, Dominic Fletcher, and so on. It makes sense -- many of their front office members, including GM Mike Hazen, were in Boston when Betts and Benintendi were coming through the pipeline. They've seen up close how that type can be undervalued. They just hope that continues to be the case.
5. Geraldo Perdomo, SS When the Diamondbacks traded Jazz Chisholm at the deadline, Geraldo Perdomo became the best shortstop prospect in the system by default.
Perdomo, a switch-hitter, who'll turn 20 in late October, may have usurped Chisholm regardless. That's because he split the season between Single- and High-A, batting .275/.397/.364 with 26 stolen bases (albeit on 39 tries) and more walks than strikeouts. His swing suggests he won't offer much power, but there's more than enough else to like here, including on the defensive end. Pedromo has a good arm and above-average athleticism. He's listed at 6-foot-3, but he has a better-than-normal chance at remaining at shortstop heading forward
Add it all together, and Perdomo could be an above-average shortstop who bats near the top of a lineup. That's a quality player.
2020 contributor: Jon Duplantier, RHP Jon Duplantier made 15 big-league appearances, but remains eligible for the list because most were relief appearances lasting three innings or fewer. Duplantier's durability has always made him a candidate to move to the bullpen full time, so it's possible this is a glimpse of his future. The Diamondbacks would probably request that -- if it is -- he finds a way to miss more bats with his slider, which was thought to be a plus pitch entering the season, as he ranked 354rd (out of 374) in whiffs-per-swing. Should Duplantier do that, he should become a quality reliever.
Analyst's pick: Seth Beer, Hitter Seth Beer's career outlook is simple: he's either going to be a good big-league hitter, or he isn't going to play in the majors for long. Beer's inclusion in the Zack Greinke trade was surprising on Arizona's part, since he would seem like a better fit in the American League, where he could serve as someone's DH. In the NL, he's limited to first base or left field since he can't run or throw. He can hit, though -- and he'll need to in order to reach the arbitration phase.
Riser: Wilderd Patino, OF Venezuelan outfielder Wilderd Patino split the season between two rookie leagues, hitting .319/.378/.447 and swiping 14 bags on 18 tries. He just turned 18 in July and Lord knows he's a long ways off developmentally, but he can really run and he has a strong frame that hints at power potential. There are a wide range of potential outcomes here, beginning with "guy you never think about again" and ending with "starting-caliber center fielder."
Faller: Taylor Widener, RHP The Diamondbacks had nine pitchers start at least five times for them. Meanwhile, Taylor Widener spent his season in Triple-A, where he posted an 8.10 ERA and permitted more than 12 hits and two home runs per nine innings pitched. Yeesh. Blame it on the altered baseball, but there were already concerns about how Widener's low three-quarters release point would play in a rotation, and this season won't convince anyone who was previously skeptical.
One to watch: Corbin Martin, RHP Another piece of the Greinke payout, Corbin Martin started for the Astros five times before seeing his season end in July due to Tommy John surgery. Realistically, he may not make it back to the majors until next August or September -- and that's presuming all goes well with his rehab. Martin is worth waiting on, as he has mid-rotation potential thanks to a deep arsenal.
Beyond that, the two big trades which Mike Hazen pulled off were likely the main reason. The arrival of Zac Gallen certainly provided a boost, both for this year and next, and his arrival effectively balanced the departure of Zack Greinke in our rotation. [Gallen was worth 1.3 bWAR with Arizona; Greinke 1.3 bWAR with Houston] The fact he is under team control for the next five season was a definite plus. Even if his cost was a well-regarded prospect, in Jazz Chisholm, Gallen’s ability to make an immediate impact was seen positively. Cake today is better than the promise of cake tomorrow, if you like.
The trade of Zack Greinke was one which many pundits told us should not have been possible at all. “Look at that contract!” they said. “He has a no-trade list of half the teams in the majors!” they said. “You’ll never be able to shift him without eating almost all of his salary.” But in the Houston Astros, Mike Hazen found a team who were an excellent fit in terms of wanting another starter, and had the prospects and the resources to make the trade work for both teams. If the Astros win the World Series this year or next, they will likely be happy with the deal, regardless of what the prospects sent to Arizona might do. And it certainly gives Arizona a great deal more flexibility, financially.
The chart above compares manager and team confidence over the course of the season, and you can see the strong connection. Statistically, the correlation for the year worked out at 0.72 which is very high, to the point that the two questions seems almost superfluous. Next year, I hope SB Nation maybe adjust that: one question on confidence seems enough, we don’t get much more useful data from splitting it up. But I also note that for almost every single week, Torey Lovullo confidence was higher than that in the Diamondbacks as a whole.