Three Arizona Diamonbacks prospects who could debut in 2024

Many of Arizona's top prospects have already contributed, and there's more on the way. These three in particular could debut in 2024.

Arkansas Travelers v Amarillo Sod Poodles
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The Arizona Diamondbacks made headlines throughout the 2023 MLB season all the way up to their appearance in the 2023 World Series to the surprise of many. It was a fresh change of pace for the team, ending a six-year postseason drought that included three losing seasons and a tie for the league-worst two seasons ago. The team’s dramatic improvement last year stood out across the league, but it was only a matter of time till the team turned a corner. While the team scuffled at the big-league level for a while, the organization held a top-tier farm system that was bound to build the next competitive Dbacks team. Former top homegrown prospects like Corbin Carroll, Brandon Pfaadt, Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo have burst onto the scene, and there’s more pieces on the way. Here are three prospects who could debut this upcoming season.

SS/2B Blaze Alexander

Blaze Alexander
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Blaze Alexander has been a steady riser through the minors since getting selected out of High School (IMG Academy) in the 2018 Draft. He started last season in AAA-Reno and looked in line for a big-league promotion until a fractured thumb from a hit by pitch sidelined him for two months.  Blaze was able to log 64 games at AAA upon returning, though his numbers were pedestrian in the hitter-friendly environment. 

Blaze Alexander’s calling card is his arm that ranks among the best in the minors - he’s one of just four prospects (out of 1,000-plus) with an 80-grade arm tool on the 20-80 scale, per Fangraphs’ The Board. His cannon for an arm has been on full display his whole career, nearly reaching triple digits as a teenager. The Diamondbacks have increased Alexander's versatility by giving him some work at second and third, though an arm of his caliber is best suited for the six.

Earlier this week, the Diamondbacks signed infielder Kevin Newman to a minor-league deal, which could further Blaze’s path to the bigs. Newman, a former first-round pick by the Pirates, has turned into a solid platoon option in the middle infield, slashing .320/.376/.448 for a 126 wRC+ (26% above average) versus lefties over the last two seasons in 200-plus plate appearances.

When thinking of the next infielder in Arizona’s farm system to make their mark in the bigs, Jordan Lawlar - their No.1 prospect - probably comes to mind. And after making his MLB debut last September at 21 years old, the former first-round pick figures to be a dynamic part of their lineup soon, but shortstop prospect Blaze Alexander could get called up first next season. Lawlar seems due for more time in the minors after hardly reaching AAA, playing in only 16 games at the level.

1B/3B Ivan Melendez

Ivan Melendez
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Mike Hazen has focused on beefing up Arizona’s lineup this offseason, acquiring third basemen Eugenio Suarez from the Seattle Mariners and then re-signing left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., though he didn’t have to make a move to beef up the lineup with a right-handed slugger.

Winning the 2022 Golden Spikes Award, which goes to the best college hitter, Ivan Melendez’s track record largely comes from his days at the University of Texas, where he set a university record as a sophomore with 32 homers, good enough to take home the Golden Spikes Award for the best college player in the country. Months later, he was selected by the Diamondbacks in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft. 

Melendez’s prodigious power has translated well to professional ball. In his first full minor-league season last year between time at A+ Hillsboro and AA Amarillo, he was hitting home runs faster than anyone in the minors, going deep in 6.25% of his trips to the plate, tied with three among 1000-plus prospects, per Fangraphs. A lot of his success came in a small sample against left-handed pitching, slashing .343/.451./.877 for a whopping 1.327 OPS while also managing his strikeouts, getting rung up only 25% in just 91 plate appearances. In same-handed matchups, Melendez’s results were less promising, slashing .255/.316/.507 for a  .823 OPS and striking out 37% of the time. 

At 6-4, 240 lbs, his frame boosts his bat, though it brings concerns about his defense. The soon-to-be 24-year-old has limited mobility that impacts his range, which has especially become apparent at third base, where he spent most of last season over first base. First-base suits him the best, but experience at the other corner infield position increases his chances of sticking in the bigs.

Melendez’s prodigious power makes him capable of becoming a dominant slugger in the bigs, but his minimal defensive value suppresses how much he’ll able to contribute in the long run. His bat will have to pick up versus righties to make him a more likely to stay up in the bigs when he gets the chance. 

Christian Walker and Eugenio Suarez will hold the reins in the corner infield at first and third base next season respectively, and Emmanuel Rivera seems likely to back them up on the bench, so the chance of Melendez making the roster out of Spring Training is slim. Even if a roster spot was open, Melendez has yet to reach AAA, so he seems bound to spend time there before reaching the bigs. A big-league callup at some point next season seems in store for him. Walker and Suarez are set to become free agents after the ‘24 season, so Melendez could turn into a more valuable asset in short time. 

LHP Blake Walston

Blake Walston
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Blake Walston was viewed as a top talent in Arizona’s system, ranking in the top six every year up until last year, when he dropped to #27 per MLB Pipeline after a discouraging ‘23 season in AAA-Reno when he walked nearly as many batters as he struck out (1.12 K/BB) across 30 starts. Blake Walston has struggled to develop into the pitcher the Dbacks hoped for when taking him in the first round of the 2019 Draft.

The North Carolina native’s game has changed - and even dipped - in professional ball. An accomplished quarterback in High School, Walson’s fastball played up to 98 mph as an amateur that made the 6-foot-5 lefty look like the next overpowering starter. His fastball velocity has dwindled since then, along with the belief that he will be a formidable starter. Walston’s heater now sits in the low 90’s, but he has three solid secondaries in his changeup, curveball and slider that have good movement to them. 

The fifth starter role in Arizona’s rotation is up for grabs, though Slade Cecconi or Ryne Nelson could have a leg up on Walston because of their prior big-league experience and better results in the minors. Walson has exclusively started in his four minor-league seasons, though he could get introduced to the bullpen to cut his way into the bigs as a long-man option.