The strongest and weakest areas in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ farm system

What position does the Arizona Diamondbacks' farm system excel in, and which position could use some more help at in the future?
Visalia Rawhide's Druw Jones rounds third Tuesday, April 11, 2023 against the Rancho Cucamonga
Visalia Rawhide's Druw Jones rounds third Tuesday, April 11, 2023 against the Rancho Cucamonga / Ron Holman / Visalia Times-Delta / USA

The Arizona Diamondbacks have a relatively solid farm system. It's also a fairly young system as well. Of FanGraphs' top five D-Backs prospects, three are 20 years old or younger. Of course, like any farm system, the Diamondbacks' minor leagues have their strengths and weaknesses. The team can take advantage of some of these strengths by acquiring help for the Major League team, but they could also look to try and add to their weakest spots in the system.

Deepest position: outfield

The D-Backs have a ton of top outfield prospects, and that's after graduating both Alek Thomas and Corbin Carroll over the last two seasons. The Snakes' top outfield prospect is Druw Jones, their 2022 first-round pick. Jones projects much like his father: a guy who could consistently hit 30 home runs with great speed and one of the best outfield gloves in baseball. Jones missed most of the 2023 season, only coming to the plate 173 times. While he has plus or better tools in the power, speed, fielding, and arm strength departments, there are some concerns about his hit tool.

Another top outfield prospect is Jack Hurley, the team's third-round pick in 2023. The former Virginia Tech outfielder has the potential to be a five-tool player. He doesn't have any tool that sticks out, but everything could play to a 50-55 grade level. Hurley batted .276/.474/.409 with a 116 wRC+ between the D-Backs' Rookie ball, Low-A, and High-A affiliates. But he struck out 44 times in 147 plate appearances. Still, Hurley didn't show that much swing-and-miss in his final college season and projects to have an average hit tool. He also slugged 17 homers with an OPS of 1.128.

Dominic Fletcher reached the majors last season and batted .301 with a 113 wRC+ through 102 plate appearances. Fletcher also batted .291/.399/.500 with a .399 wOBA and 120 wRC+ at Triple-A Reno this season. Fletcher displayed outstanding fielding prowess in the majors and racked up +4 defensive runs saved and +2 outs above average in just 219.1 innings. Fletcher is an average runner who has shown off a 50-55 hit tool but below-average power. He's more of a doubles driver than a home run hitter.

The best defensive outfielder in the system, not named Druw Jones, is Jorge Barrosa. Barrosa is a speedy center fielder with Gold Glove potential. However, at just 5'5" and 165 pounds, he will never hit for much pop. He never has throughout the minor leagues. But he makes up for it with the amount of walks he draws and how good he is at limiting strikeouts. Over the last two years, he's batted .277 with a 13.9% walk rate and 15.8% strikeout rate. Barrosa could be Ender Inciarte 2.0.

Kristian Robinson's return was one of the biggest surprises from the D-Backs' system this season. After missing three seasons due to off-field and visa issues, Robinson returned last season to bat .283/.382/.532 with a .411 wOBA and 130 wRC+. Robinson is another potential plus-plus power hitter with enough speed to steal 20 bases and cover plenty of ground in center field. He could also stick up the middle defensively, but his strong arm will easily play in either corner. But Robinson struck out over 30% of the time in 2023 and has real questions about his hit tool.

The D-Backs also have a handful of notable prospects who can play outfield and other positions. A.J. Vukovich played most of his games in center field and left field but has a lot of experience at both infield corners. Tristin English is another corner infield/outfield prospect. Gian Zapata is only 18 but was one of the D-Backs' top international signees. Wilderd Patino didn't post great numbers last season but is on both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs' top Diamondbacks' prospect lists.

Shallowest position: pitching

Both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs list one starting pitching prospect among the Diamondbacks' top ten prospects. For MLB Pipeline, that's Yu-Min Lin. Lin split his season between High-A and Double-A. In his first 60.1 innings for Hillsboro, Lin worked to a 3.43 ERA, 3.07 FIP, and 1.14 WHIP. The lefty struck out 32.1% of the batters he faced with a 0.45 HR/9, but his 9.3% walk rate wasn't anything too great. He was then promoted to Double-A, where he had a 4.28 ERA, 4.76 FIP, and 1.23 WHIP in 61 innings. Min's strikeout rate dipped to 24.7% while his BB% rose to 10% and HR/9 jumped to 1.03.

But cut Lin a little bit of slack. His ERA, FIP, and WHIP were still above average for the Texas League, and he was only in his age-19 campaign (he didn't turn 20 until mid-July). Min was the youngest pitcher to make at least ten starts in the Texas League by nearly an entire year. The only younger pitcher over the last decade in the Texas League to appear in at least ten outings is Julio Urias in 2015.

Lin's best pitches are his breaking and off-speed stuff. Both his curveball and slider project as above average. His change-up is probably his best pitch. However, that's not the only off-speed pitches the Taiwanese lefty throws. He also tosses a splitter/screwball-esque pitch. Min only sits in the low 90s with his four-seam fastball.

The best pitcher in the D-Backs system, according to FanGraphs, is Slade Cecconi. Cecconi pitched 27 big league innings last season while only walking four batters but also allowing four home runs and striking out just 20. His Triple-A numbers showed some promise with a 23.3% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate, and 5.37 xFIP in the ultra-hitter-friendly PCL. Cecconi had a 17.1% HR/FB ratio, inflating his HR/9 to 1.86 and ERA to 6.11.

Cecconi throws a four-seamer, slider, curveball, and change-up. The right-hander sat 94.1 MPH in the bigs with about 2300 RPM. However, his 99% active spin rate helped give his fastball good movement. Among pitchers who threw at least 100 fastballs in the majors, Slade's four-samer had the 19th most horizontal break. Slade's slider also had a 36% whiff rate, sitting low-80s with around 2400-2450 RPM. He takes nearly 10 MPH off his curveball, sitting in the low 70s with 2350-2400 RPM. Then there's his spin-killing low-80s change-up. Averaging out at just 1374 RPM, Cecconi's change-up had the 28th least amount of spin.

The D-Backs' system doesn't have that one starting pitching prospect that shouts "future ace." Some guys could potentially break out next season, but as of right now, they don't have very nearly as many noteworthy pitching prospects compared to the number of outfield prospects. They also have more shortstop/middle infielders as well and a handful of noteworthy corner infield prospects.