The FutureBacks Fifty: The Top 30

We just couldn't wait. We tried, we had a plan. Every Monday we'd drop 10 more. But we couldn't do it. We've never been good at keeping secrets, we've always been the one who gives you your Christmas present on the 22nd...of November. So here it is, the rest of the Top 50, the Top 30 Diamondbacks prospects. Right here, right now, no more waiting, no more baiting. Just pure talent. The FutureBacks Fifty: #30-#1

#30    Matt Elliott     Last Year: NR

The closer sensation came on and anchored the Lo-A Silverhawks to a Midwest League Championship.  At one point during the season he went 30 straight appearances without giving up an earned run.

#29    Casey Daigle    Last Year:  NR

Last year he wasn't ranked because he was in the bigs, and didn't qualify.  Normally he wouldn't qualify this year either, except he moved from the starting rotation into the closer's spot in Double-A Tennessee.  After struggling early he's added a few ticks to the fastball and developed the mentality to shut a team down.

#28    Bill Murphy    Last Year:  #13

The control problems that have plagued him got worse, inducing a mid season slump that he didn't break out of until a stellar Arizona Fall League campaign.  Probably the pitcher most likely to get snapped up in the Rule V draft, but if he doesn't, and can build on his AFL and Olympic Qualifying performances, could see rotation time with the parent club next season.

#27    Matt Green    Last Year: NR

The D'Backs 2005 third round pick out of Louisiana-Monroe made 12 of his 15 appearances in a starting role, but figures to move into the bullpen eventually, where his heavy, sinking fastball moves from the low 90s to the mid to high 90s.  Struggled in his first taste of pro ball but threw a ton of innings in college prior to the draft and figures to bounce back strong next season.

#26    Augie Murillo    Last Year:  NR

A third base prospects with crazy upside and quite a bit of production right now.  Tailed off toward the end of the year and will need to put on weight and add power to his game to stay at the hot corner.

#25    Ross Ohlendorf    Last Year: NR

At Lo-A South Bend the Princeton grad was regularly impressing scouts and coaches with command and poise, and impressing hitters with heat.  Finished third in the organization with 144 strikeouts but had a tendency to give up the long ball.

#24    Matt Torra    Last Year: NR

Signed late and started late, appearing in only five games after being taken with the D'Backs second pick in the draft.  Will move through the system quickly as he already has two nearly finished pitches in his fastball and curve, both of which he throws for strikes.  His changeup will be the pitch that ultimately determines if he's a big league #5 or a big league #2.

#23    Jeff Cook    Last Year: NR

A fifth round pick out of Southern Miss in 2003 the Diamondbacks had high hopes for Cook, starting him off at Lo-A.  He's since repeated and now moved only to Lancaster, where at 25 he's old for the league.  Still, incredibly bat speed and power make him a prospect to watch, but in a system full of outfield prospects he might be best served as trade bait.

#22    Jarred Ball    Last Year:  #28

Bumps up six spots this year in the Top 50, but moves up much farther in the organizations eyes, and is currently the top center field prospect, with an outside shot of making the big league club out of spring training, particularly if they don't acquire a veteran, and if he plays in the Spring like he did in the AFL, where he wowed scouts and coaches with his adjustments in the box, and defense in center.

#21    Greg Smith    Last Year: NR

The D'Backs sixth round pick, this lefty might end up being the best player the Diamondbacks took in 2005 (are you listening Mr. Upton?).  While most scouts have profiled him as a reliever, the fact that he threw 190+ innings (between LSU and the Rookie League Missoula Osprey) this season, and never lost velocity may have changed the Diamondbacks minds.

#20    Matt Chico    Last Year: #26

Chico started 2005 in Double-A Tennessee, and would probably prefer everyone forgot about that.  He was shelled and lost seven of his 10 starts there before being bumped back to Hi-A Lancaster, where he remembered to start pitching inside and tore up the notoriously hitter friendly California League.

#19    Alex Frazier    Last year: #22

Frazier broke his wrist diving for a ball in the outfield, and it might have been the best thing to happen to him.  After working hard in the offseason to put on weight and adjusting his swing in an attempt to hit for better average his power had seemed to disappear.  Then the injury, but once he came back the power did as well.  If not for the injury would have been due a promotion to Double-A, where he'll likely start next season.

#18    Tony Pena    Last Year: #6

Pena battled for the #5 spot in the Diamondbacks rotation right up until the final 10 days of spring training, then was sent to Double-A, got shelled in a few starts, was shut down because of elbow soreness, and lost his first 10 starts.  Around mid season he started to turn it around and regain the form that had the front office salivating, but will need to show consistency before he becomes a legit front of the rotation contender again.

#17    A. J. Shappi    Last Year: #14

Takes a dip in the rankings despite putting together one of the best first halves in all of the minor leagues.  The crafty right hander gets by on location and smarts, but his mid to upper 80s fastball just might not have enough on it to be effective at higher levels.  Could move into the bullpen if it adds a couple of ticks on the radar gun, and his outstanding control would play well there.

#16    Dan Uggla    Last Year: NR

The utility man extraordinaire might have been the only middle infielder in the D'Backs organization happy to see Stephen Drew come along, because if finally cemented him as a second baseman.  Will continue to see time at other positions, but when to the Arizona Fall League to prove he could play defense, did, and hit a ton as well.  Looks to be the Triple-A version of Andy Green next season, and will draw significant interest in the Rule V draft this week.

#15    Jason Bulger    Last Year: #10

Struggled early in the year as the thought of a call up was weighing on his mind.  Straightened himself out and became the most dependable member of a bullpen where he was often the only true prospect, playing alongside the likes of Kerry Ligtenberg and Matt Herges for long periods.  Impressed in a brief call up at the end of the season.

#14    Enrique Gonzalez    Last Year: #8

In a Double-A rotation that was supposed to be dominant, only Gonzalez was consistently so all year long.  A solid low to mid 90s fastball that has incredible movement is complimented by a slider he can spot anywhere in, or out, of the zone.  Durable, and reminds more than one scout of a younger Pedro Martinez, both in stuff and demeanor.

#13    Cesar Nichols    Last Year:  NR

The first baseman from Vanderbilt is in a tough spot, but has the talent to make Conor Jackson and Chad Tracy start looking over their shoulders by the end of next season.  Hits for average and power, clutch with runners on base, and plays an adequate defensive first base.  Could move quickly, with rumors he'll skip Lancaster next season and start in Double-A.

#12    Jon Zeringue    Last Year:  #7

The second round pick from LSU last season struggled in his first go around the Southern League, but the Diamondbacks demonstrated their confidence by running him out to right field nearly every day, despite having three other solid outfield prospects available at all times. 

#11    Micah Owings    Last Year: NR

Any time a college pitcher gets drafted and starts right at Hi-A it's a sign that good things are coming.  When that same college pitcher dominates the way Owings did (2.45 ERA, 30 Ks in 22 innings) things really start looking up.  Will move to the starting rotation next season, after being held in the bullpen because he pitched a ton of innings in leading Tulane to the College World Series.

#10    Garrett Mock     Last Year: #21

Showed an incredibly amount of moxie this year, pitching nearly 175 innings in the California League.  Gave up a ton of hits, but figures to see that number go down significantly went lazy fly balls stop hitting the wall in the Southern League.  Throws strikes, trusts his stuff, but will have to improve the secondary pitches if he's going to survive Double-A hitting next year.

#9    Koley Kolberg    Last Year: NR

The right hander from the University of Arizona is known as a bit of an eccentric, but if he keeps pitching the way he did in South Bend the Diamondbacks will tolerate just about anything.  Intimidates hitters despite not being the biggest guy and has no fear, was actually angry that the D'Backs held him back in extended spring so long, even though the injury he had was to his pitching arm.  Could move through the system in a flash and be ready for opening day 2007.

#8    Sergio Santos    Last Year: #3

A miserable year from Santos, who might have struggled because he was recovering from a shoulder surgery he probably needed two years ago.  Answered any questions about whether or not he could play enough defense to remain at shortstop, but none the less was knocked back to the second SS in the organization the minute Drew signed.

#7    Miguel Montero    Last Year: NR

Spent the first half of the season leading the minor leagues in (at one point) 11 offensive categories including home runs, batting average, RBI, runs scored, OBP, and slugging percentage.  Lighting quick bat from youngster who still has work to do behind the plate, but is light years ahead of where he was at the beginning of '05.  Currently tearing up the Venezuelan League, and giving Chris Snyder nightmares.

#6    Chris Carter    Last Year: #18

The 17th round pick in the '04 draft was a sleeper that has officially woken up.  Played in the shadow of Montero, and then Drew, in Lancaster, but hit .296 with 20+ homers.  Finally given a promotion to Double-A with two months left in the year and proceeded to hit .300 with 10 homers in 140 at bats.  Needs to improve the defense, but worked exhaustively in Instructs to do so.

#5    Scott Hairston    Last Year:  NR

Like Daigle, wasn't ranked last year because he'd been playing in the bigs, and like Daigle, lands back on this list because of a position change, to left field.  Would have been the Diamondbacks most asked about player in trade negotiations if he hadn't injured his shoulder in a freak way when he was hit by a pitch.  Still among the D'Backs top three asked about prospects.

#4    Dustin Nippert    Last Year: #11

This kid is insane.  Many would have stopped when a tumor required surgery, for others it might have been Tommy John.  Nippert on the other hand came back and was (seemingly) at full strength in 11 months.  Dominated the Southern League going 8-3 with a 2.38 ERA and got the magic call late in the season.  Pitched well enough to warrant an invitation back to the D'Backs starting rotation.

#3    Carlos Quentin    Last Year: #1

Offensive numbers were down slightly, but it was barely noticeable, and his overall game improved.  Used the whole field at the plate and covered it late in the year, as the D'Backs experimented with him in center field.  Despite not have a true center fielder's speed, impressed anyone who watched him with great jumps and a gear few knew was there.  Potential opening day center fielder depending on what the Diamondbacks do in the trade/free agency market.

#2    Stephen Drew    Last Year: 50.5

What?  Number two?  The wicked hot start Drew got off to in Lancaster was tempered a little by a hamstring pull that caused him to miss a week.  After his Hi-A cameo he moved up to Double-A and struggled with nagging ailments before going to the Arizona Fall League and tearing it up.  Likely to be the Diamondbacks opening day shortstop, and an early favorite to win Rookie of the Year.

#1    Carlos Gonzales    Last Year: #20

Drew is the closest to the Majors, and Quentin will get there not long after.  Nippert's there already, and likely to stay, but Gonzales is the one most likely to cause an organizational shift.  Hit .307 with 18 homers and 92 RBI in Lo-A South Bend, but if he wasn't 19 years old (he turned 20 in October) would likely have been playing in Double-A.  With the stockpile of talented outfielders, the Diamondbacks see no need to rush him, but he's an incredible athlete, who will add another 20 pounds of muscle before he sees Major League action, likely late in '07, and to stay in '08.  Has the best outfield arm in the system, 40 homer a year potential, and has such a quick bat that he's able to let the ball get deep in the zone, allowing him to turn on breaking pitches and drive fastball out of the park the other way.  Will start '06 in Hi-A, and likely to get promoted mid season.  Has struck out fewer times per at bat in every season he's played, and is the only player in the D'Backs system who legitimately has a chance to win the batting title and home run crown at the Major League Level.

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