How do you rate a 17-year old pitcher with great stuff who struggled in his first stint as a pro? Where do you rank a five-tool prospect that hasn't yet translated his tools into minor league success? How can we evaluate a pitcher with 2.2 innings of pro experience with any degree of accuracy?
The following ten players would each rank fairly highly on the FutureBacks Fifty if we only looked at potential. None of them would rank at all if we only looked at performance in the Diamondbacks organization. One of the biggest challenges with ranking prospect is balancing tools versus performance, but for the following players, we have seen so little performance - both in quality and quantity - that it is even more difficult to judge them.
Two of these ten were featured in last year's Beyond article. Two were ranked in last year's Top 50 and possibly should have appeared in a Young and Raw section instead. The remaining six were prospects from the 2008 June Draft. Some of them signed late and barely got a chance to showcase their abilities. Others struggled in the transition from amateur to pro.
So behold these ten high upside players, listed in no particular order.
RHP Sean Morgan
This Tulane product used his plus-slider to fan over one batter per inning in his 2007 professional debut. The only thing that appeared to be slowing him down was his poor command. He repeated Yakima this season; not only did his walk rate increase, but his strikeout rate decreased. He made five appearances as a starter, which is the role the D-backs had envisioned for him when they drafted him in the 4th round two years ago.
He has several improvements to make before we can even consider him a starting pitcher prospect, however. Not only must he improve his command, but he would also need to hone his below-average changeup. Morgan turns 23 this month, so he needs to have success at a full-season affiliate at some capacity to remain on the prospect radar.
Like Morgan, Tyrell Worthington is a raw talent that regressed instead of improving over the past year. The 20-year old Worthington is far less experienced than Morgan. His regression came partly due to an illness that deprived him of some body mass. He spent much of the 2008 season putting muscle back on his body when he should have been learning the basic fundamentals of the game. As more of a football player than a baseball player in high school, Worthington is about as raw as they come in terms of baseball acumen.
As a result, Worthington has a .143 batting average with no home runs over two seasons of play. He supposedly made strides during Instructs to get back to where he was last fall, but that's basically a year down the tubes. There's no way that Worthington is ready to begin full-season ball yet, so he may soon transition from being young and raw into only raw. Still, he's an incredible athlete with a chance to be an impact player if he can put it all together.
LHP Leyson Septimo
The Diamondbacks' front office has officially fallen in love with Leyson Septimo. No team would have dared keeping a player with less than one full year of pitching experience on their 25-man roster, yet Josh Byrnes panicked and protected Septimo from December's Rule 5 draft. Septimo converted from outfielder to relief pitcher in the 2007 Instructional League. While he does throw a blazing fastball, he still struggles with command and his slider is nothing to brag about.
Septimo even spent a little time on the disabled list last season, his small body not used to the torque created by throwing a baseball 95 miles per hour repeatedly. Septimo could eventually become a useful setup man, but that day is a long ways away, and it's a bit absurd to see his name listed on the Diamondbacks' 40-man roster.
Depending upon whom you ask within the organization, Alfredo Marte is either the highest-upside outfield prospect the Diamondbacks have or a reserve outfielder at best, making him a very difficult player to rank. There's lots to like with Marte: quick hands, quick legs, and solid defense. He put up great DSL numbers in 2007 and has room to add more muscle to his 6-foot-1 frame.
The bad news is that other than his 19 stolen bases, the numbers he put up at Yakima were underwhelming at best. The ball just isn't jumping off his bat considering how strong he already is and a long swing is preventing him from making solid contact consistently. Assuming that he really is just 19-years old as he claims, then Marte has plenty of time to fill out his athletic body, tighten up his swing, and crack the FutureBacks Fifty.
RHP Kevin Eichhorn
It wasn't easy leaving Eichhorn off the Top 50 list, as many analysts consider him to be among the 10 best Diamondbacks prospects. Last season, Jarrod Parker set a precedent for making the Top 50 despite not having pitched a professional inning, and Eichhorn at least has those 2.2 innings under his belt. Both pitchers performed well in their respective Fall Instructional Leagues, but there is the small matter of a 5-6 MPH difference on their fastballs, and Parker has a far more muscular build at this point.
Eichhorn is also a three-pitch hurler while Parker boasts a four-pitch arsenal. Eichhorn's curveball and changeup are supposedly very polished for his age, but the real litmus test for that will come after he logs some innings against professional hitters. Then we will decide whether he is the real deal or a pitcher who is living off his name more so than his stuff.
Parker hit .395 and slugged .644 this year at Wright State University before dipping to marks of .210 and .293 at Yakima. He played through a couple of injuries after turning pro, but that doesn't entirely explain the disappointing numbers for this 6th-round draft choice. The next obvious culprit would be the switch from wood to aluminum bats, but Parker had always practiced with wood bats growing up.
One aspect of his game that did not slump after signing with the D-backs was his speed. Parker swiped a dozen bags in 14 attempts after having gone 24-for-30 in his college career. While he obviously does not have as impressive of a throwing arm as his younger brother, Jarrod, he makes strong and accurate throws from the left side of the diamond. Justin Parker has all of the tools to succeed as a pro, and we expect a big 2009 season for him in his familiar turf at South Bend, Indiana.
RHP Miles Reagan
Reagan, 17 at the time of the draft, was the youngest of the 51 players selected by the Diamondbacks last June, so it's hardly a surprise that he did not fare well in his professional debut. Still, the D-backs would have appreciated a stronger showing than the 0-4 record, 7.31 ERA, and 33 walks in 32 innings indicate. A power pitcher, Reagan figures to have command issues early in his pro career. He brings a low-90s fastball and solid changeup to the table, while his curveball is more of a work in progress.
The Diamondbacks are undecided as to whether to develop Reagan as a starter or as a reliever. While his size makes him attractive as a starter, Reagan can get his fastball up to the mid-90s out of the bullpen. The determining factor will be whether he can craft a breaking ball good enough to get pro hitters out. He obviously needs to improve his command of all of his pitches to succeed in either role.
RHP Brett Moorhouse
It's no secret that Moorhouse's performance was underwhelming for a college player drafted in the 9th round. He combined for a 1-4 record and 8.75 ERA between Missoula and Yakima. He only struck out 22 batters in 36 innings, which led to a whopping 50 his allowed. The Southern Conference in which Moorhouse played is the toughest division of Florida Junior College baseball, but clearly it did not prepare him for professional hitters.
His stuff leads us to believe that he will eventually figure them out. Moorhouse throws a low-90s fastball that he can bump up to 94 MPH in an emergency. He also throws his slider and changeup for strikes consistently. Once he starts hitting the corners with his three pitches rather than leaving them out over the plate, he should once again become an effective starting pitcher, although not the ace that he was at Indian River.
OF Bobby Stone
Stone fell to the 15th-round not due to middling talent, but because he had signed a letter of intent to attend Sam Houston State University, and figured to be a tough sell at turning pro. He had starred both as a pitcher and as a hitter at Montgomery high school, but the D-backs want him for his excellent power potential. Another clue that the club is high on him is the fact that he earned a spot on the Instructional League roster, which is generally reserved for the organization's top young prospects.
Stone certainly showcased his power potential in Missoula, having clubbed 19 of his 48 hits for extra bases. But he also hit just .213 and had as many strikeouts as games played. We will have a better idea of where to rank this big corner outfielder after he uses what he learned at instructs to help him make good contact more consistently in '09.
RHP Jesse Orosco
At first glance, you might not understand why Orosco appears on this list. As a 38th-round draft selection, Orosco wouldn't figure to have lots of upside. But the fact that his father of the same name enjoyed a 24-year career certainly lends credence to the idea that Orosco Jr. knows what it takes to make it in professional baseball.
A quick glance also notices a 3-0 record and 3.72 ERA, but a closer examination reveals some early performance issues. Orosco allowed eight home runs in his first eight appearances before stringing together eight scoreless appearances afterwards. He managed a high WHIP of 1.60 due to his allowing more than one walk per two innings pitched. He also allowed 13 unearned runs, which would have bumped his ERA up to 6.94 had they been scored as earned. Orosco's late-season improvement gives us hope that he has figured something out, but his overall performance made him ineligible to be ranked among the Top 50 Diamondbacks prospects.