Scouting D-backs Prospects #51-55

The following five prospects would have been very difficult to leave off our prospect rankings head we decided to only rank the top 50 Arizona Diamondbacks prospects as in years past. Thank goodness we expanded them to 65. Take a detailed look at D-backs prospects #51-55 inside.

OPS+ = On Base Plus Slugging adjusted for league (average player =100) 
ERA+ = Earned Run Average adjusted for league (average player =100)

51. OF Cyle Hankerd - 104 OPS+ in 510 PA at Double-A Mobile

Inconsistency has plagued Cyle Hankerd ever since he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft.  After a stellar pro debut at Yakima, Hankerd was merely solid in the California League and looked awful in the Southern League after that.  Then he earned Hawaiian League MVP honors and crushed the ball for two months repeating in the Southern League this year before returning to some bad habits the rest of the way.  Hankerd turns 25 this month, so the time for him to prove that he can hit advanced pitching consistently is now.

When Hankerd is going well, he gets into good hitter's counts, waits for a good pitch to drive, and smacks the ball to the opposite field.  When he chases bad pitches and pulls off the ball, he hits around .213, as he did over the final four months of 2009.

While his swing has been all over the place, his defense has steadily improved.  Many people doubted Hankerd's arm when he was drafted, but it has been sound enough for him to play 91 games in right field over the past two years.  He even logged 15 outfield assists last season.   For an idea of how impressive of a total that is, consider that Houston's Hunter Pence was the only major league outfielder with more this year, and even he only bested Hankerd by one.

"I learned some tricks as far as reading the catcher setting up, turning, and running for fly balls," confided Hankerd.  "I just think that the more you play, you've got to get better.  I feel a lot more comfortable on defense."

Most likely, Hankerd will have a slightly above-average range and arm for a left fielder or slightly below average for a right fielder.  The question is whether he will hit consistently enough to play as a corner outfielder in the majors, and that is a question he must answer this year. 

52. RHP Brett Moorhouse - 88 ERA+ 1n 131.1 IP at Low-A South Bend

Sometimes a player's stats do not do him justice, and that is the case with Brett Moorhouse.  His 8.75 ERA in his rookie season won't impress you.  Neither will his 5-14 record in his first full season.  His 6-foot-2, 190-pound listing might make you think that he's too frail to go deep into ballgames and his mediocre strikeout rates might lead you to believe that he only has average stuff..

The poor record is misleading because at the All-Star break, Moorhouse had pitched 70 innings with a 3.86 ERA over a dozen starts, but compiled just a 2-8 record.  He was pitching well and deep into games, but didn't have much to show for it, record-wise.

"It's frustrating, but you can't really do anything about it," Moorhouse said of the lack of run support.  "You've just got to keep going out there pitching, working hard."

Moorhouse went 0-4 with a 6.29 ERA over his final eight starts, citing a mechanical issue of not getting enough torque in his windup.  He said that he felt great physically at the end of the season, as his 190-pound frame is all muscle.

"As far as inconsistency, I'd like to work on that," continued Moorhouse.  "Other than that, I'm getting there.  Just keep working hard in the offseason and come back next year."

One scout explained that Moorhouse' stuff was not the reason for his so-so strikeout rate; the tall right-hander's heater sits between 89-92 miles per hour, "so there's more than enough fastball."  But while Moorhouse doesn't walk a ton of batters, his inconsistent command often makes him leave pitches over the heart of the plate while behind in the count, and his stuff is not so good that he can get away with that.

"He's one of those good arms that you're hoping can come up with the command and the consistency in the strike zone to let the stuff play," the scout said.  "He does throw a slider that should be able to work at the upper levels, it's just a question of whether he'll be able to throw enough strikes."

Moorhouse also features a changeup that he describes as "pretty good" and a curveball that he uses sparingly.

Moorhouse during a bullpen session between starts:

53. RHP Chase Anderson - 187 OPS+ in 45.1 IP at Rookie Missoula

As a senior at Rider High School in Texas, Chase Anderson went 12-1 with an 0.50 ERA.  He then spent a forgettable season with North Central Texas College before pitching two seasons with the University of Oklahoma.  He averaged over a strikeout per inning as a Sooner, but only five of the 50 games he pitched there were starts.

"I'm more of a starter, but OU wanted me as a reliever and you do whatever helps the team out," Anderson told Times Record News. "You just fill your spot and your role."

The D-backs took Anderson in the ninth round of this year's draft and also used him in both pitching roles.  He had a 2.25 ERA in 14 games as a reliever and a 2.70 ERA over four starts.  The fact that he has four solid pitches including a deceptive changeup make him best suited for a starting role, but at 175 pounds soaking wet, some question whether he will have the durability to last a six-month season.

The Diamondbacks like Anderson's makeup, work ethic, and determination.  They consider him a "safe pick," meaning that although he likely will not become a star at the major league level, he is a good bet to play in the big leagues and contribute in some capacity.

54.  2B Jake Elmore - 102 OPS+ in 457 PA at Low-A South Bend

Elmore is a scrappy little infielder who somehow led his team in home runs through the first month of the season.  It took him a while to adjust back to his natural opposite-field stroke, but once he did, the results were very encouraging.  Elmore batted .345 in his final 29 games after hitting into some tough luck early in the season.  His 61 total walks ranked sixth among Diamondbacks minor leaguers and were accompanied by only 55 strikeouts.

"He does have some feel for what he can handle in the strike zone," a scout confirmed for us.  "He doesn't swing and miss often and he doesn't chase a lot of bad pitches.  He also handles the breaking ball well."

Mark Haley, Elmore's manager at South Bend, really enjoyed coaching him because Elmore is "a gamer."

"You're going to have to beat him; he's not going to beat himself.  He's going to push the button a little bit, and he's going to battle at the plate," praised Haley.  "He's an example of a college guy who has always had to scrap and battle to make his position.  He maximizes on everything he's got.  75% of big league guys aren't big studs; they're guys who know how to play the game right and do all the little things right, and that's what Elmore does."

Full Jake Elmore Profile

55. RHP Josh Ellis - 198 ERA+ in 41.2 IP at Double-A Mobile; 57 ERA+ in 19.2 IP at Triople-A Reno

A.J. Ellis is a defense-first catcher that has had a couple cups of coffee in the majors with the Dodgers.  His younger brother Josh is looking for a similar opportunity with the division-rival Diamondbacks.  If the junior Ellis continues to play the way he did at Double-A Mobile this year, he will have a long major league career and bragging rights over his elder brother.  If he continues to play the way he did at Triple-A Reno this year, he will be a career minor leaguer.

"He's a sidearmer with some velocity from that slot and very good sink, the type who should be very tough on right-handed hitters and he has shown some ability against left-handed hitters," general manager Josh Byrnes told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. "He's a major ground-ball guy who is becoming a better strike-thrower and can also strike people out. Certainly an intriguing guy."

Indeed, Ellis had been lights-out against right-handed batters until facing Pacific Coast League hitters this year.  They batted .353 in 51 at-bats against him, although he did still fan 15 of them while walking only four.  Compare that to the miniscule .153 average that Southern League right-handers managed against him with no homers, 39 strikeouts, and just four walks in 98 at-bats.  Hopefully, it was just nerves plaguing him in Triple-A and his deception and stuff will work against advanced right-handers, at least.

One good omen is that Ellis just finished pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League and went 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18.1 innings.  Right-handers only hit .208 against him, and surprisingly, lefties fared even worse at .167.  Ellis will be Rule 5 eligible next winter, so he needs to prove that he is worthy of being protected on the 40-man roster, and his winter ball performance suggests that he is well on his way to that proof.

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