Scouting D-backs Prospects #31-35

Arizona Diamondbacks prospects #31-35 each played all of their 2009 season at one of the Single-A levels. Such players can be difficult to gauge based on their statistics, as the talent they face can vary significantly. This is where scouting a player's mechanics, makeup, and approach becomes paramount.

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

31. C Rossmel Perez - 94 OPS+ in 394 PA at Low-A South Bend

Rossmel Perez is a very unusual prospect.  He does not use a stride at the plate, which saps him of any power potential, but allows him to track the ball better, handle offspeed pitches, and cover more areas of the strike zone.  Perez therefore hit for a good batting average and drew a lot of walks for a Venezuelan teenager, but has failed to homer even once in nearly 700 professional at-bats.

If you were to see Perez in street clothes, you would have no idea that he was a professional athlete.  He looks more like the chubby kid that some teenage athletes pick on than an athlete himself.  Nevertheless, Perez is more athletic than you might expect, pouncing on balls in the dirt with fervor.  His arm is already excellent, and he has the potential to become an excellent all-around defensive catcher someday.

"He does not seem to have any problem with the speed of the game offensively, but defensively, his catch and throw tools have not quite become receiving skills yet," one scout noted.  "He's still working on his weight shift, his footwork, and his framing of the pitches, but there's no reason to say that he won't be able to stay back there going forward."

There are some in the organization who believe that Perez is already among the best in the system at blocking wild pitches and fielding bunts.  Offensively, Perez has begun to use more of a weight transfer in his swing, although he still does not stride.  This allows him to drive the ball for doubles power on occasion.

Perez BP in May:
Perez BP in September:

32. RHP Bryan Shaw - 95 ERA+ in 107.1 IP at Hi-A Visalia

This second round draft pick from 2008 did not start a game in college nor in his first professional season.  Then this year, Bryan Shaw was suddenly asked to start 19 games before returning to a relief role in late July.  Shaw actually comported himself quite well, adding two pitches to become a four-pitch hurler and winding up with a 4.53 ERA in those 19 starts.

"When I came out in Montana I only really had a fastball and slider," Shaw explained.  "Then I showed [Diamondbacks coaches] I had a curveball; I've been working on that as my third pitch.  I showed them I have a split, and they see that as one of my out-pitches also."

Oddly, Shaw began to experience some control problems when he returned to the bullpen towards the end of the summer, although he did strike out 23 batters over his 20 relief innings.   Perhaps he was just overthrowing - letting loose after needing to save his strength for five-to-six inning outings earlier in the year.  Another possibility is that the foreign workload put a strain on his arm, and his tired mechanics led to the 11 walks in 20 frames.

At this point, the D-backs can either continue to develop Shaw as a starter or return him to more familiar bullpen work.  He has fairly high upside in either role.

Shaw on his conversion to a starter

33. 3B Justin Parker - 97 OPS+ in 378 PA at Low-A South Bend

Justin Parker is nearly two years older than is Jarrod Parker, the best overall prospect in the Diamondbacks organization.  It had to be a little frustrating for the elder Parker to be playing two levels below his little brother.  Not as frustrating as the injuries he has played through, however. 

"My right shoulder bothered me last year throwing," Parker explained after the 2009 season.  "This year, I had my left shoulder - it's called subflexation - but basically dislocated and put back into place."  

Parker has really only been healthy for two months since turning pro.  In those two months, he hit .313, showed impressive plate discipline, and handled breaking pitches better than any of his teammates did.  Had he not suffered the shoulder subflexation, Parker would have been playing in Hi-A ball by July.

The injury not only affected his swing, but his defense suffered as well.  While Parker attributes many of his 24 errors in 73 games at third base last season to being a natural shortstop, it was evident from watching him that he was unable to dive while nursing the shoulder, forcing him into some bad defensive fundamentals.  Parker doesn't want to use his injuries as excuses for his sub-par play, but if fully healthy in 2010, he should have a monster year.

More on Parker's injury and leadership role.

34.  SS Brent Greer - 110 OPS+ in 305 PA at Short-Season Yakima

In some significant ways, Brent Greer is the antithesis of Rossmel Perez.  While the Venezuelan catcher is content to put the ball in play weakly and consistently, Greer uses a high leg-kick to put an extra charge into the ball.  Doing so has its price, however.

"You trade one thing for another," confirmed our scout.  "If you do the big leg kick and you really load up on your back side, you can take advantage of every ounce of strength that you have and generate power.  But it makes you susceptible to offspeed pitches and pitches that upset your timing, because it's such a long hitting motion from start to finish."

There was nothing wrong with Greer's timing in July, when the slender shortstop went .371/.441/.619 with 22 runs and 21 RBI.  Three of his six homers that month came in one game.  Beginning in August, Northwest League pitchers realized that Greer's long swing was exploitable.  He hit just .252 with only one more homer and 10 more RBI the rest of the way.

Greer may not have the range to play shortstop in the majors, but his above average arm could help him excel at third base or in the outfield.  He will need to hit for power to advance at either of those positions, so the organization will probably try to work with his leg kick.  If he can limit his head movement during the stride, Greer should be able to see the ball better, make more contact, and make his natural stroke work.

Brent Greer: Player of the Week

35. RHP Ryan Cook - 108 ERA+ in 142.2 IP at Low-A South Bend

Ryan Cook had been one of the best-kept secrets in the D-backs' organization as a big pitcher with a power sinker.  Then he went through a seven-start stretch towards the end of 2009 in which he went 5-0 with a 1.41 ERA, propelling the Silver Hawks into the postseason.  The secret was out.

"The best raw fastball [among Silver Hawks pitchers] belongs to Cook," praised our scout.  "It's a hard, heavy sinker that gets into the low-90s...He gets a lot of ground balls with it.  That's going to be the pitch that's his bread and butter as he advances.  The question with him is, what's his secondary offering?  And like many pitchers, he is learning to throw pitches for strikes."

His secondary offerings include a slider and a changeup, but neither one is very consistent in terms of either movement or command.  If Cook can harness one of them to go with his superlative sinker, he can be an effective reliever at the big league level.  If he improves both, he could legitimately become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Ryan Cook Interview

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