Which prospect in the NL West have solidified their status on the prospect radar?
Last week I detailed prospects on the rise in the NL Central and while the NL West isn’t as deep as the Central in terms of organizational depth at the Minor League levels, there are several interesting talents in each organization. The amount of pitchers in particular with burgeoning skill sets in the NL West caught my eye when analyzing this division. The Diamondbacks in particular have really attempted to reel in pitching during recent drafts and international signings, though they have yet to see their fruits come to bear.
When evaluating what prospects reign supreme in their organization, I’m going to combine equal parts statistics, tools, and projections (in regards to body type, and sustainability). This will help us gain a clearer picture of each player while incorporating all facets of player judgment, as opposed to sticking with just traditional or new age scouting methods. All scouting grades and prospect rankings are drawn from MLBPipeline.com.
Wei-Chieh Huang, P, Low-A Kane County Cougars (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Huang was signed in July of 2014, though he didn’t pitch until May of ’15. He was unranked coming into the season on MLBPipeline’s organization list but his professional debut was very impressive. Huang doesn’t posses an intimidating frame, but he more than makes up for that with superb control on the mound. After walking only 16 in 76.2 innings, MLBPipeline pegged him with perhaps the best command in the entire D-backs system. This, a system brimming with pitching talent.
Huang’s 60-grade control helped him achieve a 2.00 ERA, and while his FIP was a tad higher at 2.53, that’s to be expected of a pitcher who doesn’t strike out hitters at a high clip. Even still, his 7.98 strikeouts per nine innings is about average and bodes well for future projection. This was Huang’s first season professionally, so it’s hard to get too excited from just one season of performance, but his arrow is certainly trending in the right direction.
Jesus Tinoco, P, High-A Asheville Tourists (Colorado Rockies)
Tinoco came over in the Troy Tulowitzki blockbuster and immediately exceeded expectations. Still just 20, the hurler can run his fastball up to 94-95 MPH (60-grade) and posted a 1.80 ERA for the Tourists, spanning 40 innings and seven starts. Furthering his prospect status is his propensity to limit walks at a similar clip to Huang.
Like Huang, Tinoco wasn’t featured on the MLBPipeline preseason organizational list (at the time he was with the Blue Jays). However, the difference between the two (and what might separate them down the line) is Tinoco’s development of secondary pitches. His 50-grade slider has shown glimpses of an above-average Major League offering according to MLBPipeline, and his change-up too has shown potential. Additionally his fastball has heavy sink to it, which induces a fair amount of ground balls.
Though his strand rate (runners left on base) was an unsustainable 85.7% with the Tourists, the high ground ball rate indicates he could be a prime ground-ball (think double play) pitcher. His peripherals, build, and easy arm action indicate there is some projection to be had here.
Jose De Leon, P, Double-A Tulsa Drillers (Los Angeles Dodgers)
De Leon was the subject of many trade rumors around the deadline, which tied him to the return for the Phillies if Hamels was to end up in Los Angeles. And despite all deals falling through, De Leon exhibited exactly why he’s as coveted an asset as he is. In 114.1 innings spanning two levels, De Leon totalled 163 strikeouts to just 37 walks.
Those eye popping numbers are the result of a 65-grade fastball, 55-grade slider, and 55-grade change-up, which he pairs with 50-grade control. Some believe that whole arsenal has him set up to reach the Bigs next season, though that seems like an aggressive timeline. His ERA was a tolerable 3.64 at Double-A (his FIP was exactly the same) but it’s important to remember that there are extremely hitter-friendly conditions in the Texas League.
De Leon has consistently posted above-average strike out numbers throughout his Minor League career. And while he did have a spike in home runs allowed (11 in 76.2 innings at Double-A), that could very well be nothing more than a bump in the road for this No.2 caliber starter in the making.
Ruddy Giron, SS, Low-A Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres)
The Padres depleted their farm system with a plethora of offseason trades made by newly minted General Manager A.J. Preller. Giron has been one of the few bright spots in a system hurting for talent, and he is still a ways away from contributing at the Big League level. Still Giron, just 18, is similar in many ways to Cubs’ infield prospect Gleyber Torres, with their most impressive trait being their ability to draw walks at such an early age.
Giron’s story began in 2013 when he was signed by the Padres as an international free agent. While unranked coming into this season, Giron has shown more substance than flash. His only below 50-grade is power (45) and across the board he checks almost every box you want a potential big league infielder to fill. His slash line of .285/.335/.407 (batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage) doesn’t quite portray his hitting ability as he had only four hits in his final eight games.
His wRC+ of 116 (remember, he’s 18 years old!) is impressive, as is his ability to swipe bags (15). His ETA may be 2018 according to MLBPipeline, but GM A.J. Preller has shown aggressive tendencies in running his baseball operations, and with the massive hole at shortstop at the Big League level, he may push Giron up the ladder quicker than expected.
Samuel Coonrod, P, High-A San Jose Giants (San Francisco Giants)
Coonrod, drafted in the 5th round of the ’14 draft, showed up on the prospect radar after a fabulous 2015 season. He’s a bit old for his level, having just turned 23, but his college pedigree (Southern Illinois) may indicate that he’s on the fast track to the Majors. After pitching to a 3.14 ERA and a 2.97 FIP, he definitely grabbed the attention of the decision makers in his organization.
Coonrod offers a 60-grade fastball and 55-grade slider which should at the very least allow him to pitch effectively out of the bullpen. His control has proven to be as adequate as his strikeout rate (34 walks, 114 strikeouts, in 111.2 innings pitched) and the two further indicate that he has a future at the highest level. If Coonrod continues to progress at this rate, he’ll have a shot at cracking the roster in the very near future.
Edited by Joe Sparacio.
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