Over the coming week, you'll find position-by-position projections for the 2019 Jackson Generals, with new players examined each day. There are no guarantees made: Jackson's 25-man roster for Opening Day will be impacted by injuries, Spring Training performance, transactions, and many other unpredictable elements. None of the players included in this preview have previously spent significant time at a level above Double-A. You can stay up to date with relevant Generals and D-backs news by following us (@JacksonGenerals) and the D-backs (@Dbacks) on Twitter.
Links to previous team previews:
SATURDAY: Coaches and Schedule
STARTING ROTATION (with 2018 notes): Jon Duplantier, Justin Donatella, Bo Takahashi, Emilio Vargas, Riley Smith, Connor Grey, Jose Almonte
DUPLANTIER: Flashed greatness, just wasn't consistent. Two quality starts in 16 Double-A games (playoffs included), missing most of June and July due to biceps tendinitis. After no-hitting Tennessee in 5.0 IP on August 6, walked 26 batters over his last 29.2 innings. Invited to throw in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League in 2018, pitching to a 3.32 ERA with 32 Ks and 10 BB in 21.2 IP. Ranked No. 73 in MILB.com's Top 100 Prospects. Doesn't have to stay long at Double-A if his health lets him flourish every week. Might see an early-year promotion like Alex Young did in 2018.
DONATELLA: Stayed healthy the whole year and delivered in crunch time. Six straight quality starts to end the year, including a 27-inning streak without a run allowed. Averaged just over seven groundouts induced in those final six starts, including playoff outings against the league's best offenses in Montgomery and Biloxi. Could be a sleeping giant. Not as highly ranked as Duplantier/Widener, but performance can create an opportunity at Triple-A.
TAKAHASHI: Struggled with home runs early at Double-A, but figured things out towards the end of the year. Commands and mixes four pitches well. Only playoff appearance featured 5.1 IP on 70 pitches with one run allowed in North Division Series clincher. Pitched mostly out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, with 5 scoreless outings in 8 appearances. Added to Arizona's 40-man roster in the offseason. Only 22 years old.
VARGAS: Works at light-speed and attacks. California League Pitcher of the Year with the High-A Visalia Rawhide had a similar beginning at Jackson as Takahashi, prone to giving up a lot of home runs. Bounced back from rough playoff outing at Montgomery to throw 5.0 IP with one run allowed in title-clinching game at Biloxi. Shielded from the Rule 5 draft when Arizona put him on the 40-man roster in the offseason. Like Takahashi, only 22 years old.
SMITH: With Jose Almonte and left-hander Cody Reed on the shelf in 2018, became Visalia's No. 2 starter behind Vargas. Up-and-down year, but seven of last nine outings were quality starts (playoffs included). Finished 7.0 IP four times on less than 100 pitches and completed five innings in each of his 25 starts, allowing 3+ earned runs only five times. Workhorse could find a piggyback role or fill a rotation slot if Widener/Duplantier/Donatella move up to Triple-A.
GREY: After bouncing across four levels in 2017, got the chance to start in 2018 at High-A. Stayed in the rotation the whole year. Won more than he lost. Walked fewer than two per start. Gave up 21 homers. Only induced 3 groundball double plays. Fly-ball pitcher problems exacerbated in a hitter-friendly league. May return to High-A despite quality starts in five of his last seven outings.
ALMONTE: Missed the whole 2018 campaign due to injury after winning Midseason and Postseason Cal League honors in 2017. When healthy, works best with Widener-esque traits: healthy number of fly-ball outs, a few home runs allowed, and plenty of Ks. Struggles with efficiency, completing seven frames just once in 27 starts in 2017. If he's physically right, Jackson fans will see him.
The Jackson Generals, a West Tennessee franchise since 1998, are the Double-A minor league affiliate of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2017 and 2018, The Ballpark at Jackson was named the Professional Sports Field of the Year by the Tennessee Turfgrass Association. The 2018 Southern League champions will defend their title beginning in April - get tickets today at 731.988.5299!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.