Diamondbacks shake, rattle and roll

Arizona prospects found Lancaster to their liking in 2005

Diamondbacks organizational report (Lancaster JetHawks)

By Jason Ratliff / MLB.com | September 26, 2005 6:22 AM ET

Before the 2005 season began, MLB.com took an in-depth look at every big league team's Minor League system. Now, it's time to recap all 30 organizations, from top prospects to the recent draft class.

The Arizona Diamondbacks' Minor League teams improved ever so slightly in 2005, inching their cumulative winning percentage from .486 in 2004 to .496, good for a ranking of 18 out of 30 organizations. Chris Carter, Conor Jackson, Carlos Quentin and Carlos Gonzales were among several top hitting prospects that lived up to their billing, while Dustin Nippert's impressive comeback from "Tommy John" surgery and Garrett Mock's 14-win, 160-strikeout season were among relatively few bright spots in the pitching corps. Last year's top pick, Stephen Drew, finally signed and got off to a blistering start at Lancaster before hitting the wall in Tennessee. And this year's top pick, Justin Upton, was taken first overall but had yet to sign at season's end.

2005 Organizational Record
A (Adv)
*South Bend








* Won the Midwest League Championship
2005 Organizational Leaders
Home Runs
Stolen Bases
Conor Jackson
Chris Carter
Chris Carter
Emilio Bonifacio
Dustin Nipper
A.J. Shappi
Garrett Mock
Matt Elliot
Complete MiLB statistics

Five Faves

At the start of the season, MLB.com identified five prospects to keep an eye on. Here's how they fared in 2005:

Sergio Santos, SS
The Diamondbacks had hoped their 2002 first-round pick might have his breakout season in 2005, but the prospect of that happening was reduced greatly when he was sent Tucson to be the Sidewinders' starting shortstop at the age of 21. While it may not have been a surprise that he struggled at the plate in his first season at the Triple-A level, the severity of his struggles couldn't have been encouraging. Santos got off to a brutal start, hitting just .171 in April, and after seeming to get acclimated in May and June (.267-8-38), he hit .240 with only one homer and 18 RBIs in his final 58 games. Finally healthy after battling shoulder problems, the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder played 131 of 132 games at short, committing a league-high 26 errors. Perhaps most perplexing, Santos -- a right-handed swinger -- continued to show an inability to hit lefties, batting just .148 with two homers and 11 RBIs compared to .279-10-57 vs. right-handers.

Conor Jackson, OF
Jackson finally met his match -- Major League pitching. After breezing through Class A and Double-A in his first two seasons, 2005 was more of the same for the former Cal star, who hit .354/.457/.553 with eight homers and 73 RBIs in 93 games at Tucson before getting called up in July. The 6-foot-2 hitting machine has batted just .197 in limited duty for Arizona, but still looks to be one of the best young pure hitters in the game. Jackson, who was named to the Futures Game U.S. Team, destroyed PCL pitching despite learning a new position -- first base -- on the fly. The D-Backs still have to find a place to play him, but his Minor League days would seem to be behind him.

Carlos Quentin, OF
Drafted 10 spots behind Jackson in 2003, Quentin missed his rookie season due to "Tommy John" surgery and has managed to stay about 10 steps behind Jackson ever since. He had another rock-solid season in '05, hitting .301/.422/.520 with 21 homers and 89 RBIs in 136 games for the Sidewinders -- not bad at all for a 22-year-old in his first Triple-A season. Luis Gonzalez fully recovered from his own "Tommy John" surgery, delaying Quentin's expected Major League debut, but at 38, Gonzo's sure to be Gone-zo in the not-so distant future, paving the way for the former Stanford star.

Chris Snyder, C
The D-Backs signed veteran Kelly Stinnett in the offseason, and Snyder figured to battle fellow youngster Koyie Hill for a roster spot. Snyder and Hill both made the team and ended up battling for the starting spot instead, with the former winning out. The 24-year-old former second-round pick has hit .207 with six homers, 28 RBIs and no trips to Tucson in 110 games for Arizona.

Josh Kroeger, OF
Kroeger didn't put up the eye-opening numbers he did during his half-season with Tucson in 2004, but he did set the bar pretty high for himself last year, when he hit .332/.376/.587 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in just 59 games. And while his 2005 stats (.261/.316/.422, 14 HR, 62 RBIs) aren't going to blow anyone away, it should be considered that, even though he's in his sixth Minor League season, for most of it he was a 22-year-old playing in Triple-A. He also may have marginally increased his value in a speed-deprived organization by swiping 17 bases in 21 attempts. He'd been just 24-for-59 in his career and was thought to have slowed at least a step since being drafted.

Cinderella Story

Phil Avlas, C
Avlas had his Cinderella season in 2004 with Lancaster, hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 68 RBIs in 109 games after hitting .255 with one homer and 38 RBIs in 114 games over his first two seasons. Unfortunately for Avlas, when he went to the ball (Double-A Tennessee), he started to turn into a pumpkin (.239/.343/.336-2-18) and had to return to Lancaster by mid ... season. Back in the JetHawks' launching pad, he did what so many do there -- hit. The 22-year-old Californian finished off the season by batting .367/.405/.565 with five homers and 24 RBIs in 37 games. He'll probably get to try on the glass slipper again next season. But will it fit?

Breakout year

Quick hits on players who made more of a name for themselves with big 2005 seasons.

Miguel Montero, C
Although D-Backs officials claim to have seen a breakout year coming, not even Montero's most ambitious proponents could have foreseen what he did to California League pitching in 2005. A career .266 hitter with 19 homers and 122 RBIs in 267 games, the 22-year-old Venezuelan hit .349 with 24 homers, 82 RBIs and a mammoth .625 slugging percentage in 85 games. Sure, his stats paled in comparison after he was promoted to Tennessee (.250-2-13 in 30 games), and he was hitting in Lancaster, but it's hard to ignore a catcher that can put up those gaudy numbers anywhere. Hardly looked over, the left-handed swinging backstop was named to the 2005 Futures Game World Team.

Cesar Nicolas, 1B
A huge senior year at Vanderbilt got Nicolas selected in the fifth round of the 2004 draft. A holdout delayed his debut until 2005, and a broken hand cost him six of the first eight weeks of the season. But when the 6-4 first baseman finally got to show his wares, he impressed. Nicolas hit .302 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs during the regular season to earn All-Star status in the Midwest League and then had a huge postseason, hitting .424 with two homers, 10 RBIs and a .636 slugging percentage, to lead the Silver Hawks to the league championship.

Matt Elliott, RHP
Although Elliott fared well in his first professional season, going 3-1 with six saves and a 3.12 ERA for Missoula last year, his 2005 season proved that short sampling period was no fluke. Signed by Arizona as a nondrafted free agent in July 2004, the 21-year-old right-hander was a dominant closer for South Bend this year, finishing second in the MWL with 32 saves while posting a 2.14 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .183 average. He also struck out 71 in 54 2/3 innings -- an average of 11.69 per nine innings.

Carlos Gonzales, OF
Just 19 years old at the conclusion of the season, Gonzales was named the Midwest League's MVP and Prospect of the Year. Slated to play for South Bend in 2004, the Venezuelan outfielder fractured his wrist less than a month into the season and instead returned to Yakima. In 2005, Gonzales finished among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category, hitting .307 with 28 doubles, six triples, 18 homers and 92 RBIs. On top of all that, he tied for fourth with 13 outfield assists.

2005 draft recap

1. Justin Upton, SS
It was no surprise when the Diamondbacks took 17-year-old prep superstar Justin Upton with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft. The younger brother of the 2002 second overall selection, B.J. Upton, didn't sign until January, however, marking the second consecutive year that Arizona had to wait to get its first-round shortstop on the field. Upton's signing bonus of $6 million was the highest ever awarded to a drafted player who signed a Minor League contract.

2. Matt Torra, RHP
Torra rocketed up the draft charts after going 6-3 with a 1.14 ERA in 14 games for UMass last year. The 6-3 right-hander signed with the D-Backs in late June and had a 1.80 ERA and 10 strikeouts in 10 innings before being shelved for the season with a shoulder injury.

3. Matt Green, RHP
It took Green a while to get on track in his pro debut, but by the end of the season, the 6-5 right-hander from University of Louisiana-Monroe was looking pretty nasty. After going 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his first seven appearances, the 2005 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year was 4-0 with a 4.00 ERA and 34 strikeouts in his last eight starts, including one span in which he whiffed 17 in 10 innings and another in which he didn't allow a run in 14 innings. Overall, he was 4-3 with a 5.55 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 60 innings.

4. Jason Neighborgall, RHP
The Diamondbacks took a flier on the hardest thrower available in the 2005 draft, selecting Neighborgall out of Georgia Tech in the third round, despite the fact that the 6-5 fireballer was limited to just 6 2/3 innings in 2004 due to spectacular control problems (24 walks and 13 wild pitches with a 27.00 ERA). Considered first-round material during his high school career in North Carolina, Neighborgall has been clocked as high as 102 mph, but has been unable to bridle that power. Unfortunately for the D-Backs, the big right-hander didn't fare much better in Missoula, going 1-2 with a 11.12 ERA, 45 walks and 23 wild pitches in 22 2/3 innings. There may have been a silver lining at the very end of the year however -- Neighborgall walked just two batters over three innings in his final two outings without uncorking a wild pitch.

5. Micah Owings, RHP
Owings was a teammate of Neighborgall's at Georgia Tech before transferring to Tulane, where he teamed with Brian Bogusevic to form the deadliest two-way twosome in college baseball. When it came draft time, Owings slipped into the third round while Bogusevic was the Astros' first pick. But Owings went straight to Lancaster -- a daunting task for any pitcher, much less a rookie -- and put up outstanding numbers, going 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 22 innings. Bogusevic, meanwhile, went to Short-Season New York-Penn League, where he was 0-2 with a 7.59 ERA.

2004 draft recap

How the top three from 2004 fared in their first full season of pro ball.

1. Stephen Drew, SS
Along with fellow Scott Boras client Jered Weaver, Drew signed a last-minute deal with the D-Backs to avoid becoming eligible for the 2005 draft. The 2004 15th overall pick quickly showed why Arizona invested $5.5 million in him, hitting .417 with two homers, eight RBIs and nine runs in his first week with Lancaster, earning the California League Offensive Player of the Week award. He would win the honor three times in an eight-week span and was promoted to Double-A Tennessee after hitting .389 with 10 homers and 39 RBIs in 38 games. Drew suffered from a common bout of post-Lancaster deflation as he hit just .218 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 27 games with the Smokies.

2. Jon Zeringue, OF
Yet another case of the post-Lancaster blues, the Diamondbacks' 2004 second-round pick saw his average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage plummet drastically after a huge rookie campaign with the JetHawks in which he hit .335 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs in 56 games. With the Smokies in '05, the LSU product hit just .241 with six roundtrippers and 51 RBIs in 126 games. His slugging percentage fell over 200 points from .552 to .342, while his OBP dropped nearly 100 points from .374 to .283. Defensively, he made 12 errors in right field -- four more than any other outfielder in the Southern League. The good news: He gunned down 18 runners, which was one off the league lead.

3. Garrett Mock, RHP
Considering that 40 percent of his starts and innings pitched were in Lancaster's Clear Channel Stadium, Mock's 14-7 mark and 4.18 ERA were phenomenal. He pitched about as well as can possibly be expected at home, going 6-2 with a 4.76 ERA and was 8-5 with a 3.80 mark on the road. Only five pitchers in Minor League Baseball racked up more wins than the former Houston Cougar, and only 10 pitched more innings (174 1/3). The 6-foot-4 right-hander led the Cal League and D-Backs organization in strikeouts with 160.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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