As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an
As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an alternate training site in the hopes of staying fresh for a potential callup or getting in much-needed development time.
The MiLB.com staff is rounding up the notable prospects in each organization’s 60-man player pool and analyzing what the new system will mean for their 2020 seasons.
The last time baseball got underway in Arizona, the world felt a bit more normal.
Roughly five months since pitchers and catchers reported to the Cactus and Grapefruit leagues, and four months since the sports world was put on hold by the pandemic, the sights and sounds of the game are back in Phoenix.
With the truncated 60-game MLB season approaching, the D-backs hope they’ve got the right formula to dethrone the Dodgers in the National League West. To that end, they've added a host of ranked prospects -- 12 of their top 15, to be exact -- to their 60-man player pool for the start of the campaign. The group includes Arizona’s top catching prospect, top infield prospect and top five pitching prospects.
While outfielder Kristian Robinson is not in the 60-player pool, Arizona’s No. 1 prospect (and MLB.com’s No. 43 overall) still will be in the organization’s confines, working out at Salt River Fields since he was unable to return to his native Bahamas when the pandemic hit. Salt River serves as the D-backs’ alternate training site for players not on the active big league roster or taxi squad when the season opens.
Alek Thomas, OF: Only 20, Arizona’s second-ranked prospect hasn't reached Double-A yet, but Thomas will get valuable time on the field during the abbreviated season. The 2018 second-rounder has above-average hit, run and field tools and was selected for the Futures Game last year. Between Class A Kane County and Class A Advanced Visalia, Thomas batted an even .300 with a .379 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage over 110 games, mashing 14 home runs while scoring 76 times and driving in 55. The Chicago prep product is probably a couple of years away from his big league debut, but he will benefit from being in the mix in 2020.
Daulton Varsho, C: Varsho is one of the most interesting prospects in the Arizona system, if not baseball entirely. He’s a catcher who hits with power and has above-average speed and range. Last year, Varsho swiped 21 bases while belting 18 long balls for Double-A Jackson and got some time playing center field, a testament to his athleticism. Varsho batted .301/.378/.520 in 108 games during his first stint in the Southern League, extremely similar to his career line of .301/.372/.507 spanning three seasons. Last fall, Varsho played for USA Baseball in the WBSC Premier12 competition, but left the tournament early after suffering a sprained ankle on a slide into second base in Tokyo. That stint marked Varsho’s second straight year with fall play after 18 solid games in the Arizona Fall League in 2018.
Geraldo Perdomo, SS: Like Varsho, Perdomo also took part in Premier12, going 3-for-9 in limited action for his native Dominican Republic. Like Thomas, he spent last season at Class A and Class A Advanced. Unlike both, Perdomo is the next talented shortstop in a system that has produced a lot of them in recent years. The Santo Domingo native batted .275/.397/.364 in 116 games between Kane County and Visalia last year before taking part in the Arizona Fall League and his inclusion in the Rising Stars Game. MLB Pipeline considers Perdomo the “best defensive player in Arizona’s system” and points out his aptitude in the field makes him a clear candidate to stick at shortstop long-term. At the plate, the switch-hitter is tremendously disciplined, having picked up 169 walks while striking out 148 times over three pro seasons.
Corbin Carroll, OF: One of three outfielders among Arizona’s top five prospects, Carroll went to the D-backs with the 16th overall pick in the 2019 Draft out of a Seattle high school and justified that selection with a strong professional bow. In 42 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League and Class A Short Season Hillsboro, Carroll batted .299/.409/.487, stealing 18 bases while only being caught once and tallying 18 extra-base hits among his total 46. He possesses a plus hit tool and plus-plus speed and profiles similarly to Thomas with a bit less pop but a bit more in his run tool. Carroll is likely a couple years or more away from the big leagues, but he will get a chance to impress in his unorthodox second pro season.
Blake Walston, LHP: The 26th overall pick in 2019 only pitched in six games between the AZL and Hillsboro during his pro debut season, but impressed in the limited action. Walston struck out 17 batters while walking only two in 11 innings, holding opponents to a .200 average while posting a 2.45 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Walston reached the low-90s with his fastball velocity in his senior year in high school, but he touched 97 mph last summer after getting into the D-backs system. His curveball already may be the organization’s best, according to MLB Pipeline. The lefty also deals a slider and a changeup with strong command of the zone.
Corbin Martin, RHP: Martin made his big league debut last May with the Astros, the team that drafted him in 2017. After 14 up-and-down outings between Triple-A Round Rock and Houston, the righty suffered an elbow injury and underwent Tommy John surgery that ended his season in June. The D-backs still were interested enough to acquire him at the Trade Deadline as part of the deal that sent big league righty Zack Greinke to the Astros. Martin is just over a year removed from Tommy John surgery, but the D-backs are pleased with his recovery and early work at Summer Camp. “Corbin Martin is moving along in his progression nicely,” Arizona general manager Mike Hazen told MLB.com. “So he’ll be getting ramped up into activity.”
Luis Frias, RHP: At 22, Frias may only have reached Class A, but his power-pitcher profile is the type that sparks intrigue in this strange 2020 season. The righty can scrape 99 mph with his fastball and developed a 12-to-6 spike curveball into a plus pitch last year between Hillsboro and Kane County. His changeup also has rapidly improved, and while he’s only pitched in relief three times as a pro, he could give the D-backs an interesting weapon this year depending on how they choose to utilize him.
Levi Kelly, RHP: An eighth-round selection by Arizona in 2018, Kelly went wire to wire with Kane County last year, beginning the season at 19 years old and ending it with a 5-1 record and a 2.15 ERA in 22 starts. Kelly could climb quickly like Frias, given an impressive host of pitches that includes a mid-90s fastball with late life and a plus slider.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP: Acquired along with Martin and 1B/OF Seth Beer in last July’s Greinke deal, Bukauskas made 22 total Double-A appearances last year, all but two in the Houston system. In total, his season wasn’t easy. The righty went 2-5 with a 5.44 ERA, but his full repertoire is still one of the best in the Minors featuring four pitches that grade at average or better. The righty's fastball hits 98 while his slider is probably his best pitch. The former North Carolina Tar Heel also works with a cutter and a changeup and has struck out 189 batters in 161 2/3 pro innings.
Some thought slugging first baseman/outfielder Beer would be headed for a future as a designated hitter while he was in the Astros system. The D-backs may have had a crystal ball when they made the deal to acquire him, given there will be a universal DH in 2020 and possibly beyond. Beer is a career .294/.388/.508 hitter in 189 Minor League games. ... Right-hander Jon Duplantier has dealt with injury issues the past two years, including shoulder inflammation last season, but is looking to rebound in 2020 while returning to a starting role. ... Andy Young can play almost anywhere on the field, having seen time professionally at second, third, short and both corner outfield spots. Between Jackson and Triple-A Reno last year, Young batted .271/.368/.535 in 133 games.
Tyler Maun is a reporter for MiLB.com and co-host of “The Show Before The Show” podcast. You can find him on Twitter @tylermaun.