Keeping Up With NL West Prospects

Without a true minor league season on which to fixate, I spent the summer watching and evaluating young big leaguers who, because of the truncated season, will still be eligible for prospect lists at the end of the year. This is the final divisional installment of those thoughts, as well as a general recap. The other divisions can be found here: National League East, NL Central, American League East, Central, and West.

Below is my assessment of the National League West, covering players who have appeared in big league games. The results of these final 2020 changes made to player rankings and evaluations can be found over on the updated Board, though I provide more specific links throughout this post in case readers only care about one team.

Arizona Diamondbacks

I’ve made no substantive alterations to my evaluation of Daulton Varsho despite him struggling to the tune of a .188/.287/.366 line across 115 sporadic plate appearances late in the summer. I do, however, think he’s going to end up playing much more outfield than catcher, and so he’s slid within the 50 FV tier behind the prospects I think are everyday, nine-inning fits behind the plate, like Miguel Amaya. But the positional flexibility he’ll provide, and the way he’ll enable the Diamondbacks to hit for Carson Kelly when needed, still makes him a valuable and unique player. For fantasy players, bet on Varsho being catcher-eligible.

Andy Young, the third piece in the Paul Goldschmidt trade, played in just twelve big league games before he broke his right hamate and required surgery to remove the bone. He holds serve as a 40+ FV shift-enabled infielder who hits enough to play a substantial role, similar to Mike Brosseau and late-career Howie Kendrick. Young spent time at second and third base but made throwing errors in all three of his opportunities at the hot corner and is more a 1B/2B/DH type for me. A shade behind him is Pavin Smith, who I think hits enough to be a role-playing lefty stick who sees scattered time at first base and the corner outfield spots. I just don’t think he hits for enough power to play in all situations.

Most Diamondbacks rookies contributed to the bullpen. I never ranked side-arming righty Stefan Crichton any higher than in the Honorable Mention section of a list, but he’s probably a long-term fit as a “Look” reliever similar to the Aaron Loup/Ryan Thompson types Tampa Bay ran out there much of this year. He should have been a 40 FV before graduating. Taylor Widener has a fastball with (usually) undesirable natural cut that runs into opposing barrels, making him vulnerable to hard contact, and that cut crept back into his fastball movement throughout the year. I have the 26-year-old as a reliever at this point, down from a 45 FV starting prospect (around when he was traded to Arizona, a few of my sources thought he should be a top 100 guy) at peak.

Humberto Mejía (part of the deadline return from Miami for Starling Marte) moves up a tier and into the 40 FVs. The 23-year-old has four viable pitches: a curveball, a slider, a changeup, and a low-90s fastball that plays up due to vertical movement. I think he could be a backend starter or valuable multi-inning reliever if he can more consistently locate his fastball in the top third of the zone rather than right down the middle, which is where his heater lived in 2020.

Colorado Rockies

No changes here, though Brendan Rodgers is already in public evaluation purgatory because of his inconsistent playing time and injury issues. That kept us from seeing him consistently enough to get a true feel for how he fares against big league pitching. His industry-perceived value is very difficult to nail down right now.

I’m curious as to why Ashton Goudeau didn’t get a longer look this year, but I still have him as a valuable multi-inning relief piece. He, Tommy Doyle, and Ben Bowden are part of a relief contingent the org is dragging along very slowly.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Caleb Ferguson is likely to miss 2021 due to Tommy John rehab, which places more middle-inning weight on the shoulders of fellow lefty Victor Gonzalez. Gonzalez has rare velocity for a southpaw and a viable three-pitch mix, but I’m bearish about his strike-throwing consistency, and so he’ll stay in the 40 FV tier despite arguably having 40+ FV stuff.

I’ve had readers ask me why Brusdar Graterol and Dustin May aren’t missing more bats, and I point them to this piece. Fastball movement shape is important, which is why Tony Gonsolin (whose fastball backspins) has a better swinging strike rate on his fastball even though he doesn’t throw as hard as either of them. All three of those pitchers were ranked with this in mind, so there are no changes to their evaluations.

San Diego Padres

Most of the Padres’ rookies either graduated or barely played (there’s no baseball reason to alter Luis Campusano’s evaluation, for instance), except for young righty Luis Patiño, who had trouble throwing strikes during 2020. I’ve had scouts tell me their opinions of Patiño have shifted toward the bullpen: As he’s gotten bulkier and stronger, it appears that he’s lost some tactile feel for pitching, and his arm action is long for someone his size. But I’m still betting on the athleticism and makeup here; I think those issues will be ironed out, and that Patiño will still eventually be a star-level rotation piece.

San Francisco Giants

The Giants are still largely cycling through post-prospect fliers on their big league roster, so there’s not much to discuss here aside from Joey Bart. I still have a 60 FV grade on Bart despite his struggles — he hit .233/.288/.320 and struck out 37% of the time across 111 plate appearances — because a) he’s not only a long-term lock at a premium position but also an impact defender there; b) he has big power in a vacuum, let alone for a catcher; and c) he has all of those staff-leading intangibles that pitchers and coaches appreciate and consider meaningful, as do I. Bart is at increased risk of Zunino’ing because of how quickly the Giants pushed him, but it’s too early to consider that a likely outcome.





Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

It is true that a center fielder who can both hit and field isn’t as valuable as a catcher who does both of those things but it’s still nothing to sneeze at. Especially since he would have been below average catching but likely average (or maybe even better) in CF. League average bat with average defense in CF makes him a 2-3 win player…