Prospect Watch: Bullpen Arms in the Desert

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.


The Arizona Diamondbacks bullpen ranks among the worst in the league in numerous categories — including ERA and home runs per nine innings (HR/9) — which has helped the club land in last place in the National League West division. But there is good news on the horizon. Arizona actually has some of the best relief depth in the minor leagues in terms of pitchers’ ceilings — especially when looking at Double-A and above. Here are a few names to know:

Jake Barrett, RHP, Double-A (Profile)
Level: AA Age: 22 Top-15: 8th Top-100: N/A
Line: 23.0 IP, 22 H, 7 R, 21/9 K/BB, 2.74 ERA, 2.16 FIP

Summary: Barrett is nearing his first MLB promotion and has the potential to develop into one of the most valuable arms in The Snakes’ bullpen.

Notes: Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school, Barrett reportedly flunked his physical and headed to Arizona State for three years. He was then re-selected in the third round of the 2012 draft (the same round Toronto took him) and has moved swiftly through the Diamondbacks system. The right-handed reliever entered the year as the eighth-best prospect in the system and has pitched well in Double-A after a breakout 2013 season that saw him post a 1.21 ERA and just 39 hit allowed in 52.0 innings. His stuff is plenty good enough to develop into a high-leverage reliever at the big league level — 94-98 mph fastball, potentially-plus slider and occasional changeup — and he could enter the big league picture at some point in 2015. 

Matt Stites, RHP, Triple-A (Profile)
Level: AA/AAA Age: 24 Top-15: 13th Top-100: N/A
Line: 24.2 IP, 19 H, 10 R, 22/9 K/BB, 2.92 ERA, 3.04 FIP

Summary: With a little more consistency, Stites could become a true weapon in the later innings for Arizona.

Notes: Acquired late last season in a deal with San Diego for Ian Kennedy, this right-handed reliever combines plus velocity with plus control. Just 5-11, Stites struggles to generate a consistent downward plane on his fastball but when he’s on, his heater/slider combo is tough to hit and he opened the year ranked at FanGraphs as The Snakes’ 13th-best prospect. He opened the 2014 season in Double-A but earned a promotion to Triple-A after just 12 appearances. The former 17th-round draft pick out of the University of Missouri will have to be added to the 40-man roster no later than November of this year so he stands a good chance of seeing some big league action in the second half of the season. Stites, 24, has the ceiling of a high-leverage reliever if he can consistently retire right-handed batters. 

Jimmie Sherfy, RHP, Double-A (Profile)
Level: AA/AAA Age: 22 Top-15: N/A Top-100: N/A
Line: 22.0 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 37/13 K/BB, 4.91 ERA, 4.25 FIP

Summary: The new kid on the block, Arizona’s minor league staff gushed about this prospect’s potential prior to the 2014 season.

Notes: Sherfy just missed ranking among the Diamondbacks’ Top 15 prospects when the season began and he’s making a strong bid to be considered in the Top 10 during the 2014-15 offseason. In just his first full pro season, the right-hander earned a promotion to Double-A after striking out 23 batters in 11.0 High-A ball innings. He’s gotten roughed up a bit since the bump-up due to inconsistent command. Under-sized like Stites, Sherfy is listed at 6-0 but is a tad shorter than that, which is one of the reasons why he was available to Arizona in the 10th round of the 2013 draft. His heater sits in the mid-90s and touches 97-98 mph. He also has a potentially-plus slider. Look for him to reach The Show in the latter half of 2015.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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8 years ago

The Diamondbacks are 7th in reliever WAR, 8th in ERA, and 9th in HR/9 in the NL. Their bullpen definitely doesn’t rank among the “worst” in the league.

That being said, good information on the Barrett, Stites, and Sherfy. I’ve been following them for a while and excited to see them when they come up!