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With the third-youngest position-player group in the majors and the recent arrival of young pitchers such as Tommy Henry, the youth movement for the Arizona Diamondbacks has already begun. It is only going to expand from here.
With just over 50 games remaining, there is still time for the Diamondbacks to tap into their wealth of young, well-regarded prospects at the upper levels of the minors.
Choosing who to call up is going to be difficult, though. As I alluded to in my trade deadline primer last month, the team has a number of valuable prospects who are Rule-5 draft eligible for the first time this winter and will need to be placed on the 40-man roster before then.
No matter how deserving they may be, there just isn’t enough space to bring all of those guys to the major-league roster this season. The fact that September roster expansion only brings rosters to 28 also narrows the field of opportunity at the big-league level. That number was 40 as recently as 2019.
In short, very little can be said for certain about which Diamondbacks prospects will make their big-league debuts down the stretch. What we can say with more confidence is who the most likely candidates are. Here is what you need to know about all eight of them.
1. Corbin Carroll, OF | Triple-A Reno | Age 21
We start with the guy whose name you have probably already heard. Corbin Carroll is a consensus top-five prospect, and many even have him ranked as the best one in the game. Carroll is arguably the organization’s most exciting position player prospect since Justin Upton.
Despite losing his 2020 season to the pandemic and nearly all of his 2021 season with a shoulder injury, Carroll has progressed rapidly through the organization. This year, he batted .313/.430/.643 in 58 games in Double-A Amarillo before earning the call to Triple-A Reno in early July. In 21 games, Carroll is slashing .310/.427/.536 slashing for Reno.
With elite speed and defense, a plus hit tool and potential for above-average power, Carroll has all the makings of a star. That said, his 25 homers in 130 minor-league games have mostly come in hitter-friendly environments, and fans should probably curb expectations in that regard. Carroll does not project as a 30-homer type.
He is also the type of kid you do not bet against. Drafted out of a prestigious Seattle private school with an unrenowned baseball program, Carroll has already shown that his 16th overall selection in the 2019 draft probably was not high enough.
Given his success at the highest level of the minors, it would not be surprising to see Carroll make his major-league debut this season. In fact, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM said on the radio on Thursday that he expects Carroll to be called up this September.
The main thing working against Carroll’s call-up is the fact that he is not Rule-5 eligible until 2023, meaning the team does not risk losing him if he is not on the 40-man roster like they would with other prospects.
Carroll is a different player and the new collective bargaining agreement changed some of the rules, but the Diamondbacks faced a similar situation with Alek Thomas toward the end of last year and chose to wait until May of this season to call him up.
Nonetheless, even if Gambadoro’s report makes it unlikely, there is a case to postpone Carroll’s major-league career until next season.
2. Brandon Pfaadt, RHP | Triple-A Reno | Age 23
Since being taken in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, Brandon Pfaadt (pronounced fot) has developed a reputation as a strike-thrower and features more swing-and-miss than scouts initially expected.
Pfaadt began the 2022 season in Amarillo, where he posted a respectable 4.53 ERA over 105⅓ innings with a sparkling 144 strikeouts and just 19 walks. Pfaadt earned a promotion to Reno on Aug. 2 and has had immediate success. In his first two starts with the Aces, he has a 2.77 ERA with 12 strikeouts and three walks over 13 innings.
If there is any knock on Pfaadt’s pro career so far, it is probably that he has allowed 44 homers in his 250 minor-league innings. That is unsurprising, though, since more than half of his innings have come in the hitter-friendly environments of the Southern League and the Pacific Coast League.
Like Carroll, Pfaadt is still a year away from Rule-5 draft eligibility, meaning the Diamondbacks would not risk anything by leaving him off the 40-man roster into next season. That figures to lessen the likelihood that the team will call him up this season, although he may be the most deserving of any pitching prospect in the organization.
If he continues to post good numbers in Reno, it is going to be hard to keep him there for long.
3. Ryne Nelson, RHP | Triple-A Reno | Age 24
Taken in the second round of the 2019 draft, Ryne Nelson might have the best fastball in the D-backs’ system. After posting impressive numbers in both High-A and Double-A last year, Nelson has spent all of his 2022 season with Reno.
In 22 starts and 113 innings, Nelson has a 5.73 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and a .259 opponent batting average. Nearly 36 percent of base runners against him have scored, which is a big reason for his inflated ERA.
The league-average ERA in the Pacific Coast League this year hovers around 5.50, so Nelson’s season has been roughly average. That said, his strikeout rate is down significantly. It was 32.9 percent in Double-A last year and just 22.9 percent in Triple-A this season. His walk rate is roughly the same.
Nelson is eligible for the Rule-5 draft this winter, which means the Diamondbacks are all but certain to add him to the 40-man roster at some point between now and then.
General manager Mike Hazen has said that some pitching prospects could get an opportunity this year out of the bullpen. Nelson figures to be among the most likely candidates for that.
4. Drey Jameson, RHP | Triple-A Reno | Age 24
After pitching well in four starts with Amarillo to open the season, Drey Jameson was promoted to Triple-A in late April and has stuck there since. Similar to Nelson, the transition has been a difficult one, as evidenced by his 6.67 ERA, 1.55 WHIP and .284 opponent batting average. Jameson’s strikeout rate has dropped from 35.1 percent in Double-A last year to 22.9 percent since joining the Aces.
Once again, pitcher numbers in the PCL should always be taken with a grain of salt. His 20.3 percent home-run-per-fly-ball rate is extremely high, and that may be more a function of his environment than his performance.
He has shown better signs of late, completing seven innings in each of his last three starts and posting a respectable 3.43 ERA in that span.
Scouts have long suspected that Jameson may wind up in the bullpen long-term, and it appears likely that his big league career could start in that role. Once again, the fact that the Diamondbacks need to put him on the 40-man roster to protect him from this winter’s Rule-5 draft serves as something of an inside track to the big leagues.
5. Stone Garrett, OF | Triple-A Reno | Age 26
All Stone Garrett has done in 2022 is blast 28 homers and 93 RBI in 100 games with the Aces. Originally drafted by Miami in 2014, Garrett struggled in the Marlins’ minor league system and landed with the Diamondbacks as a minor-league, free-agent signing in early 2021.
Despite Garrett’s lofty numbers, he has never been one to top prospect lists, and it is unclear how well his game will translate to the big leagues. While Garrett’s counting stats are among the league leaders, his .281/.339/.581 batting line and 116 wRC+ suggest only moderately above-average performance relative to the rest of the PCL.
For reference, Diamondbacks outfielder Jake McCarthy slashed .369/.457/.596 with a 165 wRC+ in a 36-game stint in Reno earlier in the summer. The fact that Garrett has never walked much and is viewed as a fringe-average defender in a corner outfield spot limits his ceiling.
Nonetheless, Garrett’s consistency in Reno deserves attention, and the fact that he bats right-handed may be enough in itself to warrant a call-up before the end of the season. Garrett is among those who are Rule-5 eligible this winter, which again suggests an appearance on the 40-man roster in the near future.
6. Dominic Fletcher, OF | Triple-A Reno | Age 24
The brother of Angels infielder David Fletcher, Dominic played 32 games for Amarillo before earning the call to Reno in mid-May. Since the promotion, Fletcher is batting .304/.381/.488 with four homers, seven triples and 20 doubles.
Fletcher is yet another left-handed hitting outfielder — the team already has three of them in Daulton Varsho, Alek Thomas and Jake McCarthy — and it is hard to see how he would fit into the picture in 2022.
Nonetheless, he has been a well-regarded prospect since being drafted in Competitive Balance Round B in 2019, and his numbers suggest he doesn’t have much left to learn in Triple-A. His best tool is his defense, which grades out as well above-average.
Fletcher would probably be a no-brainer call-up for a number of other teams around the game, but the Diamondbacks may have other prospects with a more pressing case to take one of the two extra roster spots the team will gain in September.
Nonetheless, Fletcher is also Rule-5 draft eligible, so the team probably has no choice but to find him a spot on the 40-man roster before December. Whether he gets there by way of the active roster or some offseason roster maneuvering remains to be seen.
7. Dominic Canzone, OF/1B | Triple-A Reno | Age 24
Yes, there is another Dominic in Triple-A, and yes, he is also a left-handed hitting corner outfielder. Selected in the eighth round in 2019, Dominic Canzone has more pop than Fletcher but is less competent defensively.
The Aces have used Canzone almost exclusively at first base over the last two weeks, though that may be more out of necessity than anything else with Garrett, Fletcher and Carroll in the lineup every day.
Canzone was just okay to start the season with Reno and wound up missing a month due to injury. After spending four games raking in Amarillo, Canzone was called back up to Reno on Aug. 2. Since then, he has gone 10-for-31 (.323 batting average) with three homers and nine RBI. Overall, he is batting a relatively modest .263/.333/.459 in Reno this year.
Perhaps Canzone could use some more seasoning in the minors, but he also had a very successful run in the Arizona Fall League last year and his recent success shows he might be ready. Like many of the others, he is Rule-5 draft eligible and will likely need a spot on the 40-man.
8. Leandro Cedeño, 1B | Double-A Amarillo | Age 23
Signed as a minor league free agent in early 2021, Leandro Cedeño — others known as the guy who hit the 527-foot home run — is batting .288/.357/.533 as a first baseman for Double-A Amarillo.
It is unclear how much interest he would draw in the Rule-5 draft, but he is eligible to be selected this winter and is not currently on the 40-man roster. At just 23 years old, however, Cedeño is a valuable asset.
With now under two months left in the season and less than three weeks until rosters expand on Sep. 1, the Diamondbacks front office has some difficult decisions ahead. Nonetheless, having an excess of major-league worthy prospects is one of the best problems an organization can have. The fact that the Diamondbacks are in that position speaks volumes about the direction of the franchise’s future.
Top photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
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