|Arizona left-hander Tyler Skaggs could be one of 2013's top rookies. (USATSI)|
Prior to the start of the season, we'll highlight a few players in each team's minor-league system to let you know which players you should be paying attention to throughout the year. These aren't meant to be comprehensive top-prospect lists, but should provide a look at some key players within each team's organization.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been busy this offseason, trading established stars and top prospects to try and find the right mix of players for the present and the future. Their farm system is certainly deeper as a result of their work (especially at one particular position), but is it better?
2013 Impact Players
LHP Tyler Skaggs
Although new Cleveland Indian Trevor Bauer came with a lot of much-deserved hype, there are many who think Skaggs is the better of the two prospects. In fact, Skaggs came out slightly ahead of Bauer on Baseball America's 2013 top prospect list after a 2.87 ERA and 1.22 WHIP with 116 strikeouts in 122 1/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. Skaggs didn't post great numbers in a six-start audition with the Diamondbacks late in the year, though the mediocrity may be explained in part by exhaustion after a long season, as he was doing well until his final three starts.
Skaggs doesn't appear to have a spot in the rotation to start the season, but he's done all he can do in the minors, so the team would be wise to find a starting role before too long. With a quality fastball and excellent secondary stuff, Skaggs has the makings of a top-of-the-rotation starter who should spend most of 2013 in the majors.
OF Adam Eaton
Part of the reason the Diamondbacks were comfortable trading Justin Upton this offseason is Eaton, who looks ready to compete in the majors after destroying Triple-A pitching in 2012, hitting .381/.456/.539 with seven home runs and 38 stolen bases in 562 plate appearances. He also had a solid showing with the Diamondbacks, hitting .259/.382/.412 in 103 plate appearances with 14 walks against 15 strikeouts.
Eaton should have an immediate home at the top of the Diamondbacks' lineup, where he can continue to get on base at a high rate and use his speed. The team should also be much better off defensively with Eaton in center rather than Cody Ross, the projected center fielder before the Upton trade.
RHP Archie Bradley
Bradley, 20, was named the No. 25 prospect by Baseball America for the second-straight year despite struggling with his command in Class A in 2012, where he walked 5.6 batters per nine innings over 136 total innings. But the flip side is that he also showed his immense upside by striking out 152 (10.1 K/9). If he gets the control under control, he should reach Double-A this season and could be a regular in the Arizona rotation sometime in 2014.
The Diamondbacks made perfectly clear which position they wanted to upgrade this offseason: shortstop. First came the trade of Chris Young to the Athletics to land Cliff Pennington. Then came a Bauer deal that featured Gregorius as the main component of the return package. And if that wasn't enough, the Diamondbacks also landed Ahmed as part of the Upton deal. The latter two join Owings in a competition to see who will be the long-term answer at shortstop.
Gregorius is the best defender and will likely get the first crack at the starting role, which should come as soon as he proves himself with the bat after hitting .265/.324/.393 last season at Double-A and Triple-A. Owings was excellent in his second time around Class A Advanced last year but struggled upon promotion. Once he learns plate patience, watch out. Like the other two prospects, Ahmed is a good defender, but he's probably not as good as Gregorius and doesn't have the offensive upside of Owings. For as hammered as the Diamondbacks were by some for their offseason moves, this is a pretty impressive trio of potential options at one of the toughest positions to fill.
The Diamondbacks have plenty of exciting prospects on their way up the pipeline, as they have the six good ones above in addition to now-blocked third baseman Matt Davidson, 2012 first-rounder Stryker Trahan at catcher and solid southpaws David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin. The farm system's depth should allow the front office to continue to be aggressive in finding trade partners to address weaknesses, both on the major-league and minor-league levels.