Geraldo Perdomo glides toward ground balls and gloves tricky hops with no apparent effort. Kristian Robinson hits towering fly balls, doing so with a swing that generates easy power. Alek Thomas sprays balls across the diamond, pulling liners into the corner and punching singles the other way. Blaze Alexander has a rifle arm in the field and a knack for finding the barrel at the plate.
They are part of a class of Diamondbacks prospects that still is years from Chase Field. Most of them are teenagers. None have made it out of rookie ball or short-season levels. In terms of prospect categories, they belong amongst the riskiest.
But those whose job it is to evaluate players and predict their futures believe they are good. And if even only a handful of them reach the ceilings rival scouts anticipate, they could represent the best bunch the organization has produced in the better part of a decade.
“I think the industry is a little more guarded when they’re down at those lower levels, but I think there’s a lot of excitement down there,” said a scout with a National League club. “They all have tools. They all have upside. Everybody has something to project on. There’s a lot of high-risk, high-reward guys, but there’s a lot of stuff to work with.”
For the past three weeks, they have been on display at instructional league, a sort of end-of-year crash course for some of the club’s most promising prospects. They’ll wrap up camp on Friday morning when they play the Oakland Athletics at 11 a.m. on a back field at Salt River Fields. The game is open to the public.
In 2009, the Diamondbacks drafted Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. That same year, they also took Chris Owings, Matt Davidson and Keon Broxton. They were the last group of Diamondbacks position players to climb through the system together, the last group to be described as a wave. This group, farm director Mike Bell said, might be the best since that one.
“These guys play with a little bit of an edge to them,” Bell said. “There’s a personality to them. They’re talented and athletic. They carry themselves with a general confidence. I think they know that they’re good. They look around at one another and they’re excited to move up together and win together and to build something.”
It will be years before anyone knows if these prospects measure up, but with the Diamondbacks seemingly on the verge of a rebuild, the organization could end up counting on them.
Ahead of them, the Diamondbacks have a small handful of intriguing prospects, starting with shortstop Jazz Chisholm and catcher Daulton Varsho, both of whom finished the season in High-A, and right-hander Jon Duplantier, who was in Double-A. Behind them, the club likely will have a trove of picks in next year’s draft, perhaps as many as six of the top 65 selections.
This offseason, the Diamondbacks likely will end up in the bottom-third of big-league teams when national publications reveal their farm system rankings. But some scouts believe that with a year’s time the team could quickly climb.
“I think the Diamondbacks have a better system than people think,” a scout with an American League club said. “Most scouts don’t cover short-season and rookie ball, so some of their best guys weren’t seen by those guys. If some of these guys continue to develop, the organization will definitely move up.”
Robinson, an outfielder who could stick in center field, is a man-amongst-boys type, a physical specimen with power and speed and a ceiling so high that few want to approximate it. He is 17 and little more than a year removed from signing for $2.5 million out of the Bahamas.
Perdomo is a switch-hitting shortstop whose game features a blend of refinement and ease. He turns 19 later this month. Thomas, 18, is an undersized center fielder who some see as an Adam Eaton type. Alexander, 19 and a shortstop, had perhaps the best infield arm in this year’s draft and posted huge numbers after signing, impressing scouts with his all-around game.
They project to play premium positions. They are viewed as athletic and “toolsy.” And they are lauded for their makeup, giving scouts more reason to believe they could reach their potential.
There are others who show promise, as well. Jake McCarthy, 21, a comp-round pick this year out of Virginia, is a center fielder who runs well and who could grow into more power. Buddy Kennedy, 20, is a third baseman with a stocky build and a feel for hitting. Andy Yerzy, 20, has a powerful swing and an advanced approach, and after spending two years behind the plate, he’s begun to see more time at first base.
“I think we all know this group that’s in instructional league, that we’re the core group in the minor-league system,” Thomas said. “I know we all want to make it to the major leagues and stick there, and once that’s established, it will be about winning together.”
The group that took shape in 2009 came together at its own pace, with Goldschmidt reaching the majors first and others trickling in after that. Several others from that class, of course, never made it. The organization realizes the developmental path can rarely be traced in a straight line and that even some of the players they might like the most could never make it.
“We feel good about the guys that we’ve (acquired),” General Manager Mike Hazen said. “It’s hard for me to sit back and sort of say how this is all going to play out with only one full year in for these guys. A lot of the guys that we took (in the draft) this year had a tremendous amount of success at the short-season level. But we’ve got to see how these guys progress through the minor-league system.”