In this series dubbed “French’s Favorite MiLB Sleepers: (Your Favorite Team Here)” I will take a look at one pitching and one hitting prospect who I think have either flown under the radar or have yet to receive much in the way of notoriety. In the end we will have a list of 60 players that I think will blossom into legitimate prospects and have the potential to contribute in the MLB within the next few years. In the first of what will eventually be 30 reviews I will start with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D-backs have one of the most exciting minor league systems in all of baseball headlined by youngsters like Trevor Bauer, Archie Bradley, David Holmberg, and Tyler Skaggs as well as Matt Davidson and Chris Owings. For the most part the aforementioned players receive most of the prospect hype (and deservedly so) but one of the best things about baseball, specifically prospecting, is when a few guys who for all intents and purposes have developed without receiving much time in the lime light. This scenario exists in all across baseball and my goal is to bring a little attention to a few guys who I think could deliver great results at the MLB level sooner than later.
So let’s jump right in and see who’s been hiding down on the farm for the Arizona Diamondbacks!
Keon Broxton – OF: Toolsy. Raw. Projectable. These words are commonly associated with any report on Broxton and rightfully so as the 22 year old has shown glimpses of his potential and has spent the better part of his young minor league career trying to turn those tools into skills. Broxton was drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft out of the Florida JuCo ranks and was signed for $400,000 as a 19 year old. In 2009 he played in 72 games and was able to post a respectable .246/.302/.474 slash line along with 11 home runs. It was evident from the beginning that he was going to have to improve his plate approach because he posted a 19:93 BB/K rate which was (and is) way too high to sustain a solid average and on-base percentage. He followed up his 2009 season with a .228/.316/.360 with only five home runs but a league leading 19 triples for Class-A South Bend of the Midwest League in 2010. His BB/K rate was still unacceptable at 65:172 but he flashed some of that game changing speed by swiping 21 bases and of course the 19 triples.
Broxton opened the 2011 season with 20 games in South Bend before being promoted to Class-A Advanced Visalia of the California League for the remainer of the season. In total he posted a .248/.341/.349 with seven home runs and seven triples as well as 33 stolen bases. The strikeouts were still an issue (69:172 BB/K) but the obvious potential to contribute in the power and speed categories was evident. Broxton really broke out in 2012 as he put together the type of season that I think he will eventually be known for at the MLB level. He posted a .267/.326/.437 line with 19 home runs and 21 stolen bases in a full season with Class-A Advanced Visalia and has firmly placed himself on my radar as big time sleeper with huge potential. He still needs to refine his plate discipline (40:136 BB/K in 2012) but he possesses real 20/20 potential from center field. Look for Broxton to continue to develop in the mold of current Diamondbacks center fielder Chris B. Young with a real chance to be in Arizona by 2015.
Anthony Meo – RHP: Amongst all of the pitching depth in Arizona’s farm system it’s easy to overlook an arm like Meo. The 22 year old righty was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Coastal Carolina University and just finished his first full season as a professional for Class-A Visalia. While on the surface his numbers are nothing special I think he is going to be a valuable asset to the Diamondbacks long-term. He posted a 4.11 ERA and a 153:71 K/BB over 140 innings. A big reason why his ERA was as high as it was is because of the environment that he was pitching in. The CAL is a notorious hitter’s league and at least some of the 15 home runs that Meo surrendered were a product of his environment.
The young righty already has a power fastball that sits in the 93-96 mph range and a slider that is still developing, but sits in the mid-80’s. He also mixes in a change-up that lags behind his fastball/slider combo. Many see Meo as an eventual bullpen arm if he isn’t able to harness the necessary control and secondary offerings but it is way too soon to shoehorn him into that role. Thankfully the D-Backs seem to agree. Meo has the opportunity to develop outside of the lime light that is all but assuredly focused on the likes of Archie Bradley, Tyler Skaggs, and some guy named Trevor Bauer. That’s going to play in Meo’s favor as he is one of those collegiate arms that lacks the kind of polish that teams expect but could pay huge dividends.
He will likely move up to Double-A Mobile of the Southern League for the 2013 season and I expect him to try and refine his command and limit the free passes while developing his change-up. Meo already has the strikeout stuff teams look for in a rotation arm he just needs to add the polish to stick long-term in that role. If he is unable to develop the necessary secondary offerings, he will be forced into a bullpen role. If that happens, he should add some velocity to his arsenal and be in the mix as an end game option. Either way Meo is one of those guys who gets lost a bit in the shuffle of such a deep farm system but his success in 2012 has him poised to move up the prospect ranks and he could very well be a solid #3 or #4 starter in the MLB by 2015.
For more on the Arizona Diamondbacks check out Venom Strikes!