As we did last month, here are the Diamondback prospects who impressed me most at every level in June. The criteria: a legitimate case as the most valuable player on the squad while younger than league average age, and showing gains as a potential big leaguer.
A.J. Vukovich, 3B
2019 Highest Level: High School
It only took Vukovich a few weeks pro to get rolling in May and he continued to advance his all fields approach in June, slashing .291/.354/.500 with seven doubles, three home runs, and eleven runs batted in serving as Visalia’s three or four-hitter. It’s been a tough season for the Rawhide but Vukovich is proving to be a prospect on the rise. As illustrated in AJV, my Vuckovich column over on Pitcher List, an attractive budding hit tool, pairs with the plus raw power swing. Unfortunately, only one week of Vukovich’s June games were broadcast, so the continued growth has been hidden the last three-plus weeks. Here are his two extra-base hits from the Fresno series. No surprise they were going with a pitch opposite field:
(2B vs Juan Mejia 6/4)
(2B vs Will Ethridge 6/6)
Ryne Nelson, RHP
2019 Highest Level: High-A
Nelson gets my POM again for Hillsboro, as he’s continued his development as a starter, found results, and a late-month promotion to Double-A Amarillo (his first start there was a speed bump, we’ll have to monitor how he responds) followed.
Over four June starts for Hillsboro, Nelson went 16 innings, giving up five earned runs on eight hits, striking out 31 while walking just six, but did hit three batters. Nelson went 3-0 during this stretch, overmatching lineups, minus one hiccup where control got away from him and he left in the second before the stat-line blew up. Nelson has some bouts of wildness, particularly in the second innings of starts:
(BB vs Diego Rincones 6/16)
(BB vs Logan Wyatt 6/16)
The “second breaking ball” is still looking more like a cutter or “slutter” to me:
(Brendon Davis 6/9)
The fastball is still the big weapon:
(Brendon Davis 6/9)
The refinement of the secondaries remains vital for Nelson, and the jump to Double-A will be a giant test. Nelson will have to find more consistency as well, as bouts of wildness are liable to cause more damage at his new level.
Dominic Fletcher, OF
2019 Highest Level: Single-A
Perhaps overlooked in this system, Fletcher may have had his best pro month in June. A month including a 14-game hit streak brought a .306 average with four home runs, 16 runs-batted-in, and a 23.5% strikeout rate (better than league average). Fletcher has split time between center and right fields, settling in as the Sod Poodles’ two-hitter.
The left-handed bat, equally effective against righties and lefties, might just be starting to heat up. The approach is taking shape and the confidence growing. Here is an impressive two-strike home run against a former big-league pitcher:
(HR vs Jason Garcia 6/29, EV 105 mph)
And here’s an opposite-field two-strike home run, this time against a very tough young pitcher:
(vs Hunter Brown 6/12)
Fletcher’s pushing for forty-man addition in what’s been a quiet year for many bats in this system.
Drew Ellis, 3B, 1B/2B
2019 Highest Level: Double-A
Seth Beer could have repeated for our Triple-A POM, but I’m giving the former second-round pick out of Louisville the nod after hitting .310 with 15 extra-base hits, including six home runs, four of which came in the last four days of June, and eight multi-hit games. After three lackluster pro seasons, Ellis could be in the midst of a breakout this first triple-A chance…or it’s just a nice run and the 30.6% strikeout rate haunts his forty-man dreams. At the very least, Ellis has gotten himself back in the conversation after seeming to head down the forgotten man’s road.
Slashing .299/.387/.543 in triple-A isn’t easy. The newfound success against righties is significant; in 2019, Double-A, he hit just .214 against them. This season it’s .292.
Ellis has a great glove at third base, and with the big league club struggling as it is, and potential spots on the forty-man clearing, the success might have some right-time-right-place to it.
(HR vs Scott Kazmir 6/29)
A lot of Ellis’ damage seems to be done ahead in the count, hunting fastballs to drive, which isn’t a bad thing, he might just not get as many of those chances at the next level.
The Corbin Carroll injury and Geraldo Perdomo struggles have brought some gloom to this system, but these players in June, along with some other deserving candidates in Blake Walston and Brandon Pfaadt are giving Diamondback fans some hope in these dark days.