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Skaggs leads farm system stocked with arms

Baseball's top lefty prospect joined by several other budding pitchers

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The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.

Sure, the D-backs may have shipped Trevor Bauer to Cleveland in a three-way deal, but the farm system remains stacked with top pitching talent.

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Plus, the D-backs netted shortstop Didi Gregorius in that deal, adding balance to a Minor League system that could see quite a few players make an impact at the next level in 2013.

First, the pitching. Tyler Skaggs is as good a pitching prospect as any in baseball (ranked No. 1 among southpaws). Said farm director Mike Bell of what skills Skaggs needs to hone to make an impact at the Major League level: "I can't think of many -- he's got a lot of things going pretty good for him right now."

Skaggs struggled when he made six starts with the big league club in 2012, going 1-3 with a 5.83 ERA. Behind Skaggs on the prospect rankings is Archie Bradley -- a 20-year-old power arm, who is ranked No. 8 among all right-handers.

Bradley held batters to a .181 average in 2012, the second-best mark among all Minor League pitchers, and his 152 strikeouts were second in the Class A Midwest League. The club is very pleased with his work ethic, and it believes he'll rein in his walk totals.

As for Bradley's progression, Bell thinks he has the tools to move quickly through the system.

"We want to do the right thing with him, so that when he gets to the big leagues, he can stay there," Bell said.

Lefties David Holmberg and Andrew Chafin and righties Zeke Spruill and Anthony Meo could all be poised for big years in 2013 as well.

Offensively, Matt Davidson projects as one of the best prospects at third base and potentially the D-backs' third baseman of the future. He can drive the ball to the gaps and hits for plenty of power. Davidson's defense was once a concern, but in the last year or so, he's come a long way with his footwork and mobility.

"He's a big strong guy with a powerful swing," Bell said, noting that he wasn't overly concerned with Davidson's high strikeout totals. "Sometimes those guys have a little bit of a tendency to strike out. He drives in runs, he gets big hits. He's progressing at the right pace."

Gregorius gives the D-backs another solid infield prospect who is very close to being ready for the big leagues. He projects as a plus defender with speed. If he can improve his patience at the plate, Gregorius should be a solid hitter and an on-base threat.

Top 20 prospects

Directly behind Davidson and Gregorius, who are No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, on the club's list of Top 20 Prospects, is another prospect who could make a big league impact in 2013: Outfielder Adam Eaton.

"Adam is a really exciting player," Bell said of Eaton, who posted a .381/.456/.538 slash line with Triple-A Reno last season. "Everywhere he's been, he's put up huge offensive numbers. He plays solid defensively, he steals bases, he gets on base. If he plays the way he's been playing, I think he's going to be a tremendous player for us."

Atop the rankings are Skaggs and Bradley, in that order, but after the two hurlers come six position players. Shortstops Chris Owings and Nick Ahmed follow Eaton, and outfielder A.J. Pollock, who got his first callup last season, sits eighth.

Pollock struggled a bit in his first stint with the D-backs last season, but the club isn't too concerned with that. He turned it on in Triple-A at season's end, winning MVP of the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

Bell said he believes Pollock's early struggles may have been a result of the "up-and-down," adding that he'll be fine because, "fundamentally, he does it like you coach it."

There are several young, raw talents that also fit into the rankings. Stryker Trahan, last year's top pick, could be poised for a big year. There was some talk that he isn't capable of handling a full-time catching job, but after some major defensive improvements in his first year, the D-backs have no plans to move the backstop anywhere else.

"When we first got him, his defense was behind his offense, and it probably still is right now," Bell said of the 18-year-old. "But I'll tell you, from day one to the end of the season, it was night and day. It was really neat to see that strides that he made behind the plate."

Like Trahan, shortstop Joe Munoz projects as a guy who could make a big impact down the road once he gets a few more games under his belt.

Under the radar

Jose Martinez is 18, touches the mid-90s with his fastball and possesses a true blue curveball to complement the heat. There isn't much not to like.

On top of that, the club is very pleased with his mental makeup. The D-backs threw him directly into the fire with short-season Yakima last August, where he held his own while pitching in the United States for the first time.

Also worth keeping an eye on is Breland Almadova, a tall, lean outfielder with very good speed.

Predictions

Hitter of the Year: Trahan

Trahan's first full professional season will offer a chance for him to do what he does best: hit. He can do it for both power and average, and he has the potential to be one of the best offensive talents to come out of last June's Draft.

Pitcher of the Year: Bradley

Keep an eye on Holmberg, a lefty with four solid pitches who came over to Arizona in the Edwin Jackson trade. But assuming Skaggs is off to Arizona by season's end, Bradley is the logical choice here. He has the potential to dominate once again with his mid-90s fastball, especially if he develops a better grasp of the strike zone.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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