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Lawlar, Saalfrank lead D-backs' Organization All-Stars

Duo dominated in Minors before helping team reach World Series
December 14, 2023

Each offseason, goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2023 Organization All-Stars series are the Arizona Diamondbacks. 2023 organization summary: Triple-A Reno: 88-62 Double-A

Each offseason, goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2023 Organization All-Stars series are the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2023 organization summary:
Triple-A Reno: 88-62
Double-A Amarillo: 77-61 (Texas League champions)
High-A Hillsboro: 56-76
Single-A Visalia: 50-82
ACL D-backs Black: 22-34
ACL D-backs Red: 34-21
DSL Arizona Black: 30-25
DSL Arizona Red: 21-33
Overall record: 378-394 (18th among MLB organizations)
Midseason farm system ranking: 12

D-backs 2023 Organization All-Stars:

C: Christian Cerda (AZ No. 24)
A/A+: .247/.402/.397, 108 G, 11 HR, 53 RBI, 59 R, 93 BB, 1 SB
Cerda showed impressive maturity in his first full season in Arizona's system. The 20-year-old ranked sixth among Minor Leaguers (minimum 400 PAs) with a 19.8 percent walk rate and made great strides on defense, where he shines as a receiver and game-caller.

"We love the approach, love the defense," D-backs assistant general manager Amiel Sawdaye said. "Really good intangibles behind the plate. He understands his game. He's not afraid to hit behind in the count. That's really hard to do when you think of a 20-year-old player who came over from Latin America, having this kind of plate discipline."

1B: Tristin English (AZ No. 30)
AA/AAA: .300/.390/.548, 102 G, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 74 R, 52 BB, 2 SB
English finished third in Arizona's system with 23 home runs while mostly playing first base and also moonlighting in the outfield corners. The 2019 third-rounder ran up a 1.148 OPS in 18 games for Double-A Amarillo before earning a promotion to Triple-A Reno and hitting a still-impressive .293/.380/.514. That included maintaining a 1.000 OPS for the first 47 games of the year.

2B: Diego Castillo
AAA: .313/.431/.410, 124 G, 3 HR, 72 RBI, 94 R, 97 BB, 13 SB
Castillo was an on-base machine, ranking top-three in the D-backs' system in doubles (first, 33), walks (first), hits (second, 142) and runs (third). Much of that has to do with incredible bat-to-ball skills; the 26-year-old ranked 17th among qualified Minor Leaguers with a 5.8 percent swinging-strike rate. Playing left field, second, third and shortstop, he had 40 multihit games, including a five-hit performance in the first game of the year.

"He really changed his approach. He went out, and he walked a ton, didn't strike out a lot," Sawdaye said. "He gets on base, and he's an instinctual player. When he gets on base, he can take the extra base, he can do some things on the bases."

3B: Ivan Melendez (AZ No. 7)
A+/AA: .272/.345/.578, 96 G, 30 HR, 76 RBI, 65 R, 31 BB, 4 SB
Melendez showed off his power in first full pro season. The '22 Golden Spikes Award winner was one of 15 Minor Leaguers to hit 30 home runs and one of two to do so in fewer than 100 games. He ended the campaign with a strong stint in the Arizona Fall League and an appearance in its Home Run Derby.

"We knew he was going to have that type of power; he probably has the biggest power in our system," Sawdaye said. "The one thing maybe we undersold was he is a pretty good third baseman. His internal clock is really good. He's got pretty decent hands. He moves fairly well over there."

SS: Jordan Lawlar (AZ No. 1, MLB No. 10)
AA/AAA: .278/.378/.496, 105 G, 20 HR, 67 RBI, 95 R, 56 BB, 36 SB
The sixth overall pick in the 2021 Draft was a part of the D-backs' NL pennant-winning team, but first he earned Double-A All-Star honors and was named the top MLB prospect in the Texas League. Lawlar was one of 15 Minor Leaguers to knock 20 homers and steal 30 bases, and he was the second youngest to do so. Elite defense at shortstop was the cherry on top of a well-rounded campaign.

"He's so talented, so athletic. He's a five-tool player," Sawdaye said. "In the spring, you saw a lot of the athleticism. You didn't see it all come together. When he came up in September, defensively as a shortstop, he made some unbelievably athletic plays, instinctual plays, and you just realize the sky is the limit for him, both offensively and defensively."

OF: Caleb Roberts
AA: .278/.382/.523, 97 G, 17 HR, 66 RBI, 72 R, 58 BB, 11 SB
Roberts played in both outfield corners, behind home plate and at first. But he crushed the ball no matter where he played, as he became a Double-A All-Star after finishing third in the Texas League in slugging percentage and tied for second in triples (eight). The 2021 fifth-rounder tied for fourth in extra-base hits (84) despite registering only 434 plate appearances.

"He can really hit," Sawdaye said. "That's probably the calling card. If you can put him behind the plate and he becomes a fringy defensive catcher, with his bat, he has a chance to become an everyday player. He's always been able to control the strike zone pretty well, he's got a good approach and can hit, and he's got some pop."

OF: Jorge Barrosa (AZ No. 14)
AAA: .274/.394/.456, 120 G, 13 HR, 65 RBI, 91 R, 80 BB, 15 SB
Barrosa is known for his elite glove and plus speed, but he also had a career year at the plate. He set career highs in home runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and his eight triples were tied for the organizational lead. The 5-foot-5 switch-hitter only started hitting from the left side five years ago but actually hit slightly better there (.278/.399/.479) than he was from the right side (.266/.380/.403).

"Probably the best defender in our system," Sawdaye said. "He's not the fastest runner, but he's one of the most instinctual center fielders I've been around. I'd put him toe-to-toe with Alek [Thomas]."

OF: Kyle Lewis
AAA: .371/.457/.641, 63 G, 17 HR, 80 RBI, 55 R, 39 BB, 0 SB
The 2020 AL Rookie of the Year may have hoped to spend more time in the Majors, but he was an offense machine with Triple-A Reno. Among D-backs Minor Leaguers with at least as many plate appearances as him (293), Lewis was tops in all triple-slash categories. The same was true among Pacific Coast League players. His ability to hit for power (17 homers) while rarely striking out (19.8 percent) was also impressive.

RHP: Ricardo Yan
A/A+: 2-9, 3.65 ERA, 103 2/3 IP, 138 K, 45 BB, .185 BAA, 1.09 WHIP
The low-slot righty put up solid numbers with Single-A Visalia (4.33 ERA, 105 K's in 81 IP), but he took it to another level over five outings to end the year with High-A Hillsboro (1.19 ERA, 33 K's in 22 2/3 IP). Yan paced qualified D-backs Minor Leaguers in WHIP, and he gave up three or fewer hits in 16 of his 23 outings.

"He has a really good sinker-slider combo," Sawdaye said. "At that level, he's keeping a lot of hitters off-balance. He's going to fill out at some point, and there will be more velo in the tank. It's hard for those hitters, especially with the movement he gets on his pitches from that slot. He gets some uncomfortable swings and uncomfortable at-bats."

LHP: Yu-Min Lin (AZ No. 4)
A+/AA: 6-5, 3.86 ERA, 121 1/3 IP, 140 K, 48 BB, .222 BA, 1.19 WHIP
Lin is a rare breed in the Minors: a strikeout artist who goes deep into games. The 20-year-old registered eight or more strikeouts in eight starts and threw at least six innings seven times. He was especially dominant during a five-start stretch from June 3-July 1 when he allowed just six runs (three earned) and struck out 41 across 28 innings.

"He's one of the craftiest pitchers I've been around," Sawdaye said. "He's not afraid to throw any pitch in any count, and he has really good command of all of his pitches. He's an undersized kid, but he's probably one of the best athletes we have in our system too. Very twitchy, very athletic, repeats his delivery really well."

RP: Andrew Saalfrank
AA/AAA: 8-2, 2.53 ERA, 64 IP, 93 K, 35 BB, .196 BAA, 1.25 WHIP
The southpaw was equally effective in Double-A Amarillo and Triple-A Reno, and he led all D-backs Minor Leaguers (minimum 30 IP) with a 37.5 percent strikeout rate. Before his callup to the Majors, Saalfrank ripped off 12 straight scoreless appearances, with 26 K's and eight hits allowed in 17 innings.

"He can get lefties and righties out," Sawdaye said. "He's got the big breaking ball. He's not afraid to throw it to both sides, which is somewhat unique."

Ben Weinrib is a contributor for