I probably shouldn’t have started with Arizona because starting with Arizona doesn’t give me any real perspective on how they did when compared with the 29 other teams. This would obviously be a problem with whatever team I chose to begin with, but Arizona’s draft was so strong that I’d really like to be in a position to call it one of my favorites. In a vacuum, however, I can freely say that Arizona did an excellent job selecting a mix of players, especially on the pitching side, that fill up that sweet spot on the high upside/high probability of reaching upside matrix.
UCLA RHP Trevor Bauer (4th ranked draft prospect), a future top of the rotation arm already at AA and on the verge of a big league promotion, is emblematic of that high upside/high probability of reaching upside sweet spot. Broken Arrow HS (OK) RHP Archie Bradley (6th ranked draft prospect) is less of a sure thing, but offers similar top of the rotation upside.
UCLA JR RHP Trevor Bauer: 88-92 FB, peak 93-94; began to hit 95-96 this past fall, has said he’ll hit 98 at some point; currently sitting 91-93, 95 consistent peak; plus 72-78 CB that he leans on heavily; good 80-84 CU; any one (and often more than one) of his 78-82 SL, cutter, 84-89 screwball/reverse slider, or 84-86 splitter is a plus pitch on a given day
RHP Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, Oklahoma): 89-93 FB, hitting 94-97; power knuckle CB 80-86 with plus potential that improved drastically throughout spring; good SL; emerging circle CU; very easy 95 peak every outing; rumors of a 101 one-time peak in state title game; 6-4, 220 pounds
Kent State LHP Andrew Chafin (19th ranked draft prospect) has the three pitch mix, delivery, and frame to start as a big leaguer, with the fallback plan as a shutdown fastball/slider reliever. If you’re scoring at home, and, really, why wouldn’t you be, that’s three top 20 draft prospects selected with Arizona’s first three picks. Having two picks in the top seven help, no doubt, but nabbing Chafin with pick 43 could make the Arizona scouting department look really, really smart in short order.
You can certainly make the argument that focusing on so much pitching early in a pitching rich draft makes the Diamondbacks susceptible to a draft that winds up short on hitting talent. I get that, but ultimately think the opportunity to add three arms of this quality was just the talent/excitement infusion the franchise needed back in June. It also doesn’t hurt that all three players will probably take different routes to the big leagues: Bauer should move quickly, Bradley will take the typical elite prep arm path (maybe a touch quicker), and Chafin could either come quickly or slowly, depending on how Arizona views his progress from last year’s Tommy John surgery. I might be alone in thinking any of that is important, but I like the idea of staggering the arrival of young arms when possible.
Kent State SO LHP Andrew Chafin: missed 2010 after Tommy John surgery; 89-93 FB, 94-95 peak; potential plus 81-83 SL that is a big league ready pitch; very good CU; command slowly coming on after surgery
And that’s not all! Arizona landed a fourth premium pitching prospect in as many picks by selecting Coastal Carolina RHP Anthony Meo (130th ranked draft prospect) in the second round. I’m typically of the “start him until he proves he’s a bullpen arm” mindset, but Meo’s stuff and delivery are tailor-made for relief work.
Coastal Carolina JR RHP Anthony Meo: last summer showed 89-94 FB with good life; now sitting 92-93, 96-97 peak that comes often; flashed plus 78-85 SL that is now plus-plus SL up to 87-90; 82-86 CB; occasional average straight 84-85 CU; 6-2, 185
I wonder if Justin Bianco’s third round selection was impacted in some part of a cross promotion with famous Phoenix pizza joint Pizzeria Bianco. Terrible joke aside, Bianco’s lack of a clear plus tool makes me less than enthused to see the high school outfielder go so early. Important note: this isn’t a bad pick just because I don’t like it. I know full well I’m just a guy with a laptop and some free time who cannot compete with the depth and scope of their resources. Every team picks players they know way more about than I could possibly imagine, and I respect even apparent “overdrafts” because often teams know things – including information about the individual prospect in question as well as intel on what other teams think of their guy and where he is likely to be drafted – the general public (like me!) is not privy to. That said, I still wouldn’t have taken Bianco in the third and don’t like the pick. Wish him well, as always, but don’t like the pick.
Kansas State RHP Evan Marshall was one of the many Big 12 relievers to go off the board early, and his future as a potential plus fastball/plus slider bullpen arm seems like one he’s got a good shot to achieve. Marshall has gotten off to a very fast start as a pro, striking out a batter an inning and getting groundballs consistently. Colegio Vocacional Para Adultos (PR) C Michael Perez was a pre-draft miss on my end. He has two things that all teams look for in young catchers: above-average athleticism and a strong, accurate arm. I don’t love the bat, but the defense profiles well.
Kansas State JR RHP Evan Marshall: 93-94 FB, 96 peak; plus SL; 6-1, 210
I’ve never really bought into South Carolina RHP Matt Price as a prime pro prospect, even though I enjoy watching him close out games for the Gamecocks. Sentinel HS (MT) OF Ben Roberts (101st ranked draft prospect) was obviously strong value in round 7 (pick 214), but part of that undoubtedly had to do with eventually unsigned outfielder’s signability. Three years at Washington State will go a long way in determining whether or not the raw (no surprise there, right?) Roberts has the speed and arm to stick in center (as I believe) or if he is destined to play left field or first base long-term. If nothing else, I’ll always remember Roberts as being one of the pioneers of what looks like a promising few years – 2012 looks stacked, relatively speaking – of Montana prep prospects. Who would have thought?
South Carolina SO RHP Matt Price: no plus pitch; really like his low-80s SL; CB; 89-92 FB; also like his CU quite a bit
OF Ben Roberts (Missoula Sentinel HS, Montana): plus speed; plus arm; CF defense; 6-4, 200 pounds
Fresno Pacific RHP Jesse Darrah is another potential reliever for me, but could have the three pitches (FB/CU/CB) to work as a starter. He’s done a good job as a pro so far (56 K in 51 IP), so, sample sized be damned, there is some sleeper upside here. I’m pretty stunned Connellsville HS (PA) SS John Leonard signed; guess I’ll need to fire one of my tipsters as pre-draft insider scoop on his signability was apparently way off the mark.
TCU RHP Kyle Winkler (78th ranked draft prospect) is a legit steal as a 10th rounder (304th overall). Health concerns and rumored bonus demands dropped him down draft boards, but plus pitchability, crazy fastball movement, and an array of quality offspeed offerings (I’m partial to the slider and changeup, but I know some think he should rely more heavily on the cutter) make him the poor man’s Trevor Bauer. For the record, we’re talking super-duper poor bordering on foreclosure here: Bauer is a potential ace and Winkler’s ceiling ranges from mid-rotation innings eater to late inning (but likely not ninth inning) reliever.
TCU JR RHP Kyle Winkler: 89-92 FB; peak 93-94; FB is plus pitch because of movement; loses velocity early, falling to upper-80s; good deception in delivery; plus 86-88 sinker; decent 88 cutter; decent 75-76 CB that has largely been phases out in favor of cutter and SL; 81-83 SL that needs tons of work; SL gained velocity and now flashes plus-plus at 85-89; quality low-80s CU with plus upside, now more consistently plus; 5-11, 195 pounds
Illinois SS Josh Parr (Round 12) has the speed and defensive chops to sneak his way into the big leagues as a utility infielder someday. I’m still not a fan due to his penchant for high strikeouts and low walk totals, but there are some physical tools to work with here.
Parr is a really good athlete with plus defensive tools, but his inability to control the strike zone presents a concern going forward. There is enough rawness in his hitting approach to think he is due for that big sophomore to junior year breakout at the plate. He definitely has the potential to make me look stupid for not finding a spot for him earlier.
Early on in a pitching-rich draft, Arizona focused on pitching. In the middle rounds of a draft with an unusually high number of quality west coast college position player prospects, the Diamondbacks focused on, you guessed it, mid-round west coast college position player prospects. The odds of landing an above-average big league player from a four-year college are obviously not high, but there are always some solid depth pieces to be found that could serve a role in professional ball down the line. Players such as UCLA C Steve Rodriguez (Round 15), Fresno State SS Garrett Weber (Round 22), Oregon State 3B Carter Bell (Round 29), Cal Poly 2B Matt Jensen (Round 31), and Stanford C Zach Jones (Round 34) all qualify as high character, potential big league backup types. I’ve never been crazy about Rodriguez (pro: very good defender who has handled big league quality pitching/con: anemic bat), but Weber and Bell (pro: potential late bloomer/con: not enough range for short) offer enough defensive versatility to give off a slight glimmer of a bench role. Of the group, oddly enough, I prefer the two players drafted past the thirtieth round, Jensen and Jones. As you’ll see in my pre-draft note below, I thought Jensen could come back for a senior try and become a top ten round player in 2012. That’s not bad value for a 31st round pick. Jones may not be a “good” prospect by most traditional measures, but I value uniqueness in ballplayers and he is certainly a catcher who breaks the mold.
I really wish I could explain what happened to Jensen this year, but I’ve got nothing. Still really like his bat speed and power upside, and he has apparently made strides as a defender. A big senior season, either back at second or on the mound, could get him drafted in the top ten rounds like his talent probably warrants.
JR C Zach Jones (2010) is a bit of an enigma – a potential above-average defender behind the plate who doubles as an outstanding athlete and fantastic baserunner. I like guys who break the mold, and players who can legitimately catch AND steal double digit bases are a rarity. I also like guys who can hit, something Jones hasn’t proven he can do. His defense may be enough to get him drafted, but it won’t be until very late…and it may not be until his senior year.
North Carolina State OF Brett Williams (Round 25) will return to what is looking like a potentially dangerous Wolfpack squad. I’ve always had a soft spot for both junior college studs (like Williams before transferring to Raleigh) and underdog universities (so tough to compete in the shadow of those other Triangle schools), so I’ll be watching the well-rounded (and much discussed in the comments section) Williams’ 2012 performance with great interest. An outfielder from a southern school that did sign is Vanderbilt OF Joe Loftus (Round 46). From a tools standpoint I prefer Loftus to Williams, but Williams clearly outperformed Loftus on the field in 2011. In a somewhat unexpected wrinkle, Loftus is expected to see time at third base as a pro.
Not sure how signable Loftus is as a 46th rounder because his blend of arm strength, athleticism, and untapped raw power make him an unusually talented late round pick. If he returns to school, he could easily jump up 25+ rounds with a big senior season.
Liberty 3B Tyler Bream (Round 42) is another surprise junior sign who seemed likely to test the waters again as a senior in 2012. Disappointing junior year aside, the above-average raw power and strong arm play. I’m not sold on his future at the hot corner, and there are already rumors (unconfirmed!) that he’s seen as a potential catching convert within the organization, if he shows quick enough feet this fall and winter. Late in the draft it makes sense to take fliers on tough signs out of high school (which almost every team does) and college performers with interesting tools coming off down years (still not enough love for these guys). I liked Central Florida 3B Derek Luciano (Round 44) a lot more a few years ago when I thought he could stick up the middle. Luciano’s college teammate Central Florida 1B Jonathan Griffin (Round 21)
His name makes me think slick fielding, speed middle infielder, but in reality Luciano is a below-average runner and inconsistent fielder who will have to rely on his lefthanded power if he wants to make it in pro ball. His good, but not great 2010 season has tempered some of the pre-season enthusiasm surrounding his prospect stock.
The Diamondbacks top two picks (Bauer and Bradley) look like slam dunks to start in the big leagues someday. After that, however, there is a lack of starter quality arms. Chafin is a good bet to start and Winkler has a shot, but Meo, Marshall, and Darrah look like relievers to me. Of those seven arms, only one (Bradley) is a high schooler. Surely Arizona took some gambles on a few high upside prep pitchers, right? Meet Ryan HS (TX) LHP Adam Choplick (Round 17) and Steele Canyon HS (CA) RHP Michael Cederoth (Round 41 and my 147th ranked draft prospect). Unfortunately for the D’Backs, neither signed. Choplick is a monster with stuff that didn’t wow this spring on account of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He seemed like a worthwhile risk in the 17th round, but will head off to Oklahoma in the fall. Cederoth is another talented but raw arm trying to make his way back from some high school injuries. I’d love to know what his price tag was and what Arizona wound up offering because arms like Cederoth’s don’t grow on trees. Thank goodness for that…just thinking about trees with arms for branches creeps me out. Arizona did manage to ink Holy Cross LHP John Pedrotty (Round 13), a crafty lefty who looks more like a middling relief piece than a future starter to me. His lack of a true out pitch is my biggest hang up.
RHP Michael Cederoth (Steele Canyon HS, California): 87-90 FB jumped up to 90-93 with 95-96 peak; average CB; 72 SL; good 86-88 cutter; very raw; violent delivery; 6-5, 185