Tonight kicks off the start of the 2012 MLB Draft with Round 1 and the compensatory round live on the MLB Channel. The other rounds will be conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday. To say that this year's draft will be different from last year's is a massive understatement for both the league and the Diamondbacks. Last week I highlighted some of the changes brought about by the new CBA. Today we're going to talk about what the top of the draft might look like, what the Diamondbacks might do with their first couple of picks, and what our organizational depth looks like that will guide the direction of our front office in the middle and later rounds.
It's all after the break.
Due to the team's on-field success last year and no free agents lost to other teams, the Dbacks won't have the kind of impact draft like they did last year when they had the 3rd, 7th, 43rd, 63rd and 93rd picks. This year the team doesn't pick first until #26 and doesn't pick again until #90. A half dozen teams have five or more picks before the Diamondbacks pick two. It's also the opinion of most that this year's draft isn't nearly as loaded as last year's with only a handful of can't-miss impact prospects and nothing close to the depth of 2011. We'll start by looking at the top of the draft.
The Top 5
The Astros have the first pick of the draft and it isn't certain yet who they're going to take. The debate centers between Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and high school outfielder Byron Buxton. Some think the Astros will go with Appel if only to get an earlier return for a struggling franchise.
The Twins pick second and will take whoever the Astros don't, likely Buxton. The Mariners are up third and are said to be looking for a bat. Florida catcher Mike Zunino is being mocked here by some, the top catcher in the draft. Puerto Rico SS Carlos Correa or Florida HS OF Albert Almora might also be considered. Baltimore will likely take the best college pitcher available in Kevin Gausman and Kansas City at five is also looking for pitching.
Here's the Top 10 Prospects according to Baseball America.
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Appling County HS, Baxley, Ga.
2. Michael Zunino, C, Univ of Florida
3. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Univ of San Francisco
4. Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
5. Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State
6. Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rico Baseball Academy
7. Albert Almora, OF, Mater Academy, Hialeah Gardens, Fla.
8. Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M
9. Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif.
10. Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke
The mock drafts have been all over the board as nobody knows what any of the top teams are going to do. There are signability issues, pre-draft deals and plenty of other variables that make it very tough to predict. It is being rumored that some teams plan to offer less than slot to top picks with the threat of passing on players if they don't agree. Prospects, parents and agents will have to be in their toes more than ever because if they decline any of those kinds of offers there's no telling how far they'll fall with no recourse to recoup that money through negotiation because there won't be any negotiations this year. The limited bonus pool will see to that. The idea for these less-than slot offers is to try and compile some additional dollars for later rounds to entice those mid-round picks to skip college. In summary, all the negotiating power has been transferred from players and agents to the teams. It will be very interesting to see how it plays out.
The Diamondbacks Top Pick
It's no secret the Dbacks will be looking to add some bats in this year's draft after reaping a collection of pitching riches last year. We'll take a closer look at our organizational depth to get a better flavor of the team's overall philosophy for this year a little bit later. But good luck predicting who the team will take at number 26 and more importantly who will even be available.
With all the behind-the-scenes maneuvering likely to be going on with everyone above them, it's entirely possible that someone highly rated could slide to the Dbacks for any number of reasons. Someone like Deven Marrero, the ASU SS has been the highest rated college SS for some time now could possibly slide. He did not have a very good year and there's a couple of high school shortstops who have been skyrocketing up boards such as Correa and Gavin Cecchini. That would be a huge break for the Dbacks and they would likely scoop him up in a heartbeat.
It's pretty well known that the team's biggest organizational holes are at catcher and shortstop. If any of the above mentioned shortstops make it to 26 the team would likely give serious consideration to them. Unfortunately for the Dbacks the catching talent in this year's draft is not particularly good. After Zunino, the next best catcher is probably Stryker Trahan, rated #27 overall by Baseball America, from Acadiana High School in Louisiana. Scouts love his makeup, size and strong right arm. He's considered a poor receiver but that may be due to inexperience from playing so much football where he was his high school's starting QB.
A couple other HS catchers the team might consider include Wyatt Mathisen from Corpus Christi, TX and Clint Coulter from Camas, WA. Both have good power swings and good enough catching skills to have a chance to stay there. Mathisen has actually played very little catcher in HS as his team has thought him more valuable at SS and pitcher. But all agree his future is at catcher and like how he projects there. However, both are rated in the high 40s overall and would be better values as compensation round picks than at #26. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and again, signability might play a large role.
I expect the team to shy away from drafting a third baseman with any of their top picks due to the depth we have there in Davidson, Bell, Wheeler and Roberts. A power-hitting outfielder could be on the agenda at 26 and that might move the team toward selecting Victor Roache out of Georgia Southern. Roache would have projected higher if he hadn't broken his wrist making a diving catch early this season, so that might be a good value risk. Texas high school OF Courtney Hawkins or Missisippi high school OF D.J. Davis would also get consideration at 26. All three are rated higher than 26 so one of them would have to fall to make it the Dbacks' pick.
Knowing how tough it's going to be to nail down the Dbacks' top pick, I'll manage a guess and say their first pick will come from one of the names below, most of whom were mentioned above, with Stryker Trahan being my top guess.
Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Stryker Trahan, C/OF, Acadiana HS, LA
Victor Roache OF, Georgia Southern
Courtney Hawkins, OF, Carroll HS, TX
D.J. Davis, OF, Stone HS, MS
David Dahl, OF, Oak Mountain HS, AL
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Barbe HS, LA
Tyler Naquin, OF, Texas A&M
Following is a position-by-position review of the team's organizational depth below the Major League level. I only included players who I thought had at least a remote chance of getting to the big leagues and being a serviceable player. There's plenty of names on this list who I don't really think will ever make it, and so they really belong on the "never say never" list because they have a few tools at least. I included their current level and respective ages.
Konrad Schmidt, AAA, 27
Michael Perez, Rookie, 19
Rossmel Perez, AA, 21
Raywilly Gomez, High A, 23
The biggest hole in the organization by far and one of the primary reasons the team signed Montero to the extension, no doubt. The team should be looking to snag a couple of catchers in this draft and hopefully with some of their higher choices. The only player with any kind of ceiling is young Michael Perez from Puerto Rico, but he hasn't even made it to Rookie Ball yet.
Jonathan Griffin, High A, 23
Randy Ruiz, AAA, 34
Yazy Arbello, AA, 24
First base isn't all that deep either, but with Goldy having just arrived and the poor man's Goldy in Jonathan Griffin making his way up the ladder pretty quickly, it's not a high priority need in this draft. Ryan Wheeler is alsoa first base prospect. But they'll likely grab one or two somewhere in the middle rounds.
David Nick, AA, 22
Jake Elmore, AAA, 24
Jesus Abreu, Rookie, 20
We're not overly stocked at this position either. Nick still has some upside and he's performed well enough at each level to keep advancing, but he's not exactly setting the world on fire. Jake Elmore sure has taken to Reno and maybe he's showing enough to earn him a utility spot in a year or two though his ceiling is pretty low. Middle infielders who can hit will definitely be a priority in this draft.
Chris Owings, High A, 20
Michael Freeman, High A, 24
John Leonard, Rookie, 19
As with second base, SS will be a priority position for this draft. Everyone loves Owings' potential and he very well could be the long-term answer in a few years. But outside of him there's virtually nothing. The club likes Leonard's tools but he didn't even make it into Rookie ball last year so he's way down the road. I expect both a college and high school SS being taken in the first 10 rounds and maybe even at number 1.
Matt Davidson, AA, 21
Ryan Wheeler, AAA, 23
Josh Bell, Majors, 25
Matt Davidson is definitely on his way to being the 3B of the future, and perhaps as early as next year. Josh Bell and/or Ryan Wheeler can man the upper levels of AAA and ML fill-in until that day comes. They could use a youngster or two to help fill out the lower level squads. But 3B will not be a high priority for anything above round 5.
AJ Pollock, AAA, 24
Adam Eaton, AAA, 23
Keon Broxton, High A, 22
Justin Bianco, Rookie, 19
The deepest position by far (outside of starting pitcher) in the organization. They have two guys ready for the big leagues right now and a couple of youngsters in Broxton and Bianco who should be a few years behind. This won't stop the team from drafting another CF but they better be hitters first so they can play elsewhere if need be.
Bobby Borchering, High A, 21
Mark Krauss, AA, 24
Tyler Linton, Rookie, 20
Wagner Mateo, Rookie, 18
Alfredo Marte, AA, 22
The Dbacks have a few guys with some potential to still break out and become something more than ML fill-ins. But they have just as many questions as they do potential. Some questions are starting to surround Borchering and Krauss smells more like a DH than a future Dback OF. A couple of young Latinos show a little promise but they're still long shots. Good chance the teams looks to add some corner OFs with power potential and I wouldn't put it past them to address this in the top 5 rounds.
Trevor Bauer, AAA, 21
Tyler Skaggs, AA, 20
Archie Bradley, Low A, 19
Andrew Chafin, High A, 21
Patrick Corbin, AAA, 22
David Holmberg, High A, 20
Chase Anderson, AA, 24
Anthony Meo, High A, 22
Charles Brewer, AAA, 24
Mike Bolsinger, AA, 24
Ray Hernandez, High A, 23
Barry Enright, AAA, 26
John Pedrotty, Low A, 22
Jesse Darrah, Low A, 22
JR Bradley, Low A, 19
What an embarrassment of riches. No organization has the depth of starting pitching that the Dbacks do, especially 22 and younger. I would be surprised if the Dbacks spend any of their first five picks on starting pitching unless somebody really special lands in their laps. They will grab some in the later rounds to fill out their lower level rosters. But starting ptiching is simply not a priority in this draft.
Evan Marshall, AA, 22
Joe Patterson, AAA, 26
Kyle Winkler, High A, 21
Matt Gorgen, AA, 25
Jensen Lewis, AAA, 28
Eury De La Rosa, AA, 22
Kevin Munson, AA, 23
Eric Smith, AA, 23
Willy Paredes, Low A, 22
DJ Johnson, Low A, 22
Kable Hogben, Low A, 22
There's some solid depth on the relief front as well, not to mention a few of the starter prospects who will eventually become relievers. The club will look for some more fireballers throughout the draft that can be developed as either starter or reliever, and they're always looking for lefties.
The team will be heavily focused on adding as many bats to the system as they can. They'll never totally ignore pitching because we know how much it means to them, and rightfully so. But unless one of the Top 10 rated pitchers falls to them at 26, I suspect they will look for the top bat they can land, especially if it's at one of their positions of need, catcher or middle infield.
They should follow that up with I'll say 6 or 7 more bats in their top 10 picks with a sprinkling of pitchers mixed in. I don't expect this to be one of the most valuable drafts in Dbacks history due to how few high picks they have and how weak the overall draft class is. But it will still be interesting to see how they respond to the new rules, take advantage of some sliding players, and manage their own limited pool of resources to try and come with a handful of future impact Diamondbacks.