The Diamondbacks will have a chance to add some impact talent to a farm system full of B and C-level prospects. Despite no superstar in this draft, the Diamondbacks will have the chance to select a very talented player with the 7th pick. Whoever they pick will likely be the team’s top prospect over the next 2-3 years. My preferred option for the pick is for the Dbacks to land a top college ace like J.B. Bukauskas, Kyle Wright, Alex Faedo, or Tristan Beck, but there are a couple college bats I like in Adam Haseley and Jeren Kendall. There are a couple intriguing high school selections that will also be considered in LHP Mackenzie Gore and SS Royce Lewis. Since I named 8 prospects, at least two of them is 100% guaranteed to be available at 7.
J.B. Bukauskas, RHP, North Carolina: Bukauskas hails from my hometown of Ashburn, VA, so that would be a pretty cool selection for the Diamondbacks for that trivia nugget. Another one is Bukauskas was a 20th round selection by the Diamondbacks in 2014, even though he told every MLB team he had zero intentions to sign. Bukauskas is a bit short for your prototypical pitcher at 6’0” and requires a bit of effort in his delivery, which could be a reason he’s still on the board when the Diamondbacks pick. Despite the lack of ideal height, his fastball sits in the mid 90s and complements that with a very good three-pitch mix. Bukauskas has very much kept his high 1st round status intact despite pitching in a tough ACC conference. Of the players I listed, he is the top-rated player in my opinion.
Adam Haseley, OF, Virginia: Even though Haseley was a two-way guy in college, his pro projection will be in the outfield. Haseley helped guide the University of Virginia, my mom’s alma mater, to a championship in 2015 against Dansby Swanson and Vanderbilt. Haseley has all the tools to be an elite CF prospect and an advanced feel for the strike zone. While maybe lacking the top notch physical tools that another player in Jeren Kendall has, Haseley’s advanced plate discipline gives him a higher floor. That’s why I have Haseley ranked ahead of Kendall despite the latter having better physical tools. Haseley should be a quick-mover in the Diamondbacks system and could reach the majors not too long after Pollock likely walks in free agency.
Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt has built a powerhouse team with top-end prospects despite the Diamondbacks attempts to raid their program 3 years ago. Kyle Wright is the next elite Vanderbilt ace and likely Top 10 pick. Wright stands at 6’4” and has a dynamite 3 pitch mix that starts with a great fastball. My biggest concern for Wright is he isn’t exactly dominating the competition like you’d expect from a Top 10 pick, but he’s got a great strikeout and walk rate per 9 innings and a solid 1.13 WHIP while keeping the ball in the park.
Jeren Kendall, OF, Vanderbilt: Of all the outfielders in the draft, Kendall has all the tools you’d like for a superstar. He hits for a good average, solid power, terrific defender, plus arm, and can steal bases. However, if there is one flaw in his game, it’s strikeouts. Compared to Haseley, Kendall has more boom/bust potential as an outfielder. His defense is terrific enough to play everyday, but the big concern is how his ABs will look when he isn’t crushing the ball. If all the guys listed above him are gone, then absolutely take a gamble because he’s still a good fit for the ballpark with his glove. I get a Justin Upton vibe from Kendall, which isn’t necessarily a bad outcome for a Top 10 pick.
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford: Beck has as much upside as the rest of the starters mentioned in the Top 10, but I do have concerns with him only pitching for 1 season instead of 3. While that’s not a concern from the wear and tear, that usually means less development time compared to other draft eligible prospects. Beck has missed the 2017 season due to a stress fracture in his back. The injury won’t keep him from pitching in the summer, but that’s a major red flag. With the injury, taking him 7th becomes a major risk. If he’s still on the board when the Dbacks pick in the 2nd round (around pick 45-50), then take that risk.
Royce Lewis, SS, JSerra HS (CA): A shortstop with terrific defensive instincts and a solid bat all around, Lewis is probably the one high school guy I like that has a chance to be available at 7, although I doubt he’ll actually be there. Lewis has positional versatility, playing 2B and 3B in HS due to amazing SS talent around him. 2017 is his first year playing that critical defensive position, but I think he’ll be able to stick there long term. If he’s on the board at 7, that’s my pick there even though I said I prefer college guys.
Mackenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC): Gore is the top LHP in the draft, although I have concerns long term with him. The first being the delivery, with a high leg kick that reminds you of Archie Bradley’s delivery as a prospect. With a difficult to repeat delivery, any loss in flexibility could result in command loss. Like with Bradley the last couple years, Gore is going to have to refine that delivery to make it more repeatable. He has a very good feel for secondary pitches, throwing a curve, slider, and change already. If the Dbacks can clean up the delivery and Gore is a very safe #2/3 starter projection.
Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida: Faedo has a lot of flags, particular due to knee surgeries in the fall and inconsistent fastball velocity to start the season, but he’s the safest projection to be in an MLB rotation in the draft. He’s not as overpowering as Bukauskas or Wright, but has a devastating slider that he uses to rack up strikeouts. He has plus control with a wide arsenal of pitches. The inconsistent velocity to start the season may have been a result of the surgeries in both knees. If you’re looking for a quick to the majors pitcher, and one that will likely stick around for 10+ years, Faedo is your guy.
Pavin Smith, 1B, Virginia: Normally you don’t expect a 1B as a guy you’d take at 7 unless he has an exceptional bat and is projected to give you value with baserunning and defense. Smith checks off the boxes in those regards, offering a left-handed bat with good hitting ability, above average raw power although maybe not enough for your traditional 1B. Smith is exceptionally tough to strike out, something the Diamondbacks lineup currently lacks. His defense is a plus at a position where defense is considered secondary to the bat. Dbacks could take Smith at 7 if Haseley is off the board and are looking to maybe save some bonus money at 7 and allocate it later in the draft. I get an Eric Hosmer vibe from this guy.
Conclusion: I would be happy with any of these guys, they are all easy MLB projections despite whatever flaws they have. The riskiest prospect would be Jeren Kendall while the safest is a close race between Adam Haseley and Alex Faedo. My personal preference is either Haseley or Faedo because I’m choosing to trade upside for less risk with this pick. Diamondbacks biggest needs to add impact talent are C, SS, OF, and the starting rotation. I personally don’t think there is a catcher worth taking in the Top 7, but you never know with the draft. If you want to read in depth scouting reports, go read John Sickel’s reports on minorleagueball.com. As for the draft, Amiel Sawdaye and Deric Ladnier have a month before they get a chance to make the first major step towards rebuilding a farm system in need for top talent.