The Diamondbacks’ 2018 Draft may be remembered most for the team being unable to sign their top draft pick, Matt McLain, but in a few years that could end up being old news. Aside from that failure, I think the team picked up some quality talents across the field. The draft focused on athletic position players early, then made a run at pitchers before taking a couple gambles on talent that fell down the board due to concerns about whether they’d sign or not.
Jake McCarthy: I had resigned myself to the idea that Jake McCarthy was going to be the team’s top draft pick, which turned out to be true in a way I did not hope as I expected him to go in the 1st round vs. the Competitive Balance Round A. Draft pedigree aside, McCarthy slipped on draft boards due to a wrist injury that held him out through most of ACC conference play. He started the year with the team’s local rookie ball affiliate so the team could see if that wrist was indeed healthy. Afterwards, they sent him up to Hillsboro where he’s put up a .288/.378/.442 slash with 23 XBH (17 doubles, 3 triples, 3 homers) in 241 PA and 20 steals out of 28 attempts on the season. The early returns suggest cautious optimism with better than expected power numbers. If the power continues to develop on top of the high stolen base and OBP projections, I could see McCarthy developing into a left-handed version of a healthy A.J. Pollock.
Alek Thomas: Thomas to could wind up being potentially one of the biggest steals of the draft. Thomas has an excellent feel for the barrel and making solid contact, which suggests he will have a high BABIP profile even at the MLB level. His extra base hit profile is also very similar to McCarthy’s with 22 in 270 PA, which is an encouraging sign for him developing into an above average regular or more. On top of potentially more power coming out of the bat, Thomas runs very well and that shows up on the field and basepaths as a potential 20 SB threat with above average defense in CF or plus defense in LF. If the power shows up in a big way, I think Thomas could develop into a potential superstar and face of the franchise in the post Goldy era.
Jackson Goddard: Goddard is somewhat of an enigma, although there were plenty of flashes to what he could become. At times, he was flat out unhittable with 3 plus pitches and others he couldn’t find the strike zone. That’s resulted in a .204 BA against and a 1.11 WHIP despite 12 walks in 28 innings. If he can ever figure out the command issue, Goddard projects as a middle of the rotation starter or possibly more. In fact, his stuff and issues remind me a lot of Archie Bradley as a starter. If starting doesn’t work for him, his likely projection is the back-end of a bullpen.
Ryan Weiss: Weiss was a small school find in the draft and held his own in the Northwest League. Weiss posted a strong 27/3 K/BB ratio in 29 1⁄3 innings, but also looked a bit hittable with a H/9 of 8.92. At a very lanky 6’4” and straight over-the-top delivery, Weiss has been able to drive the ball down to the bottom of the zone and produce a solid 47% ground ball rate. Given those peripherals, a 3.68 ERA is a bit higher than expected although that’s due to a 68% strand rate. That number begs the question to what the cause is: bad bullpen or poor situational pitching? Given that Weiss’ starts were 1-4 innings, it’s hard to answer the question without a larger sample size. Given the solid peripherals, I think he’s done a solid job overall and should get a full time starter role for 2019.
Matt Mercer: Mercer also had a solid debut season with a 3.00 ERA in 27 innings and a 37/6 K/BB ratio. Mercer relies a lot on a mid 90s fastball, but has a solid split-change and a breaking ball that’s hit or miss. The fastball/change-up combination is good enough for him to be a power reliever in the back-end, perhaps even a closer, although the team will develop him as a starter. Northwest League hitters struggled to hit him as they hit .192 against him and Mercer posting a 0.93 WHIP playing not too far away from where he pitched in college in Eugene. The two biggest issues for him are the delivery and breaking ball consistency, although the former isn’t a deal breaker although Mercer has already proven not to be as durable as Robbie Ray or Max Scherzer in terms of avoiding arm injuries. Lack of development or another significant arm injury could be what puts Mercer in the bullpen although his stuff profiles well for that role if needed.
Ryan Miller: Miller was a senior sign college reliever and posted decent numbers in his pro debut. He had a solid 10/1 K/BB ratio in 11 2⁄3 innings, but gave up his fair share of hits with 11 hits allowed and 2 of them leaving the ballpark. Given the short sample of innings, it’s too early to pass judgement on him although I’m not expecting much.
Travis Moths: Moths was another senior sign college reliever and only saw 7 1⁄3 innings of action with Hillsboro. He struck out 8 and walked 2 while allowing just 3 hits in his short sample of action. 5 of his 6 games came out of the bullpen, which is where I think they project him to be long term.
Levi Kelly: Kelly will be a slow-moving prospect, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in Extended Spring Training to start the 2021 season. Overall he flashes mid 90s with a solid slider and developing change-up. He’s already maxed out in terms of frame at 6’2” 205, so he’s already past that phase of development. The biggest concern will be the high effort delivery. In limited action, he pitched 6 scoreless innings with 6 Ks and 2 walks while allowing just 3 hits. Given the team signed him to a $350k signing bonus, he will be starting until he proves he can’t do it. Given the fastball/slider combination, there is a potential future in the bullpen in that scenario.
Tyler Holton: Holton signed for slot value and will likely debut when short-season ball starts in June. The Tommy John surgery likely cost him a potential 7 figure signing bonus and a year of development time although his last healthy season he dominated the ACC. He didn’t blow hitters away with a fastball that sat upper 80s/lower 90s, but sequenced hitters pretty well with a quality curveball and change-up. Obviously it will be interesting to see how he looks post TJ surgery in short season ball in 2019.
Nick Dalesandro: Despite a slow start to the season, Dalesandro hit .302/.382/.376 against younger competition in the Pioneer League. The lack of power numbers (10 XBH in 171 PA) is a bit concerning, although a 20/22 BB/K ratio suggests he has decent plate discipline. I don’t think the upside at the plate is comparable to 2017 draft finds Dominic Miroglio or Renae Martinez, who have shown an ability to hit for more power. Early numbers on his defense are decent with a 37% caught stealing and 6 passed balls in 246 innings. The passed ball numbers are a bit concerning, as that prorates to about 24 if given a starter’s workload. He’s got good mobility behind the plate for blocking pitches thanks to a solid athletic build, although he’s going to have to be better at keeping the ball in front.
Blaze Alexander: Alexander was an 11th round gamble and signed for $500K. He immediately took off in the Arizona League, hitting for average and power while also displaying a solid amount of patience. He spent time at 2B and 3B due to having to share the same infield with another quality infielder prospect in Geraldo Perdomo. He has an intriguing set of tools, with the ability to hit for average and power while also being able to stick at SS and possibly a strong SB threat. Due to his plus-plus arm, there will be plays he’ll be able to make at SS most can’t especially if he learns how to quickly and accurately release the ball like current Dbacks SS Nick Ahmed does. There is a bit of concern about strikeouts with a 22% rate, he offsets that with a respectable walk rate of 13% and averaging an XBH every 8.5 PA. If he can continue to improve discipline and hit for power while maintaining a league average strikeout rate, he could prove to be steal of the draft.
Zack Shannon: Shannon came from a D2 program, Delta State in Mississippi, but after putting up a .434/.498/.758 season as a sophomore with 12 2B and 19 HR, he beat that out for a .406/.504/.958 slash with 14 2B and 31 HR in his draft year. The Diamondbacks took a flyer on him as a 1B type who had put up monster numbers against inferior competition. In his debut season, he did more of the same with a .354/.439/.677 slash with 17 2B and 14 HR for the rookie ball affiliate Missoula. For comparison, Paul Goldschmidt hit .334/.408/.638 for Missoula in 2009. By wRC+, Shannon slightly edges out Goldy by 4 points. That’s all I’m going to say in regards to comparing Shannon to the 2nd best player to ever put on a Dbacks uniform, although the starts to their careers are eerily similar. Keep an eye on Shannon as he probably gets an aggressive assignment to Visalia in 2019.