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The 2019 MLB Draft: Final Grade

Bringing a close to the coverage of the 2019 MLB draft.

Now that the draft is over and the draftees have begun to sign, it is time to take one last look at the entire draft and give a final report. Of course, some of these points are subject to change should the team, for one reason or another, fail to sign any of their top picks. Continue to follow the Snake Pit’s draft signing tracker to see who the Diamondbacks bring into the fold. However, given the talents selected, it seems unlikely that Arizona will have any issues with signability this year. So here it is, my final takes on each of the players selected as part of Arizona’s draft bonanza.

A big part of the grades given in this draft are tied directly to the team’s process with handling their bucket-load of picks and large bonus pool. Extensive coverage of this has provided by Jack Sommers and Michael McDermott here (part 1) and here (part 2).

#16 – Corbin Carroll

If Carroll were only two inches taller, he would have been an easy top-10 selection. Selecting at #16 in what was considered by many a somewhat weak draft class, Arizona was fortunate to have a chance to select such a high-upside talent. Though Carroll is four years removed from being a contributor to the Diamondbacks, he has the upside of an all-star. His floor is likely that of a decent, glove-first fourth OF in the mold of Tim Locastro, but with much better tools. I still like him as a potential Juan Pierre-type, though there are many who seem to believe there is still untapped power to be found in that bat, which would make him even more formidable than Pierre, assuming of course he continues to hit.

Extra tidbits from Carroll’s introduction: Carroll committed to UCLA in the fall of his sophomore year in high school. He has played extensively with Jake Lamb’s younger brother who is a year older than him and is now playing for the University of Washington. Played last winter on Team USA with pick #33, Brennan Malone.
Grade: A

#26 – Blake Walston

When the pick was first announced, many were surprised that the Diamondbacks did not select Matt Allan. Then, as Allan continued his freefall down the board, it became apparent that his signability concerns had scared off basically everyone. Scouts and cross-checkers doing their due diligence seemed to have indicated that Allan was going to be difficult to make happen for anything resembling a reasonable cost. Enter, Blake Walston who feels like the dictionary definition of a boom/bust draft pick. The upside on Walston’s projectability is pretty ridiculous. If he fills out into his 6-foot-4 frame and is able to increase his velocity without sacrificing his control, he could be a true TOR lefty. Of course, being so young and so unpolished, he will also probably take five years to arrive – if he makes it. With such a high ceiling, multiple teams were showing interest in Walston. The Diamondbacks used their plethora of picks and the associated draft bonus to pull the trigger on him early and get him at #26. He wasn’t making it past the Cubs, so this is where they needed to take him if they liked him. With his sky-high ceiling, it is not hard to see why Arizona did, in fact, like him.

Extra tidbits from Walston’s introduction: Walston had very little to say for himself on draft night. The biggest takeaway was that, while he fully expected to be drafted, he truly did not anticipate being taken so high in the draft. This bodes well for the Diamondbacks as they were already expected to have to pony up some of that sizeable draft pool in order to be able to sign Walston.
Grade: A

#33 – Brennan Malone

Outside of Carroll, Malone may be the draft pick with the most to become excited about. Like Walston, Malone too stands 6-foot-4. Unlike Walston, Malone has already done a good deal of his bulking up, weighing in at a solid but very athletic 210 pounds. The right-hander brings heat, touching 99 in game action while working in the mid-90s. Like Walston, Malone too is boom/bust, but he already has the tools that he could “bust” his way to a productive career as a high leverage reliever.

This is what past and presumably future teammate, Corbin Carroll, had to say about Malone:

“He’s just a big dude. He’s very imposing on the mound. He has a hard fastball and I’ve seen him throw some wicked breaking balls. I think the Diamondbacks made a great pick there.”

Grade: A

#34 – Drey Jameson

Drey Jameson was the first “money-saving” pick of the draft for the Diamondbacks. He represents another boom/bust sort of arm that most think will end up in the bullpen. His small frame will make it difficult on him to be able to make the stretch into being a starter as he is a max-effort pitcher with some mechanical issues. While smoothing out the mechanics will help his arm health and his control, it will do little to help him go deep into games throwing 97 while weighing in at a mere 165-175 pounds. Even bulking up, he is not likely to stick as a starter. Despite being what appears to be a money-saving pick, Jameson was a draft-eligible sophomore. That means the saving, if any, may actually be negligible. The biggest plus to be made for Jameson is that he fits squarely into the plan of attack that Arizona’s front office put together entering the draft. That alone gives him a partial grade bump.
Grade: B

#56 – Ryne Nelson

This is probably the pick that gives me the most pause. The Diamondbacks entered the draft clearly looking to add some upside pitching and focused on adding power arms to the farm. Nelson is nothing if not a power arm. Nelson has only the slimmest of chances of converting to a successful starter. As a reliever, he could fly through the farm reach the majors in one or two seasons, depending on how his secondary pitches develop now that he is finally focusing exclusively on pitching and will be getting professional development coaching. He is a clear under-slot selection. The thing is, when the Diamondbacks were selecting 56th, there were a number of college arms still on the board with far more upside that would also have been under-slot at this point. Any reasonable evaluation of Nelson is viewing him as a fast-rising reliever, and that simply isn’t how Arizona has been handling their farm system. With both a number of pitchers that profile as middle of the rotation starters and a few infielders that profiled as MLB regulars that could have been had for under-slot, this pick feels like the team reached deeper into the top prospects list than they had to in order to save up some money for their final big splash.
Grade: C

#74 – Tommy Henry

Tommy Henry is exactly the sort of pitcher one would expect to be selected by a team looking to make an under-slot signing while still looking for long-term upside. Henry is a left-handed starter that has no single stand-out tool. He does, however throw strikes and limit damage. In many ways, he is like what the Diamondbacks are experiencing in Merrill Kelly. That’s probably his upside. On the other hand, as lefty, he’ll have a much longer leash and could always be transformed in the bullpen. There’s plenty to like and not much to knock.
Grade: A

#75 – Dominic Fletcher

Much like Tommy Henry, who was selected by Arizona only three minutes earlier in the draft, Dominic Fletcher is about what one would expect to find at this point in the draft. He profiles as a glove-first fourth outfielder at best, but also is already close to his ceiling. He’ll hit and stick, or he won’t and he will eventually wash out around AA-ball. He’s yet another under-slot pick that fits right in with the philosophy the team entered the draft with, providing them the ability to flex their bonus pool muscle again later.
Grade: A-

Rounds 3-10

The Diamondbacks found plenty of upside on day two of the draft, including drafting 70-Grade named slugging first baseman, Spencer Brickhouse. With a pair of college seniors thrown into the mix, the Diamondbacks should save some big dollars for their day three selections. There really were no surprises on day two and they managed to secure at least two draftees that have some impressive upside potential, neither of which should require going above slot, that’s always a plus.
Grade: A

#362 – Avery Short

As is the norm in the draft, the Diamondbacks targeted a high-ceiling prep player with their twelfth-round pick, looking to use their leftover bonus pool to help entice him away from college and into the system. The Diamondbacks chose to select a left-handed potential starter named Avery Short who is currently committed to Louisville. It’s difficult to rate this selection. Short falls – well, short of what most were expecting in terms of upside with this pick. As upside goes, he’s a lefty that needs plenty of work, who might develop into a #4 starter in another five years. With the size of Arizona’s draft pool and the number of signability candidates remaining on the board, it’s hard to imagine that they were able to land the best player available (and still signable for them). At the same time, we don’t know which other talents the cross-checkers were placing calls to in the final moments to get dollar figures for signing. They may also feel he has higher upside than most of the scouts out there do. It wouldn’t be the first time that they have a different evaluation of a player. Still, it feels like an underwhelming pick, especially when the team could have, without much work, amassed as much as $3 million to spend on a player in this slot. While the team did a fine job of often taking the best talent available and in their predetermined spending window to get to this pick, it feels like they might have aimed a bit low here – lower than they had to. There is upside here still, but not the sort that feels like they have stolen a player in this draft like many had hoped.
Grade: B-

Overall: The Diamondbacks did very well in this draft. Despite my harsh criticisms of a couple of the selections made, it’s hard to imagine the Diamondbacks having done a great deal better overall. What feels most important is that the team entered the draft with a very firm plan in mind and seem to have been able to stick to it from beginning to end. The draft board did not shift so dramatically as to throw a wrench in the works. The team also managed to extend themselves to three picks deep in terms of selecting high-ceiling talent. If only one of their top three picks hits, they will still have a good draft. If all three were to actually click, the amount of talent they could have moving through their farm in just two years will be phenomenal. It’s hard to ask for more out of a draft than that. This draft alone should propel the Diamondbacks from a bottom-third farm system to an upper-third system. In the last two season, Arizona’s front office made day one selections that raised a number of eyebrows and were clear misses. That brought a ton of pressure to bear on this particular draft. The combination of two poor first rounds in a row combined with a draft extravaganza made this draft what is likely to be a defining moment for Mike Hazen and his front office.

Overall Grade: A